Flurry of features brings political spin to volatile prexy race

NEW YORK — Moviegoers looking to escape politics at the multiplex might be in for a rude awakening: Theaters will be inundated with an unprecedented number of volatile features as the presidential race heats up.

“Tour of Duty,” based on Douglas Brinkley’s book, will look at John Kerry’s term in Vietnam and the years of peace advocacy that followed.

In the works since early 2003 and due for completion by Labor Day, the docu is being produced and directed by George Butler, who had hits with “Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition” and “Pumping Iron.”

Despite considerable interest, Butler will not commit to a distribution deal until the film is completed, but he hopes to have it in theaters by September.

Butler also is readying a book to be published by Time Warner division Bullfinch, culled from some 6,000 shots of the politician.

“John Kerry has had the most interesting life of anyone in the presidential arena since Theodore Roosevelt,” says Butler. “His history as a politician is that he’s been underestimated, and that he has enormous willpower, not unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Meanwhile, Michael Moore’s docu “Fahrenheit 911″ promises to take an incendiary view of the period before, during and after the 2001 terrorist attacks and is believed to contain explosive information about Bush (Variety, March 22-28).

“The Hunting of the President,” co-directed by Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason, will rekindle the backstory of the sustained campaign against Bill Clinton. Thomason and his wife Linda Bloodworth were some of Clinton’s principal connections in Hollywood.

Pic will open June 11 through Regent Releasing in a gradual rollout timed to hit major Democrat hubs as election activity escalates.

“It’s a good time and this is a good year with a wide-open political forum for this type of movie,” offers Regent senior VP of theatrical distribution John Lambert. “We welcome the controversy.”

Lambert says a number of key political activists will be tubthumping for the release in addition to benefit premieres and campus promotions.

According to Thomason, “Michael Moore really changed everything with ‘Bowling for Columbine.’ Once that hit, it opened the field both on the liberal and the conservative front.”

Still shopping for a distrib is “Bush’s Brain,” documakers Michael Schoob and Joseph Mealey’s look at Bush strategist Karl Rove. Pic premiered recently at the South by Southwest fest in Austin.

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