The TCA Winter Press Tour is an event which never quite seems to live up to the TCA Summer Press Tour…but, then, that stands to reason, as the mid-season series rarely match the ones which hit the airwaves in the fall, right? Still, the experience never fails to be one which I enjoy, mostly because you never know what’s going to be around the corner, and Day 1 really set the stage for that: during the course of 12 hours, I interviewed Betty White, Henry Rollins, and Bruce Jenner, and, thanks to National Geographic, I wore a giant snake around my neck. Not a bad way to begin things…
There aren’t many producers around these days whose name can help sell a movie or TV show, but Gale Anne Hurd is the rare exception. Probably best known as one of the co-creators of “The Terminator” franchise, Hurd has been an important player in numerous mega- or merely major productions, including both “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Abyss,” “Armageddon,” “The Punisher,” and the underrated 1999 comedy “Dick,” which starred Dan Hedaya as Richard Milhous Nixon and a young Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of teenagers who wind up bringing down a presidency.
Clearly one of the more hands-on producers around, Hurd is pleasant and businesslike when talking to a member of the show-biz press, but clearly has the gumption to deal with the biggest and most difficult of personalities, which is how I segue into the obligatory mention of the fact that she spent the part of the late eighties and early nineties being married to first James Cameron and then Brian De Palma. Moreover, she began her career working for one the most fascinating and effective producers in the history of the medium, Roger Corman, but more of that in the interview.
Still, nothing she’s done is quite like her current project, the zombie horror drama and comic book adaptation, “The Walking Dead.” The AMC television series, adapted from a series of acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman primarily by writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist”) is currently receiving maximum exposure on the web. The publicity train was only just getting started when I spoke to Ms. Hurd at a mammoth new San Diego hotel adjacent to the Comic-Con festivities last summer.
I had typed my questions on my laptop, which I was afraid might be a little off-putting. So, after a quick greeting, I tried to explain why.
Because of Watergate and Vietnam, and possibly also because in so many respects he still can seem like a central casting villain, Nixon gets depicted in movies a lot more than presidents you’d think we’d like to see on screen more often. Want to see a movie about George Washington? Well, there was David Gordon Green’s “George Washington,” but our nation’s first president wasn’t exactly a character. Nixon, on the other hand, has been depicted in starring roles in numerous theatrical and TV movies by, among other, Frank Langella, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Baker Hall, and even Beau Bridges. Nixon was even portrayed by comedian Chuck McCann as Oliver Hardy to Vice President Spiro Agnew’s Stan Laurel in a 1972 ultra-ultra-obscure comedy called “Another Nice Mess.” (You may know writer-director Bob Einstein as TV’s Marty Funkhouser and/or Super Dave Osborne. ) If I could find a clip, I’d definitely feature it here but the film has apparently been secreted somewhere, perhaps in Dick Cheney’s man-sized safe.
In any case, my favorite portrayal of Nixon is by the great Dan Hedaya in the title role of Andrew Fleming’s underrated little 1999 comedy, “Dick.” One thing the film gets right is the innate humor of Nixon’s situation — a man with almost no sense of humor whatsoever (always hilarious) who was also the least hip man in America, president at a time when hipness was at a kind of premium.