×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

PopPolitics: Why Trump Is Left Out of HBO’s ‘John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls’ (Listen)

Plus: Joe Mantegna on Memorial Day concert; Mark Duplass on 'Like Brothers'; and a new Russian adoption doc.

WASHINGTON — The filmmakers behind the HBO documentary “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls” interview family, friends, rivals and colleagues to capture the life of the Arizona senator, who is now battling brain cancer.

But the project, which debuts this weekend, does not include President Donald Trump. In hours of interviews, the filmmakers asked McCain about Trump, but chose not to dwell on the fissures between the two.

“It sucks the air out of the room and we wanted the attention to be on John,” Teddy Kunhardt, who made the film along with his brother George and father Peter, tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “When we walked around Arizona, he said something along the lines of ‘This is my last fight.’ We assumed he meant cancer. He said it is not about cancer. It is about bringing the Senate back to regular order, about working together in the Senate. And we didn’t want to cloud that message. We really wanted to help him push that message forward about getting back to work.”

Kunhardt adds, “[McCain] said, ‘Look, if he insulted me, I would respond and move on.’ It is very McCain-esque, to respond, put it in the back rearview mirror and move on. But again, it is not just Trump. It is the Senate not working together. It is the anger. It is the bitterness, the unwillingness to get things done the right way.”

Popular on Variety

One of the things that stands out about the project are the sheer number of McCain one-time rivals who are interviewed, including former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The Kunhardts said that they faced little trouble in landing such high-profile names, along with Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, Joseph Biden, Henry Kissinger and John Kerry. Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate in 2008, was not interviewed, a decision the filmmakers made because she “knew him for a short window of time, and we didn’t think she would shed the insight we were looking for,” Kunhardt says.

In the interview, Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime speechwriter and collaborator, talks about how different the senator’s experience was running for president in 2008 versus 2000. Although McCain successfully captured the Republican nomination in 2008, Salter said that before the race started the senator said, “I don’t think I can catch lightning in a bottle twice.”

“I think he probably had a better time, eight years before,” Salter says.

Listen below:

A Politics-Free Memorial Day Concert

Trump also will not be present for this year’s National Memorial Day Concert, set to air on PBS on Sunday night. The reason is simple, according to Joe Mantegna, co-host along with Gary Sinise. Organizers have purposely not invited the commander-in-chief to the event as a way of keeping it from being politicized.

Among those participating this year will be Colin Powell, Allison Janney, Graham Greene, John Corbett, Charles Esten, Brian Tee, Mary McCormack, Cynthia Erivo, Leona Lewis, Megan Hilty, Alfie Boe and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Mantegna also talks about some of the special presentations at the event, marking the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day.

Listen below:

‘Like Brothers’

Mark Duplass talks about the challenge of writing a memoir with his brother, Jay. The recently published “Like Brothers” is as much a practical guideway to trying to break in to the entertainment business as it is a candid and humorous account of how two siblings became collaborators. They also made some wise choices, like buying Netflix stock more than a decade ago.

Listen below:

‘To the Moon and Back’

Susan Morgan Cooper’s “To the Moon and Back,” opening this weekend, spotlights the plight of many parents and children who were caught in the middle when Russia banned adoption by U.S. as a response to sanctions imposed on the regime of Vladimir Putin.

Cooper created the movie well before it became a hot topic last summer — what Donald Trump Jr. originally said was the premise for the meeting with a group of Russians during the presidential campaign. That is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Cooper’s project touches on geopolitics, but like Bryan Fogel’s Oscar-winning “Icarus,” the movie’s focus is on the human impact, including the tragic situation with adoptive parents who lost one of their children.

Cooper talks about making the movie along with one of the parents, Miles Harrison.

Listen below:

Medical Marijuana Movie

“The Life She Deserves: Medical Marijuana in the United States” will be screened at the Brookings Institution’s Falk Auditorium at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, at an event co-sponsored by Variety. I’ll be moderating a panel afterward with the filmmakers and advocates. More here.

PopPolitics,” hosted by Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET-11 a.m.-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand. 

 

More Politics

  • Pete Buttigieg

    Here's Who's Raising Money in Hollywood for Pete Buttigieg

    The Pete Buttigieg campaign released its top bundlers on Friday evening, as it continues to open up its fundraising process to media scrutiny. Buttigieg released the names of 157 members of his “investors circle,” each of whom has raised at least $25,000 for his campaign. Buttigieg is now the most prolific fundraiser in Hollywood, with [...]

  • Ivanka Trump

    Ivanka Trump Reportedly Set to Speak at CES 2020

    Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and an adviser to the president, is scheduled to appear on a panel at CES 2020 in January, according to a published report. Ivanka Trump will appear on a panel set for Jan. 8 at 3 p.m. at the Las Vegas confab with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of [...]

  • Donald Trump Hollywood Racism

    House Judiciary Committee Votes to Impeach President Trump

    The House Judiciary Committee voted to adopt two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday morning, sending the matter to the full House for a vote next week. The articles accuse Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election and of obstructing the impeachment inquiry. Both articles [...]

  • Boris JohnsonConservative Party rally on eve

    Boris Johnson Returns as Prime Minister After Election, Pledges to Deliver Brexit

    UPDATED: The third general election in Britain in four years has returned former London mayor Boris Johnson as prime minister and given his Conservative Party a commanding majority in Parliament. Johnson campaigned on a promise to finally pull the U.K. out of the European Union after three-and-a-half years of political infighting since Britons voted to [...]

  • Boris Epshteyn

    Sinclair Drops Political Commentary Segments From Boris Epshteyn, Ameshia Cross

    Sinclair Broadcast Group has decided to scrap the political commentary segments that have aired across its vast station group since 2017. Boris Epshteyn, former Trump campaign official turned chief political analyst for Sinclair, has been delivering commentary segments that were mandated to run adjacent to local newscasts on all Sinclair stations since the spring of [...]

  • From left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,

    House Leadership Unveils Impeachment Articles Against President Trump

    House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning, accusing him of abusing his power and obstructing Congress in its impeachment inquiry. Two committee chairmen — Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff — laid out a case that Trump interfered in the 2020 election by pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation [...]

  • Pete Buttigieg

    Pete Buttigieg to Open Fundraisers to the Press

    Pete Buttigieg will open his fundraisers to the press and will release names of his bundlers within a week, the campaign announced on Monday. Buttigieg made the commitments three after Sen. Elizabeth Warren challenged him to be more transparent about his fundraising. “From the start, Pete has said it is important for every candidate to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content