WASHINGTON – Following is a transcript from Fox News Sunday, November 25, 2001.
TONY SNOW, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Earlier this month White House political adviser Karl Rove met with movers and shakers in Hollywood. The topic, supporting the war effort.
So what is Hollywood's role? Well, we're going to get an answer from our next guest, Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Also here with questions, our panel, Fred Barnes, Ceci Connolly and Juan Williams. Brit Hume and Mara Liasson have the day off, and Fred has the first question.
FRED BARNES, FOX NEWS: Mr. Valenti, after that meeting with Karl Rove in Hollywood and all the studio heads there, can you tell me, you know, one or two specific projects that are under way, of movies that will be made involving September 11 and the war on terrorism?
JACK VALENTI, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MOTION PICTURE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA: Yes, I can, as a matter of fact. The real meeting where we assigned projects was six days later in a conference call with about 40 people on the call from all of the major studios, all the networks and the creative guilds — Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild and Writers Guild.
At this time, we have divided it up into several projects. One is to organize some USO shows. Number two, we call messages — you can call them public service announcements, or whatever you choose to call — that the smartest people and most creative people in Hollywood are going to bend their minds and skills to shaping and forming these messages; trailers for theaters; the prefacing film before a DVD and a videocassette; public service announcements on networks, et cetera.
And then we're going to do international messages. Many of them will be in the various languages — Uzbeki, Farsi, Arabic. And they will be directed toward the international audience.
BARNES: Well, what about specific movies, maybe a Rambo 4, or something like that?
VALENTI: Well, I must say that Mr. Rove understood — I made it very clear before the meeting began on November 11 — content was off the table. We're not going to talk about movies. That's the sole province of producers, studios and directors, creative people. If they want to make a movie about Rambo 7, that's fine. If they don't want to make a movie, that's fine.
The point is, though, that what we're trying to do is use our creative skills and imagination to form these messages, which a lot of people think might be useful; I don't know how useful. We're going to do our damnedest, though, to be helpful.
CECI CONNOLLY, FOX NEWS: Well, that's what I actually wanted to get at, was this idea of, where do you draw the line?
CONNOLLY: I mean, did you have any discomfort even just simply in the image of the top political adviser of President Bush, Karl Rove, basically coming to your industry and saying, here's what we want you to do? I mean, was there any discomfort being put in that position?
VALENTI: If he had told us the kind of movies to make, not only would there have been discomfort, there would have been no meeting.
But, you see, I think I feel a lot like most of the people in Hollywood. This is about our country. This isn't about ideology. This isn't about Republicans and Democrats. This isn't about President Bush. I think most of us know we only have one president at a time. And, therefore, you must rally around the cause.
We're in a war. Thank God, we haven't really lost anybody yet, but sooner or later we'll have casualties. How long this war will go on, no one knows.
So I find this to be something that Hollywood, secure in the comfort of our little lean-tos along Sunset Strip, can do something for their country.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Jack, I think one of the questions early on was, why do they hate us, why do the people in some of those Middle Eastern countries not understand America? And the finger immediately was pointed at Hollywood for portraying America as a country filled with people who were sex-obsessed, violent, self-indulgent, morose, all the rest.
And, of course, you think back now to Vietnam, and you think of movies like, well, Apocalypse Now and Deer Hunter, kind of, movies that were set — is there now going to be an effort to change the way Hollywood portrays America? You say that the content of movies is off the table, but I think that's what people are concerned about.
VALENTI: Well, that's a matter of opinion, Juan. We produced over 600 movies in America last year. We don't have enough creative talent in this country to produce 600 good movies. So a number of those movies were movies that I wouldn't defend if my life and career depended on it...
... but a great many of them were very good movies. And I've seen a lot of them, and I loved them.
There's a massive contradiction in place. The Los Angeles Times did an in-depth story the other day, about a week ago, about their reporters going into all these Middle Eastern countries, Syria on south, and they found out that a lot of people were anti-American, their animus was deep and venomous, but they loved American movies, all kind of American movies — Titanic, the Shreks of the world. So there is this contradiction.
I also think there's something that a lot of these people fear more than anything else. If you asked me, what is the American culture, I can sum it up in one word: freedom. Freedom to make movies that people don't like. Freedom to make movies that criticize your government.
WILLIAMS: But I'm saying to you, what about the idea of portraying America as a land of opportunity? You've got a lot of people who are poor, who have their faces up against the glass saying, gee, is America just filled with all these rich people who are wasting away, they're sort of morally weak and terrible. Or can we say to them, hey, if you come to America, America stands for a place where you can make a living, raise a family, where you can exercise rights, the government's not going to oppress you?
VALENTI: Well, what about Rocky? You know, that's a good story of a fellow who overcomes all kind of obstacles in America, and he finds redemption. He finds victory. That's the kind of movies we make.
Every movie we make is not good any more than every television show is perfect.
But I think, overall, people in the world recognize that the one thing the American movie portrays and illuminates in a blinding light is freedom. And I think that's well worth protecting. And that's what people in Hollywood feel strongly about, passionate about, freedom. And so that's why we responded to Mr. Rove.
SNOW: Mr. Valenti, you flew a B-25. You've served in our nation's forces. In fact, you've got the Legion of Honor, the little red thing there on your lapel, which means you've been acknowledged for your valor by the French people as well.
Do you see a resurgence of patriotism? And, to make it a crass link to Hollywood, that's probably pretty good marketing right now, if people really are feeling that surge of patriotism.
VALENTI: I must say, the thing — I don't want to sound corny here, but I'm an old-fashioned, unabashed patriot. I fought for my country. I almost died for my country. I'd be honored to do it again.
So many people in Hollywood in that room came together in this marvelous circle of unity. They wanted to do something for their country. And if it means designing a message or taking part in a USO show that — you show it somewhere in Turkey or Afghanistan, they feel good about that, because most of these people in that room are quite wealthy and very successful.
VALENTI: Sometimes you feel guilty about that. And this is a chance, short of serving in the armed forces, because most of them, I'm afraid, couldn't handle the physical parts of it...
... but to do something. I can't tell you what a passionate, exuberant, exalting feeling that is. It really — in that room I felt so proud of Hollywood and I felt so good about what I do.
SNOW: All right. Jack Valenti, thanks for joining us.
VALENTI: Thank you.
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