Multi-Oscar winning indie studio chief Harvey Weinstein is guest-hosting CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight and spending the hour interviewing former President Bill Clinton. The show was pre-taped in New York this afternoon. The appearance by Weinstein, a long time Clinton supporter and big time donor to Democrats including President Obama this election cycle, comes as part of Guest Host Week on the primetime CNN talk show. With CNN’s primetime ratings hitting 20-year lows this month, Harv’s presence could be a good move for the network. Or not.
Weinstein starts off with an approach as measured and understated as his black suit and black tie. Quentin Tarantino would be proud. After introducing Clinton (“The things I do for you, Harvey,” the ex-Prez says), Weinstein asked him right off what his favorite movie is. Clinton says High Noon is his flick pick – though he really likes Casablanca. Clinton tells Weinstein that Brad Pitt and George Clooney are too good-looking to play him in a movie, though Clooney is about his size. The former President thinks Meryl Streep should play Hillary Clinton. Harvey plugs The Weinstein Co’s Iron Lady with the Streep reference. Clinton starts talking about how much The Lion in Winter and Tom Jones meant to him.
There was plenty of gooey-gushing by Weinstein, who tells Clinton he was the first President that “was cool”. Weinstein and Clinton also talk politics. The back to Hollywood. Weinstein says “in his world” everyone supports gay marriage and asks Clinton if Obama took a risk by supporting it. Clinton say “Yes” but adds how it was the right thing to do. After another exchange about Obama vs Romney, Weinstein asks Clinton whether Romney’s past in the private sector will help or hurt him in the election. “Not every movie you made was a smash hit,” Clinton says. To which Harvey responds sotto voce, “That’s for sure.”
And back from the first commercial, it’s the economy and education. “How do we fix it?,” Weinstein asks Clinton. And the former President is off on two of his favorite topics, listing solution after solution from his Clinton Global Initiative and how the Bush II administration ruined all his hard work.
Back from the second commercial and Weinstein and Clinton are talking about NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to ban sugary soda drinks from the city. Weinstein calls Bloomberg “a very smart man” and notes the efforts he made to cut down tobacco use in New York. Long segment made short – It’s better for your health, stupid. Weinstein tells Clinton he looks great and asks the former President how he can look that good. Now it’s on to Syria and the Middle East.
Weinstein shows off his movie knowledge as he and Clinton chat about The Princess Bride, a fave of the former POTUS and his daughter Chelsea. “It was Rob Reiner’s second film as a director,” he says. Now Weinstein’s saying Hilary Clinton will go “down in history probably as our greatest Secretary of State.” Even her husband doesn’t look like he’ll go that far. “Well, she’ll rank very high,” says Clinton before shaking hands with Harvey and leaving the show.
And Harvey’s back with no Clinton. Behind the producer in the CNN studio is a wall of posters from his films, The Artist, Shakespeare In Love, A Week With Marilyn and The Iron Lady. The self proclaimed “Hollywood guy” intros a segment asking some of the biggest stars around what their favorite movies moments are and the movies that changed their lives.” Oprah talks about as a child wanting Shirley Temple’s hair. Martin Scorsese talks about his love of the open spaces of Duel in The Sun. Oprah’s back praising Lilies of The Field and how Sidney Poitier winning the Academy Award in 1963 changed her life. Scorsese mentions that On The Waterfront changed his life, because “that was the world I lived in.” Jamie Foxx laughs about how much he loved Eddie Murphy in Coming To America and all the roles he could play. Quentin Tarantino, a big Weinstein pal, spoke about his love of the mix of comedy and horror in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Foxx praised New Jack City. Tarantino says his fave movie today is The Good, the Bad and Ugly.
After a story about how Nelson Mandela told him how much movies meant to him when he was in prison in South Africa, Weinstein nicely pivoted into Morgan’s regular Only in American segment. Weinstein spoke to Holocaust survivor Martin Gray about how much he loved Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and what a prophetic film it turned out to be. “It has been an incredible privilege to do this show,” Weinstein said from the desk at the end and then quoted Gray that “the secret of life is the power of hope.” And with that, Harvey handed it over to Anderson Cooper and AC360.
Deadline's Dominic Patten - tip him here.