His standard response is that he "has no plans" to run for President, but Al Gore deftly worked crowds, roused audiences and whipped up further interest in "An Inconvenient Truth."
It was hard not to notice that his swing through California this week — which included a guest spot on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," an award from the California League of Conservation Voters and (a bit self-serving here) an appearance at a Variety screening series — allowed him to mix in contributor and key supporter circles while at the same time promoting the DVD of "Truth" and, hopefully for all of those involved, landing an Oscar nomination.
Backers of "Truth" insist its message is non-partisan — after all, who isn’t for saving the earth? — but is all but impossible for Gore not to get quite political.
"You know, [on DVD releases] some of the movies have alternate endings," Gore quipped before hundreds at the Conservation Voters event. "Let the audience vote. One of the alternate endings is that the President of the United States wakes up and gets it and starts working to solve global warming."
He had particular digs for the Bush administration’s arguments in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, in which states are pressing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In the case that Slate called "Bush vs. Gore’s movie," administration lawyers argued that there was still insufficient evidence that carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming, and therefore there is no reason to impose such regulations.
The League’s exec director Susan Smartt said the film was the "tipping point" in the public consciousness about global warming. But California Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, also being honored along with the team behind "Truth," was a bit more flippant: "If you could just do your slide show to the Supreme Court, or maybe Justice Kennedy."
Later Thursday evening, at the Variety screening, Gore said he couldn’t predict how the Court would decide the case — and drew more than a few laughs when he deadpanned that he hasn’t had the best of luck with the justices.
Joining Gore were director Davis Guggenheim and producer Lawrence Bender, in a session in which the former Vice President blended plenty of irreverence (often at his own expense) with a mini-speech on a whole other front: the influence of political ads. Although Gore says he has high hopes for the Internet in opening up the political discourse, it’s not there yet, and campaigns on both sides of the aisle amounted to a barrage of commercial messages, many of them negative. The intensity of his "system-is-broken" argument got so passionate that you couldn’t help but think that maybe another movie was in the offing.
Although the film may have shifted some public opinion — Pat Robertson and Rupert Murdoch are now pressing for action — Gore says he hasn’t heard anything from the White House, or whether anyone there had seen the movie. In fact, he seemed a bit puzzled that the question even was asked, given that Bush has said he has no plans to see it.
Paramount Vantage is pushing "Truth" for an Oscar, along with a song by Melissa Etheridge, and so far the pic is in the list of 15 selected by the Academy’s documentary committee, which will pare it down to five for the nominations. Guggenheim says that such awards attention would naturally keep the pic in the public eye. Given Gore’s popularity in the entertainment industry, it would seem a slam dunk, but the doc committee has been famously unpredictable.
Gore was a bit more candid when he talked abiout the making of the movie. He said that he may have not done the picture at all had he known how biographical it would be (he talks about the 2000 election, his sister’s death from lung cancer, and his son’s serious accident), "truly I would not have gone forward."
"That is not false modesty," he said. "I did not know what I got to know later and trust Davis’s judgments and instincts and then I sat through it. Among Davis’ many skills are the interviewing skills of a documentarian. The answers that you have used that have sufficed pretty well for years are simply met with ‘Yes, but why?’"