Why Robert De Niro pressured Dustin Hoffman to star in his '90s cult classic Wag the Dog (2023)

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  • The true origin of Wag the Dog
  • Why Dustin Hoffman Almost Didn't Star in Wag the Dog
  • How Dustin Hoffman created his character in Wag the Dog

Some of Robert De Niro's most notable bromances includethe one he shares with Al Pacino, were presented in one form or another on the screen. Some of these are partDe Niros Beste Movie. This list undoubtedly includes one of his most underrated films, 1997's Wag The Dog, in which he shares the screenhis best friend actor Dustin Hoffman.

during a sensationalOral History von Wag The Dog von Vanity FairThe participants went into detail that Dustin Hoffman originally did not want to have any part in the political satire. Luckily, the film, which received two Oscar nominations, cast Hoffman in the role of a Hollywood producer tasked with helping a political politician (De Niro) and a presidential aide (the late Anne Heche) fight a fake war to stage a presidential scandal to distract the audience. But according to Vanity Fair, that just wouldn't have been possible if De Niro hadn't done his best to convince him...


The true origin of Wag the Dog

Directed by Barry Levinson, Wag the Dog was written by Hilary Henkin and then revised by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet, but it's actually based on a book called American Hero by Larry Beinhart.

"I watched the Gulf War on TV and basically made a joke, 'It's a TV movie.' And I didn't get the laughs I was hoping for. So I felt like I had to expand on that," author Larry Beinhart told Vanity Fair.

Why Robert De Niro pressured Dustin Hoffman to star in his '90s cult classic Wag the Dog (1)

"I don't think it was made up, but I think the Gulf War and all of its elements were deliberately presented as World War II: The Video. Everyone was cast in specific roles," continued Beinhart. "I sat down and said, 'If I wanted to do a satirical, over-the-top version of this, I'd go with the wrong director like George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. How would it have been?' And that's the book."

Producer Jane Rosenthal explained that when the book was picked up by New Line cinema, she and her team were drawn to several of Beinhart's book ideas. Luckily, former New Line Cinema executive producer Michael De Luca shared a penchant for political satire.

Why Robert De Niro pressured Dustin Hoffman to star in his '90s cult classic Wag the Dog (2)

Robert De Niro, who also produced the film, hasn't even read the book. It was the movement that caught his attention.

Screenwriter Hilary Henkin was the first person to approve the adaptation, and she was "faithful". He addressed the contentious issues of sham wars and how the media distorts our perception of reality and makes us addicted to tribalism.

Why Dustin Hoffman Almost Didn't Star in Wag the Dog

The original concept caught the attention of director Barry Levinson, best known for directing Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam and Disclosure. Levinson became one of De Niro's most frequent collaborators. The same goes for Dustin Hoffman, who not only starred in Rain Man, but also in Sphere, which was filmed around the same time as Wag The Dog.

Why Robert De Niro pressured Dustin Hoffman to star in his '90s cult classic Wag the Dog (3)

"Barry got Dustin involved," producer Jane Rosenthal told Vanity Fair. "Barry had Sphere he wanted to do with Dustin and that got postponed. So he basically shot this little quick film before he started preparing for it. And Bob and Dustin were trying to do a movie together.”

Then there was legendary playwright and screenwriter David Mamet's access to the material, which enhanced it even further. But even though the script was strong, the director was solid, and he worked with a friend on De Niro, Dustin Hoffman had some major reservations. In particular, he was not satisfied with his character.

Related:Robert De Niro was swindled out of millions by a New York art gallery that illegally sold his father's paintings

"This was a producer character that had been done a few times before and I didn't think I could do it in a new way," Dustin Hoffman admitted to Vanity Fair. "I turned it down at first because, as written, he was a bit of a cliché. He was overweight and he was in a pool in Beverly Hills smoking a cigar and I was like, 'Barry, I can't do this. I knew.' to start. Bring someone closer.'"

Why Robert De Niro pressured Dustin Hoffman to star in his '90s cult classic Wag the Dog (4)

In addition, everyone involved had to accept salary cuts to keep the budget low.

"To hit budget, everyone had to work under their quotas, and it was my job to close those deals," Michael De Luca, former executive producer at New Line Cinema, told Vanity Fair. "They were all closed except that we haggled with Hoffman."

Related:Aubrey Plaza's agent told the actress to tone things down around Robert De Niro because the actor was "freaking out."

According to De Luca, it was Robert De Niro who actually stepped forward and got his friend to put aside his reservations, take a lower salary, and accept the role of Stanley Motts.

"I had to dig deep and find the courage to act as studio manager for Robert De Niro and get him to lean on Hoffman in his capacity as producer to get him signed," continued De Luca . "It was really hard for me because in De Niro's movies, if you grow up in New York in the '70s, he's basically God. Do it, otherwise the film won't run.' He was kind to me and got me off the hook and got Dustin to basically agree to his deal."

How Dustin Hoffman created his character in Wag the Dog

Even co-star Dennis Leary admitted Dustin Hoffman got off to a rocky start for Wag The Dog.

"It's still so clear to me how difficult it was to start that process with Dustin," Dennis Leary told Vanity Fair. "And then how amazing it was when he walked in with that haircut and took off his glasses. After that I spoke to [director] Barry [Levinson] and he said, 'When he came in on the third day with this haircut, I knew it.'"

Why Robert De Niro pressured Dustin Hoffman to star in his '90s cult classic Wag the Dog (5)

Ultimately, it was the hair, makeup and wardrobe that allowed Dustin Hoffman to create something unique about the character of Stanley Motts.

Related:Who are Dustin Hoffman's 6 children and what do they do?

"They made my character get a massage or something," Dustin Hoffman told Vanity Fair. "I think getting the tanning bed was Barry's idea and it was more interesting to fit me into being able to talk while I'm there. And the costume people don't get the attention they should because sometimes they're in a production for two months before you even get a script and they kind of drag your character down, at least the way they see it.

As for Hoffman's true feelings about Wag The Dog, here's what he had to say years after its release:

"It's one of those films, whether I'm in it or not, I like it more every time I see it. I often say if a movie makes you cry, it usually makes you cry every time you see it. , and if it makes you laugh, it makes you laugh every time you see it. It made me laugh like it was my first time."

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