PopPolitics: Jay Roach on Why ‘Trumbo’ is Still a ‘Cautionary Tale’ (Listen)

Trumbo TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

Jay Roach, director of “Trumbo,” says even though the height of Hollywood’s blacklist era was six decades ago, his movie is still a “cautionary tale” of the hysteria that can devolve from attacks on free speech.

In many cases, it took decades for credits to be restored on movies written under pseudonyms by blacklisted writers or credited to “fronts” who were not shut out from employment.

“I think there is a certain repressed memory in Hollywood,” Roach tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “…Unless somebody wants to say, ‘Really, hey, we should remember this so we don’t repeat it.’ It is really a powerful cautionary tale.”

“It is hard to imagine, but I do think there is a possibility,” he adds of the chance of such an event happening today. “You already [see people] trying to defund universities for having political views. Right now, in the middle of this political campaign, that has become an interesting issue, just to try to shut down divergent dissenting political ideas. Who knows if it can happen in Hollywood. But I think these stories are important to tell as cautionary tales.”

“Trumbo” tells the story of one of Hollywood’s most self-professed screenwriters, Dalton Trumbo, whose refusal to answer the question of whether he was, or ever had been, a Communist before a congressional committee in 1947 led to his blacklisting. He worked by screenwriting through “fronts,” turning out Oscar-winning screenplays for “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One” before the blacklist eventually dissipated in 1960 when he was credited for Otto Preminger’s “Exodus” and “Spartacus” starring Kirk Douglas.

Roach also talks about the influence of the media in pushing the Red scare in Hollywood, and how he knew one of the “Hollywood ten,” the showbiz figures who served time in prison for contempt of Congress. Edward Dmytryk was one of Roach’s directing teachers at USC’s film school.

Listen below:

Debate Data Dive

You can look at the 8.6 million broadcast viewers who watched Saturday’s Democratic debate in one of two ways: It is still far better than many of the Democratic debates held in the 2008 cycle at this point, and double the audience that CBS normally gets on Saturday night. But Saturday night also is the lowest viewing night of the week, leading to some criticism of the Democratic National Committee for scheduling the event at that time. Martin O’Malley has been championing more debates than the six on the books, and his deputy campaign manager Lis Smith told Politico that the Republicans have “been eating our lunch” with bigger attention and viewership.

Republicans have yet to hold a major debate on Saturday night this cycle. Their next is scheduled for Dec. 15, a Tuesday, in Las Vegas, with CNN and Salem Radio the sponsors. The next Democratic debate will be on Saturday, again, on Dec. 19 from Manchester, N.H., with ABC News and WMUR televising.

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday night’s debate, Zignal Labs‘s Anthony York reported that the gathering lacked the “media heat” of GOP events, drawing 370,000 mentions of the three candidates. Sanders drew 202,000 mentions, followed by Clinton with more than 152,000 and Martin O’Malley “a distant third.” Clinton’s top attention-getting issue was the Islamic state, Sanders’ was college and O’Malley’s was immigration.

Zignal Labs CEO Josh Ginsberg talked to “PopPolitics” earlier in the week on what broke through during the Republican debate on Tuesday.

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O’Reilly Vs. Will

Variety’s Brian Lowry says that the feud between Bill O’Reilly and George Will over O’Reilly’s book “Killing Reagan” isn’t so much a reflection of the fissures within the Republican party as it is a clash of personalities.

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Viral Vines

Nikki Schwab of Daily Mail and Hunter Schwarz of IJ Review talk about Vine videos and other seconds-only content that pose a challenge to campaigns, particularly after debates. They also talk about reaction to the Republican gathering.

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This Week

Vice President Joseph Biden is in Los Angeles on Monday, attending a roundtable discussion at the L.A. Cleantech Incubator along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Biden also will attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is scheduled to raise money in Los Angeles on Wednesday for his presidential campaign, including a lunch hosted by investment manager Mark Siegel at his Beverly Hills home, according to an invite. Tickets are $5,400 per couple.

The Human Rights Campaign is holding a special screening of The Weinstein Co.’s “Carol” in Georgetown on Wednesday, followed by a Q&A with producers Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen.

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety‘s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS 124. It also is available on demand.