Tom Dobbs, a comedian known for skewering politicians, has been elected into office as President of the United States. That's the premise of Universal Pictures' Man of the Year directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robin Williams, Laura Linney, and Lewis Black. But there's a catch... According to Eleanor Green (Linney), an employee of the software company which supplied the computer program for the voting machines, Dobbs didn't actually win - it was a computer error. Dobbs (Williams) must now decide whether to take office or own up to the truth.
The Appeal of Political Satires: Linney explained what she looks for in a good political satire: If youre watching satire you want your mind to be freed up. You want some sort of release of a situation that feels suffocating or feels predictable. You want release; you want freedom from the predictable. Its the sort of situation I dont know if youve ever heard opera singers talk about when theyre reaching for a high note they go very deep [and] when theyre reaching for a low note they go very high. The energy is completely the opposite. Theres the tension between the two, and I think theres something about that that relates to great drama or great satire. Its the pitch that youre going for, the pitch that will break through, the pitch that will allow you to hear something. Not being afraid of going too far in any one direction and then having it all balance, and thats where Barry is amazing.
Working with a director of that talent and experience Its always so interesting for me to see that the younger directors are very easily thrown. The inexperienced directors, they panic. If theres a problem and its not going to go the way they think its going to go, they panic. The more experienced directors, they roll with anything that happens. I mean we had a huge snow storm in Toronto in December, that big snow storm, but it wasnt predicted and we had four days to film outside. Any other director would have panicked and flipped out, and Barry wrote it into the script. He was like, Okay, well use it. He wasnt afraid of anything that came at him, and he knows just to sort of go with things. Its that sort of not being afraid of whats in front of you.
Working with Robin Williams: It was wonderful. First off, hes not just a comedian. Hes a Julliard trained actor and he listens. He really listens and he really works with everybody who hes working with. Hes not just a geyser of energy and entertainment and razzmatazz. Hes not. I dont think Ive ever met anybody who made so many people so happy. Ive never seen that before. It was so moving in a way. Everywhere he went theres a generosity that is really staggering, and very brave. I find him very, very brave. Hes not afraid of people the way that a lot of us can sort shut down or start to protect ourselves because its all so overwhelming. Hes not afraid of people and hes not afraid of giving. I used to love to be in a room with him and look at everybodys faces. They would just be beaming. It was really an amazing thing to be around. I just love him. Were very, very lucky that hes in our business.
Linney continued, Dancing with him was just a joy. I could have done that all day. He can be so moving. Theres that section where he came in the ambulance and Im tied down to the gurney - where they would leave me by the way. Theyd walk off and Id be lying there. I was literally taped down and tied down, and when wed finished the shot everyone would walk (away) and Id be left alone in an ambulance. Im like, I dont want to be here. Someone come rescue the actress. But there would be scenes where I would look at him and he would just break my heart. Theres a sincerity and a humanity about him that is really just wonderful. Anyway, gush, gush, gush.
Can a Comedian Affect Change in Politics?: I think they do affect change, clearly. Someones making a movie about it. I think they do affect change, and historically they always have. Its important historically, its important that people can go back and read Mark Twain and see what was happening then. Its documentation in a way. The comics do document what is cultural history."
Nailing the Cafeteria Scene: This question/answer wont mean much until youve seen the film. It was fun to do, said Linney, because it was sort of like a little play that I got to work on all day long. I very much sort of said to myself, Dont try and have any one result on this, just work on it all day long and see what happens. You go in with information, your preparation, what drugs are in the system, how do they affect you, and I sort of just went with the senses. What is she seeing? What is she hearing? What is she feeling and how would she respond to that? Someone looking at her a certain way, the sound of a knife or a fork on a table, what it would feel like to stir something compulsively and not be able to stop. All of that, so that was basically what I did.