Dan Snyder is supporting Robert Redford’s eloquent anti-war film, "Lions for Lambs." The owner of the Washington Redskins, a heavy Republican donor and business partner of an even bigger one, Snyder sent this column an endorsement on Saturday. Snyder's PR guy, Karl Swanson, forwarded this e-mail to FOXNews.com:
"'Lions for Lambs' causes Snyder no 'uneasy moments,'" Snyder wrote in reaction to a column I wrote here on Friday. Dan Snyder "and a group of friends screened it 10 days ago and he found the film engaging and intelligent and the performances riveting."
The fact that Snyder — a major donor to and fan of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele — continues to endorse "Lions for Lambs" is major for Redford and producers Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise.
In 2005-2006 he gave the Republican National Committee $50,000. He’s given thousands more to other Republicans. Dwight Schar, his partner, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates.
Swanson further insists that contrary to reporting in this column on Friday, Snyder and associates have not been bought out of their investment in Cruise’s production company with Wagner. Our sources say differently.
Despite his endorsement, Snyder’s name will not appear on the credits for "LfL." But Swanson says Snyder is an executive producer on "Valkyrie," Cruise’s controversial film about the attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler.
"Lions for Lambs," which will debut Monday night at the London Film Festival, is certainly Redford’s anti-war statement. (It’s already been screened at Harvard University and with Cruise in Westchester, N.Y.)
It’s also, primarily, an anti-this-war statement. At not quite an hour-and-a-half long, this conversation-heavy character study is not subtle about the American war in Iraq. But it’s also pro-American, and very American in its nature. This dichotomy is something people will be arguing about from the moment they see the film.
The film carries an obvious delivery of a message, but — and this I think makes it work — "Lions for Lambs" is also rather balanced. Cruise plays a Republican senator responsible for spearheading an aggressive military drive in Afghanistan. He’s so proud of this initiative that he summons the veteran magazine reporter (Meryl Streep) who put him on the map and into Congress. He figures he’ll spin her as the new bombs fall.
But Cruise’s senator may also be looking for approval. He knows what’s about to happen is more dangerous than anything that’s preceded it. Give Cruise credit for making Sen. Jasper Irving very likeable as he does something unpopular.
Meanwhile, and disconnected from this, Redford is a California political science professor trying to catalyze an apathetic student with potential (hot new British actor Andrew Garfield, using an American accent).
Two of Redford’s students have unexpectedly joined the army — Derek Luke and Michael Pena. They are now part of the troop assigned to the first new bombing raid on Afghanistan. Redford uses them as an example to Garfield of believing in something.
Basically, two conversations take place for the length of the film — Streep/Cruise and Redford/Garfield. They are intercut by Pena and Luke’s desperate attempt to save their own lives after their helicopter is shot down.
There are a few other characters, including some Army folks who are monitoring Pena and Luke. But otherwise it’s the six main players on whom Matthew Michael Carnahan and Redford have concentrated.
"Lions for Lambs" is nothing if not pro-soldier and pro-American. What Redford and company do so deftly — mainly thanks to Streep’s character — is to question authority, apathy, media manipulation and the future.
It also brings up, ever so gently, comparisons with the Vietnam War. Through Streep, Redford and Carnahan get their message in loud and clear. "World War II lasted less than five years," Streep says to a grinning — but not buffoonish — Cruise when discussing the length of the Iraq mission so far.
The performances, as Snyder said through Swanson in his e-mail, are riveting. In the two "conversations," the better-seasoned actors — Streep and Redford — are obviously more persuasive. But that doesn’t mean that Cruise and Garfield are any less impactful. It’s just that these two powerhouse talents are at the top of their respective games.
Streep may even find herself nominated for Best Supporting Actress as the conscience of "LfL" because she functions on two levels: guide for the audience into the film’s political debate and a sounding board for Cruise’s senator.
Redford — whose high-mark directorial achievements include an Oscar for "Ordinary People"; nominations for "Quiz Show"; and the excellent (now maybe "modern classic" version of) "A River Runs Through It" — is in command on "LfL." A staunch environmentalist, he’s not going to back down now on his views.
According to the Harvard Crimson from last Friday, he told the university audience: "They [the Bush administration] asked for our obedience [following 9/11], and they asked for our trust, and we gave it to them. I resent that rip-off," he said.
"When I see the consequence of us shutting up on our ability to express our freedom of speech, our freedom of dissent, and say, ‘Wait a minute, what proof do you have?’ ... Those questions weren’t asked."
"Lions for Lambs" asks questions that not only deserve to be asked, but heard. When the film opens, the debate will begin. That’s more American than anything I can think of.
Everyone likes to carp about the Hamptons International Film Festival, yet the screenings are sold out, the parties are hot tickets and the celebs are everywhere.
This year, for some reason, the HIFF seemed better than ever. John Cusack turned up for New Line’s "Martian Child," Lisa Kudrow came in for the charming "Kabluey" and Sidney Lumet made the rounds for his Oscar-headed "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead."
At the Rising Stars party at the Star Room, I ran into Tamara Jenkins, whose Fox Searchlight feature "The Savages" is also headed to the Oscars. She was there with "Sideways" co-writer and Alexander Payne collaborator Jim Taylor. He’s working on his own feature now as well.
At Nick & Toni’s last night, while the Festival swirled on around them: ABC hit series creator of "Brothers and Sisters" Jon Robin Baitz with his personal favorite star of the show, Ron Rifkin.
On Saturday night, Nick & Toni’s was the site of New Line’s annual dinner and cocktails, with Cusack as the guest of honor. Kudrow popped in, and someone handed her a drink.
"What’s this?" she said, and sipped a martini. "I’ve never had one of these," she said, wide-eyed.
"Oh, no?" we responded. A couple more sips and we’d be asking for dirt on Jennifer Aniston. She switched to a Diet Coke ASAP.
Kudrow’s film, "Kabluey," is a potential indie smash, by the way. But why isn’t this talented comedienne the star of a huge network sitcom? Paging Ben Silverman. Kudrow is the Lucille Ball of our generation. Grab her!
There’s more not only party-line crossing, but odd friendship and loyalty fences coming down.
Last week, Dan Cox’s documentary won the Best Doc prize at the Zurich Film Festival. It’s called "Running With Arnold," and it examines in detail the life and times of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Oddly, the chairman of the Zurich Film Festival is Al Ruddy, the executive producer of the "Godfather" films. He’s also the actual godfather of the children of Arnold and Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger.
Politics is sure making strange film-fellows these days, isn’t it? Real Americans just stand up for what they believe in, and the rest be damned, I guess. Something tells me Gov. Arnold can take whatever comes his way, but maybe now "Running with Arnold" will get a distributor.