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PopPolitics: Peter Landesman on Meeting Mark Felt, Who He Calls a Watergate ‘Superhero’ (Listen)

Peter Landesman, the director of “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,” calls the Watergate figure known as “Deep Throat” someone who was “beyond a hero.”

“Mark Felt was really almost kind of a superhero without the cape and tights,” Landesman tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM.

More than 45 years after the Watergate break-in that eventually led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, Felt’s role in the scandal, as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s anonymous source, is still a source of dispute. Some question his motivations for leaking, and, rather than characterize him as a hero, Woodward and Carl Bernstein say that while Felt played a significant role, so did many others.

“Mark Felt,” the first film about Watergate told from Felt’s point of view, shows that as No. 2 at the FBI, Felt “did not want to amplify himself, but to protect the FBI from a corrupt administration,” Landesman says. Liam Neeson plays the title role in the movie, which opens in New York and Los Angeles this weekend and in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

The long-in-the-works project may surprise those whose knowledge of Watergate is largely from “All the President’s Men,” perhaps the greatest political thriller of all time.

In Landesman’s movie, Felt’s meeting with Woodward is just a short part, and Felt also shares information with another journalist, Sandy Smith of Time, played by Bruce Greenwood.

“In many ways it was a deeper relationship” than Woodward, Landesman says, as Felt and Smith had known each other for some time and they were closer in age. Landesman said that there were two or three others he was meeting with, including “one from the New York Times I can’t really talk about. I promised him anonymity.”

Landesman, a former reporter, began working on the project shortly after Felt disclosed in 2005 that he was “Deep Throat,” ending one of the great mysteries of the Watergate era. He even met with Felt at the time, when his memory was fading.

“He slid at the end, but there were moments and windows of comprehension and full clarity,” Landesman says. “He was able to talk about what he did and why.” Felt died in 2008.

One of the takeaways of the movie — and important for today — is that “in many ways I believe the system works. I believe institutions work. Our government institutions work. They worked in ’72 and they are working now.”

Landesman adds, “Part of those checks and balances are individuals within government who are willing to sacrifice themselves when the truth is being crushed and suffocated.”

Listen below:

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

(Pictured: Liam Neeson in “Mark Felt.”)

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