Given the level of hysteria in some circles regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections and alleged collusion between Trump and Russia, or more accurately Vladimir Putin, it stands to reason that Hollywood would be affected. According to “The Hollywood Reporter,” a trade magazine, two recent films have left Putin out of the movies although he figures prominently in the novels upon which the movies are based.
Putin is portrayed in the media as a cross between Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer from “Silence of the Lambs” and Voldemort from the “Harry Potter” series. Throw in a little Darth Vader and you get Vladimir Putin. This writer fully understands that Putin’s interests for Russia do not necessarily intersect 100% with the interests of the United States, but that is what a country’s leaders do: look out for their own country’s interests. Still, I think we can all agree Putin is a diabolical man who sometimes does not nice things.
But, I digress. The two movies in question where Putin has been banished from are “Kursk” and “The Red Sparrow.” In “The Red Sparrow,” Jennifer Lawrence is a Russian spy wooed by the CIA to become a double agent and is based on a novel by the same name from former CIA agent Jason Matthews. The novel received good reviews for illustrating modern spycraft. But the producers, Fox Entertainment, moved the scenario from the present-day to 1970’s Budapest, Hungary and dropped Putin from the mix. Putin, in the 1970’s, was a young student at St. Petersburg University no doubt learning how to use mandrake screams to drive fellow students crazy. NOTE: It has since been announced that the script has been updated again to the present day (hence, no 1970’s Budapest), but also no Putin.
“Kursk” is based on a novel called “A Time to Die” by Robert Moore. It chronicles the demise of a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea and the race to recover it. Putin appears in the novel, but not the movie.
The ostensible reason for avoiding Putin references? According to “The Hollywood Reporter,” studio executives fear retaliation from the Russian leader if Putin is portrayed in a negative light. And you can sort of guess the connection with current events: they fear Russia will hack the studios in retaliation.
There are other Russia-themed movies in the works. The next “Wonder Woman” movie will feature the heroine going back in time to battle the Soviets. There are also movies with such tantalizing titles such as: “The Tracking of a Russian Spy,” “How to Catch a Russian Spy,” and “The Girl in the Spider Web.” Yeah- try excising Putin from one of these movies about Russian spies when Putin was a key KGB operative in East Germany, Chechnya, and St. Petersburg.
Hollywood is not exactly known for intestinal fortitude and no studio exec is exactly a profile in courage. But, the silly fear of retaliatory hacking by Putin’s Russian operatives simply confirms the obvious. Further, the North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures has thrown a scare into Hollywood. Some of the revelations were embarrassing, particularly the racially-tinged jokes about Obama’s movie tastes, but nothing was especially earth-shattering, all things considered. I mean, revelations that Tom Hanks, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and others use aliases when checking into hotels hardly ranks up there with Edward Snowden’s national security breaches.
And these reactions from the likes of Hollywood illustrate how totally insulated from real America they actually are. They place themselves on some pedestal and then make the absurd assumption that Putin will order a hacking attack. In reality, no one really cares that Jennifer Lawrence made less than Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. Nobody really cares that Sony considered Tom Cruise to play the role of Steve Jobs (a really bad choice, but then again I dislike Tom Cruise). Nobody really cares what actresses were interested in appearing in a really bad remake of “Ghostbusters.”
These are not state secrets and Hollywood is not sacrosanct. But, in the minds of those in Hollywood, they are just that. Fearing retaliation by Putin illustrates their misplaced self-importance. It is a sad commentary on the film industry, but not one unexpected.
Putin interfered in the election of an American President. Does anyone honestly believe that Vladimir Putin cares about his portrayal in a Hollywood movie?