“It doesn’t take much to attract me to an interesting piece of history,” reveals director Rod Lurie as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his new telefilm “Killing Reagan,” based on the best-selling book by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. This TV adaptation, which debuts on the National Geographic channel on Sunday (Oct. 16), recounts the 1981 assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan by John Hinkley Jr. Although the liberal-leaning director disagrees politically with both author and subject, he readily admits, “the book itself is really entertaining, and it’s non-partisan.”
To take on the iconic roles of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, the director chose two-time Emmy nominee Tim Matheson (Drama Guest Actor for “The West Wing” [2002, 2003]), and double Emmy champ Cynthia Nixon (Comedy Supporting Actress for “Sex and the City”  and Drama Guest Actress for “Law & Order: SVU” ). “They’re some of the best actors in America,” praises Lurie. Matheson, “really dug into this role,” going so far as to learn, “that Reagan breathed in sentences in a really specific way.”
Lurie is no stranger to films with a political slant. His “The Contender” (2000), which won the BFCA’s Alan J. Pakula Award for artistic merit, scored Oscar nominations for Joan Allen (Best Actress) as a US Senator whose past threatens to derail her confirmation hearings for the Vice Presidency, and for Jeff Bridges (Supporting Actor) as the President hoping to appoint her. “I was really looking into the double-standards of how women are viewed,” he explains, relating it to today with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
He also spoke about her Republican rival Donald Trump, who he believes, “has made it so that even Democrats today are nostalgic for Reagan.” He acknowledges, “as much as I don’t like Reagan as a President,” he does, “admire him as a man’s man, as an example of how to behave, how to carry oneself. He had tremendous dignity.” Whereas, “Reagan was just a performer that appealed to the best in us,” the New York billionaire and reality TV star, “is overtly trying to appeal to the worst in us.”
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