Clint Eastwood has spent the last few months rounding up an impressive cast for his next film, J. Edgar, a biopic based on the life of inaugural FBI director and alleged cross-dresser J. Edgar Hoover. There’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Judi Dench, Josh Lucas, plus rising stars Armie Hammer (The Social Network) and Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl). But the latest name to join the cast is the one that’s locked up this writer’s interest.
Variety reports Naomi Watts will play Helen Gandy, the role originally offered to Charlize Theron before she chose to do Snow White and the Huntsman instead. Gandy was Hoover’s loyal secretary for 54 years from 1918-1972; Hoover once said of Gandy, “If there is anyone in this Bureau whose services are indispensable I consider Miss Gandy to be that person.” More background on Gandy after the break:
Hoover biographer Curt Gentry describes Ms. Gandy:
Her genteel manner and pleasant voice contrasted sharply with this domineering presence. Yet behind the politeness was a resolute firmness not unlike his, and no small amount of influence. Many a career in the Bureau had been quietly manipulated by her.
Even those who disliked him, praised her, most often commenting on her remarkable ability to get along with all kinds of people. That she had held her position for fifty-four years was the best evidence of this, for it was a Bureau tradition that the closer you were to him, the more demanding he was. [Wikipedia]
Gandy was effectively the last line of defense for Hoover, who is said to have kept extensive secret files to blackmail the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandy purposefully mislabeled some of the more sensitive material so that only she could navigate the files (e.g. President Nixon’s file was labeled “Obscene Matters.) Upon Hoover’s death in May 1972, Gandy began destroying previously designated files within the hour.
I count Watts among Hollywood’s most dynamic actresses, and I can’t wait to see her play Gandy, who sounds like a spitfire of a woman. Watts will next be seen opposite Ewan McGregor in The Impossible, and alongside Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz in Dream House, scheduled for release September 30.