Will audiences enlist in “Charlie Wilson’s War” next weekend? The film’s screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, is cautiously optimistic.
At the Q&A session following Wednesday’s Variety screening at Arclight Cinemas, the politically astute writer behind “A Few Good Men” and TV’s “The West Wing” pointed out a few facts that might set his new political drama apart from the other movies about America’s engagement in the Middle East which have performed poorly at the box office.
“My guess is that people, particularly when it’s this subject, don’t want to see a movie about what they read in the newspaper this morning,” said Sorkin. “But the fact that it all happened 20 years ago, that it’s a story we’ve never heard before, that it’s outrageous and funny, we’re hoping they’re all working on our side.”
Speaking of funny, Sorkin was aiming at balancing humor with the serious subject matter — the story, of course, being about Charlie Wilson, the hard-drinking, womanizing Democratic congressman from Texas’ 2nd district, who spearheaded the effort to raise money to arm the Afghan Mujahadeen during the Soviet-Afghan War.
“A Christmas movie about arming the Afghan Mujahadeen in their fight against the Soviets? You’d better laugh a little bit or I’m going to stand there giving everybody their 11 bucks back,” Sorkin joked. “It helps a lot when Mike Nichols is directing, Tom Hanks is starring, (and) Philip Seymour Hoffman absolutely knows where the jokes are. If there was a movie I wanted it to feel like it was ‘Mash.'”
Sorkin made it very clear at the Q&A that the makers of “Charlie Wilson’s War” wanted the film to be political but not preachy.
“The politics we are dealing with, the subjects we are dealing with are so radioactive right now,” said Sorkin. “Basically, I wanted the politics of the movie to kind of happen out in the parking lot after the movie, for just the discussion to happen.”