You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

PopPolitics: Tony Gilroy on Why It Took Decades to Make ‘Beirut’ (Listen)

WASHINGTON — Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of the new political thriller “Beirut,” says that he originally completed the script in the early 1990s, thinking that production company Interscope would give it a green light.

Instead, “it just disappears and goes in a bin,” Gilroy tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM, before the company, searching for material that it already owned, finally revived it two decades later with Brad Anderson directing.

Jon Hamm plays Mason Skiles, a diplomat in 1972 Beirut, then a thriving, cosmopolitan center of the Middle East, whose life is upended when a group of terrorists kills his wife. Ten years later, having switched careers, he reluctantly returns to the city, torn apart by civil war. The CIA convinces him to help negotiate the release of one their agents, one of his former colleagues, who the Reagan administration fears will give up intelligence secrets.

Gilroy thinks that the politics were a bit too controversial at the time he wrote it.

“The PLO is corrupt. The Reagan White House is a hornet’s nest of bad ideas. And Israel doesn’t come across well at all. Israel is incredibly and aggressively waiting at the border waiting to invade, looking for an excuse,” Gilroy says. “Pick your poison. The unblinking candor with which the movie objectively observes those three factions made it untenable at the time.”

Gilroy wrote the ice skating movie “The Cutting Edge,” which was released in 1992, and it was during that time that one of that film’s producers, who had once worked for the CIA, got him interested in doing a movie about a negotiator. Gilroy said that he was especially interested in Thomas Friedman’s  book, “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” and in particular was intrigued by the setting of much of the story in the winter of 1982, an especially explosive time in Lebanon.

“I am telling the film through the perspective of someone who loved the place very deeply,” Gilroy says of Hamm’s character. “Understood it. Planned on spending his life there, and has seen that paradise lost.”

“The loss of it, and the loss of what it was, is just staggering, because it was the most cosmopolitan, people came from all over the Middle East to be there. It was glamorous. It was chic. It was full of intrigue, and in the mid ’70s as the civil war broke out, it just descended into such a mess,” he says.

Gilroy said that he has never been to Beirut. It was too dangerous to go there at the time he wrote the script, and now the city’s revitalization has made many parts of it unrecognizeable. “You could never shoot the movie there,” he said. Instead, it was shot in Morocco.

Listen below:

PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s 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

  • Hope Hicks

    Hope Hicks Gives Closed-Door Interview on Mueller Probe

    Hope Hicks appeared at the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning to give closed-door testimony on her involvement in the special counsel investigation of President Trump. The Fox communications chief was subpoenaed in May to provide documents and testimony that would aid in the committee’s investigation into obstruction of justice. After extensive negotiation, Hicks agreed [...]

  • Prince Mohammed bin Salman Abdulaziz al

    Saudi Crown Prince Should Be Investigated Over Khashoggi Killing, U.N. Report Says

    Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, should be investigated in connection with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi because of “credible evidence” that the prince is among those liable for the dissident journalist’s death, a United Nations report said Wednesday. While no “smoking gun” has yet been found that directly incriminates the prince [...]

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders Jemele Hill

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Leave the White House

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving her position at the end of the month, President Donald Trump said Thursday. In two tweets, Trump announced Sanders’ departure for her home state of Arkansas before thanking her for “a job well done.” He also recommended her for the Arkansas governor position, writing, “She is [...]

  • Kellyanne Conway

    Federal Watchdog Says Kellyanne Conway Should Step Down

    A federal watchdog has recommended that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway should be fired for repeated violations of the Hatch Act. In a report on Thursday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Conway had used TV appearances and social media platforms to disparage Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity. “Ms. [...]

  • Jessica Biel Clarifies Anti-Vaccine Stance

    Jessica Biel: 'I Am Not Against Vaccinations'

    Jessica Biel clarified her stance on vaccinations after public outcry over news that the actress joined Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to lobby against a California state pro-vaccine bill. “I am not against vaccinations,” Biel wrote on Instagram Thursday morning. “I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated [...]

  • 'The Sinner' film premiere

    Jessica Biel Joins Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Lobby Against California Vaccine Bill

    Jessica Biel joined the controversial anti-vaccination advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to lobby against a California state pro-vaccine bill on Tuesday, revealed in several social media posts. “Please say thank you to the courageous @jessicabiel for a busy and productive day at the California State House,” Kennedy posted on Tuesday with a series of pictures [...]

  • Hope Hicks Resigns

    Hope Hicks to Give Closed-Door Testimony to Judiciary Committee

    Hope Hicks, the chief communications officer at Fox, has agreed to answer questions before the House Judiciary Committee next week. The hearing will be held behind closed doors, but the committee will make a transcript available afterward. The committee is continuing to follow up on the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Hicks is set [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content