The first trailer for The Front Runner asks the viewer to make a choice.
It doesn’t tell you what to feel or think. It gives you the frenetic true story of a presidential campaign under siege and asks you to decide what was right and what was wrong.
In many ways, that’s what journalism is supposed to accomplish — and director Jason Reitman’s film is just as interested in the free press as it is Hugh Jackman’s Gary Hart, the Democratic frontrunner for the White House in 1987, whose candidacy collapsed in the news-cycle equivalent of a heartbeat.
“This is a movie with a dozen different points of view. And you can already see in the trailer, you’re going to be observing this story from every perspective,” Reitman tells EW.
“When I heard the Gary Hart story for the first time, I couldn’t believe it had happened. And I couldn’t believe no one had made a movie about it yet,” he said.
The movie — which opens Nov. 7, just after the midterm elections — will be making its festival debut at Telluride and Toronto in the weeks ahead. While that sets it up for award season consideration, the Up in the Air and Juno filmmaker says he hopes it has the energy of “a real-life thriller.”
“There was a moment when Gary Hart looked like he was going to be the next president of the United States. And within a week he was out of the race and never ran again,” says Reitman, who co-wrote the script with former Hillary Clinton spokesman Jay Carson, and Matt Bai, author of the book on which it’s based, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid. “This trailer captured the speed with which the world was shifting under everybody’s feet.”
Hart, who was then a Colorado senator, was known for his foreign policy intellect, his ability to communicate complex policy ideas to voters, and a compassion and charisma that appealed to voters.
Then the campaign was caught off guard by a personal scandal involving a model, a yacht, and press that was no longer willing to overlook such things.
“It was a moment in which the Hart campaign, The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, and Hart himself were trying to make decisions in real time with not enough information and no sense of how much the landscape had changed forever,” Reitman says.
Vera Farmiga costars as his wife, Lee Hart; J.K. Simmons is campaign manager Bill Dixon; Mamoudou Athie is A.J. Parker, an amalgamation of reporters for The Washington Post; Molly Ephraim is Irene Kelly, another composite character, who is a scheduler with campaign; Steve Zissis is real-life Miami Herald reporter Tom Fiedler; and Sara Paxton plays Donna Rice, the actress and model whose life was also upended by the scandal.
Check out the full ensemble cast here.
The Front Runner also explores this upheaval with a bursts of dark humor, as evidenced by the new poster — which imagines a cluster of reporters watching as the Hart ’88 campaign bus sails off a cliff.
“Politics in this country — take it from me — is on the verge of becoming another form of athletic competition or sporting match,” Hart himself said at the height of the scandal in 1987.
Then, suggesting that well-intentioned-but-flawed candidates would withdraw from the spotlight and leave only those devoid of shame, he paraphrased a line from Thomas Jefferson: “I tremble for my country when I think we may, in fact, get the kind of leaders we deserve.”