NEW YORK – Sen. John McCain (search) wants to make a few things clear — he's not a movie star and he's not a candidate for the presidency (yet).
He is, however, the main character in a TV movie based on his best-selling book, "Faith of My Fathers (search)." The movie, which airs Monday night on A&E, focuses on his capture and survival as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five years.
"It ends, by the way, when I get out of prison. So those — those conservatives don't have to worry about the politics," McCain told FOX News, making sly reference to his persona as a maverick Republican who was George W. Bush's biggest rival during the 2000 GOP presidential primaries.
The publicity of the film has generated rumors about McCain's possible 2008 presidential ambitions. But with that election three years away, McCain says the film is not politically driven.
"The intent of the book and the movie was not to further or harm my political ambitions. It was to tell a story of a family and people who, I think, served their country well," McCain told FOX News.
McCain certainly has served his country well; he has been a member of Congress from Arizona for more than 22 years — the first four in the House, the rest in the Senate. McCain has said that his interest in politics was first sparked by the military service of his family and his own experience as a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War (search).
"Faith of My Fathers" is about what McCain learned from his grandfather and father, both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy (search), and how their examples gave him the courage to survive as a POW.
McCain told FOX News the film is "a tribute to those brave young people that I had the opportunity to serve with."
While McCain was held captive in Vietnam he was offered an early release because of his father's high military rank. But the young pilot refused to cooperate with the Vietnamese. Instead, he held to the code that prisoners should go home in the order of their capture.
McCain was beaten for refusing the offer and spent two of his five years in solitary confinement.
Shawn Hatosy (search) plays the young McCain. The 29-year-old actor portrays a character who evolves from a hotheaded flight school pilot to a brave soldier who chooses integrity over his own well-being. Hatosy also played roles in "The Cooler" (2005) and "Inventing the Abbotts" (1997).
"I didn't know much about the senator before getting involved in the project," Hatosy told FOX News.
Hatosy now knows more about McCain and said he admires McCain's courage. "It was a great opportunity for me to play a guy I have a lot of respect for," said Hatosy.
Hatosy looks very much like a younger McCain and he even nailed McCain's distinct accent. But it's unlikely that the McCain look-alike could predict McCain's actions in the political arena.
McCain takes pride in his individualism and unpredictability as a moderate Republican, but he resents comments that the A&E film may be a medium for his political aspirations. Whether or not the McCain mania is planned, the publicity of his war hero reputation could be beneficial on the road to the 2008 campaign.
People have already reacted to the heroic account of McCain's life in his book. One visitor to the Internet Movie Database Web site expressed his excitement over McCain's autobiography and the resulting film.
"I came away with an even greater admiration of Senator John McCain because he truly has been to hell and back … I know there are talks of John McCain running for president in 2008. I pray he does," said one IMDB comment.
"Faith of My Fathers" airs on A&E at 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. CDT on Monday.