After a year of controversy, the long, strange saga of “The Reagans” took another twist Thursday when the movie scored a stunning seven Emmy noms.
“Today is more of a triumph for us than any other year,” exec producer Craig Zadan said.
Zadan and Storyline partner Neil Meron have been nominated multiple times for projects such as “Annie” and an ABC biopic of Judy Garland. But the recognition for “The Reagans”– produced in association with Sony Pictures Television– stands out because of the pic’s infamous backstory.
“Now it will be in the record books that at least this picture was acknowledged as a piece of filmmaking as opposed to a piece of controversy,” Meron said.
Project — picked up by Showtime after CBS dropped it– suffered an unprecedented barrage of criticism and protest from conservative groups angered by the very idea of a critical look at Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Even before seeing a copy of the pic, numerous groups demanded the pic be killed, sight unseen.
Eye supremo Leslie Moonves decided not to put “The Reagans” on the air, not, he said, because of conservative criticism but because the project didn’t turn out to be the love story he had hoped.
Rather than kill the pic altogether, Moonves agreed to sell it to CBS cousin Showtime. It was a key decision, Zadan said.
“Thank God for (Showtime entertainment prexy) Bob Greenblatt,” Zadan said. “If it wasn’t for him, literally the movie would have been buried and gone directly to video and it would have never been broadcast.”
Producers concede they were concerned about whether President Reagan’s death last month would impact the pic’s chances for nomination. Now that Emmy voters have put their seal of approval on the project, Zadan and Meron are looking forward to the movie standing alone as a piece of filmmaking.
“We went out to tell a love story,” Zadan said. “We never intended for this to create controversy. We made a movie that we thought humanized the Reagans, and we never felt that we went after them.”