Until today I hadn’t noticed that Young Americans (formerly College Republicans), the mostly fact-based period buddy comedy about young righties Karl Rove and Lee Atwater on a wild cross-country road trip to Washington, D.C., was going to get made. I rave-reviewed Wes Jones’ script four and a half years ago, and in the same piece disputed suspicions in a 12.17.10 Steven Zeitchik L.A. Times piece that the script might have trouble getting made for lack of commerciality. Zeitchik’s instincts were obviously more astute than mine as it’s taken a long time to get rolling.
The College Republicans casting that might have been in late 2010.
Back then Anonymous was looking to produce with Shia LaBeouf as Atwater and Paul Dano as Rove. The current version will roll this fall with Starstream producing, John Krokidas (Kill Your Darlings) directing and Daniel Radcliffe as Atwater and Dane Dehaan as Rove. Amanda Seyfried (whom I just saw on-stage in Neil Labute‘s The Way We Get By) will costar.
Here are portions of my 12.19.10 piece:
“This is a very smartly written, character-rich, darkly humorous tale of an actual 1973 road trip taken by infamous Bush strategist and Fox News scumbag Karl Rove, then 23, and the late Republican attack dog Lee Atwater, then 22, as they campaigned and dirty-tricked their way across the south in order to get Rove elected chairman of the College Republican National Committee.
“What this is, boiled down, is another Due Date mixed with politics and, in a manner of speaking, horror. Because it’s an origin story about the wily and colorful beginnings of two scoundrels who made their bones as the architects of rightwing attack-and-subvert politics — guys who not only put two Bushes into the White House but injected a vicious and reprehensible strain into American politics that not only thrives today but has in fact metastasized.
“And yet it’s funny and entertaining, and the Atwater character is a likable good-old-boy, part snake and part horndog, and Rove is a brilliant but snarly schemer who believes in Machiavelli and getting revenge. And it’s got rowdy episodes and wild shenanigans (sexual seduction, colorful language, sudden fisticuffs, rummaging through garbage cans, being chased by dogs and cops and hopping over fences) and a scrappy and suspenseful third-act climax that works in the same way that hundreds of other films have worked — i.e., everything comes to a head and the characters fulfill their fate.
“In a 12.17 review piece, L.A. Times guy Steven Zeitchick goes off on a weird tangent when he calls College Republicans ‘a tricky commercial prospect…the stuff of great drama but not necessarily great box office [because] it’s far from a sure thing that the large number of Americans who consider themselves Republicans would embrace a Hollywood take on Karl Rove.’
“Zeitchik is serious? Firstly, College Republicans is a story about a couple of smart (if slightly satanic) young guys on the make who take down their enemies and attain power, and if that’s not an American success story then I don’t know what is. Secondly, take out the comic schtick and some of the antics and the story are essentially truthful. (Most of it is recounted in James Moore and Wayne Slater‘s ‘Rove Exposed: How Bush’s Brain Fooled America.’) And thirdly, the only Republicans who know or care about Rove these days are over 65 and live in the hinterlands.
“If you can’t portray or satirize a guy like Rove in a darkly humorous way, who can you stick it to?”