Which adjective is usually used to describe Hollywood? If you guessed “liberal,” you win a cookie. We’ve all heard about “liberal” Hollywood, filled with far left-wing actors who gain national attention for their activist causes. But what of the conservative and/or Republican actors in Hollywood? Is Hollywood truly as liberal as the mainstream media would have us believe? Writer/director Jesse Moss attempts to answer this question in his documentary Rated R: Republicans in Hollywood. What we learn is ultimately unsatisfying.
Before turning to filmmaking, Moss was a Democratic activist and speechwriter (and is still a Democrat). Having been involved with Democratic political campaigns, Moss frames his film around the campaign and eventual election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of the State of California on Oct. 7, 2003. Given that Schwarzenegger is such a well-known Republican, would his election bring Hollywood actors who are conservative Republicans “out of the closet”?
Along the campaign trail we meet several Republican actors. Moss opens with an interview with actor/comedian Drew Carey, who makes the claim that when he speaks out in support of the war in Iraq, or in favor of gun ownership, it has the effect of hurting his chances at finding work in Hollywood. Given Carey’s huge success, I have to wonder why he would think his political opinions would harm his career. Moss doesn’t challenge him on this assertion, which is a problem throughout Republicans in Hollywood. I can understand Moss wanting to maintain some objectivity in his film, and not add to it his own political opinions as a Democrat, but there are times in the film where an actor/director/writer makes the claim that they have essentially been blacklisted for being a Republican in Hollywood.
We hear about Charlton Heston, and how people in Beverly Hills will not attend a charity function if Heston is present. This, according to film producer Doug Urbanski, who goes on to make the absurd claim that he knows what it’s like to be a minority due to his conservative views.
Moss interviews conservative radio talk-show host Michael Medved, who makes the claim that he’s been described as “ultra conservative,” but that he cannot think of anyone in Hollywood described as “ultra liberal”. Which is flat-out ridiculous. Do a Google search with the keywords “ultra liberal Susan Sarandon” and you’ll get 23,500 hits, starting with an entry from the conservative web site World Net Daily. Again, Moss does not challenge the assertions made by his interview subjects. Obviously people like Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, and Barbara Streisand have been described as “ultra liberal” many times.
Writer/director John Milius is another conservative who claims to have been denied work in Hollywood due to his conservative views. Milius directed the 1984 film Red Dawn, and it’s from that film on that his career has been harmed, Milius believes. Is that true? It’s hard to know for sure. In 1991, Milius directed Flight of the Intruder, a film with a budget of $35 million that only grossed about $15 million dollars. Could that have contributed to Milius’ difficulty in landing directing jobs in Hollywood? A good question, one not asked by Moss.
Other Republicans interviewed include Pat Sajak (Wheel of Fortune); Patricia Heaton, the Emmy award-winning star of Everybody Loves Raymond; and writer/director/actor Vincent Gallo (The Brown Bunny). I had no idea Sajak was a Republican, nor would I have even suspected Gallo to be Republican.
Former Nixon speechwriter and actor Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) is heard during his interview to suggest that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a “real” Republican because he is pro-choice, among other things. Stein seems to think that you’re liberal or conservative based on whether or not you support the standard party platforms.
Ultimately, at a running time of 45 minutes, Republicans in Hollywood‘s revity results in a film that doesn’t really get to the bottom of what makes Conservatives in Hollywood tick or go into any detail on what they believe in or what causes they support. This may have been out of necessity, but in the end the film left me wanting more, and I was disappointed that Moss only presented a very superficial view of the conservative actors, directors,and writers he interviewed Still, Rated R: Republicans in Hollywood is a fascinating film, and although Moss only spends a few minutes with each of his interviewees, most of them offer up an interesting (if brief) view of Hollywood from their perspective. It would have been a more satisfying film had its running time been extended.
DVD extras include deleted scenes (make sure to check out the deleted scene with actor Gary Coleman) and interview outtakes, as well as an audio interview of Moss from NPR’s Leonard Lopate Show. Add in the extras and you still end up with a film that is a little over 70 minutes long.
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