Wag the Dog Movie Poster
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Wag the Dog R

1997 ▪ Comedy ▪ 96 Minutes

Directed by Barry Levinson. Starring Woody Harrelson, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Denis Leary, and Robert De Niro.


In a 29-day shoot, Barry Levinson filmed this $15 million political and media satire, adapted by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet from Larry Beinhart's novel, American Hero. Two weeks prior to re-election, the President (Michael Belson) is accused of cornering an underage girl in the Oval Office. To keep the media from learning of this, Presidential adviser Winifred Ames (Anne Heche) brings in political consultant and spin doctor Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), a specialist in such salvage operations. Brean suggests fabricating denials of non-existent emergencies -- such as denials about the B-3 bomber. The denial, of course, is true, since no B-3 bomber exists. Brean visits the mansion of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) and gives him the assignment to create a patriotic campaign centered around a war in Albania. Motss assembles a creative team -- Liz Butsky (Andrea Martin), the trend-setter Fad King (Denis Leary), and songwriter Johnny Green (Willie Nelson). Treated like an ad campaign, the songs and symbols are transmitted directly from a Hollywood soundstage to CNN. The star of their campaign is a "rescued" pilot -- in reality, a psychotic military prisoner (Woody Harrelson), who's a ticking time bomb. The flag-waving song, "The American Dream" was written for the film by Tom Bahler (who co-wrote "We Are the World"). Beinhart's original novel involved a real President (Bush), a real war (the Gulf War), and the premise that George Bush and Saddam Hussein staged it.


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