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September 10, 2010

Reagan Biopic to Come in 2011

$30 million film will explore former President's spiritual roots, says producer

It's surprising that there hasn't yet been a biopic of Ronald Reagan, one of the most-loved Presidents in U.S. history. But that's about to change, thanks in much part to a pair of Christian producers in Hollywood.

Ralph Winter (X-Men and Fantastic Four movies) and Mark Joseph are co-producing the film, simply titled Reagan. An actor has not yet been chose to play the part, but speculation has already begun here.

Joseph, who worked on Ray, Holes, and The Passion of The Christ, says that much of the tone and script will be based on two Reagan biographies by historian Paul Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Triumph Over Communism.

Joseph tells CT that "it'd be impossible not to" focus on Reagan's spirituality, given the source material of those two books. "You can't understand Reagan if you don't understand where he came from. . . . Kengor went to the church Reagen grew up in and asked to see the sermons he would have heard as a child. They were in the basement, and previous Reagan biographers hadn't exactly kicked down the door to read them.

"Those sermons, a book he read as a child called That Printer of Udell's, and the influence of his mother Nelle set him on a course for, as he might have said, a rendezvous with destiny. It would be impossible to understand Reagan without understanding his spiritual roots.

"At the same time, we balance that with Kengor's other book, The Crusader, which is about foreign policy intrigue and the nuts and bolts of how Reagan accomplished what he did. Taken together, the two books address both the spiritual and the temporal."

Jonas McCord wrote the script despite not being a gung-ho Reagan fan. "I was of the opinion that at best he was a bad actor and at worst a clown," McCord told The Hollywood Reporter. But after doing his research, McCord saw the possibilities.

Joseph defended his choice of writers: "Jonas wasn't a rah-rah Republican. But over time he came to understand what a consequential man and president Ronald Reagan was. He came to the material open minded. And when I sent him to Reagan's old haunts in Dixon, Illinois, and Eureka College he discovered a deeper appreciation for the man. But I'm not afraid to have people involved who may not be dyed-in-the-wool fans but nonetheless appreciate the man and his contributions. But ultimately it's my job to make sure the film stays true to who he was and lives up to the expectations filmgoers will have."

McCord told The Hollywood Reporter that Reagan's childhood was like "a surreal Norman Rockwell painting with his alcoholic Catholic father, devout Christian mother, Catholic brother and ever-changing boarders the family took in."

Joseph says he was drawn to the project because Reagan "lived a fascinating life and he looms large over the American landscape in ways that we don't even think about. He was also an enigmatic person. His official biographer called him 'inscrutable.' All of which makes for a great movie. There are very few stories that have near 100 percent name recognition and this is one of those special American stories.

"He was much more than a President to a lot of people like me. He was one of the only public figures who didn't let my generation down. I came from a generation of the anti-hero: Nixon had Watergate, Carter had malaise. Religious leaders like Swaggart and Bakker couldn't live up to what they professed. But Reagan never wavered."

The only thing close to a Reagan biopic so far was a 2003 TV miniseries, The Reagans. That less-than-reverent project, starring James Brolin as the President (pictured at left), was supposed to air on CBS, but a controversy over alleged left-wing bias erupted, and it was shifted to Showtime instead, and seen by only 1.2 million people, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Only in Hollywood could you make an insulting, condescending movie about a much-loved historical figure," Joseph told The Hollywood Reporter. "Hire an actor who loathed the man. Watch it flop and then somehow conclude that Americans don't want to see a movie about him. I watched Americans line up and wait for 10 hours for the simple privilege of passing by his closed casket. They loved this man."

Brolin disagreed with Joseph's assessment of the miniseries, and says he admired Reagan: "He's literally our best icon in recent years. He represented America quite well. There were some clandestine things going down, but for the most part I think he was a good president."


Talk about revisionist history! "The Triumph over Communism"? Reagan did not end the Soviet Bloc, the Soviets did that all by themselves. Communism toppled under its own weight. I love how people give credit to Reagan and Bush Sr. for this. Study the history a little more closely. And 'most beloved president'? I think the jury is out on that one too. Reagan raised taxes, there were two severe recessions while he was president, the debt and budget deficit skyrocketed under his tenure. There was the Iran-Contra scandal. The man broke the law. He did some good things as president, but he is hardly the paragon of virtue that these film makers seem to think. He let the younger generation down as much as any other president has.

According to Scripture a King (President?) is measured, among other criteria, by how he treats the poor and oppressed (for example, see Psalm 72). What was Reagan's record on this?

@Jodi, he was beloved by all except for the hardcore liberals who hated everything he stood for. There were more moderate democrats who respected him greatly. Also, a skyrocketing debt is what happened under our past two presidents (counting the current one). I suppose you think Obama is a good president. I'll be totally blunt: Obama is a joke. Before you say I'm biased, I think the same about George W, with the exception of his partial-birth abortion ban and faith-based initiatives.

Ronald Reagan was a strong leader who had enough sense to build up the military and, while he made a few mistakes, at least he did better than anybody we've had since. As for his role in helping to end communism in Russia, Reagan, along with others, encouraged Mikhail Gorbachev with the latter's glasnost policy, helping to (albeit temporarily) end communism in Russia. The lone recession only lasted until Reagan's 2nd full year in office. Afterward, the economy began to recover. Please do your research before making a statement such as this.

@Jodi - Why do people fault Reagan for not helping the poor? Is it the job of the President to bring people out of poverty or is it the church? If you are so concerned about why the poor were not helped, where was the church at that time? Also, is it the job of the government to re-engineer society? No, no, no! Reagan had an optimism that fit well into the American psyche. We can debate his policies all day long, but his fundamental belief that government was not the solution to our problems, but was our problems and that people were free to live their lives of there own choosing is sadly needed today.