Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein boasts production credit for 279 films. He is about as big a deal as a person can be in Hollywood.
Meryl Streep is generally recognized as one of the greatest movie actresses of all time, nominated for more Academy Awards than any other actor. Now, Weinstein and Streep are teaming up for a new movie, “The Senator’s Wife,” which Weinstein says is intended to destroy the National Rifle Association and firearm manufacturers, moving America forward to complete gun prohibition.
On Dec. 21, 2012, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre criticized Hollywood’s “blood-soaked films” for their sensational portrayals of violence. Included in Harvey Weinstein’s filmography are some of the most notoriously and sadistically violent films ever made.
Weinstein’s revelation about the upcoming NRA movie came in an unusual way, during a Jan. 15, 2014, radio interview on the “Howard Stern Show.” Weinstein is currently directing a movie about the 1943 Jewish uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. He said this story of “Jews with guns” is one he has wanted to tell his whole life, ever since he was nine years old and his aunt gave him the book “Mila 18” by Leon Uris, a historical novel about the Uprising.
Stern asked Weinstein how a movie portraying armed Jewish resistance to the Holocaust could be squared with Weinstein’s strong support for gun prohibition. Weinstein responded that guns were justifiable to fight genocide.
“This is when you’re marching half-a-million people into Auschwitz,” he said. “I mean, whatever, I’d find a gun if that was happening to my people. … I don’t think we need guns in this country. And I hate it. The NRA is a disaster area.”
Weinstein’s reasoning is weak. He wants guns banned, but he also wants genocide resisters to have guns. Where are those guns supposed to come from, anyway? Real-world resisters can’t just make a phone call to the props department.
In the Warsaw Ghetto, the resisters started with just 10 handguns and some cartridges they had stolen from the Nazis. If Weinstein was aware of the real history of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, he would know that the uprising was greatly weakened by the gun confiscation the Nazis had imposed after conquering Poland in 1939.
Perhaps sensing that he had talked himself into a corner, Weinstein shifted the discussion to a related topic.
“I shouldn’t say this, but I’ll tell it to you, Howard,” he said. “I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this issue head-on.” As for the NRA, he boasted, “They’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.”
Weinstein further explained that the movie would not be a documentary, but rather a “big movie like ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’.” In the classic “Mr. Smith,” Jimmy Stewart portrays a naïve and good-hearted man who is appointed to the U.S. Senate, discovers that Congress is totally corrupt and launches a successful filibuster in support of his proposal to build a national boy’s camp.
Weinstein predicted that his new movie will destroy the American firearm industry, because he would create such strong anti-gun sentiment that nobody would want to own stock in firearm manufacturers.Obama didn’t mention that the White House... had been intimidating moderate Democrats throughout the country in order to pass anti-gun laws.
“It’s going to be like crash and burn,” he claimed.
In “The Senator’s Wife,” Streep will apparently portray the title character. Follow-up reporting by the entertainment blog “Deadline” explained that the movie is intended to “expose the NRA for their behind-the-scenes machinations of what Obama himself called ‘intimidation’ and ‘lies’ that ended up defeating legislation that would have expanded background checks on gun sales.” “The Senator’s Wife” will be “a behind-the-scenes account of how the NRA used its influence with politicians to defeat the bill.”
In April 2013, on the afternoon that the Obama-Bloomberg gun control bill was defeated in the Senate, President Obama did, indeed, blame “intimidation” and “lies” for the defeat. Of course, Obama didn’t mention that the White House, including Vice President Joe Biden personally, had been intimidating moderate Democrats throughout the country in order to pass anti-gun laws. Nor did Obama take any responsibility for the lies that he and his administration had incessantly repeated, such as the falsehood that 40 percent of gun sales do not include background checks.
In Weinstein’s tale, the only reason the Obama anti-gun campaign failed was NRA “lies.” Weinstein is certainly very loyal to the president, having raised more than a half million dollars for Obama’s 2012 re-election.
Weinstein is reportedly worth about $150 million, and he has made much of that money by promoting gun violence. Six of his movies are on CNN’s list of the top 20 most violent movies of all time: “Sin City,” “Kill Bill: Vol. 1,” “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” “Rambo” (2008), “Inglourious Basterds” [sic] and “Django Unchained.” And that’s just scratching the surface of Weinstein’s career of promoting violence.
Consider a Weinstein film that didn’t make the top 20 list, “Pulp Fiction” (1994). Deadline.com quoted one studio head that turned down that movie. He recalled, “I didn’t think it was funny to have someone’s head blown off in a car and then picking up pieces of someone’s brain. But when it came out in the theaters, people laughed. And I think that is an indication of what is happening in our society.”
Harvey Weinstein had no such scruples, serving as co-executive producer for that film.
Shortly after announcing his upcoming anti-NRA film, Weinstein appeared on “Piers Morgan Live.” Weinstein told Morgan that he was swearing off gratuitous violence.
“The change starts here,” Weinstein announced. “It has already. For me, I can’t do it. I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids and then just go out and be a hypocrite. … I’m not going to make some crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people just for the sake of making it. … I can’t do it.”
Weinstein then addressed people who accuse him of hypocrisy.
“Well, I think they have a point,” he said. “You have to look in the mirror, too. I have to choose films that aren’t violent or aren’t as violent as they used to be.”
Weinstein has plenty of experience in producing movies that don’t luxuriate in violence. These include lightweight kids’ movies (e.g. “Air Bud”), as well as movies that portray more traditional notions of morality, such as modern versions of Jane Austen novels.
But whether Weinstein will keep his promise to abandon gratuitously violent movies remains to be seen. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) reports that Weinstein’s announced future films include “Kill Bill: Vol. 3,” directed by Quentin Tarantino. Putting together this sequel will be a challenge for more reasons than just Weinstein’s avowed renouncement of violent content. By the end of “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” everyone, Bill included, had been gruesomely murdered.
Also in the Weinstein pipeline, according to IMDB.com, is “Halloween III,” depicting the continuing adventures of a teenage serial killer, and backed by a $23 million budget. For a director who is supposedly turning his back on violence, these blood-soaked sequels seem odd choices. While they may have been in the works before his professed change of heart, he’s still apparently willing to continue his involvement with them.
Of course, “The Senator’s Wife” will not be accurate. But accuracy is not exactly a Weinstein forte, even when he’s doing documentaries. Weinstein has been the producer of three “documentaries” by Michael Moore, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Sicko” and “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Moore’s track record of deceit, fabrication and libel is immense—but apparently that is no problem for Weinstein.
Assuming Weinstein makes good on his promise to attack the NRA, the national media will almost certainly laud “The Senator’s Wife.” The release of the movie may even be heralded as a major turning point in the “national conversation” about gun violence. The various “grassroots” groups that Bloomberg controls could exploit the publicity to hold events and fundraisers at movie premieres all over the country. And the Bloomberg machine could launch a campaign insisting that America’s mothers demand enactment of the Bloomberg gun-ban agenda.Like many Hollywood moguls, Weinstein knows that hype sells movies, even if the hype doesn’t come true.
Also, considering the Hollywood heavyweights involved, “The Senator’s Wife” would almost automatically be in contention for several Academy Awards.
Now you might say to yourself: “So what? I won’t see that movie. No matter what Weinstein says, a single movie isn’t going to destroy the NRA and the American firearms industry.”
And you have reason for optimism. Like many Hollywood moguls, Weinstein knows that hype sells movies, even if the hype doesn’t come true. So don’t expect the price of stocks in publicly traded firearm manufacturers like Sturm, Ruger & Co. or Smith & Wesson to plummet instantly.
But movies can affect culture over the long term. That’s the point that LaPierre was making about “blood-soaked films.” From “Pulp Fiction” in 1994 to the forthcoming “Kill Bill: Vol. 3,” Weinstein has played an important role in coarsening the movie-going audience—much of it young and impressionable—to brutal criminal violence.
In Hollywood, it is acknowledged that certain types of movies are not appropriate for young people. That’s why Hollywood now slaps an “R” rating on any movie that depicts smoking. Yet Hollywood sends mixed messages by structuring its marketing campaigns to appeal to the very people who are supposedly too young to see the theatrical releases of these films and may later obtain the “unrated” DVDs.
If you don’t think movies matter, consider one of Weinstein’s stars, Sylvester Stallone. Weinstein was executive producer for the 2008 version of “Rambo,” the fourth movie in the “Rambo” series, which debuted in 1982. In the series, Stallone plays a Special Forces soldier who goes around fighting and shooting people in Southeast Asia and the United States. The main character’s most distinctive fighting “skill” is spray-firing a machine gun from his hip.
Back in the late 1980s, when the gun prohibition lobbies were just beginning to promote “assault weapon” bans, they convinced the media to portray semi-automatics as “Rambo guns.” (For example, see The New York Times, Aug. 1, 1988.)
There were plenty of people at that time who had no idea what a “semi-automatic” was, but who had seen the TV commercials featuring Rambo spray-firing his machine gun. The public deceit fostered by the gun prohibition lobbies was much easier because of Stallone’s “Rambo.”
Presumably this was fine with Stallone, who is a gun-confiscation advocate and who has helped the Brady Center raise money. It took about two decades of public education to overcome the “Rambo” label on semi-automatics, and even today a large minority of the American public still believes the lie.
Of course, “The Senator’s Wife” won’t convert most Second Amendment supporters into civil rights opponents. But there are plenty of uninformed voters who don’t have much of an opinion about gun policy, one way or the other. They’ll go to the movie because it features Streep and other big stars, and some will leave the movie believing Weinstein’s conspiracy theories.
In this respect, “The Senator’s Wife” will likely echo Moore’s Academy Award-winning “Bowling for Columbine”—discerning viewers will recognize it as a pack of lies, but poorly informed viewers may take it at face value. “Bowling for Columbine” actually became part of the national curriculum in French schools—mandatory viewing for every French schoolchild, poisoning the next generation of French minds against Americans and against firearms.
Of course, we would be remiss not to mention that Weinstein has a First Amendment right to make any kind of movie he wants, anti-nra or not. Likewise, though, we have a First Amendment right to point out the hypocrisy of an individual who has made millions on violent films portraying some 5 million non-violent NRA members across the country as the enemy and swearing to make them “wish they weren’t alive.”
Since President Obama has proclaimed his continued support for more gun control laws—laws that would largely only impact law-abiding Americans—there’s little doubt that he’ll be a big fan of the movie. And he’s likely to use the media hype over the film to further push his gun-ban agenda on you and me.
In the end, whether or not “The Senator’s Wife” makes a substantial difference in the future of the Second Amendment remains to be seen. The outcome may depend in part on whether or not civil rights supporters succeed in exposing the film’s falsehoods to the general public.
Illustration by T.S. Jessell