Mike Fleming

fair_game_movie_image_sean_penn_naomi_watts_01While the Sean Penn-Naomi Watts drama Fair Game doesn’t officially premiere until its Cannes debut in competition on May 20, the finished film screened yesterday in Hollywood to a packed house of distributors. The Doug Liman-directed film tells the story of Valerie Plame, whose status with the CIA was compromised by leaks from Bush Administration insiders to journalists. These came after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote an op-ed column in The New York Times that accused the White House of manipulating intelligence to create the appearance of weapons of mass destruction and justify the invasion of Iraq.

I’m told that the screening’s goal is to arrive on the Croisette with a domestic distributor in place.

Word is that the screening went well and a couple offers are already in. While this film will never be a favorite of the Fox News Channel, its success might well hinge on how well it steers from polemic about a Bush Administration nobody much cares about anymore, and into a relationship drama akin to Michael Mann’s The Insider. From what I’ve heard, Penn’s Wilson character comes off a bit preachy and, given Penn’s liberal politics, it will be interesting to see how that plays.

Also worth noting is that of the handful of American films embraced by Cannes, there are three that could be construed as right-wing bashing: Fair Game, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the financial meltdown.

Fair Game was originally developed by Warner Bros, which acquired rights to Plame’s memoir before it was even clear if the CIA would allow her to publish it. But the studio put it in turnaround, at which point River Road, Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi stepped in to finance production.