Sean Penn gets very vocal as Southern politician Willie Stark but still this drama is "as impenetrable as a speech by Donald Rumsfeld". For Steven Zaillian, who boasts a reputation as one of Hollywood's top screenwriters, it revealed his shortcomings as a director. Despite a starry cast also including Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins, the film bombed bigger than US foreign policy.
By Royal Appointment
According to a very thin Making Of featurette, the supporting cast all signed on for a chance to share the screen with Sean Penn - oh yeah, and there's the obligatory gushing about Zaillian's script. Perhaps because he's suffering from jaw ache, Penn makes no comment and you'll struggle to catch a glimpse of him in any behind-the-scenes footage. Cameras follow the rest of cast and crew to the swamps of Louisiana in La. Confidential, where Zaillian gets bogged down (oh, the irony...) and Mark Ruffalo raves about the "good food and good parties". Shame about the film though, eh?
Robert Warren Penn, the author of the original book, based on the life and times of local politician Huey Long, gets a nod in An American Classic. It retraces his early life and later achievements in American literature; like winning the Pulitzer Prize for All The King's Men in 1947. Elsewhere, experts line up to talk about Huey Long's "multidimensional complexity" and Shake Hands With The Devil draws parallels between his nefarious dealings and today's system of government. Zaillian insists that the film "makes you think," which is true. Although mostly we were thinking: what the heck is going on here?
Inspiring A Movement
In case you thought this drama couldn't get any more overblown and tedious, three deleted scenes clock in with a runtime of almost half-an-hour! In one scene, Stark dictates a letter of resignation from the toilet (sitting down...) and waffles endlessly about the burden of power. But the most appalling aspect of his behaviour is the fact that he fails to wash his hands afterwards.
More pomp and gaseous bluster is delivered in another seven-and-a-half-minute lecture to his minions (this time in an upright position), but he finally shuts up in an alternative ending which records the aftermath of his assassination. Vote for peace (and quiet) and skip this DVD.
All The King's Men DVD is released on Monday 5th March 2007.