News schmooze! The real story at CNN is that Hollywood is casting the network’s newscasters faster than you can say Wolf Blitzer.
Bernard Shaw delivers news of dino-size invasions in The Lost World. Prisoners watch CNN in Face/Off. Coming soon, the network’s crews appear in Air Force One and the Crossfire gang goes ballistic in Contact. With Larry King doing as many movies as Steve Buscemi (he plays himself in Contact and has roles in the upcoming The Peacemaker, Primary Colors, and Mad City), the cameo-happy network is starting to look like an all-news Love Boat episode.
”Scripts are coming our way by the score,” says CNN spokesman Steve Haworth. ”Our job is to ensure that the scenes are believable and they’re set in places our viewers would expect CNN to be.”
The network insists it isn’t courting or paying for the cameos, nor are its anchors getting rich, as they usually are paid scale ($559 a day). CNN also insists it’s not caving to script demands from within the Time Warner family, of which CNN (and EW) is a member. ”Warner Bros., Turner, New Line, and Castle Rock have all heard ‘no’ from us,” Haworth reports.
Still, things can get sticky when a journalist strays from covering the news. ”It undermines his position,” says Alex Jones, host of National Public Radio’s On the Media. ”Instead of being above the fray, he suddenly becomes a part of it.”
No doubt that’s why CNN network chief Tom Johnson became upset when reporter Jonathan Karl appeared in a Visa print ad. ”CNN has never allowed its people to endorse any product or service,” says Haworth. But are movie cameos different? As one producer says, ”These people have about as much business acting as Ethan Hawke has doing the weather.” (Now, there’s an idea!)
But let’s go to the phones! Larry King from Hollywood: ”You’ve got to give moviegoers more credit,” he says. ”They know they’re not seeing me live on CNN. Do you think anyone who went to see Independence Day thought aliens had actually landed?” Sure, and Men in Black is just a movie.