In 2010, Summit Entertainment released Doug Liman’s Fair Game. The film pretty much disappeared the moment it was released. The movie was based on the Plame affair, where the Bush Administration outed the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame as retaliation for her husband, Joe Wilson, penning an op-ed casting doubt on the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein had sought quantities of uranium from Africa. The affair led to a criminal investigation where Scooter Libby, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of lying to investigators, but his sentence was commuted by Bush and he was recently pardoned by Donald Trump.
Liman tells Indiewire he was never fully satisfied with his original cut of Fair Game, and talked about butting head with Sean Penn, who played Wilson, in the editing room:
“Sean had things going on in his personal life when we were making the film, impacting his performance,” Liman said. “What he considered a genius performance and what I considered a genius performance were not necessarily the same. You can’t necessarily corral genius on set, but you can do it in the editing room.”
Liman said that Fair Game has been a “thorn in my side” because it’s not “the best version of the movie.” But now he’s gone back and made some changes, and he believes the film is not only more powerful, but also more timely:
“The film is gut-wrenching and more emotionally satisfying,” he said. “Like Professor Ford standing up in front of the Brett Kavanaugh freight train, it’s a story about citizens standing up to the president and coming forward, confronting overwhelming power. At its heart, it’s about the consequences involved in trying to speak truth to power.”
I definitely think that Fair Game, released during the relative tranquil of the Obama Administration (or at least during a time when the country had moved past the Plame affair) diminished its impact. However, I’m more curious to see how a new edit will help the movie, and we’ll get that chance when Fair Game is re-released onto Netflix. The film will hit digital platforms on October 23rd and Netflix on November 1st. I don’t know if it will drastically improve the movie (I was lukewarm on it when it came out), but I’m curious to find out.
Here’s a statement from Liman on the new cut of Fair Game:
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT – FAIR GAME Friday, September 14, 2018
I was never truly satisfied with the version of Fair Game that was theatrically released in 2010. I knew that Naomi Watts and Sean Penn had given more compelling performances, and that the proximity of making the movie to the events it portrayed had not given me the perspective of time. I owed it to myself, to Naomi, to Sean, to Valerie Plame, and to my audience, to go back in and do better.
I recognized that re-cutting and rereleasing a film is a little like an artist showing up with a brush and paint to the home of someone who bought his painting to make a few changes. I mean are you really allowed to do that? And then I thought. Why not.
And then Trump pardoned Scooter Libby – and releasing the director’s cut of Fair Game took on new urgency for me. Remember that in 2003 the White House leaked the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to deflect attention from her husband Joe Wilson who publicly challenged the Bush administration’s rationale for going to war in Iraq. And Scooter Libby was convicted of four counts, including obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI, and sentenced to jail. By a jury of 12 citizens.
Academy Award-winning editor Stephen Mirrione, who cut my first films, did this recut with me.
Now that Trump has pardoned Scooter Libby, the story is done (as pardons are forever). I went back into the film one last time to reflect that pardon. I can now say with confidence that the film finally is finished.
My hope is that audiences are reminded to hold their government accountable and remember that the actions of just one or two individuals can make a difference. — Doug Liman