Thirty-five years ago on Monday, Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign approved plans to bug Democratic Party offices at the Watergate complex, setting in motion the most notorious political scandal in US history.
Five members of the covert “White House Plumbers” taskforce were arrested six weeks later burglarizing the building in Washington, and FBI agents established that the break-in stemmed from a sabotage campaign on behalf of Nixon.
Such was the resonance of the “Watergate” affair — which ultimately led to Nixon’s downfall — that most significant scandals since have been appended with the suffix “gate.”
The ensuing political shockwaves reverberated through the decades, spawning more than a dozen movies including “Nixon” (1995), “Frost/Nixon” (2008) and — first and most notably — “All the President’s Men” (1976).
Currently in post-production, “Felt” is the first attempt to tell the story uniquely from the viewpoint of FBI agent Mark Felt, unveiled years later as “Deep Throat,” the anonymous source for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during their investigation into the scandal.
Starring Liam Neeson in the title role, the movie also features Tony Goldwyn — President Fitzgerald Grant III from ABC’s political show “Scandal” — as well as Diane Lane (“Trumbo,” “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”).
– ‘Unfairly pilloried’ –
“It’s a really great script, and Liam Neeson is going to be so great in it. It’s got a wonderful cast,” Goldwyn, 56, told AFP.
The project, first announced 11 years ago and finally filmed in May and June, is directed by Peter Landesman, an author and foreign correspondent turned filmmaker.
It is being co-produced by Hollywood veteran Ridley Scott, his second collaboration with Landesman following “Concussion” (2015), which starred Will Smith.
Felt was a longtime deputy to FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and was passed over to take over the bureau when its founding director died in in May 1972.
The true identity of Woodward and Bernstein’s source remained an enduring mystery and Washington’s best-kept secret until the special agent, by then in his 90s — unmasked himself to Vanity Fair magazine in 2005.
“I’m the guy they call Deep Throat,” Felt, who died three years later, famously told family members.
Felt and his second-in-command, Ed Miller, were convicted in 1980 of having “conspired to injure and oppress the citizens of the United States” over Watergate, although both were eventually pardoned by Ronald Reagan.
“After Watergate, they pilloried Felt. It’s just such a weird thing. He was unfairly targeted but ultimately pardoned. He was a guy with a long, loyal career. When I read about it, it was a very unfair thing,” Goldwyn said.
– Chaos –
The movie, due out next year, will reaffirm Goldwyn’s political chops after five years in “Scandal” and high profile real-life appearances on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election.
He said his character Fitz would find the chaos of President Donald Trump’s first 50 days — the nationwide protests, the halted travel bans and the persistent stories about links to Russia — “deeply disturbing.”
“I’m horrified by it and I think Fitz would be too. I’m a Democrat and Fitz is a Republican but Fitz is about as moderate a Republican as you could ever create,” he said.
Next up for Goldwyn, who found fame came with a starring role opposite Patrick Swayze as the treacherous Carl Bruner in “Ghost” (1990), is horror movie “The Belko Experiment,” which hits theaters Friday.
Greg McLean’s violent thriller casts the actor as Barry Norris, a corporate executive who turns to mass murder when his office block becomes the grim venue for a “kill or be killed” social experiment.
“I love playing a diversity of characters — the more complex, multi-faceted characters is what I really love about the job,” Goldwyn told AFP.
“That’s why I really love playing Fitz, because he’s such a person who has contrast so I get to do all kinds of different things.”