TIFF 2022: The actors and screenwriter Jemima Khan spoke to TheWrap about their film that takes a fresh look at arranged marriage.
Why do people get married? Does love have to play a role in marriage? Or is companionship more important? These are some of the questions that Shekhar Kapur’s new film What’s Love Got to Do With It? considers. The Indian filmmaker, known for Elizabeth and The Four Feathers, has returned with something outside of his usual wheel box: a romantic comedy/family drama that examines differing cultural views on marriage through a pair of best friends.
Zoe (the always charming Lily James) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker searching for her next subject, but discouraged by her producers’ reactions to the serious issues she hopes to take on. When her childhood neighbor Kazim (the heartthrob Shazad Latif) tells her that he has finally agreed to have an arranged marriage, inspiration strikes, and she asks if she can trace his journey. Zoe can’t understand Kazim’s willingness to have an “assisted marriage” despite her own lack of luck in love. Of course, because this is a rom-com, the pair will eventually realize that they may already have feelings closer to home.
What gives the film so much heart isn’t the romance but its depiction of family. Kazim is close with his parents, who are thrilled that he is finally settling down, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that their picture-perfect family is actually hiding secrets and regrets. Meanwhile, Zoe struggles with her zany mother Cath (Emma Thompson, clearly having so much fun) whose casual, though arguably unintended, racist comments and penchant for setting her daughter up on dates are enough to exhaust anyone. Thompson and James have excellent chemistry as mother and daughter, making it seem strange that it’s taken this long to have the pair in a film together.
Jemima Khan’s screenplay is clunky at times, especially in the wordplay around famous movies that Zoe’s producers delight in. (They suggest “Love Contractually” as a title for her documentary.) But the way that it explores different perspectives on marriage and love across British and Pakistani cultures makes it stand out amongst other films of its sort. While it clearly champions getting to make your own choices and find love, rather than just companionship, it’s also not disrespectful to those who do find happiness through more traditional means.
Zoe is an interesting lead character because of her resistance to and, at times, lack of belief in love. She’s a commitment-phobe who always chooses the wrong guys, something countless among us can surely relate to. Somehow this cynicism doesn’t make her cold or closed-off, as too many heroines of this type are; she still enjoys warm relationships with Kazim and her other best friend, whose two daughters she regales with bedtime stories. Her more modern, less whimsical versions of fairy tales tell the audience more about her own mishaps in love as she adapts each princess to her own life experiences. While Kazim struggles between the desire for true connection and family duty, Zoe simply wants to find “someone I could commit to watching a whole TV series with.”
The film has a sweet nod towards Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s classic romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally, showing the interviews that Zoe has done with couples in Kazim’s family about their own relationships. There’s also perhaps a nod to You’ve Got Mail as Zoe lives on a houseboat (gorgeously decorated by production designer Simon Elliott).
But the film boasts something that no Ephron film ever did: an entire section set in Pakistan as Kazim, his family, and Zoe gear up for his big wedding day to the bride he barely knows. The film doesn’t delve as deep into what it means for Kazim to be Pakistani-British as it could have, but it does make an effort to represent both cultures. Nitin Sawhney’s score also blends Eastern and Western musical influences to create something reflective of both Pakistan and Britain.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? doesn’t totally reinvent the rom-com genre, nor does it boast the best romance that you’ve ever seen onscreen. But James and Latif have serviceable chemistry, and the film explores a topic rarely seen in light-hearted films of this sort. Kapur proves that he is adept at blending romantic comedy and family drama and creating something that highlights modern Pakistani-British culture.
Does the film actually answer the question, “What’s love got to do with it?” Maybe not. (It’s a strange choice of title.) Kapur’s answer is open-ended, but the film is a reminder of how sweet watching love blossom can be and how many paths there are to romance.
This review is from the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. There is no U.S. distribution at this time.
What’s love got to do with it? Everyone’s favourite second-hand emotion fuels this bubbly rom-com that, lest the title fool you, has absolutely nothing to do with Tina Turner. The question is rhetorical as documentary filmmaker Zoe (Lily James) embarks on a project of love and happy marriage. This fun and spirited comedy from director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) and writer Jemima Khan offers little new, but it warmly reminds audiences of the power of love. Love, obviously, has everything to do with it.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? sees Zoe wondering all things romantic when her childhood friend, Kaz (Shazad Latif) announces his interest in arranged marriage. Kaz, whose family is Pakistani, seeks a good match. Done with dating apps and fairytale aspirations, he yearns for someone who jives with his family. The reason, partly, is because his sister married a white man and brought shame to the family. However, Zoe, having lived next door to Kaz for most of their lives, is dumbstruck. And she’s obviously in love with Kaz.
Zoe shadows Kaz as he follows all the matchmaking procedures for her film, tentatively titled Love, Contractually. He meets with professional matchers and does some speed dating for one-stop shopping. Zoe films each encounter with a shoestring, one-woman production: observing, asking questions, and not remaining particularly objective. She’s clearly a dreamer and, while not approaching the documentary with a clear thesis, is unconvinced that love isn’t a factor for a happy marriage.
The friends’ parents, meanwhile, are busy doing their own matchmaking. Zoe’s kooky mum Cath (a fun Emma Thompson) frets that her daughter is destined for spinsterhood. She tries setting Zoe up with all sorts of guys. They’re perfectly good matches: reliable jobs, okayish personalities, passable looks. All-around B-minuses, really. Despite the cultural differences between the family’s backgrounds, though, Cath’s perspective doesn’t differ much from Kaz’s idea. She opted for love and is now divorced. They both feel that love is a welcome by-product of a sound pairing.
Kaz’s mom Aisha (a strong Shabana Azmi) similarly can’t see the good match staring her in the face. She supports Kaz’s choice to opt for tradition. She eagerly participates and fervently seeks a partner for her son. Zoe, however, can’t help but notice that Aisha says nothing of her estranged daughter and the granddaughter she’s never met. The film asks what price tradition bears, especially when parents say they simply want their kids to be happy.
Love in Lahore
What’s Love Got to Do with It? situates Kaz’s search for love in a very modern Britain. The film is most refreshing in its portrait of a contemporary British-Pakistani family. Kapur and Khan offer both families significant narrative weight, exploring worlds that coexist in a diverse country. Khan, meanwhile, shows that she understands the delicacy of the situation. The screenwriter, who is white, makes her dramatic debut after a career producing documentaries. She makes Zoe consider the weight of responsibility a documentarian faces when chronicling a culture that is not one’s own. Zoe often doesn’t handle these questions well as she struggles to overcome her bias. It doesn’t help, either, that Cath enjoys Kaz’s matchmaking with a hint of boozy aunt exoticism. But the conflicts mostly arise when Zoe fails to check her white gaze at the door.
The film also brings its cast to Lahore for the fateful wedding. Culture clash turns tables when Zoe must look at arranged marriages from the other side. Kapur throws a good wedding, too, and bathes the film in bright colours and dance numbers. There’s humour and heartache in equal measure as Aisha extols the wonder of a tearful bride to Zoe’s camera.
James makes an appealing romantic lead, but much of the dramatic weight falls on Latif, who meets the challenge. The actors also have magnetic chemistry, which should make audiences swoon. The film has the spark of two people in love and the actors elevate rom-com convention as Zoe and Kaz gaze longingly at each other, wondering about their fairytale ending. They’re such a good match that one can easily forgive the predictable finale. It is, appropriately, a film that’s hard not to love.
‘European entries include … Shekhar Kapur’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
After Adnan Syed was released from prison on Sept. 19 after serving 23 years for the murder of Hae Min Lee, HBO Documentary Films announced it is in production on a follow-up episode to its 2019 docuseries “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” set for release in 2023.
Directed by Amy Berg, the four-part series followed the killing of 18-year-old Lee and the trial and conviction of Syed, her ex-boyfriend. Berg has been filming the follow-up episode in Maryland since early 2021 and was in the courthouse Monday when a Baltimore judge approved the motion to vacate Syed’s murder conviction. The investigation from “The Case Against Adnan Syed” was referenced as evidence in this week’s hearing.
“We knew the end of ‘The Case Against Adnan Syed’ was not the end of this story, and we’ve been closely following every twist and turn in the case since the series premiered in March 2019,” Berg said. “It’s gratifying to see many of the questions and issues probed in the original episodes come to bear on the events of this week.”
“The Case Against Adnan Syed” was produced by Working Title TV and Instinct Productions and was a production of HBO Documentary Films in association with Sky. Henrietta Conrad, Jemima Khan and Rabia Chaudry serve as executive producers.
“Serial,” the 2014 podcast that first popularized the case, also put out a follow-up episode, which detailed all the reasons for Syed’s release. While the state has 30 days to decide whether to move to a new trial or drop the case against Syed, host Sarah Koenig predicted: “The chances of the state ever trying to prosecute Adnan again are remote at best.”
HBO Documentary Films is in production on a follow-up episode to the critically acclaimed, four-part docuseries The Case Against Adnan Syed. Directed by Amy Berg, the episode will feature exclusive access to Syed leading up to and following his release from prison earlier this week, after 23 years behind bars. The new episode will debut in 2023.
Syed’s prosecution in the 1999 killing of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee was examined in minute detail in the massively popular 2014 season of the hit podcast Serial. The docuseries premiered in March 2019 and is currently available on HBO Max.
Berg has been filming the follow-up episode in Maryland since early 2021. Most recently, Berg was in the courthouse Tuesday when Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn approved the motion to vacate Syed’s murder conviction. The investigation from the original series was referenced as evidence in the hearing.
“We knew the end of The Case Against Adnan Syed was not the end of this story, and we’ve been closely following every twist and turn in the case since the series premiered in March 2019,” said Berg. “It’s gratifying to see many of the questions and issues probed in the original episodes come to bear on the events of this week.”
The Case Against Adnan Syed docuseries was produced by Working Title TV and Instinct Productions and was a production of HBO Documentary Films in association with Sky. Berg directed. Henrietta Conrad, Jemima Khan, Rabia Chaudry served as executive producers.
Arranged marriage is a tried-and-true trope in Bollywood romcoms, which typically champion love and social progress over tradition, even if they’ve hardly moved the needle for decades despite the genre’s immense popularity. Though set in London and revolving around arranged marriage in the South Asian diaspora, it’s easy to make assumptions about Toronto Film Festival premiere “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” based on genre conventions and cliché.
But this is most definitely not what Bollywood romcom enthusiasts might expect. For starters, the story concerns overseas Pakistanis and not Indians. The film also doesn’t outright frame arranged marriage as something outdated and stifling. If anything, it encourages viewers to not rush to judgment.
Moreover, its protagonist is actually a white woman. Zoe (Lily James), is a socially conscious documentary filmmaker from an ethnically diverse part of London. Her mother, Cath (Emma Thompson), while fully embracing the multiculturalism around her, is prone to the occasional faux pas due to a lack of awareness and sensitivity.
The producers Zoe tries to entice to back a project on children in the care system are averse to downer stories, so she pitches one on arranged marriage, as her next-door neighbor and childhood friend Kaz (Shazad Latif, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) is preparing to embark on this journey. It immediately clicks with the suits: “My Big Fat Arranged Marriage!” “Love Contractually!” Sold!
Kaz is the archetypal catch for a modern romcom, devilishly handsome and an MD to boot. Zoe is somewhat dumbfounded by his enthusiasm for matchmaking, an avidity stemming from successful precedents in his Pakistani family. Then again, it’s not as if she’s had much luck with dating apps. Cath tries to fix Zoe up with her vet, James (Oliver Chris), a set-up which Zoe realizes is conceptually not far from an arranged marriage. Though James doesn’t excite her nearly as much as her previous failed suitors, she decides to give him a shot because whatever she’s been doing hasn’t worked.
As Zoe spends more time trailing Kaz for her film project, the chemistry between them becomes undeniable — to us viewers anyway. But she must sit through Kaz and family’s meeting with Mo the Matchmaker (Asim Chaudhry, “Wonder Woman 1984”), a Muslim singles mixer, and his Skype meeting with Maymouna (Sajal Ali), a beautiful yet visibly hesitant young law student in Pakistan. The story eventually shifts to Pakistan for the wedding.
It’s maddening that this is director Shekhar Kapur’s first feature since 2007’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” This is a feast for the eyes, and it’s exciting to see him apply this rich visual tapestry to a modern setting. The film challenges any preconceived notions of what Pakistan looks and feels like: The shots of Lahore exteriors by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s second unit are dreamy and fairytale-like. The interiors, shot by Remi Adefarasin (“Locked Down”) in Suffolk, are simply breathtaking.
A crowded bazaar that may appear chaotic and overwhelming on, say, “The Amazing Race,” in this film seems like the most romantic place in the world, where time stands still — all with a little trickery on the depth of field in the shots. Maymouna and Kaz’s wedding has got to be one of the most stunning ever staged; whether or not these nuptials are factually accurate, production designer Simon Elliott and costume designer Caroline McCall do a sublime job transporting us.
Jemima Khan’s screenplay employs a storybook motif that Kapur realizes in his direction. Whenever Zoe babysits on her friend’s date nights and reads bedtime stories, she recounts in voiceover her own romantic misadventures and the frogs she has kissed, using story-time vernacular. It’s a nice narrative device but also an observant commentary on how these fables from our childhood may leave a lasting impression that informs unrealistic expectations on love.
The screenplay feels fresh and original, even if parts of it are inevitable. This is escapism, after all, not a lecture. One facet that particularly stands out is the film’s treatment of Kaz’s sister, Jamila (Mariam Haque), who has been cast out by the family because she married for love. This subplot gives the film its emotional heft. It seems sincere and beautiful, far from the manipulations, the posturing and the virtue signaling sometimes seen in so many other romcoms about arranged marriage.
James and Latif make a splendid pair. They don’t need to utter a single word to express their affection for each other — and for the most part, they don’t — but we can still tell from the acting alone that they can barely conceal those feelings. Seeing them together makes one giddy, a feat that even Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan couldn’t manage. Thompson is fantastic as one would expect, scene stealing even during the requisite dance number.
The romcom appears to be making its way back, after years of remission, into the popular discourse. “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” happens to be the best one Working Title has ever produced. “Four Weddings and a Funeral” was a classic, but it didn’t look this spectacular. Everything about this one is lovely and magical, but it’s also deeply heartfelt.
“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” made its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
You don’t see a lot of sincere, grinning romantic comedies at high-profile film festivals – normally the slate is reserved for more high-brow affairs. But that’s not the case with What’s Love Got to Do With It?, a creative, funny and sincere movie that’s going to become an instant genre classic.
The story is a cross-cultural festival that moves deftly between London and Pakistan, looking at what goes into a healthy, successful modern marriage. Smart direction and a playful cast make the movie lots of fun.
Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) and Shazad Latif make for outstanding leads as childhood neighbours and lifelong friends Zoe and Kazim – she’s a documentarian, and when Kazim decides to let his parents choose his wife as an arranged marriage, he also agrees to let Zoe film his journey to break the stigma and show all sides of what arranged (er, “assisted”) marriages look like in the 21st century.
Screenwriter Jemima Khan has written a fresh, authentic and ingenious script that really makes What’s Love shine. One trope that’s difficult to evade is keeping the audience guessing in romance is who will eventually end up with whom. All is happy in the end, but in a delightfully surprising way.
James and Latif have great chemistry together as friends and conflicted lovers, though everyone in the cast is equally great. Oscar winner Emma Thompson and Bollywood star Shabana Azmi are comedic standouts as friends in their own right and respective mothers to Zoe and Kazim.
Director Shekhar Kapur (best known for the Elizabeth movies starring Cate Blanchett) shows incredible versatility, using his skill in action and history movies into now directing a truly heartfelt and sweet romance. Despite the different categories, his movies have been sweet and funny all along – those qualities are just now in the forefront.
What really gives the film a special voice is its fair look into the pros and cons of modern romance in both Western and Eastern traditions. Is one actually better than the other one? There’s likely something to learn from both.
The moral message is best summed up by Zoe in the film’s best line, as she introduces the movie-within-a-movie to the premiere audience: “Between the extremes of passion and pragmatism, maybe there’s a pathway to happily ever after.”
Sadly, most people won’t see the movie until Valentine’s Day 2023 when it releases in theatres to the public. But get excited for it: seeing true love in transcendent, modern ways while making the audience roll with laughter is exactly what love has to do with it.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
8 out of 10
Shekhar Kapur, director of historical epics Elizabeth and The Four Feathers, seems an odd fit for a romcom — and he would be the first to agree. When he came to Deadline’s TIFF Studio with the cast and writer of What’s Love Got to Do With It? he admitted that he wasn’t entirely truthful when he was offered Jemima Khan’s script. “They told me it was a romcom,” he laughed. “And I said, ‘Oh, I do romcoms really well.’ And I don’t! So, I just came out and said, ‘I’ve gotta make everybody believe I’m doing a romcom, but actually I’m telling a very, very emotional story that will move you to tears.’”
Screenwriter Khan explained that the story, about a young filmmaker (Lily James) who documents her best friend’s arranged marriage, was inspired by real-life events. “I lived in Pakistan for 10 years,” she said. “I went there when I was 20 and I came back when I was 30. And I went with, I suppose, some sort of preconceived ideas about arranged marriages. I ended up seeing lots of really happy arranged marriages, including my ex-husband’s niece, who was living in the same house with us and whose arranged marriage I watched up very close when she was in the selection process. I came back to England and saw some of my friends kind of struggling. And [I thought], ‘You know, maybe I could arrange a marriage for you…’”
Bringing the com to the rom is a cast of great British comedians, including People Just Do Nothing’s Asim Chaudhry, who plays Mo the matchmaker. “The script was very funny,” he said, “and it really resonated with me as being a British Pakistani. You know, in terms of this arranged marriage thing, a lot of my friends have given up on trying to find love — they’ve got arthritis in their fingers, they’re Tinder-swiping so much, and they just said, ‘All right, mom, dad, you win — find me someone.’”
Best onscreen chemistry
Lily James and Shazad Latif in What’s Love Got to Do With It, Shekhar Kapur’s adorable Anglo-Asian culture-clash romcom.
‘No one lives happily ever after in real life…’ but what if they do? And can they? Jemima Goldsmith’s new film What’s Love Got To Do With It explores this as a romantic comedy family movie, canvasing dating apps, a fairytale, yearning love, and arranged rather assisted marriages into one frame.
Goldsmith beautifully holds the grip landscaping the cultural differences between British-born Pakistanis and Pakistanis born and grown in Pakistan. She splendidly crafts comedy scenes based on the perceptions of Pakistani about British Pakistanis that they would be ultra-modern and fun-going, but the facts turn vice versa in humorous situations.
The top theme is the success stories of assisted or arranged marriages and the concerns of the British Pakistani community about their children that they must choose their partners from and within the community. And that is where the concept of What’s Love Got to Do with It? emerges, which is entirely different from Tina Turner’s series “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”
Goldsmith’s story under Shekhar Kapoor’s marvellous direction portrays Pakistanis differently with a pleasant image, a far cry from the usual depiction consisting of terrorists and fundamentalists as seen in Hollywood or western productions generally.
The story starts with the exquisite dancing appearance of Cath (Emma Thompson) at her neighbour Ayesha (Shabana Azmi) ‘s home. Her daughter, the lead character Zoe (Lilly James), an award-winning documentary filmmaker, desperately searches for her next project as all her ideas at pitch meetings get dismissed.
Then, her next-door neighbour and childhood friend Kaz (Shazad Latif) decides on an arranged/assisted marriage of his parent’s choice, like his brother. The family hides the secret that their daughter Jamila (Marium Haque) had left home for good after falling in love with a white boy David (Michael Marcus). Yet, Kaz’s decision still surprises Zoe as she would consider him the last person to agree to an arranged marriage. Here she gets the idea to make a documentary filming the journey of finding a suitable match. Kaz agrees, and she gets a green signal from her company.
The fun begins with stupendous scenes of Moe The Match Maker (Asim Chaudhry), Kaz’s parents Ayesha (Shabana Azmi) and Zahid (Jeff Mirza), with entertaining scenes of speedy matchmaking but unfruitful quests. Zoe interviews many new and old happy couples of arranged marriages, establishing those marriages in stable relationships that end with love rather than begin with it.
The movie simultaneously shows Zoe’s life. Her mother, Cath, tries to hook Zoe with the vet James (Oliver Chris) for an assisted relationship, her brother-in-law cheats on her sister, and Zoe’s unsuccessful intimate quests through dating apps. The screenplay of these scenes, especially the beauty-and-the-beast theme, is a masterpiece, and you can tell that it’s the Oscar nominee and BAFTA winner Shekhar Kapoor’s magnificent direction and Jemima’s narration.
Meanwhile, Kaz’s family finds Memoona (Sajal Aly), a beautiful young Pakistani human rights lawyer in her early 20s in Lahore, who interacts with Kaz through Skype with families hiding in the background. The couple likes each other, and the families decide to tie their knots and travel to Lahore.
The Lahore scenes amazingly filmed in a country manner in Suffolk doubled up as the palace in Lahore where Kaz and Memoona’s Mehndi takes place. The external shots of Lahore are filmed remotely by a satellite crew presided over by Oscar-winner Pakistani director Sharmen Obaid Chinoy. Remi’s cinematography is awe-inspiring, especially the Mehndi scenes. Tara Mcdonald does full justice with the makeup, and Caroline McCall’s costume design makes the scenes compete with any Bollywood blockbuster dance numbers. In the Mehndi dance scenes, you will also spot some beautiful outfits by Pakistan’s top designer Mohsin Saeed’s Pink Tree Company.
The singer Naughty Boy features the soundtrack superbly under Nick Angel’s supervision. The legend Rahat Fatah Ali Khan performed in the film, and the Qawali melts hearts. Nitin Sawhney’s composition for the music and the song Mahi Sona co-written by Naughty boy, along with other numbers Nacho Gao and Apni Sunao, deserve to be archived in your music library. Kaz’s Nani, grandma’s comments “behaya” (shameless) for young girls wearing sleeveless dresses, and the ‘Masala Coke’ bits grips the audiences with amusement and laughter.
Memoona (Sajal Aly) performs brilliantly despite having a short role, but Zoe (Lilly James) dominates the whole story being a fairy of some wrecked tale. Shabana Azmi paid full justice to her role as Kaz’s mother. Some of her dialogues, especially “heaven is under a mother’s feet,” are heartwarming, yet the role was too ordinary for that prominent cadre’s actress. The finest actress like Azmi deserved something exceptional which wasn’t present in the script.
Emma Thompson is a pure delight for audiences from the first to the last scene. Her dresses, makeup, style, dances, dialogues, everything is a treat to watch for London fashion lovers. Kaz (Shazad Latif) is an established actor, but the movie will further boost his acting career in Hollywood. He will be a great discovery being a British Pakistani actor for Hollywood.
The climax, however, becomes patent from the midst of the movie when James tells Zoe that he does not wish to be in Plan B and breaks up with her; so you would know where the story is going to end, and that is where the plot needed to be a little stronger. Even though both writer and director tried to keep the surprise bombshell, Jamila (Marium Haque) and (Michael Marcus) David’s interview in the documentary was obvious.
The movie here picks emotional lines, and some scenes literally would bring tears to your eyes during the family drama, but then comes Cath (Emma) ‘s witty performance, which would make you laugh because it’s Goldsmith crafting the saddest situation with such a funny grip that you would fall in love. The end is happy like fairy tales: love is strong enough to let you live happily ever after, even in real life. So, guys, it is full-time family entertainment and a “paisa wasool” movie with a different, pleasant image of Pakistanis globally, and I highly recommend both White and Brown communities to watch. Thanks to Jemima and Shekhar for doing this brilliant project on Pakistanis.
In the tradition of Richard Curtis British rom-coms like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually comes What’s Love Got to Do With It? No, this film has nothing to do with Tina Turner, though it also might believe that love is a ‘second-hand emotion,’ something that is less instant passion and more sustained. “It’s better to fall into like and walk into love,” says Kazim Khan’s mother (Shabana Azmi) who met her own husband on her wedding day as part of an arranged marriage. Now with Kazim’s (Shazad Latif) blessing, they are hoping to find him a suitable bride through his own ‘assisted’ marriage.
Yet, Kazim’s next-door neighbour and childhood friend Zoe (Lily James) isn’t on board with what she feels is an outdated custom. At the same time, she hasn’t been terribly successful in her own love life either. At this point, she would be happy with someone who could commit to watching a TV series with her. An award-winning documentarian, she suggests to her financiers that she follow Kazim on his journey for a partner, and as they’re looking, without any sensitivity, to check off all sorts of boxes with their next project (woman director, multi-cultural subject matter) they agree. But as she discovers, there is an ‘entire continent’ between houses 47 and 49. She has a lot to learn about culture, family, and ultimately love.
With a smart, witty screenplay from Jemima Khan (in her screenwriting debut), What’s Love Got to Do With It? is a rich, colourful, and vibrant romantic comedy. Directed by Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, The Four Feathers) the film introduces us to the Khan family and all their differing opinions about love. Kazim’s parents, from Pakistan, believe that love is best if developed, that it is better to simmer than to start off at a boil and run the pot dry. Kazim, who was born in Britain, understands the want for ‘love at first sight’ type of passion, more common to western culture. But he ultimately chooses his family, over chemistry, acknowledging that assisted marriages are typically more successful than the unions of those who get to choose their own partner, having a high divorce rate. This type of insight into cultural differences isn’t typical of a standard rom-com and it’s refreshing to see it represented on screen.
Lily James is simply perfect as our leading lady whose chemistry with Latif (an equally impeccable leading man) is subtle and earned. But it’s Emma Thompson, not surprisingly, that steals each scene as Zoe’s eccentric and often culturally insensitive mother. I think a lot of us can relate to a parent like her, who means well, but just never has the right thing to say. Khan’s inclusion and writing for her character was particularly clever.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? ultimately gives us an elevated and welcome new slant on the rom-com genre. It finds different aspects of love, and stresses the importance of family in our relationships. There’s a space between the passionate love story often told and the ‘friend zone’, and it’s not often depicted and explored. This film however finds it, it relishes its time there, and shows us that love really can be something that grows, that simmers – that the long game is sometimes so much more rewarding.
It’s fun to see a director known for a particular kind of film try something new. At the premiere for his film What’s Love Got To Do With It, Shekhar Kapur, best known for Elizabeth, joked about how he responded to being told that he doesn’t do rom-coms: “Watch me.” His latest is a joyous celebration of culture and heritage and the way they can serve to both unite and divide, offering many genuine laughs and some heartfelt commentary on what it means to stay true to family…
The setup is one that almost seems too simple: Kazim (Shazad Latif) and Zoe (Lily James) grew up living next door to each other. Kazim is a doctor and Zoe is a documentarian, and their parents are pressuring them both to get married. Zoe is surprised when Kazim tells her that he had opted for what he refers to as an “assisted” marriage (a modern term for arranged), and Zoe decides to pitch that concept to her finders as her latest project. With Zoe right there to watch as Kazim is set up with someone he has never met and then prepare to “walk into love” together, how can a romance between the two of them not develop?
However expected the ultimate ending of this film might be, the journey to get there is worth it. There is a great deal of insight offered about what values Kazim holds to related to his Muslim heritage, with entertaining commentary about the things he hides from his parents as well as the distinctions he makes clear to Zoe. He’s not an outright rebel, but as he semi-jokes, he does have to conted with leaving hours early for flights so he can be “randomly searched”.
This film has a truly endearing energy, and Kapur’s loving touch comes through in every scene. Hearing him introduce each member of his team at the film’s TIFF premiere, with adoring details about each producer or cast member, it’s easy to see why everyone likes working with him, including Shabana Azmi, with whom Kapur last collaborated nearly forty years ago on Masoom and here plays Kazim’s mother. Emma Thompson is also hilarious as Zoe’s overbearing mother, who gives Zoe’s CV to her vet in her own matchmaking effort. Latif and James are both superb, and this film is a sincere pleasure. B+
Having absolutely nothing to do with the Tina Turner biopic of the same name (minus the question mark), What’s Love Got To Do With It? serves as a master class in how to adhere faithfully to the classic romantic-comedy template and yet still emerge with something that delivers delightfully on both sides of the hyphen.
Serving as the first foray into the rom-com arena for filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, of Elizabeth and Bandit Queen renown, the effervescent cross-culture confection may not be the first to examine the practice of arranged marriage in the age of Tinder, but Kapur’s soulful touch, working from a knowing script by Jemima Khan, hits all the desired marks.
Top it off with a lovely lead performance by Lily James and a bitingly funny one by Emma Thompson, and you’ve got the type of world premiere TIFF entry that tends to fare quite well when the annual People’s Choice votes are tallied. It’s no surprise the name Working Title Films appears in the credits, given how snugly the production fits in the Love, Actually/Four Weddings and a Funeral mold.
Struggling to figure out what to do for an encore, award-winning British documentary filmmaker Zoe (James) ends up training her camera on something decidedly close to home — namely her lifelong friend and next-door neighbor Kaz (Shazad Latif), who has informed her of his intentions to honor his Pakistan-born parents’ wishes by agreeing to an arranged marriage.
While the news comes as a bit of a shock to Zoe, who clearly shares an easy chemistry with Kaz, the concept isn’t completely unappealing to her, or her exuberant divorced mum Cath (Thompson), for that matter, who is trying to fix her up with her dog’s nice-guy vet (Oliver Chris). After weathering a series of one-date disasters, Zoe indeed begins to wonder if Kaz’s mother might not be wrong when she offers up the family wisdom that it’s better to fall into like and walk into love — especially when it’s pointed out that the divorce rate in the U.K. for arranged unions is about one-tenth that of conventional ones.
Still, she’s admittedly taken aback when he informs her he’s engaged to be married to the seemingly introverted young woman (Sajal Aly) whom he was introduced to a mere week earlier via Skype. With her camera and mother in tow, Zoe travels to Lahore for the wedding festivities, uncovering some revealing truths in the process.
Although there have been previous rom-coms built around family-dictated “assisted” marriages versus the power of attraction, few have managed to so satisfyingly balance the laugh-out-loud funny with the romantic longing and sense of belonging so effectively captured in Kapur’s sensitive direction and Khan’s script.
But just because love may be blind, it doesn’t mean cultural and ethnic differences go unnoticed in contemporary society. It’s an observation Khan’s script doesn’t shy away from making on several occasions, including Kaz mentioning he wants to arrive at the airport early “so I can be randomly selected.”
As Zoe, meanwhile, the terrific James, whose versatile body of work has run the gamut from Cinderella to Pam & Tommy, conveys an aching vulnerability as a young woman using her camera as a buffer between her subjects and her own personal fears and insecurities.
Vibrantly filmed by Remi Adefarasin (Oscar nominated for Elizabeth), who bathes the production in rich, warm hues, with similarly cozy production design by Simon Elliott, What’s Love Got to Do With It? rewardingly succeeds in answering its own rhetorical question.
TIFF 2022 has always been a platform for telling and celebrating diverse stories.
It was the perfect venue to celebrate the world premiere of What’s Love Got To Do With It?, a multi-cultural romantic-comedy that adds layers of generational culture and norms to create a perfect reflection on what it means to be in a relationship; and most importantly, what it means to be in love.
I feel the film is a lot more complex than that. When you spend an entire evening with your partner discussing how representative, respectful, insightful and thought-provoking the film was, you can’t help but feel you were moved by the production.
Here are my very raw thoughts on this film. If you want to save some time reading, then I will get to the point: you must watch this film. It celebrates the humanity behind love and relationships, while respecting who people are and where they come from. It is so positive and heart-warming that even with the comedy, you couldn’t help but be moved by the performances and the story. It is a film about family, friends, and the quest for love. We are proud that this film made our Top 10 must-watch films list. It certainly is a must-watch!
The film’s story is perfection
If I had a nickel every time I said this film’s story was perfection, I’d probably have enough to invest back in for a sequel!
And I kid you not. Jemima Khan’s story is perfection.
The screenplay is a symphony of dialogue and interaction, blending together typical and common multifamily interactions with poignant, comedic comebacks. You are gifted with a family consisting of multiple-generations, but the dialogue captured both the stereotypical interactions one would expect but added a layer of complexity and comedy that helped us connect with each individual character on a different level. Kazim’s Nani jan portrayed that strict, culturally-engrained grandmother but the dialogue created for her was so energizing that you couldn’t help but love her and her role in this story.
I also felt the story brought a lot of balance to the narrative around arranged marriages, depicting the still-followed tradition in a respectful and thought-provoking way. Khans’s story was never ill towards any one aspect of any culture, which I found very humbling. At no point in this story do you feel that the creatives are pointing a finger at a culture for its limitations or traditions, but rather focusing on the characters and how they wish to understand their cultures and that of those around them, and allow them to grow with each interaction. The comedy gives both the characters and the audiences a relief from having intense discussions, but not so much so that we make a joke out of the situation.
This story has been 10 year’s in the making, but it feels so important to audiences today. As someone who got married not too long ago, it made me reflect on my marriage in a good way. The story isn’t about cancelling a way in which people choose to love or choose to be in a relationship, but more so about having that open dialogue that makes for better, stronger bonds between people. This could be in marriages, between family members, or connecting differing multi-generational thoughts.
The story is powerful, and I am thankful to Khan for bringing this story to the big screen.
A truly representative film
This is Shekhar Kapur’s first foray into romantic-comedy. This film is an amazing debut into the genre, and certainly showcases his tenacity and adaptability as a director.
However, more than just making a solid romantic-comedy, aided by the wonderful story Khan has crafted, Kapur has created a film that is truly representative of the world today. Discussing with my partner who is from Pakistan, she noted how accurate the portrayal of Pakistan was in this film. From the social scenes, to the local markets, to even interactions with shopkeepers and rickshaw wala’s, it captured the essence of Pakistan that many audiences will be able to relate to today. What I also appreciated was the fact that stereotypes were limited to certain interactions, and not as a community as a whole. While in other films (very recent ones too) feature Pakistan with gritty characters that sadly lead us down a rabbit hole of very specific conclusions, this film captured both the modern and cultural Pakistan as it is today. That is very important I think in a film that talks about love, and what it means to be in a relationship in todays environment.
I also appreciated the way Kapur (again, aided by Khan’s wonderful story) captured the British-side of life for a South Asian family. We hear too much about racial discrimination in Britain towards minority groups, whether direct or implied. Any stereotypical moments were captured in intelligent, witty dialogue rather than running an entire scene around it. The idea of living with culturally-different neighbours but immersing oneself to reflect the importance of the other is actually very powerful. It captured the harmony that we in society already live with, but isn’t highlighted in the media as often as we’d like.
In addition, the music of the film glues the story together. Nitin Sawhney and his team have really blended culturally important music like Sufi music from legends like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan with modern, energetic music from talents like Naughty Boy to create a track that appeals to all ages and provides the perfect touchpoints for various moments during each character’s journey. Kudos to the team!
A blend of wonderful talents
We all know the power of talents like Lily James and Emma Thompson. Their performances need no explanations, as they were wonderful as always. Lily’s character Zoe was a perfect viewers companion as she played the catalyst in unraveling the mysteries of marriage in a culture she didn’t understand. Emma Thompson’s Cath on the flip side showed her acceptance of cultures, being the bridge between the western and eastern worlds that blended in this film.
Shazad Latif gave a brilliant performance as Kazim, and actually portrayed a character that was not typical as someone who would consider arranged marriage. The way in which he engages with other characters leaves you wanting to understand him more, and that helped us the viewer travel along with him on his journey. I think Latif is a talent we should all be watching, as he has a knack for creating depth in this characters that will keep you engaged with the film.
With that said, many of the supporting cast played a major role in anchoring the vibe of this film, which made this film a truly successful romantic-comedy. Asim Chaudhry as the Matchmaker was a character that honestly deserves his own short-film or short-series. His delivery was magnificent, and he played an important part in Kazim’s journey to find a partner for himself. Sajal Ali’s Maymouna captured the essence of a young Pakistan girl preparing for marriage, balancing the vibe expected of her from her parents and family while still showcasing who she is to her friends and her soon to be husband. Then there is Jeff Mirza who plays Kazim’s father. He plays an important role as both anchor of traditional ways of thinking, while still being a humble character who’s dialogue puts a smile on everyone’s face.
I think the casting team have brought-together the perfect team to highlight the multiple cultures this film spotlights. Couldn’t ask for any better.
I “insist” you watch this film
At a time when we as people find reasons to divide our communities from one another, this film showcases that we can all live in harmony despite our differences. Emma Thompson’s eccentric character is actually one that I have come to love and appreciate in this film. For a goofy character, she celebrates those around her regardless of their background and traits. She embraces some of the elements of her loving neighbours, like their traditional attire, to be more involved in the things they celebrate. It’s moments like those that showcase how much wonder there is in other cultures (whichever side you are looking in from) in which we can immerse ourselves and grow.
Shekhar Kapur and Jemima Khan have teamed up to make an absolutely stunning and perfect romantic-comedy that I would “insist” that you see as soon as you can. What’s Love Got To Do With It? will be a cinematic experience worth having.
THIS is a lot of fun – there are lots of good moments but what really raises this film above the usual romcom is its cultural awareness.
And it does so very amiably and quietly and stylishly, may we say.
Formerly married to cricketer-turned politician, Imran Khan – Jemima Khan’s (nee Goldsmih) first debut fiction script is a triumph and is aided by an ensemble cast that is in the finest of fettles.
First up, Lily James, as Zoe, and Kaz (Shazad Latif), as the central couple, are excellent and then you have Shabana Azmi, an Indian icon, almost stealing the limelight of our confused ‘couple’ as the mother of Kaz – and if that wasn’t enough, her opposite number is none other than British icon, Emma Thompson, who is Zoe’s mum.
With direction from ‘Elizabeth’ hand, Shekhar Kapur, and an incredible and stunning score (album please!) by composer & musician Nitin Sawhney and helped along the way by the likes of uber-contemporary composer Naughty Boy, Qawwali king Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, (who has a cameo in the film), pop sensation Joy Crookes and Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor, this as sure footed a film of this genre, as you will find this side of Lahore, baby.
It’s a tad predictable – actually you will know pretty much what will happen from the very beginning. But it’s twisty and funny enough to hold your attention.
But how do our star-crossed misty-eyed lovers get it so wrong in the first place?
Kaz is a doctor and thinks it’s time to settle down – Zoe next door might be pretty, and a childhood friend, as well as the girl literally next door – but she isn’t Asian, isn’t Muslim, is a bit dotty and all the rest of that, and well, you know what that means.
His parents (Azmi and Jeff Mirza as his Dad) are relaxed about their son’s friendship with Zoe. They don’t make anything (much) if it, perhaps in the full knowledge, that their son will only marry a Muslim woman – as Kaz is the dutiful son. He is, after all, (capital) D-Doctor – doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t play the field…
Indeed, he is a good boy and so they enlist the help of a professional matchmaker played by the irrepressible Asim Chaudhry (of Chabuddy G fame). In a hilarious turn, he sets about finding Kaz a suitable match.
Oh, what a catch – Kaz is a doctor and at “the very top of the food chain”, so says our matchmaker. There’s a lovely joke about dogs – wink, wink, it’s in the trailer.
There are meetings with potentials here in London but eventually Kaz settles on a woman in Lahore – Maymouna (Sajal Aly), easy on the eye, (uber)-liberal (haha, wink, wink) and not averse to settling down in London.
On the other side, our amiable heroine, as you might expect, is very focused on her career as a filmmaker and is trying to pitch her next fly-on-the-wall documentary, when in a moment of some desperation, she tells some money men, she could follow her childhood friend’s journey into marrying a stranger. The hipster producers love it.
It’s a clever device allowing Zoe access to Kaz – who isn’t enraptured by the idea, but acquiesces to it, knowing that it’s important to Zoe.
Again, perhaps rather predictably, Zoe’s love life is a bit of wreck, she falls in lust with a guy or two, has a good friendship with her mother’s handsome vet but she feels something is missing.
Whatever it is, she knows it’s love and the heed over heels, lose your head variety and she wants it like any (in)sane person.
You can kind of see where this is all going – and in perhaps more of a Bollywood nod – there is also the estranged sister of Kaz. It comes a bit later into the movie – she married outside the community and has thereby been shunned and is persona non-grata.
Despite her giving birth, Kaz’s Urdu-speaking grandmother has never seen her great grandson and curses her granddaughter and what she’s done. This is a little stretched for a family that seems very reasonable, understanding and modern – though of course it is quite plain – they prefer Kaz, as the male heir, to marry firmly within the faith.
We won’t spoil it for you – this film, which is just a little under two hours, is entertaining, insightful and deserves to be seen widely.
There will be some negative politics around this film – remember ‘The Big Sick?’ Yes, very much along those lines.
We hope Jemima’s ready for that – and if she’s half the writer here, she is – and really, it begs the question – what next, Jemima?
The film is being distributed by Studio Canal and is co-produced by Working Title, which made its early name off the back of writer, now writer-director, Richard Curtis, and films such as ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral‘ and ‘Love Actually‘.
Shekhar Kapur directed, Jemima Khan written ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ promises a quirky and very exciting ensemble cast and a look at the age-old custom of arranged or “assisted” marriage within a Pakistani household. The cross-cultural film is premiering at TIFF this year, with the cast in attendance for its premiere. However, does it deliver the comic and heartfelt story that is suggested from its trailer?
Cath (Emma Thompson) and Aisha Khan (Shabana Azmi) are neighbours and the former has always been a part of the latter’s cultural and religious events. As such, their offspring Kazim (Shazad Latif) and Zoe (Lily James) are also great friends. When Kazim is set up with a woman in Pakistan, Zoe decides to follow how journey into the “assisted” marriage in a video documentary, attempting to capture real feelings. She uncovers some interesting angles and rituals after being a little taken aback about this way of settling down. However, does it all end in a happy ever after?
Firstly, with this film being Kapur’s debut in the romantic comedy genre, it manages to really make a mark in the way that the characters are portrayed but more so making the most of every single actor who has a significant role, big or small. Kapur is known for other genres and perfecting them but with ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’, his passion for this one is there for all to see. It comes across as an easy watch, never making the audience feel that the story is forced or that any scene or character is out of place. The comic moments tie in seamlessly with the serious ones, making the audience’s experience of the film light and breezy – just what one would want from a cross-cultural film with many well-known and seasoned actors included.
James as Zoe is completely perfectly cast and she brings out an often awkward character with such ease. Thompson plays her mother and is excellent in the comic scenes, often breaking up the more serious moments or coming in and providing a freshness to some of the culturally heavy or poignant scenes. Latif’s handsome demeanour does steal the show a lot of the time and his chemistry with Sajal Aly who plays his fiance and later wife are particularly interesting. Aly herself gives a decent performance which is colourful and with impact. Azmi is also fantastic as Aisha, and her chemistry with Jeff Mirza is great. Her scenes with Thompson are also so fresh and show great friendship.
‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ could very easily have lost its way as a story in favour of the pretty amazing list of actors which are cast in it. It, however, does nothing of the sort. It gives a somewhat realistic view of interesting themes aside from arranged marriages such as inter-racial relationships, an intertwining of cultures as well as the cultural and generational differences of the same and different generations. The film manages to touch on all of these things and also gives the audience a feeling of real emotions and boundaries which still exist today even though one may feel that today’s generation “have it easier”, so to speak.
The film is worth a watch as the light-hearted and comical way in which it portrays its story is something quite extraordinary, and it does have some thing or another that most viewers will identify with.
Shekhar Kapur, Lily James, Jemima Khan, Shabana Azmi, Jeff Mirza and Asim Chaudhry discussed their film ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ at TIFF 2022.
If you’ve seen the British satire “Toast of London,” chances are that voiceover engineer Clem Fandango’s name still rings in your ears. Now Shazad Latif, the man behind Fandango, Ash Tyler on “Star Trek: Discovery” and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde on “Penny Dreadful,” has nabbed his first romantic lead in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
The Shekhar Kapur-helmed acquisition title, which has a Gala world premiere Sept. 10 in Toronto, “has slightly more depth than a normal rom-com because it tackles arranged marriage,” Latif said. Lily James plays his character’s childhood friend, and complications ensue when she decides to make a documentary about the nuptials.
“Lily is one of my closest friends,” Latif said. “She’s like a sister to me.” They met when she did a play with his old roommate, and co-starred in the 2021 BBC miniseries “The Pursuit of Love.” “I read [“What’s Love”] a while back, then it disappeared, then it suddenly started racing towards being made because Lily wanted to be involved. I keep telling Lily I owe her my whole career now, ’cause she’s done a movie with me,” he laughed.
This is a pivotal moment for Latif, who’ll soon be seen as Captain Nemo in “Nautilus,” the Disney+ series that tells the origin story of the hero from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” He’s about two-thirds through the 11-month shoot in Australia. “Every day there’s a new set being built that’s something you never expected,” he said. “It’s a wild, wild job.”
Latif’s Pakistani immigrant father changed film reels in the cinema, and his English/Scottish mother’s obsession with film rubbed off on him. “I remember shoving on the tights in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ when I was eight,” the London native recalled. “I knew it was a way out of my circumstances. My mother was a single parent and we were very, very poor. It gave me a drive, and since I didn’t really have other options, it meant that I couldn’t fail.”
Latif got into the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School about a year before support for low-income students dried up. He left a year early when he got a role in the BBC One spy drama “Spooks” in 2009. “I thought that was gonna be it, but then I kept having to try to break through.” In 2015, he had his first big-screen roles in “The Man Who Knew Infinity” and “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” then a larger part in the little-seen 2018 ISIS drama “Profile.”
After experiencing these ups and downs, “I want to create my own work,” he said. “I’m working on four or five writing projects. A couple of autobiographical, intense family dramas, and then there’s absurdist comedy in other things I’m writing with friends — one movie, one 10-part series. It only took me 15 years to start,” he laughed. “But it’s happening now.”
Lily James wowed in a plunging pinstripe waistcoat as she posed for a slew of sultry photos before she attended the International Film Festival in Toronto on Saturday.
The British actress, 33, looked sensational in the chic ensemble, opting for a pair of low waist wide leg trousers.
Stepping out to promote her new film What’s Love Got to Do With It? she gave a glimpse of her taut abs in the coordinating two-piece.
The Mamma Mia star also donned a black leather belt and further accessorised her look with a gold ring.
Lily’s striking features were enhanced with a subtle slick of make-up, while her locks were tousled in a chic, effortless manner.
She looked in great spirits as she laughed and joked with other celebrities in the studio while discussing her film career in front of an audience.
The film star looked happy and relaxed as she sat amongst other actors and members of the industry.
Lily plays the role of Zoe in movie What’s Love Got to Do with It?, which is written by British screenwriter Jemima Khan, 48.
The romantic comedy, directed by Shekhar Kapur, is a cross-cultural flick about love and marriage, set between London and South Asia.
The Toronto International Film Festival returned on September the 8th and will be continuing till the 18th of September for its 47th edition.
The Film Festival will involve 11 days of International and Canadian cinema.
And will include special events featuring some of the biggest names in film.
And TIFF’s industry conference will offer a diverse and innovative perspective on the art of business and film.
Festival CEO Cameron Bailey, recently indicated that the full line-up will comprise around 200 feature films and roughly 40 short films.
And is the largest line-up the festival has booked since the pre-pandemic 2019 edition.
Lily’s sighting at the film festival comes after she went house hunting with her rock star boyfriend Michael Shuman.
And the actress was looking at properties in a leafy London suburb where homes can cost up to 5 million.
“Sajal Aly’s upcoming international project What’s Love Got To Do With It? just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and it has got everyone cheering the superstar on… As fans eagerly await the movie’s release, even a glimpse of the Mom actor is enough to have their chests swell up with pride. Stars from the industry such as her sister Saboor Aly, Mahira Khan, Sanam Saeed and Shehzad Roy congratulated Aly on the accomplishment.”
New works by directors Sam Mendes, Sarah Polley, Tyler Perry, Darren Aronofsky and Reginald Hudlin will screen at the 2022 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, an annual celebration of cinema that serves as one of the unofficial kickoffs to the film awards season.
After two years spent hosting largely virtual or dramatically pared-down events as a concession to COVID, Toronto, or TIFF as it is known around the entertainment business, is looking to offer up a full-fledged, week-and-a-half-long spotlight of the best of moviemaking.
“We’re going to have the fan excitement, the big audiences, the big movies launching and the red carpets,” TIFF’s CEO Cameron Bailey told Variety. “If that sounds like a familiar Toronto Film Festival, that’s what we’re going to have this year.”
Stephen Frears’ drama The Lost King starring Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan, Shekhar Kapur’s comedy What’s Love Got to Do With It? with Lily James and Emma Thompson and Apple’s Jennifer Lawrence drama Causeway from Lila Neugebauer are among this year’s gala and special presentations for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, September 8-18).
“We’re excited to welcome some of the most celebrated figures in movies back to Toronto to present their Gala and Special Presentation films,” said TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey. “With stories that span six continents and feature performances you just have to see, this line-up delivers the rich experiences we wait all year for. Cinema is alive. Red carpets are back. And the best audience in the world awaits them in Toronto.”
The Toronto Film Festival is back this year.
Seriously, it’s really back.
Unlike last year, which was a significantly quieter festival with fewer stars and feature films at a count of 130, this year TIFF will see the celebratory closing down of King Street (sans streetcars), full-capacity maskless theaters, no proof of vaccinations, live press conferences and the return of concessions and orange shirt volunteers. It also will feature a robust curation of 260 feature films, of which Thursday the fest announced 18 galas and 45 special presentations.
In a fall and holiday corridor at the domestic box office that’s chock-a-block full of adult counterprogramming primed for awards season, distributors require a TIFF launch now more than ever in order to generate buzz and stoke older moviegoers who are still slow to return during the pandemic. A critically acclaimed film out of TIFF can propel a movie to cross over to wider audiences. Cases in point: the 2019 TIFF world premiere of Hustlers, which became Jennifer Lopez’s highest-grossing live-action movie stateside with $105 million, and even the 2018 North American premiere of A Star Is Born, which saw its way to a $215M-plus stateside gross, eight Oscars noms and one win.
“There are movies that will launch on the heels of the festival, that I hope adult audiences will see and revive that moviegoing habit. Thankfully that’s been done with the summer blockbusters. There’s a different kind of movie that launches in the fall, and we’re hoping audiences go and see them,” says TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey.
Outside of the already announced nine world premieres — including opening-night Netflix movie The Swimmers from Sally El Hosaini, Rian Johnson’s Netflix title Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Billy Eichner’s Bros, Clement Virgo’s Brother, Sanaa Lathan’s On the Come Up, the Harry Styles Amazon Prime pic My Policeman, Viola Davis starrer The Woman King, Steven Spielberg’s autobiopic The Fabelmans and Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy — there are works by Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin); Sam Mendes (Empire of Light); Tyler Perry (A Jazzman’s Blues); Catherine Hardwicke (Prisoner’s Daughter); Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale starring a very transformed, and big, Brendan Fraser; Peter Farrelly (The Greatest Beer Run Ever); and Reginald Hudlin (the Sidney Pointier documentary Sidney) among several others.
Other star-studded world premieres include Jennifer Lawrence in the U.S. military veteran drama Causeway; Nicolas Cage in Butcher’s Crossing; Anna Kendrick in Alice, Darling; Jessica Chastain (who started her path to a Best Actress Oscar win last year at TIFF with The Eyes of Tammy Faye) and Eddie Redmayne in Netflix’s The Good Nurse; Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult and Ralph Fiennes in The Menu; Lily James and Emma Thompson in What’s Love Got To Do With It?; Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell in Devotion; Judi Dench in Sir Richard Eyre’s geriatric ward drama Allelujah; and Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan in Stephen Frears’ The Lost King.
Variety can exclusively reveal the first look of top Pakistani star Sajal Aly from keenly anticipated rom-com “What’s Love Got to Do with It?,” which will have its world premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.
Directed by veteran Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth”), “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” follows documentary-maker and dating app addict Zoe (Lily James), for whom swiping right has only delivered an endless stream of Mr Wrongs, to her eccentric mother Cath’s (Emma Thompson) dismay. For Zoe’s childhood friend and neighbor Kaz (Shazad Latif), the answer is to follow his parents’ example and opt for an arranged (or “assisted”) marriage to a bright and beautiful bride from Pakistan. As Zoe films Kaz’s journey from London to Lahore to marry a stranger, chosen by his parents, she begins to wonder if she might have something to learn from a profoundly different approach to finding love.
The cast also includes Shabana Azmi (“Halo”), Asim Chaudhry (“People Just Do Nothing”), Mim Shaikh (“Freehold”), Jeff Mirza (“Eternals”), Iman Boujelouah (“Kal & Cambridge), Mariam Haque (“Finding Alice”) and Sindhu Vee (“Starstruck). The film is written and co-produced by Jemima Khan (“The Case Against Adnan Syed”) and her Instinct Productions. She was married to former cricketer Imran Khan, who was until recently the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Producers also include Nicky Kentish Barnes (“About Time”) and Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.
Aly plays the pivotal character of Maymouna. “I love to play characters that have depth and define the narrative of a project and I think I am very fortunate that my character Maymouna in my international English-language debut ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ has also given me the same opportunity,” Aly told Variety.
Aly, who is known for “Dhoop Ki Deewar and “Alif,” received glowing reviews for her last two projects “Sinf-E-Ahaan” and “Ishq-E-Laa,” which were both hits. The actor has gathered a large following outside Pakistan, in the Middle East and in India where her powerful performance alongside late Bollywood legend Sridevi won much acclaim.
Executive producers on “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” include Ron Halpern, Anna Marsh, Joe Naftalin, Sarmad Masud, Sarah Harvey, Lucas Webb and Katherine Pomfret.
Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award-winning and Mercury Prize nominated composer, Nitin Sawhney has created the music for the film, with British-Pakistani record producer, DJ, songwriter, and musician Naughty Boy adding his skills to the soundtrack, alongside three-time BRIT Award and Mercury Prize nominee, Joy Crookes. Kanika Kapoor and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan will also feature on the soundtrack, with Khan also appearing in the film.
Studiocanal is fully financing and will release in its own territories — U.K., France, Germany and Australia and New Zealand — and is selling the film worldwide. The film will be released in U.K. cinemas on Jan. 27, 2023.
Impeachment: American Crime Story nominated for 5 Primetime Emmy Awards
Impeachment: American Crime Story has received five nominations for the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, which were announced in LA on 12 July 2022:
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie
Impeachment: American Crime Story • FX • 20th Television and FX Productions
Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp
Outstanding Writing For A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie
Impeachment: American Crime Story • Man Handled • FX
20th Television and FX Productions
Sarah Burgess, Written by
Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling
Impeachment: American Crime Story • The Assassination Of Monica Lewinsky • FX
20th Television and FX Productions
Natalie Driscoll, Department Head Hairstylist Nanxy Tong-Heater, Assistant Department Head Hairstylist Michelle Ceglia, Personal Hairstylist Suzy Mazzarese, Personal Hairstylist Lauren Kress, Hairstylist Leighann Pitchon, Hairstylist
Outstanding Contemporary Makeup (Non-Prosthetic)
Impeachment: American Crime Story • The Assassination Of Monica Lewinsky • FX
20th Television and FX Productions
Robin Beauchesne, Department Head Makeup Artist KarriAnn Sillay, Assistant Department Head Makeup Artist Angela Moos, Makeup Artist Erin LeBre, Makeup Artist Kerrin Jackson, Makeup Artist
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup
Impeachment: American Crime Story • The Wilderness • FX
20th Television and FX Productions
Justin Raleigh, Prosthetic Designer Greg Cannom, Prosthetic Designer Thom Floutz, Special Makeup Effects Artist Chris Hampton, Special Makeup Effects Artist Kelly Golden, Special Makeup Effects Artist
The full list of nominations can be viewed here.
‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’ (FX)
I’m not sure why the third installment of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series didn’t catch fire the way “The People v. O.J. Simpson” did because it’s as good, if not better, at dramatizing yet another decade-defining news event. This time it’s the Lewinsky/Clinton scandal. The 10-part limited series, co-produced by Lewinsky, focuses on the women at the center of the storm, from Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) to Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) to Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco) as the tale of Bill’s personal indiscretions, the cynical political machinations of Capitol Hill and rise of the hard-right media (such as Ann Coulter) unfold. The stories behind The Story are multi-layered and involve enough names and personalities to crash a Palm Pilot.
Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television
“Impeachment: American Crime Story” (FX)
“Mare of Easttown” (HBO/HBO Max)
“The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Prime Video)
Here’s your first look at Studiocanal and Working Title’s rom-com What’s Love Got To Do With It? starring Lily James, Shazad Latif, Emma Thompson, Sajal Aly, Shabana Azmi, Asim Chaudhry, Mim Shaikh andJeff Mirza. Shekhar Kapur directs from Jemima Khan’s script. Set to release next year, it has been announced today that British-Pakistani record producer, DJ, songwriter, and musician Naughty Boy will be doing music for the film. Rahat Fateh Ali Khanhas also recorded two songs for the soundtrack and will appear in the film. The film follows documentary filmmaker Zoe (James), for whom swiping right to find Mr Right has only delivered bad dates and funny anecdotes, much to her opinionated mother Cath’s (Thompson) dismay.
For her childhood friend and neighbour Kazim (Latif), the answer is to follow his parents’ example and opt for an arranged marriage with a bright and beautiful bride from Pakistan. As Zoe films his hopeful journey from London to Lahore to marry a stranger, chosen by his parents, she begins to wonder if she might have something to learn from a different approach to finding love.
Studiocanal and Working Title have revealed a first look from “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur’s upcoming cross-cultural British romantic comedy “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
The image features stars Lily James (“Rebecca,” the upcoming “Pam & Tommy”) and Shazad Latif (“Star Trek: Discovery”), who will be seen as Captain Nemo in upcoming Disney Plus series “Nautilus.”
The cast also includes Oscar-winner Emma Thompson (“Last Christmas”), Pakistani star Sajal Aly (“Mom”), Indian veteran Shabana Azmi (“The Empire”), Asim Chaudhry (“People Just Do Nothing”), Mim Shaikh (“Freehold”), Jeff Mirza (“Eternals”), Iman Boujelouah (“Kal & Cambridge), Mariam Haque (“Finding Alice”) and Sindhu Vee (“Starstruck).
The film follows documentary filmmaker Zoe (James), for whom swiping right to find Mr Right has only delivered bad dates and funny anecdotes, much to her opinionated mother Cath’s (Thompson) dismay. For her childhood friend and neighbour Kazim (Latif), the answer is to follow his parents’ example and opt for an arranged marriage with a bright and beautiful bride from Pakistan. As Zoe films his hopeful journey from London to Lahore to marry a stranger, chosen by his parents, she begins to wonder if she might have something to learn from a different approach to finding love.
British-Pakistani record producer, DJ, songwriter, and musician Naughty Boy collaborating on original recordings for the film’s soundtrack. Pakistan’s Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, a maestro of the Qawwali singing style, has recorded two songs for the soundtrack and will also appear in the film.
The film is produced by Jemima Khan (“The Clinton Affair”) and her Instinct Productions with producer Nicky Kentish Barnes (“About Time”) alongside Working Title Films’ Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan.
Studiocanal is fully financing and will release in their own territories — the U.K., France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand — and are selling the film worldwide.
“What’s Love Got to Do with It?” will release in U.K. cinemas in 2022.
Impeachment is a dramatisation of the fallout from Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and perhaps its most biting political point is that it is happening at all. For as well as being a stand-alone ten-parter, it is also series three of American Crime Story. The first concerned the trial of OJ Simpson after the murder of his wife, which became a pivotal moment for race relations in the US. The second concerned the murder of Gianni Versace by a serial killer. Now, alongside them, we have a blowjob in the Oval Office.
Lewinsky is played by Beanie Feldstein, in casting that feels at first halfway between inspired and cruel. You don’t want to be crass, but this is the Lewinsky painted by Clinton’s smirking critics; the mistress of a man rendered contemptible at least in part because he didn’t aim higher. This, though, is the whole point, and Feldstein plays her with a brilliant, crushed girlish dignity. “He’s the leader of the free world!” she wails. “He’s busy!” You, too, underestimate her and you, too, become complicit in the whole ghoulish, sexist circus that ensues.
Not, of course, that it is all about her. Paula Jones is here too, played by Annaleigh Ashford. The first two episodes have given us only a glimpse so far of Edie Falco’s Hillary Clinton, and not much more of Clive Owen’s shag-happy Bill. Monsters such as Cobie Smulders’s Ann Coulter circle in the background. For all of them, you can tell, Lewinsky is about to be considered at least as disposable as she was by Bill Clinton.
Really, though, the story here is led by Sarah Paulson’s Linda Tripp, the slighted former White House employee who would go on to spill all of Lewinsky’s secrets to the special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. She’s portrayed here as bitter and resentful, mildly reminiscent of one of Marge’s sisters from The Simpsons. Although, again, these are judgments we’re being encouraged to make, perhaps to our own future shame. I’m only two episodes in, but I think it’s going to be superb. Most of all, it shows us a world in which #MeToo is an incomprehensible future, even for feminists or professional women on the rise. How ghastly we all were. How grim and reductive our presumptions. Yes, me too.
There is nothing stranger than the recent past. For that reason, it can be a goldmine for writers, and none has extracted more from it in the past few years than Ryan Murphy. The late 90s is his most fertile seam, furnishing all three parts of his American Crime Story anthology. The opening season gave him his first – and unexpected – post-Glee hit in the glorious The People v OJ Simpson, which retold the story of the 1994 killing of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman and the most infamous murder trial of modern (media) times that followed. Then came The Assassination of Gianni Versace, about the death of the designer at the hands of Andrew Cunanan in 1997. Now we have Impeachment (BBC Two), which focuses on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal that occupied minds, headlines and the House of Representatives for much of 1998.
This new 10-part instalment, written mainly by Sarah Burgess, puts the bureaucrat Linda Tripp – played by the most revered of his repertory company, Sarah Paulson – rather than the US president or his intern front and centre. The drama opens in 1998 with her leading the FBI to Monica (Beanie Feldstein) and leading her away to a hotel for questioning (“It’s for your own good,” Tripp assures her) as part of the Paula Jones investigation and pending lawsuit. We then move back to 1993, the suicide of Vince Foster and the Whitewater investigation, presented as the beginning of Tripp’s move from loyal (if abrasive and self-aggrandising) White House civil servant to embittered employee ready to put a metaphorical bomb under the place.
Tripp died last year and – whatever your politics or memory of the time – it is hard to watch Impeachment without feeling that this has freed its creators to treat the character cruelly. We are shown her snacking or eating dismal microwaved meals at every opportunity (Paulson has apologised for wearing a fat suit to portray her) and even with an actor as good as Paulson wringing all available nuance from the script, Tripp remains perilously close to bitter-hag territory. She is an avatar of the unfulfilled middle age that must surely lie in wait for every woman who does not bother to bring sweetness and light to all while she has the chance.
In that sense, it is a weaker instalment than The People v OJ Simpson, which tended to round out and look anew at people who had long been reduced by popular culture to caricatures. But it holds up well in terms of propulsive, addictive drama. It’s a rich, soapy lather shot through with comedy and an irresistible wholeheartedness. And knowing the outcome only adds to, rather than lessens, the fun. You can hardly look away as the dominoes are tantalisingly set up. Tripp is unceremoniously ejected from her glamorous White House job, where she had served under Bush, and exiled to the Pentagon. She meets the literary agent Lucianne Goldberg (the mighty Margo Martindale), who urges her to start writing down an insider’s account of political life in the hope of a book deal. After two years of stewing in her dead-end job while the Clinton administration undoes America around her, she meets lonely 22-year-old Monica – also exiled to the Pentagon, though for very different reasons – who is eager for a friend. Especially one so willing to listen to her trials as a young woman in love with a married, much more powerful man.
Meanwhile, in Arkansas, former state employee Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) is getting ready to sue the president for sexual harassment. Or rather, other people – eventually with the backing of Republicans led by Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders) – are getting her ready to sue the president. Jones herself can hardly bring herself to describe what the then-governor did. But she can, she offers, draw his penis. “It takes a dramatic turn.”
Like The People and, to a lesser extent, Versace, Impeachment offers us the chance to look at ourselves and at pivotal historical moments and re-examine the critical lenses through which we saw them. It doesn’t grapple as closely with the underlying issue of misogyny that caused Lewinsky’s life to be upended and borderline ruined as it did with race relations and homophobia in the previous seasons – although by making Tripp the main character it also sidesteps a lot of potential prurience-traps – but as sheer entertainment it is almost back to top Murphy form.
The third instalment of American Crime Story looks at Lewinsky’s relationship with Bill Clinton through a Me Too lens — and it can be emotionally draining to watch
It is an age-old story. Girl meets boy, girl is intoxicated, flattered that a boy of his status would pay so much attention to her, boy takes advantage of this and treats her mean to keep her keen, while girl over-analyses every move, becoming increasingly desperate to keep the boy’s attention. It doesn’t end happily ever after. This is the way that Impeachment: American Crime Story frames what happened between Monica Lewinsky and then-President Bill Clinton — and be warned, it is emotionally draining to watch.
The details of Lewinsky’s story have been pored over at length — was she a naïve intern, scarred for life because she got involved with the wrong man at 22 and became collateral damage in a power play by politicians and lawyers who wanted to see the end of Clinton? And is it morally acceptable to dredge up her story again for entertainment? Lewinsky is one of the producers of this drama so it can be seen in a sense as her attempt to set the record straight, looking at what happened through the lens of the Me Too movement. It is the third instalment of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck’s American Crime Story series, where they retell scandalous incidents from the Nineties, following The People v. O. J. Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
This version of events begins after it has all unravelled, in 1998; with a terrified-looking Lewinsky being arrested by the FBI. Beanie Feldstein is mesmerising as Lewinsky. Each of her expressions conveys a whole story. Her enthusiasm at being in the White House feels genuine, as does her subsequent heartache, confusion and fear. She has been styled to look cartoonish, with a flicky ponytail and tight-fitting tops.
But the focus here is on Linda Tripp, the civil servant who secretly recorded Lewinsky’s confidential phone calls about her relationship with Clinton and died last year aged 70. Sarah Paulson, who was also in the OJ American Crime Story as prosecutor Marcia Clark, wears a padded suit to play her. It is another magnificent performance. Tripp is a recognisable office type. She has been working there for longer than some members of staff have been alive and although she has a junior job she takes it seriously. She is divorced and the highlight of her day is heating up a jacket potato in the microwave and watching the news, so her work is where she derives all her satisfaction. The office is her domain and, as she sees it, she is the only one maintaining standards — to the extent that she will lecture others on how the custom is to use staples rather than paper clips. The fact that the White House offices look so grey and lifeless makes it all the more tragic that she places so much value on it.
But when we meet her, she is under fire. She started as an administrator during the Bush years but after the suicide of her boss, Vince Foster, a Clinton confidante, she is sent to the Pentagon. She thrives on school style personal politics and gossip and we see how lonely Lewinsky plays into her hands.
Clinton is conspicuous by his absence in the first two episodes, occasionally appearing on screen to flirt with Lewinsky or talk about free healthcare for old folks. Clive Owen plays him with a prosthetic nose, which is disarming at first for those who fancied him films like Closer, but it’s a good impression. When he does come on screen he dominates and you can see how he won voters (and Lewinsky). Meanwhile, Edie Falco has presence as Hillary Clinton (is there a coded message in casting Carmela from The Sopranos as another wife who is cheated on?) and we see how hated she is from early on.
Impeachment as entertainment might seem impossible after years of slogging through the real thing. The Trump administration brought us day after day of melodrama, including overwrought performances on the House floor, and never fully stuck the landing.
But the FX drama “Impeachment: American Crime Story” manages to turn the dismal state of our democracy into a must-see limited series, pulling the narrative back to the quaint 1990s, when President Bill Clinton’s (Clive Owen) relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) was presented as a national crisis.
Executive producer Ryan Murphy’s 10-episode anthology series, which premieres Tuesday, is propelled by the brand of brisk, addictive storytelling, stellar casting and high-end soap appeal that have defined the “American Crime Story” franchise since its first entry, “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” It delves into the stories behind the political theater, following the women who were actively involved in — or involuntarily pulled into — the mammoth Republican effort to eject Clinton from the Oval Office.
Sarah Paulson does a phenomenal job portraying Linda Tripp, the former White House secretary who exposed the affair between Clinton and Lewinsky. The leak led to his impeachment, fueled the careers of far-right crusaders such as Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders), and exposed the beginning of a divided Washington bent on revenge rather than governance. Additional players include Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford), whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton played a key role in the scandal, and, of course, Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco).
Owen and Falco are Bill and Hillary here. They nail it, from his laid-back mannerisms, Arkansas drawl and wandering hands to her awkward dance as an accomplished, ambitious woman struggling to fit the role of demure first lady and scorned wife. Feldstein is equally convincing as the beret-clad Lewinsky. She’s naive but not stupid. She knows Bill has her on booty-call speed dial, but she’s hopelessly infatuated with him — he’s the president! Her fatal mistake is taking Tripp into her confidence.
“Impeachment” chronicles the start of their “friendship,” after both women were transferred from the White House to work at the Pentagon. When Lewinsky disclosed details about her relationship with Clinton, the duplicitous Tripp saw an opportunity for revenge with a tell-all book. She was angry about being passed over for a promotion in the West Wing after her former boss Vince Foster took his own life, so she coaxed and manipulated Lewinsky to spill the beans, taping their phone conversations. Her 20 hours of secret recordings would later become central to Clinton’s 1998 impeachment. Tripp died last year at the age of 70.
The real Monica Lewinsky is a producer on the series, which may explain why Tripp is portrayed as a bitter, self-serving monster who elicits no pity as she eats her sad, microwavable Weight Watchers dinners alone in front of the nightly news. The tone is set in the first episode, when Lewinsky heads to the mall to meet Tripp for lunch, only to be greeted by her and the FBI. “You treacherous bitch,” Lewinsky tells Tripp.
Head writer Sarah Burgess and her team adapt Jeffrey Toobin’s 1999 book, “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President,” into a drama that tracks the anatomy of a scandal and the ways in which the changing mediascape — the rise of 24-hour cable news and the internet at the top of the list — capitalized on all the salaciousness. You’ll need a flow chart and Google to keep up with the cast of characters and the roles they play in the saga: literary agent Lucianne Goldberg (Margo Martindale), commentator Matt Drudge (Billy Eichner), Lewinsky’s mother, Marcia Lewis (Mira Sorvino), U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright (Kathleen Turner), and Clinton advisor Vernon Jordan (Blair Underwood), to name just a few.
“Impeachment” makes a point of showing how almost all of the women wrapped up in the Clinton scandal were used as pawns to either prop up or destroy one of the most beloved and hated U.S. presidents up to that point in modern history. They are the story.
The other fascinating takeaway is how insignificant the charges at the center of Clinton’s impeachment — perjury and obstruction of justice — seem in comparison with what we’ve experienced since. He wasn’t caught bragging on tape about sexually assaulting women or busted for paying off a porn star, nor was he impeached, twice, for soliciting foreign help to win an election and inciting a violent insurrection because he lost an election. The cutthroat machinations of 1990s Washington, and Clinton’s lie about not having sexual relations with that woman, are a breezy Sunday afternoon compared with the present-day D.C. apocalypse. And “Impeachment” makes one pine for those more innocent times, when shock could still be manufactured by an extramarital affair — and a lie under oath.
As played by Sarah Paulson in the new season of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story, Linda Tripp is a mesmerizing figure. The third season of the franchise, subtitled Impeachment, is the Monica Lewinsky–Bill Clinton story, a tale so familiar now that it is essentially a modern American legend. Rather than come from solely Lewinsky’s perspective, though, or create some appeal to false objectivity by giving lots of time to every side of the story, Impeachment dwells on Tripp. It’s so easy to see her as a villain, the nightmarish witch of the impeachment story, hated by everyone on all sides. The series makes room for that reading, certainly — Impeachment’s Tripp is petty, vindictive, and selfish. She is foolish, too, or at least just smart enough to make some very foolish mistakes. She wants attention, and she can’t muster the self-awareness required to admit how much she wants it. Everything bad in her life was done to her. Everything good was the result of her own herculean unappreciated effort.
She is a tough sell as a central character, especially in a story with a young, sympathetic woman just begging to be the show’s primary point of view. But Impeachment, premiering on September 7 on FX, is a better-wrought story than many of Murphy’s most recent titles, and Tripp is a more complicated character than many of the roles Murphy has recently given to Paulson (in American Horror Story, in Ratched, in Feud: Bette and Joan). As portrayed in this series, she is a woman who simply does not fit in. Her longing to do so makes her loathsome, with the sweaty, overworked loudness of someone perpetually trying too hard. It makes her sad — so sad that it’s almost hard to watch as she snaps at a co-worker who puts a yogurt cup on Tripp’s side of the cubicle. But it also gives her a readier insight into all the ways the world is broken. Whatever else ACS’s Tripp might be, she is not wrong about that.
Impeachment is this in a nutshell: attentive to Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), gimlet-eyed at Clinton (an unaccountably effective Clive Owen), but fascinated by Tripp, this woman the show cannot bring itself to find sympathy for but whom it also refuses to fully indict. The series is rapt by her role in this famous presidential scandal, and though its depiction of her is flawed, sometimes deeply, its detailed obsession with Tripp is nevertheless so utterly caught up in her that the show manages to leap past all the reasons why it absolutely, unequivocally, should not work.
I mean should in a few ways here. Paulson should not have been cast as Tripp for any number of reasons, including the thoughtlessness of padding her out into something approximating Tripp’s towering, broad-shoulder body, especially when it is far too easy to see the show as mocking Tripp, turning her into a caricature. Paulson also should not have been cast as Tripp for the exact same reason she was cast as Tripp: She is the Murphy muse, the face that shows up across his work in all his thorniest roles, and that very familiarity makes it impossible to look at this Tripp and not see Paulson. There are moments when she almost disappears, when the complicated Tripp on the page shows through, full of righteousness and self-absorption and wounds. Too often, though, Paulson’s performance is uncannily like Tripp herself. It is trying so, so hard, in a way that makes you want to recoil. It would be a disaster, except this is also precisely what Impeachment is most interested in: the contempt we have for desperation and for people whose desperation is too painfully evident. So it should not work, except there’s also a resonant tension in there, a friction that reveals even more of the character.
For anyone who already knows this story well, through any of the mountain of books, articles, podcasts, and docuseries that have come out about Lewinsky and Paula Jones and the Clintons, Impeachment will not add anything new to the general outline. Clinton and Lewinsky had a relationship that bounced along for many months in the queasy territory where paternal interest becomes predatory sexual interest and where a young woman’s all-consuming, ill-advised crush stopped her from seeing the full breadth of the cataclysmic thing she was hurling herself into. This will not be a revelation, nor will the general sentiment that Lewinsky is the most wounded party here. Impeachment does not pull its punches where Lewinsky is concerned; Feldstein’s Lewinsky is, in her own way, just as desperate, just as hurt and as maddeningly blinkered as Tripp. Most of all, Feldstein’s performance underlines how young Lewinsky was. She is out of her depth in every scene. Tripp is sidelined from power because she is abrasive and refuses to soften herself to her surroundings (which makes her sometimes a figure of tragedy and sometimes a monster); Lewinsky is chewed up and spit out and then held up for unending public ridicule because she is naïve to the point of catastrophe. Clinton is charismatic and sly, full of hubristic confidence. Again, none of it is a surprise, but the execution is compelling, from the sickening slow roll of Clinton’s pursuit of Lewinsky to the eventual public frenzy over Clinton’s lies and Lewinsky’s stained blue dress.
There are attendant side characters, most of them ghoulish embodiments or “Hey, look at that guy!” nods of recognition. Billy Eichner is a highly mannered Matt Drudge; Cobie Smulders is a wry Ann Coulter, full of delighted, detached faux fury. There is a painstaking re-creation of some of the most well-covered events, particularly the night that Tripp betrays Lewinsky and the subsequent FBI sting operation. It’s a familiar story. At some point while watching the first seven episodes of Impeachment, though, I started to realize that when you tell a story often enough, it stops being an overfamiliar story and starts being a myth. Impeachment is imperfect, but its excavation of this era in American history is nonetheless transfixing, and it’s not least because there is now a mythic quality to the story it tells. It is the founding story of so much of what happens in the next three decades of American life and American politics: the Clinton dynasty, the Me Too movement, the transformation of the Republican Party into the party of conspiracy theories and digital gossip, and the crumbling of the image of the inhuman, untouchable, hagiographic American president.
At the center of it all, there’s Tripp, whose actions Impeachment depicts as monstrous, horrible, and also exactly what Tripp perceives them to be: a way to reveal corruption and to root out repeated predatory sexual misconduct. Everyone is hurt by her actions, most especially the person Tripp tells herself she is trying to save. It’s so tempting to see Tripp as the villain of this myth, the witch who preys on a young woman’s vitality in order to gain power for herself. Impeachment is not so sure it’s that simple, and it wants viewers to sit with that discomfort.
Sarah Paulson and Beanie Feldstein star in the latest installment of Ryan Murphy’s true-crime anthology, which aims to portray Monica Lewinsky in all her flawed, vulnerable humanity.
A group of government officials camp out in a fancy D.C. hotel suite, huddled around a recording device on the coffee table. They are listening intently to a conversation between Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) and Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) that’s taking place in the restaurant below. As soon as they get what they need — an admission from Lewinsky that President Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) helped get her a job in exchange for her silence about their affair — the men upstairs erupt. “Yeah!” grunts prosecutor Jackie Bennett (Darren Goldstein), pumping his fist and high-fiving FBI Agent Steve Irons (Craig Welzbacher), like dudes whose team just made it to the Super Bowl.
A lot of infuriating things happen in Impeachment: American Crime Story — the third season of Ryan Murphy’s true-crime anthology — but none is more emblematic of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal than two grown men high-fiving over a young woman’s imminent destruction, because it means their side is going to “win.” Though Impeachment is not as emotionally resonant as the previous ACS installments, The People v. OJ Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace, it’s a gripping and challenging retelling of a presidential scandal — and our nation’s moral failure.
Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s 1999 best-seller A Vast Conspiracy, Impeachment (premiering Sept. 7 on FX) unspools multiple narrative threads in its 90-minute premiere. It’s July 1993: Deputy White House counsel Vince Foster (Matthew Floyd Miller) says goodbye to Linda Tripp, a secretary in his D.C. office, and drives alone to a national park, where he shoots himself in the head. It’s May 1994: Stay-at-home mom Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) files a sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, claiming he exposed himself to her in a Little Rock, Ark., hotel room when he was governor. It’s spring of 1996: Monica Lewinsky is transferred out of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs to a job at the Pentagon, where she meets and bonds with Tripp, another West Wing exile. And it’s January 1998: An unsuspecting Lewinsky arrives for lunch with Tripp at the Pentagon City Mall food court, only to be intercepted by two FBI agents investigating “crimes related to the Paula Jones lawsuit.”
It’s a daunting amount of information to absorb, made more complicated by the inevitable timeline jumps. One thing is clear, however: Impeachment will not do for Linda Tripp what People v. OJ Simpson did for Marcia Clark (who was also played by Paulson). Barely 10 minutes into the premiere, a mortified Lewinsky turns her glare on Tripp. “Make her stay and watch,” she tells the FBI agents who are preparing to grill the former intern. “I want that treacherous bitch to know what she did to me.” (This line, and many others in Impeachment, are pulled directly from real-life accounts of the events.)
Of course, Tripp is just one of many bad actors in this saga. Her literary agent, Lucianne Goldberg (esteemed character actress Margo Martindale in a pageboy wig), blithely urged Tripp to record her phone conversations with Lewinsky. Women’s Coalition founder Susan Carpenter McMillan (Judith Light) inveigled her way into Paula Jones’ circle to boost her own political profile. Ann Coulter (Cobie Smulders, nailing the pundit’s sneery-snooty delivery) and the so-called “Elves” — a group of conservative lawyers including George Conway (George Salazar) — worked off the clock to bolster Jones’ case and force the president into committing perjury. And of course, there’s the president himself, whose illicit affair triggered the avalanche of vulgarity that buried the country for most of 1998. Owen, vaguely recognizable under a frosty white wig and a latex approximation of the former president’s bulbous nose, keenly evokes Bill Clinton’s well-documented magnetism and butter-pecan drawl. He’s a ruthless competitor disguised as a great seducer. Impeachment reminds us again and again that none of these people were motivated by concern for Lewinsky or Jones. Clinton’s alleged sexual misconduct isn’t even the “crime” referred to in the show’s title; the law didn’t care what he did or didn’t do to those women — only that he lied about it.
Impeachment deftly avoids “both sides” equivocations or overtly partisan shading. Nor is it a post-#MeToo hagiography of two notoriously wronged women. The real Monica Lewinsky serves as a producer on Impeachment and consulted on every script, but this is not an exercise in redemption. The most empowering aspect of Impeachment’s depiction of Lewinsky may be its determination to show us a twenty-something woman in all her flawed, vulnerable humanity. Feldstein captures the reckless bravado of a young adult both emboldened by and crushed under the weight of an overwhelming infatuation. Her Monica is whiny and self-absorbed, loyal and oversensitive, endlessly devoted and shamelessly exploited.
Though she’s burdened with a distracting prosthetic nose, Ashford is stunning as Paula Jones. The Lonoke, Ark., native was once dismissed as a “slut” and “trailer trash” by the media and beyond, but there’s not a hint of parody in Ashford’s performance. Here, Jones is a trusting people-pleaser, easily manipulated by D.C. power players and her boorish husband (Taran Killam, regrettably outmatched), and too naïve to realize she’s being used.
Tripp has long been cast as the scandal’s irredeemable Judas Iscariot, and Impeachment is not out to upend that narrative. Over the first half of the season, she’s presented as fastidious and condescending, a disgruntled civil servant with delusions of her own importance. “I was the last person to see Vince Foster alive!” she announces with a kind of morbid pride, certain that she was transferred out of the White House because the president believed she knew too much. But no one hires Sarah Paulson to play a one-dimensional villain. Buried under a layered blond wig and an oddly controversial fat suit, the actress reveals the complex frailties and contradictions fueling so many of Tripp’s decisions. The world sees her as an opportunistic traitor; Linda Tripp sees herself as a loyal patriot and friend, doing what she must to end Clinton’s debasement of his office and his mistress. “All I want, all I have ever wanted, is for Monica to be okay,” Tripp says, her eyes flaring with intensity behind oversized glasses. She is desperate to believe it, and Paulson almost makes us believe it, too.
A vast conspiracy requires a vast ensemble — Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge! Mira Sorvino as Monica’s mother, Marcia Lewis! Blair Underwood as Vernon Jordan! Elizabeth Reaser as Kathleen Wiley! Rae Dawn Chong as Betty Curie! — and at times, Impeachment begins to feel a little like a prestige Love Boat. I wish I could tell you more about Edie Falco’s performance as Hillary Clinton, but she doesn’t really show up until episode 7 — and even then only has a few scenes. (FX made seven of Impeachment’s 10 episodes available for review.) Were the drive-by appearances of a young Brett Kavanaugh (Alan Starzinski), who worked in the Office of Independent Counsel, or young Jake Tapper (Chris Riggi), who once went on a date with Lewinsky, necessary to the story? Maybe not. But it’s also a grim reminder that the origins of today’s partisan rancor were, in part, written in the Starr(s).
“They’re trying to use the legal system to overturn an election,” fumes Clinton. Coulter, meanwhile, sees Clinton’s decision to settle the Jones lawsuit as a harbinger of democracy’s decline. “Being the president used to mean something,” she rages. “After this, just think what kind of flabby con men will see a path to the White House!” Perhaps Impeachment wants to save its most powerful condemnation for the American people, we who remember history and yet continually choose to repeat it. Grade: B+
Revisiting the Clinton scandal reveals how far we have come in understanding the exploitation of women by powerful men
Libby Purves, The Times
Twenty-three years ago at a national prayer breakfast, President Clinton said, in his best down-home Arkansas drawl, “I don’ think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.” He resolved to “continue on the path of repentance”, while instructing his lawyers to mount a vigorous defence against impeachment.
The accusation of “high crimes and misdemeanours” included his earlier lie about not having had sex with the young intern Monica Lewinsky. The evidence in the Starr report, stained blue dress and all, made it clear that he had — though one lawyerly linguistic defence of the lie rested on the eyebrow-raising claim that during their nine encounters it was the woman who performed the actual sexual act: he had just submitted.
The whole business was ludicrous, disgraceful, huge international news, but in the end a victory for Clinton. I claim to be one of the few commentators who predicted that he’d get away with it, after hearing a vox pop with an old chap in middle America drawling: “If Hillary don’t got no problem with it, I don’t.” I calculated that most Americans would have more sympathy with the president’s adultery than with the lip-smacking prurience of the Starr report. Or indeed the female treachery of Lewinsky’s friend Linda Tripp, who coaxed her to talk, recorded her lovesick girlish phone calls and told her not to clean the presidential DNA off the dress.
This story emerges again in a television drama series, Impeachment. Lewinsky herself is fully involved, talks warmly about Beanie Feldstein, who plays her, and, despite feeling a bit “triggered”, admiringly of Sarah Paulson’s unnervingly accurate Tripp. We are also assured that when the makers wanted to cut a scene in which a 22-year-old Lewinsky shows the middle-aged president her thong, she told them to keep it in. She acknowledges, powerfully, what she has called “that worst version of myself; a self I don’t even recognise”.
These days Lewinsky seems a remarkable adult, campaigning against cyberbullying and shaming, and deploying a dry wit that accepts the absurdity as well as the pain.
She has always maintained that the affair was consensual — “Any abuse came in the aftermath when I was made a scapegoat to protect his powerful position”. She has said she profoundly regrets it and would, given the chance, apologise personally to Hillary Clinton (who sneeringly called her a “narcissistic looney tune”). She merely resents the president’s version of her “laying it all out there for the taking” and, asked why she never changed her name, replies that Clinton didn’t so why should she?
It was a fierce storm she weathered in 1998. Her description is wrenching: sitting under fluorescent lights in a legal office to authenticate Tripp’s sneak recordings. “Scared and mortified, I listen, listen as I prattle on . . . confess my love for the president and, of course, my heartbreak; listen to my sometimes catty, sometimes churlish, sometimes silly self being cruel, unforgiving, uncouth; listen, deeply, deeply ashamed.”
It’s an interesting moment to revisit the case after Weinstein, Epstein and the #MeToo campaign. In the immediate aftermath of the scandal Lewinsky was the one to suffer most, under an avalanche of shaming, blaming and dirty jokes. She alternately tried to escape it and use it to earn a media living (there were legal costs and nobody would give her a job). She started a tote bag business, did a diet promotion and a brief reality dating show, but that just brought more contempt and blame.
After seven years she came to London to do an MA, and remained publicly silent for a decade. Then in 2015 she reappeared, composed and humorous, with a TED talk laying out what it is like to be shamed in a bullying internet age; called tart, slut, whore, bimbo; have your name spoken everywhere without context or compassion. On others’ behalf she pleaded for kinder behaviour on social media.
It makes you flinch now to remember how many seemingly decent people piled on to condemn her or make gags about fellatio (it had become a fashionable topic, what with Deep Throat and Hugh Grant’s arrest with Divine Brown). Comedians such as Jay Leno made disgusting Lewinsky jokes, but so did the notable feminists Nancy Friday and Erica Jong. Others sniggered about her weight. Clinton, meanwhile, got mocked a bit but never really shamed.
In 1999 Hillary Clinton shrugged that her husband had always been “a hard dog to keep on the porch”. He explained that being pleasured in the Oval Office by a lovesick girl 27 years his junior was just a way “to manage my anxieties”. Ah, the big statesman, entitled to an adoring young female on her knees!
It’s worth tasting again the atmosphere of that old scandal just to relish the fact that we’ve begun to change, as the arc of feminist and humane understanding slowly bends towards justice. The woman is no longer automatically considered the blameworthy temptress. Condemnation of men who exploit women, even without any physical coercion, is far harsher.
Prince Andrew receives no mercy at all in the court of public opinion, even for just hanging out with Epstein. And nobody jokes about Alex Salmond as a loveable dog escaping the porch, or is impressed by his excuse of being “tipsy” and suffering referendum pressure. Even after his acquittal the latest book on him, Break-Up: How Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon went to War, relishes descriptions of him as “a disgusting pig”.
Slowly, slowly, the mood changes. When Edens fall it might not all be Eve’s fault after all.
FX has unveiled the first trailer for American Crime Story: Impeachment, Ryan Murphy’s limited series retelling of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
“As you no doubt heard, you get to work in the West Wing as of this morning,” a White House adviser informs incoming interns. “You’re going to be working beside the people who run the world. Please, be professional.”
The trailer follows the very first moments Monica Lewisnky, potrayed by Beanie Feldstein, steps into the White House and the relationships that nearly brought down former President Bill Clinton. Like a previous teaser for the upcoming FX series, the latest clip previews Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, the former Defense Department figure who brought the Clinton’s illicit relationship with Lewinsky to light with numerous recordings.
Unlike previous glimpses, the latest look at American Crime Story: Impeachment teases Edie Falco’s Hillary Clinton, Billy Eichner’s Matt Drudge and Cobie Smulder’s Ann Coulter.
The trailer comes to an end with Clive Owens delivering Clinton’s infamous quote from his 1998 trial.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” he says.
Season 3 of American Crime Story is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.
Michael Uppendahl is directing and executive producing. Sarah Burgess is writing and will serve as EP with Uppendahl, Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, and Sarah Paulson. Lewinsky, Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan produce.
Cobie Smulders has joined the cast of FX’s upcoming limited series Impeachment: American Crime Story as Ann Coulter, replacing GLOW alum Betty Gilpin exited the show due to scheduling issues, Deadline has confirmed. She will appear opposite Beanie Feldstein for the series about the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The third season of American Crime Story will be based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. Feldstein will stars as Lewinsky, Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones and Billy Eichner as journalist Matt Drudge.
Michael Uppendahl is directing and executive producing. Sarah Burgess is writing and will serve as EP with Uppendahl, Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, and Sarah Paulson. Lewinsky, Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan are producing.
Coulter is the author of the 1998 book High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, which has a section addressing the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
The How I Met Your Mother alumna recently starred in Stumptown as Dex Parios and appeared in Netflix’s Friends from College. She also played Agent Maria Hill in Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War and ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Smulders is repped by UTA.
Deadline exclusively announced Gilpin’s casting in January 2020. Earlier this summer, Gilpin spoke with Jimmy Kimmel about playing Coulter.
“This is another Covid disappointment. I was supposed to play Ann Coulter in American Crime Story, the Monica Lewisnky story. Because of Covid the schedule didn’t work,” she revealed.
“The big disappointment was that I had spent a year listening to Ann Coulter audio books in the car to get her voice down,” she added.
Variety was first to break the casting news.
On Wednesday, FX unveiled the first teaser for Impeachment, the anticipated third season of anthology series American Crime Story, which is set to debut on September 7.
Ryan Murphy’s limited series examines the national crisis that led to the first impeachment of a U.S. President in over a century through the eyes of the women at the center of the events: Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) and Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford). All three were thrust into the public spotlight during a time of corrosive partisan rancor, shifting sexual politics and a changing media landscape.
The trailer opens in Washington, D.C. in 1995, tailing a young woman as she approaches President Clinton (Clive Owen) bearing a gift.
“Mr. President,” his secretary says. “Ms. Lewinsky’s here to see you.”
Impeachment: American Crime Story is based on the book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President by Jeffrey Toobin.
The series written by Sarah Burgess is produced by 20th Television and FX Productions. Lewinsky, Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan also serve as producers, with Burgess, Murphy, Paulson, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Alexis Martin Woodall, Brad Falchuk, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski and Michael Uppendahl exec producing.
Impeachment‘s all-star cast also includes Margo Martindale, Anthony Green, Cobie Smulders, Colin Hanks and more.
The latest installment of American Crime Story comes three years after The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which told the story of the fashion designer’s (Édgar Ramírez) murder at the hands of Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss).
The series’ first season, The People v. O.J. Simpson, examined the former NFL star’s infamous murder trial, which kicked off in 1994.
The People v. O.J. debuted in 2016 to critical acclaim. Claiming 9 Emmys and 22 nominations, it cemented American Crime Story as one of FX’s most acclaimed ongoing series.
Sarah Paulson certainly looks like she is setting herself up for another Primetime Emmy.
The 46-year-old actress was unrecognizable as she completely transformed into whistleblower Linda Tripp on the Los Angeles set of American Crime Story: Impeachment on Sunday.
Paulson donned a brown power suit with a white turtleneck to portray the White House employee who recorded conversations with Monica Lewinsky after she confided in Tripp about an affair with president Bill Clinton.
She also rocked a blonde bob wig featuring fringe which hung to just above her eye as she had plenty of help to look like the American civil servant including prosthetics and plenty of make-up on her face.
It seemed to be an important scene as she was seen holding a press conference outside of a courthouse much like when she talked to reporters outside of the Federal Courthouse in Washington DC in July 1998.
Sarah is set to star alongside Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky and Mira Sorvino as Lewinsky’s mother Marcia Lewis in the anthology series, which is inspired by the infamous scandal which saw the then US-President Bill Clinton accused of having a sexual relationship with a White House intern.
In conversation with DuJour in February, Sarah spoke candidly about the forthcoming project and how the ‘story’ is ‘really about these three women: Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp.’
‘There is one predominant thing that we forget: that these are human beings and multidimensional people.
‘This series gives you an opportunity to understand some of the behavior. I have more in common with Linda than I care to admit.
‘My impatience, my desire for everything to be just so. I can tap into that with Linda. I felt a connection with her,’ said Paulson of her portrayal of the infamous whistleblower and friend of Lewinsky.
The star-studded cast is also set to include Clive Owen as President Clinton, Edie Falco as First Lady Hillary Clinton, Betty Gilpin as Ann Coulter, Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge and Annaleigh Ashford as Clinton accuser Paula Jones.
American Crime Story’s third season will hit US screens this autumn, it’s been confirmed.
Reported by TVLine, Impeachment’s official premiere date is Tuesday, September 7, with no word as of yet on a UK broadcaster.
Chronicling President Bill Clinton’s ’90s scandal, the latest series from TV lord Ryan Murphy features a selection of powerhouse performers, including Clive Owen, Sarah Paulson and Edie Falco.
Impeachment’s synopsis teases a dramatic take on “the national crisis that swept up Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp as principal characters in the country’s first impeachment proceedings in over a century”.
Falco – widely recognised for her role as Carmela Soprano in The Sopranos – plays Hilary Clinton, whilst Owen (Lisey’s Story) appears as Bill Clinton; Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart) is Lewinsky; Paulson is Tripp; Betty Gilpin (GLOW) is Ann Coulter; Billy Eichner (The Lion King) is Matt Drudge and Annaleigh Ashford (Masters of Sex) steps into the shoes of Jones.
Previously addressing the project, Paulson reflected on not being able to meet the real whistleblower she’s portraying on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“I don’t know if I ever would have met Linda or if Linda would have even been open to doing anything like that, but I got as many text messages when she passed away as if I had died,” she shared.
“It was weird because I have been spending so much time reading all these books and working with a dialect coach. I was immersed in this and it was a very wild thing. It really did make me sad.”
Impeachment: American Crime Story premieres on FX in the US this September.
“Impeachment: American Crime Story” has found its Hillary Clinton in Emmy Award-winning actress Edie Falco.
She is the latest high-profile star to join the series, which will detail the events surrounding the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. It was previously announced that Beanie Feldstein will star as Monica Lewinsky, with Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, Margo Martindale as Lucianne Goldberg and Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones. In addition, Billy Eichner will star as Matt Drudge, while Betty Gilpin will play Ann Coulter.
The season will be based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.”
Falco is best known for her roles on the critically-acclaimed shows “The Sopranos” and “Nurse Jackie,” both of which earned her Emmy wins. She is a 14-time Emmy nominee overall, most recently for her starring role in “Law & Order: True Crime.” She is also an 11-time Golden Globe nominee, winning two of those awards during her time on “The Sopranos.” Falco’s other TV roles include starring in the CBS police drama “Tommy” and appearances on shows like “Oz,” “30 Rock,” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.” She is also set to appear in James Cameron’s upcoming “Avatar” film sequels.
She is repped by ICM and Management 360.
The third installment of “American Crime Story” will be written by Sarah Burgess, who will also executive produce alongside Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, Hannah Fidell and Paulson. Lewinsky will serve as producer along with Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan. Touchstone Television and FX Productions will produce.
It was originally meant to air in September 2020, but production was pushed back prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The season does not currently have a premiere date.
The first season of “American Crime Story” followed the principal players in the O.J. Simpson trial, while Season 2 detailed the death of Gianni Versace at the hands of spree killer Andrew Cunanan. Season 1 ultimately received 22 Emmy nominations, winning nine, while Season 2 received 19 Emmy nominations, winning seven.
As two of the brightest stars of British film, Lily James and Dame Emma Thompson can transform even the drabbest suburban scene into a festival of light.
In eye-catching traditional Indian dress, an animated Dame Emma beamed with delight while filming with Ms James for the forthcoming romantic comedy What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Our exclusive photographs were taken last week as the actresses worked late into the night on location in a West London street to shoot scenes of them leaving a party in high spirits.
By contrast with her two-time Oscar-winning co-star’s colourful costume, Ms James, 31, was dressed in traditional Western garb beloved by a girl-about-town – a leather biker’s jacket, pin-striped flares and heels.
And those present couldn’t help but notice how 61-year-old Dame Emma, a long-time Labour supporter, feminist activist and environmental campaigner, played the part of a strong-willed mother with apparent ease.
In the film, written by Jemima Khan, ex-wife of cricketer and Pakistan premier Imran Khan, Dame Emma plays Cath, the opinionated mother of Ms James’s character Zoe, who has fallen in love with childhood friend Kazim.
Directed by veteran film-maker Shekhar Kapur, What’s Love Got To Do With It? is being filmed in London and South Asia and is described as ‘a cross-cultural comedy’.
‘I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with the smartest, most talented, brilliant actresses in the world,’ Kapur said ahead of filming.
European media giant Studiocanal has teamed up with British production company Working Title to create the film, hoping to repeat the box-office hits enjoyed by the London-based firm including Bridget Jones’s Baby, Love Actually and Notting Hill.
‘It’s a perfect date movie with universal themes,’ said Anne Cherel, Studiocanal’s vice-president.
‘When Covid-19 lifts, people will need to be entertained and watch uplifting, feelgood content.’
Sajal Ali, Shabana Azmi, Rob Brydon and Asim Chaudhry have joined the cast of Working Title and Studiocanal’s romantic comedy What’s Love Got To Do With It? Shoot is now underway in London on the pic, which Deadline previously revealed would star Lily James, Shazad Latif and Emma Thompson.
Jemima Khan wrote the screenplay and will produce, with Shekhar Kapur directing. Nicky Kentish Barnes is also producing alongside Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan, with Sarmad Masud as executive producer. Story is a cross-cultural rom-com about love and marriage and is set between London and South Asia.
Working Title and Studiocanal romantic comedy “What’s Love Got To Do With It?,” directed by Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth”), has added to its cast.
Joining the existing cast of Lily James (“Yesterday”), Shazad Latif (“Departure”) and Emma Thompson (“Last Christmas”) are British actors Rob Brydon (“The Trip to Greece”) and Asim Chaudhry (“Wonder Woman 1984”), Pakistan’s Sajal Ali (“Mom”) and veteran Indian actor Shabana Azmi (“Kaali Khuhi”).
The film is based on an original script by Jemima Khan “(The Clinton Affair,” “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks”).
“It’s a story of identities,” Kapur has said, describing the film. “It’s about cultural clashes and it’s a comedy, but it’s about hiding behind an identity and how identities can become tribal, and how tribalism can lead to clashes and fundamentalism. It’s a romcom, but based on this fundamental idea of people adopting identities out of fear of marginalization.”
The film is produced by Khan and her Instinct Productions with producer Nicky Kentish Barnes (“About Time,” “About a Boy”), alongside Working Title Films‘ Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan. Sarmad Masud is an executive producer.
Studiocanal is fully financing and handling worldwide sales, and will release in the U.K., France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
The film is currently shooting in London.
Thompson and Working Title are also collaborating on “Matilda,” based on the beloved children’s story by Roald Dahl, for Netflix. Matthew Warchus (“Pride”) will direct, and the cast also includes Lashana Lynch (“No Time To Die”) and Alisha Weir (“Darklands”).
At last. After a star-spangled American Film Market lineup this year was met by an initial near deafening silence from buyers, European film-TV group Studiocanal confirmed Wednesday that it has pre-sold the world, apart from the U.S. and China, on Liam Neeson action thriller “Retribution.”
A second new Studiocanal title, Working Title romantic comedy “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” with Lily James and Emma Thompson, has closed near all of Europe and Japan, also placing it among the best-selling AFM titles.
Among AFM trading, the deals add to AGC Studios’ near worldwide pre-sales on “Universe’s Most Wanted” and half the world sales sweeps for Cornerstone’s “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” Mister Smith’s “Lakewood” and Elle Driver’s “See For Me.” Otherwise, major AFM sales announcements, to date at least, have been few and pretty piecemeal.
Directed by Nimrod Antal (“Predators”) and produced by director-producer Jaume Collet-Serra and Juan Sola at Ombra Films and Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman at The Picture Company (“Come Play,” “Gunpowder Milkshake”), “Retribution” has pre-sold 13 of the world’s 15 major territories.
Banner deals take in Latin America (CDC & Cine Video y TV), Japan (Kino Films Co.), CIS (Top Film Distribution), South Korea (First Run), Spain (Tripictures), Italy (Lucky Red), Benelux (Searchers) and Poland (Kinoswiat).
Sarah Paulson has offered the first glimpse of her portrait of Linda Tripp, the woman whose recordings of conversations with President Bill Clinton’s mistress, Monica Lewinsky, almost ended his administration.
Paulson said on social media that filming has begun on the Impeachment series of episodes on American Crime Story. Paulson plays the frumpy Tripp in the episodes, which examine how Tripp, a coworker of Lewinsky’s at the Defense Department, began secretly recording their conversations.
Lewinsky is played by Booksmart‘s Beanie Feldstein. The Impeachment series will track the three perspectives of Lewinsky, Tripp, and Annaleigh Ashford’s Paula Jones, who sued Clinton for sexual harassment.
Clive Owen plays President Bill Clinton, and Billy Eichner will play web journalist Matt Drudge.
Ryan Murphy executive produces Impeachment: American Crime Story with Monica Lewinsky and Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, and Alexis Martin Woodall.
There is something of a return for rom-coms, which should be welcome news amid the gloomy political and social context: Working Title movie What’s Love Got To Do With It? and Helena Bonham Carter pic Not Bloody Likely, are among them. Musical Molly And The Moon headlines FilmNation’s slate and Lionsgate’s JLo action-comedy Shotgun Wedding is also in-demand, we hear. That said, buyers are already preparing for the latter, at least, to potentially go to a studio or streamer, which would be unusual for Lionsgate but a sign of the times.
One element sorely missing from most of the projects listed below is a diverse lead. Only a couple have black actors in a leading role.
The Things They Carried – Tye Sheridan, Tom Hardy, Stephan James, Bill Skarsgard, Pete Davidson and Ashton Sanders lead this star-studded Vietnam war pic being directed by Rupert Sanders. Film is based on Tim O’Brien’s acclaimed collection of stories about a platoon of young soldiers and their experiences on the front lines during the Vietnam War. MadRiver is handling world sales, with CAA Media Finance co-repping North America.
Universe’s Most Wanted – Dave Bautista is teaming with Rampage filmmaker Brad Peyton on this big-budget sci-fi fantasy. The film is set in a small town, where a space ship crashes carrying the universe’s most dangerous criminals; Bautista will play an intergalactic peacekeeper. AGC Studios and CAA Media Finance are teaming for sales.
What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Lily James is re-teaming with Baby Driver producers Working Title on this rom-com, starring alongside Shazad Latif and Emma Thompson. Written and produced by Jemima Khan, the film will be helmed by Shekhar Kapur. Pic is a cross-cultural rom-com about love and marriage set between London and South Asia. Studiocanal is handling sales and will release in its own territories.
EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a hot one. We can reveal that Lily James (Baby Driver), Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery) and Emma Thompson (Beauty And The Beast) have been set to star in a new Working Title rom-com: What’s Love Got To With It?, which will start next month.
Written and produced by Jemima Khan (Impeachment: American Crime Story) via her Instinct Productions banner, the under-the-radar film will mark the feature return of director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth). Also producing are Nicky Kentish Barnes (About A Boy) alongside Working Title’s Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan.
Plot details are being kept under wraps but we understand the cross-cultural rom-com is about love and marriage and is set between London and South Asia. Khan and Latif both have family ties to Pakistan; the former was of course once married to the country’s now Prime Minister and former cricket icon Imran Khan.
Studiocanal will fully finance and launch sales at this week’s virtual AFM, which will be welcome news for buyers on the the hunt for light relief in these challenging times and in a market where high-end comedies and rom-coms have dried up of late.
The Euro studio will release in their own territories – the UK, France, Germany, Australia & New Zealand. Ron Halpern and Joe Naftalin will oversee for the company.
The project is Indian filmmaker Kapur’s first feature as director since 2007 Oscar-winner Elizabeth: The Golden Age, starring Cate Blanchett. It also marks another re-team for star Lily James and Working Title, who have recently collaborated on movies Rebecca, Yesterday, Baby Driver and Darkest Hour.
Former journalist Khan has been ramping up her TV work, with producer credits including the upcoming American Crime Story, last year’s The Case Against Adnan Syed and 2018 drama The Clinton Affair. What’s Love Got To With It? marks her narrative feature debut.
Working Title productions has announced Lily James, Emma Thompson and Shazad Latif will co-star in a rom-com film What’s Love Got to Do With It? which has been written by Jemima Khan, the former wife of Imran Khan.
The plot for What’s Love Got to Do With It? has not been publicised but, according to Deadline, the film will shift between London and South Asia and involves a cross-cultural romantic comedy about love and marriage.
Latif (Star Trek: Discovery, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Khan are no strangers to either locations: he has family connections with the region and she was once married to the Pakistani Prime Minister, who is also a cricketing icon.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? will reportedly be directed by Indian film-maker Shekhar Kapur, who helmed the Cate Blanchett historical dramas Elizabeth (1998), and will be making his first feature since Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).
The legendary Working Title production duo of Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan will co-produce with Khan, alongside Nicky Kentish Barnes (About A Boy).
James, fresh from her success with Netflix period thriller Rebecca, is teaming up with Working Title for the fourth time. She also starred in their movies Yesterday (2019), Baby Driver (2017) and Darkest Hour (2017), while Oscar winner Thompson has also starred in multiple Working Title films, including Nanny McPhee and Bridget Jones’s Baby.
Khan has a growing body of television writing and producing credits. The former IT girl has also written and produced an upcoming episode of American Crime Story, about the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and starring Ratched’s Sarah Paulson, as well as the HBO and Sky documentary-series The Case Against Adnan Syed and 2018 drama The Clinton Affair.
According to her website, Khan is also also developing a TV drama series about the Rothschilds banking dynasty in collaboration with writer and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, as well as a drama series for ITV, a comedy series, two true crime documentary series, and a feature film.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? will start production in December.
Four Ryan Murphy Production series are gearing up to go back to production: flagship Fox drama 9-1-1, breakout spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star, as well as FX’s award-winning Pose and Impeachment, the latest installment in the American Crime Story franchise.
The news comes on the heels of a strong launch for Murphy’s latest series, the One Few Over a Cuckoo’s Next prequel Ratched at Netflix. Murphy over the weekend posted a slew of Netflix graphics showing Ratched‘s No.1 ranking in various territories, followed by an image of a Netflix notification that the drama starring Sarah Paulson was thew streamer’s most popular show in the world on its third day of release, Sept. 20. 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star are all produced by 20th Television, Ratched, Pose and American Crime Story by Touchstone Television, both units of Disney TV Studios.
photo: Richard Rutkowski
Michael Uppendahl has stepped in as director and executive producer on American Crime Story: Impeachment, Ryan Murphy’s upcoming FX limited series about the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. He replaces Richard Shepard, who recently exited the project.
Shepard signed on for the project in January, ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down all production and shifted all filming schedules, including Impeachment‘s. The show, a co-production of Touchstone Television, FX and Ryan Murphy Productions, was originally set to shoot in early spring. Delayed by the industry-wide shutdown, it is now slated to begin filming in early fall.
The pandemic and the scheduling bottleneck it has created, with shows slowly easing back into production with COVID safety protocols, has led to behind and in front of the camera changes on a number of projects. Another director previously booked for Impeachment also recently pulled out.
As with Shepard, Uppendahl is expected to be one of several producing directors on the series, including EP Murphy.
The third season of American Crime Story will be based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. Beanie Feldstein will star as Lewinsky, Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones and Billy Eichner as journalist Matt Drudge.
Sarah Burgess is writing and will serve as EP with Uppendahl, Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, and Sarah Paulson. Lewinsky, Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan are producing.
Uppendahl has a long history with Touchstone Television, FX and Ryan Murphy Prods, having shot episodes of Ratched, The Hot Zone, which he exec produced, Fargo, American Horror Story and Legion, whose first season he co-exec produced, as well as Hollywood. He also directed the pilot and co-exec produced the first season of Hulu’s Castle Rock and directed multiple episodes of AMC’s Mad Men and The Walking Dead, Showtime’s Ray Donovan, and Fox’s Glee. Uppendahl is repped by CAA and Industry Entertainment.
Image courtesy of Banff Springs Hotel
“The canceled Banff World Media Festival released the contenders for its juried TV awards, the winners of which will be unveiled via live stream June 15.
The Rockie Awards each year sees U.S. TV shows compete against international fare. In the documentary categories, the crime and investigation competition will pit the American shows The Case Against Adnan Syed, Sea of Shadows and The Trial of Ratko Mladic against the Canadian-U.S. co-production Children of the Snow and the Taiwanese series The Negotiators: Taipei Hostage Crisis.”
“GLOW” star Betty Gilpin is set to play Ann Coulter in “Impeachment: American Crime Story” at FX.
News of Gilpin’s casting comes just one day after it was announced that Billy Eichner had been cast as Matt Drudge in the third season of “ACS,” which will tackle the impeachment of President Clinton. Beanie Feldstein will star as Monica Lewinsky, with Clive Owen as Clinton, Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, Margo Martindale as Lucianne Goldberg and Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones. The season will be based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.”
Gilpin’s role will mark her first foray into Ryan Murphy’s FX universe. She has been nominated for two Emmy Awards for her role in the Netflix comedy series “GLOW,” which was recently renewed for a fourth and final season. Her other TV roles include shows like “Nurse Jackie,” “Elementary” and “Masters of Sex.” She is repped by ICM, Anonymous Content and Hansen Jacobson.
The third installment will be written by Sarah Burgess, who will also executive produce alongside Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, Hannah Fidell and Paulson. Lewinsky will serve as producer along with Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan. 21 Television Studios (formerly Fox 21) and FX Productions will produce.
The season was originally scheduled to begin airing in September, ahead of the 2020 presidential election, but FX boss John Landgraf recently stated that the show will likely not be ready by that time. Landgraf stated earlier this month at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour that Murphy is directing a feature film and will be unavailable to begin production until late March. Production on the 10-episode season is not slated to end until October. Given the usual length of the post-production process, the show will likely not air its first episode before the election on Nov. 3.
The first season of “American Crime Story” followed the principal players in the O.J. Simpson trial, while Season 2 detailed the death of Gianni Versace at the hands of spree killer Andrew Cunanan. Season 1 ultimately received 22 Emmy nominations, winning nine, while Season 2 received 19 Emmy nominations, winning seven.
Deadline first reported Gilpin’s casting.
EXCLUSIVE: Emmy-winning director Richard Shepard is set to direct and executive produce Impeachment: American Crime Story, Ryan Murphy’s upcoming FX limited series about the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. He is expected to be one of several producing directors on the series, including EP Murphy.
The third season of American Crime Story will be based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. Beanie Feldstein will star as Lewinsky, Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones and Billy Eichner as journalist Matt Drudge. It will premiere in late 2020 or early 2021.
Sarah Burgess is writing and will serve as EP with Shepard, Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, and Sarah Paulson. Lewinsky, Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan are producing.
The veteran helmer has directed nine television pilots that have gone to series, including Criminal Minds, Ugly Betty, for which he won an Emmy, Rosewood, Salem, Sweetbitter, and NBC’s musical dramedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist starring Jane Levy. Shepard also directed 12 episodes of the Golden Globe Award-winning HBO series Girls, including the controversial “American Bitch” episode, for which Matthew Rhys received an Emmy nomination.
This marks Shepard’s first collaboration with Ryan Murphy & Co. The previous two installments of the popular American Crime Story franchise earned four directing Emmy nominations for Murphy (two), Anthony Hemingway and John Singleton and a win for Murphy in 2018. Both seasons also won the Emmy for best limited series.
Shepard’s feature films as writer/director include the 2018 horror film The Perfection, starring Allison Williams and Logan Browning for Netflix; the black comedy Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law and Richard E. Grant for Fox Searchlight; and the Golden Globe-nominated The Matador, starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear.
His short film Tokyo Project starring Elisabeth Moss premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and was bought by HBO. His Emmy-nominated documentary I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale, also aired on HBO.
Shepard is repped by CAA, 3Arts, and attorneys Alan Wertheimer, Karl Austen and Kimberly Jamie.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images; STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP via Getty Images
The ‘Billy on the Street’ star will portray the blogger who became a key media figure during Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
The cast of FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story continues to grow with the addition of Billy Eichner to the cast.
The Billy on the Street and Friends From College star will play Matt Drudge in the third installment of FX’s anthology, which will chronicle the story of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Drudge reported in January 1998 that Newsweek was sitting on a story about Clinton’s affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, helping push the scandal into the mainstream media.
Eichner is joining a powerhouse cast in Impeachment that includes Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart) as Lewinsky, Sarah Paulson (The People v. O.J. Simpson, American Horror Story) as Linda Tripp, Annaleigh Ashford (Masters of Sex) as Paula Jones and Clive Owen as Clinton.
Lewinsky is a producer on the series, which is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. American Crime Story executive producer Ryan Murphy optioned the book in 2017 for adaptation, then later had second thoughts about telling Lewinsky’s story. That changed when she came aboard as a producer.
“I told her, ‘Nobody should tell your story but you, and it’s kind of gross if they do,'” Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter in April 2018. “‘If you want to produce it with me, I would love that, but you should be the producer and you should make all the goddamn money.'”
Sarah Burgess is writing and will executive produce with Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, Hannah Fidell, Paulson and Feldstein. Lewinsky, Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan are producers on the Fox 21 and FX Productions series.
Filming on Impeachment is scheduled to begin March 21, so it’s likely not to meet FX’s originally announced late-September premiere date — six weeks before the 2020 presidential election. The later start is due to Murphy’s schedule, as he is currently working on the Netflix movie Prom, FX chief John Landgraf told reporters last week. Production will run through October, and a premiere date is “TBD at this point,” the exec said.
Eichner had roles in two seasons of Murphy’s American Horror Story at FX. His recent credits also include Hulu’s Difficult People, Parks and Recreation and voice work on the Lion King remake and Bob’s Burgers. He is repped by UTA, 3 Arts Entertainment and Ziffren Brittenham.
Deadline first reported Eichner’s casting.
Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage; LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images
The third season of the anthology counts Monica Lewinsky as a producer.
The third season of FX’s American Crime Story, which focuses on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, has found its POTUS.
Clive Owen will join Sarah Paulson, Beanie Feldstein and Annaleigh Ashford in the cast for Impeachment: American Crime Story. The season will tell the story of Clinton’s impeachment through the eyes of three women central to the probe: Monica Lewinsky (Feldstein), Linda Tripp (Paulson) and Paula Jones (Ashford). Lewinsky is also a producer on the coming season, which is due to air in 2020.
The third season of the anthology is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. FX chief John Landgraf told The Hollywood Reporter that then-first lady Hillary Clinton is “not one of the main characters” in the story, though the casting of Owen suggests Bill Clinton will be heavily featured.
The Hillary Clinton role is still being cast.
Impeachment is the second TV project Owen has signed onto in recent weeks; he’s also set to star with Julianne Moore in Lisey’s Story, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, for Apple TV+.
Production on Impeachment is scheduled to begin in the spring for a fall premiere. Sarah Burgess is writing and will executive produce with ACS staples Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander and Alexis Martin Woodall; Paulson and Feldstein are also EPs. Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan are producers along with Lewinsky. The series comes from Fox 21 and FX Productions.
Murphy optioned Toobin’s book in 2017, but later had second thoughts about doing a season on the Clinton-Lewinsky story.
“I told [Lewinsky], ‘Nobody should tell your story but you, and it’s kind of gross if they do,'” Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter in April 2018. “‘If you want to produce it with me, I would love that; but you should be the producer and you should make all the goddamn money.'”
Owen is repped by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein.
Deadline first reported the news.
“American Crime Story” Season 3 is officially moving forward with the FX series set to tell the story of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
Beanie Feldstein will star as Monica Lewinsky, with Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp and Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones. The season will be based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.”
Production on Season 3 will begin in February with the premiere slated for Sept. 27, 2020. The announcement was made Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
The third installment will be written by Sarah Burgess who will also executive produce alongside Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, and Paulson. Lewinsky will serve as producer along with Feldstein, Henrietta Conrad, and Jemima Khan. Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions will produce.
“FX’s ‘American Crime Story’ franchise has become a cultural touchstone, providing greater context for stories that deserve greater understanding like the O.J. Simpson trial and saga, and Andrew Cunanan’s tragic crime spree which concluded with the assassination of Gianni Versace,” said John Landgraf, chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions. “This franchise re-examines some of the most complicated, polarizing stories in recent history in a way that is relevant, nuanced and entertaining. ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’ will likewise explore the overlooked dimensions of the women who found themselves caught up in the scandal and political war that cast a long shadow over the Clinton Presidency. We are grateful to Sarah Burgess for her brilliant adaptation, as well as Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, Sarah Paulson and the rest of the creative team and cast.”
It had been announced in 2017 that the Clinton impeachment would serve as the basis for a new season of “American Crime Story.” There had also been talk that a season set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina would as well, though it was previously stated that neither of those seasons were moving forward.
The first season of “American Crime Story” followed the principal players in the O.J. Simpson trial, while Season 2 detailed the death of Gianni Versace at the hands of spree killer Andrew Cunanan. Season 1 ultimately received 22 Emmy nominations, winning nine, while Season 2 received 19 Emmy nominations, winning seven.
Feldstein has received widespread praise for her roles in films like “Booksmart” and “Lady Bird.” She also recently appeared in the FX comedy series “What We Do in the Shadows.” She is repped by WME and Brillstein Entertainment.
Paulson, a mainstay in Ryan Murphy’s work, has recently appeared in films like “Glass” and “Ocean’s 8.” She is also currently working on the FX series “Mrs. America” and the Netflix series “Ratched.” She starred as prosecutor Marcia Clark in Season 1 of “American Crime Story.” She is repped by CAA.
Ashford appeared as Elizabeth Cote in Season 2 of “American Crime Story.” She is also known for her roles on shows like “Masters of Sex” as well as “Nurse Jackie,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and “The Big C.” Her film roles include “Top Five,” “Rachel Getting Married,” and “Frozen.” She is repped by ICM and Beth Rosner Management.
Sarah Paulson, Beanie Feldstein and Annaleigh Ashford will star in the anthology, with writer Sarah Burgess set to pen the script.
Nearly a year and a half after season two of FX’s Emmy-winning American Crime Story ended, the future of the Ryan Murphy-produced anthology is coming back into focus.
On Tuesday, FX used its time at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour to announce that season three will focus on the saga of the Clinton presidency scandal with Monica Lewinsky on board to produce.
Impeachment: American Crime Story will star frequent Murphy muse Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp; Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird, Booksmart, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows) as Lewinsky; and Annaleigh Ashford (season two of ACS, Masters of Sex) as Paula Jones. Sarah Burgess penned the script for the season, which is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s best-seller A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. It is the same book that Murphy optioned in January 2017 and later had second thoughts about telling Lewinsky’s story.
“I told her, ‘Nobody should tell your story but you, and it’s kind of gross if they do,'” Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter in April 2018. ” ‘If you want to produce it with me, I would love that; but you should be the producer and you should make all the goddamn money.'”
ACS staples Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, Paulson and Feldstein will executive produce, along with Burgess. Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan will also produce the Fox 21 and FX Productions entry, alongside Lewinsky. Production is set to begin in February, and the series is scheduled to premiere Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
“FX’s American Crime Story franchise has become a cultural touchstone, providing greater context for stories that deserve greater understanding like the O.J. Simpson trial and saga, and Andrew Cunanan’s tragic crime spree which concluded with the assassination of Gianni Versace,” FX CEO John Landgraf said Tuesday in a release announcing the new season. “This franchise re-examines some of the most complicated, polarizing stories in recent history in a way that is relevant, nuanced and entertaining. Impeachment: American Crime Story will likewise explore the overlooked dimensions of the women who found themselves caught up in the scandal and political war that cast a long shadow over the Clinton presidency.”
In February, FX CEO John Landgraf told reporters that Murphy — who last year moved his overall deal from American Crime Story producers 20th Century Fox TV to Netflix — had three or four different ideas for another season of the franchise after potential seasons built around Hurricane Katrina and Lewinsky were abandoned. Katrina was posed to be the second season and was flipped with The Assassination of Gianni Versace when producers switched the source material on Katrina before ultimately ditching the concept entirely.
Katrina: American Crime Story had previously cast several key roles with high-profile stars, including Dennis Quaid as former President George W. Bush, Annette Bening as former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Matthew Broderick as former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown.
“We have three or four ideas in active development where we’ve acquired rights and done a fair amount of research and have writers working on them,” Landgraf said earlier this year. “I couldn’t tell you what will be ready first. The likelihood is all of them may be produced over time.”
Meanwhile, the status of Feud 2 remains unclear after Murphy and FX abandoned plans to tell the story of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, after scripts failed to stick the landing (and after Matthew Goode and Rosamund Pike had quietly been cast to star).
Repped by CAA, Paulson, who won an Emmy for ACS, is currently working on Murphy’s Netflix series Ratched, which she also is producing. Feldstein is with WME and Brillstein. Ashford is repped by ICM Partners and Beth Rosner Management.
Image courtesy of HBO
Bodyguard, Barry and Sharp Objects were among the award winners at Banff’s Rockie Awards International Program Competition.
The BBC terror thriller Bodyguard, written by Jed Mercurio, who appeared as part of a Deadline-moderated panel session at the event, won for best English-language drama series. HBO’s Bill Hader-fronted Barry won best English-language comedy, while the premium cable network’s Sharp Objects won best limited series.
Held in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the event was hosted by Workin’ Moms’ Juno Rinaldi, who gave out 26 awards. U.S. shows picked up nine awards, British shows scored eight awards, Canadian shows grabbed seven awards, Germany and Australia each won two, while Finland, Italy and Portugal scored one apiece.
Trio Orange’s Can You Hear Me? scored best non-English-language drama, TNT Comedy’s Arthur’s Law, which is being remade in the U.S., won best non-English language comedy, BBC’s Katy secured best children and youth fiction series. RuPaul’s Drag Race won best reality show, Canada’s Baroness von Sketch Show won best comedy and variety program, One Strange Rock won best science and technology show, A&E’s The Clinton Affair won best history and biography show, Portugal’s Tangled Lives won best serials, soaps and telenovela, and Doctor Who scored best sci-fi show. Baroness Von Sketch Show also won the Rogers Prize for Excellence in Canadian Content.
Podcasting’s rockstar moment arrived on October 3, 2014, with the release of Serial. Chatty and spritzed with twists, this addictive revisiting of the murder 15 years previously of a Baltimore school girl become an instant phenomenon – and the urtext for the true-crime wave to follow.
But what about the victim, 18 year-old Woodlawn High School student Hae Min Lee? That spiky question glinted at the heart of part one of Amy Berg’s The Case Against Adnan Syed (Sky Atlantic). Berg, whose filmography includes documentaries about the West Memphis Three and child abuse rings in Hollywood, trained an unflinching eye on the Lee murder investigation and the circus that rolled into town with Serial.
By the time that many viewers tune into HBO’s new documentary series, The Case Against Adnan Syed, many will be coming to the story with preconceived ideas about who Syed is and whether he belongs in prison. In some ways, the new documentary is indeed an extension of the phenomenally popular first season of Sarah Koenig’s podcast Serial, which offered intrigued listeners an immersive look at Syed’s murder conviction for the death of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. But while ads for the docuseries might lure viewers in with the promise of new evidence that will help to determine the truth, director Amy Berg, whose Catholic sex abuse doc Deliver Us From Evil was nominated for an Oscar, is ultimately less interested in drumming up scandal than in investigating deeper into the unanswered questions of the case. While The Case Against Adnan Syed does provide viewers with a fascinating and important new look at Syed’s case, Berg’s careful work also fuses our insatiable drive for the truth with compassion for everyone who was touched by Hae Min Lee’s murder.
Still, how do you de-sensationalize a story that has already gone viral? Today, we are more connected by social media than ever before, and fans of the original podcast series are already chomping at the bit to fight over whether or not they believe that Adnan did it. The spectacle of true crime stories in an age of hashtags is always a little disconcerting. On the one hand, podcasts like Serial and documentaries like The Case Against Adnan Syed have the potential to illuminate the very real and myriad problems of our criminal justice system and encourage essential social change. On the other, the ways in which armchair detectives can intrude on real life cases can sometimes veer into seeing other people’s pain as entertainment.
One way that Berg contends with this phenomenon is by confronting it directly – in interviews we learn how, for Adnan’s family, Serial was a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness for the case and to work towards exonerating Adnan’s name. In contrast, we learn that for Hae’s family, the internationally renowned podcast series often felt painful in that it also prolonged the trauma of losing a loved one; what they wanted was a quick resolution to the crime, rather than the constant reminder of her death. Both family and friends express concern that aspects of the popular series seemed to flatten their beloved friend and family member into someone who had no identity other than a crime victim. In one particularly poignant moment, Hae’s friend, Aisha Pittman tells viewers, “I want to make sure that people remember that this was a person that lived and had a life and not just become so focused about, ‘this is an interesting case.’ It’s people’s lives.”
In refusing to shy away from the less savory aspects of our cultural obsession with true crime, Berg deliberately uses the camera’s lens as a way to illuminate the humanity of everyone who was affected by the murder, including Hae herself. When we are introduced to excerpts from Hae’s diary, the viewer is immersed in teen girl drawings, swirls of hearts and stars that capture the young student’s hopes, dreams and fears. By making Hae’s art come alive on the page, we see a clearer image of a young woman’s humanity, which helps viewers to see Hae as more than just her yearbook image and prom pictures. Berg also wisely resists gruesome imagery or anything that smacks of victim blaming. The viewer is never shown too much when we learn key details about how Hae and Adnan would sneak off to motels without their conservative parents’ knowledge, nor do we see very much when we learn about how Hae’s body was found.
This same type of gentle restraint is utilized as Berg conducts new interviews with family and friends who were affected by the crime. While audio can absolutely be used to emotional effect, there is something uniquely compelling about seeing video footage of testimony, which allows us to linger more closely on the profound sense of grief and confusion that has shaken everyone involved in the case. We see lips tremble and eyes twitch and tears rolling effortlessly down cheeks that have aged considerably since the time of Hae’s death. Berg allows emotion to come naturally, rather than prodding or cajoling her subjects. If one of the most famous aspects of Sarah Koenig’s work in season one of Serial was the way in which she probed her own feelings and reactions to the case. Amy Berg makes the opposite choice, in the first three installments at least, to make herself relatively invisible. In doing so, she allows a gentler unfolding of the story, one that is not only invested in the drive for justice, but the subtleties of grief and the ravages of time.
In this same way, in The Case Against Adnan Syed we don’t just hear individuals grapple with memory and loss; we see that grappling on the screen. The result is a viewing experience that insists on ambiguity, even while teasing at a new resolution that many very well help to free Adnan from his life sentence. One thing is for sure: as the series progresses we see the many ways that police and prosecutors eager for a quick conviction ended up mishandling or actively misrepresenting important information. In particular, it’s shocking to see how much the cellphone records that were used to piece together major aspects of the crime simply weren’t based on reliable information. Likewise, it’s incredible to see just how many of the people who spoke to police and the prosecution team felt manipulated and coerced. At one point, Adnan’s parents and brother reflect on a particularly heartfelt apology they received and discuss how they consider many of the witnesses and experts who were used to push a particular narrative about Adnan’s guilt to also be victims of this case.
In the end though, Berg’s film does more than investigate deeply into a 20-year-old crime. It offers a critical and compassionate look at a story of young love and murder that briefly became a worldwide sensation, while also giving voice to the many people who insisted on continuing to fight for justice long after that very frenzy began to subside.
The Case Against Adnan Syed starts on HBO in the US on 10 March.
True crime documentaries, particularly those about cold cases and miscarriages of justice are coming at us thick and fast. Few are as anticipated, though, as HBO’s The Case Against Adnan Syed, a four part doc recapping and expanding on the story told by Sarah Koenig in 2014 podcast Serial. While podcasting itself wasn’t exactly new at the time, Serial became a phenomenon and was for many something of a ‘gateway podcast’ converting the uninitiated to the medium as the story unfolded week by week. Did Adnan do it? Was Don’s alibi legit? What’s up with Jay? And what the hell was going on with The Nisha Call?
If you have no idea what any of those questions mean, don’t worry – The Case Against Adnan Syed works just as well for the uninitated as die hard Serial fans.
Serial explored the case of the murder of 18-year-old school girl Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend 17-year-old Adnan Syed for the killing. At the time Serial was first broadcast Syed was serving a life sentence for the crime though there was a lot to suggest he wasn’t guilty – or at least that the evidence presented at trial was sketchy and incomplete.
It’s lawyer and family friend of the Syeds Rabia Chaudry who first brought Koenig’s attention to the case and it’s Chaudry who’s front and centre in this series which works as a companion piece and a continuation focusing on progress in the case and attempts to get Adnan a re-trial. While we glimpse Koenig in ep one and hear audio extracts from Serial, The Case Against Adnan Syed uses its own range of voices to build the story.
New interviews with Hae’s best mates, Adnan’s family and friends as well as witnesses for the prosecution Jenn Pusateri and Krista Myers are fascinating and add extra depth to the story. And while Jay – the State’s key witness – isn’t a featured talking head, extra info from an ex-girlfriend of Jay’s is one of the most scintillating moments.
While some of the intimacy of Koenig purring ‘noted, right?’ in your ear is lost, instead we get a wider contextual picture of the Maryland town where the murder occured, the school that Hae and Adnan attended and more crucially, a sense of who Hae actually was as a person. Extracts from a journal of hers, love letters between her and Adnan, photos and even animated segments attempt to bring her to life as a smart, attractive, creative overachiever and explore how the pressures from the Korean community Hae lived in and the Muslim community of Adnan’s affected their relationship.
Expertly digesting and condensing the key facts of what happened and the people involved, the doc is clearer and easier to follow than Serial. Distance from the podcast, and of course revelations that have surfaced since, mean for for example, there’s no air time given to ‘butt dials’ – at least by the end of episode three, which is as much of the series as was available to us for review.
You absolutely don’t have to have listened to Serial to enjoy the doc but there’s lots here for fans of the show too including post-podcast developments, input from new players and most of all the chance to hear from – and actually see – most of the people whose voices and testimony featured in Serial, really bringing the story to life.
We say story, but of course, it’s important to remember this isn’t fiction. Director Amy Berg, who also made West Memphis three doc West Of Memphis, with Peter Jackson on board as producer, tries to keep the series grounded in the fact that these are actual people’s lives. The post-Serial fan theories and negative online treatment of Chaudry and Asia McClane, a possible new witness for the defence, is a valuable strand, while archive clips of Hae Min Lee’s mother are just heartbreaking.
Post Making A Murderer and The Staircase many true crime fans have grown somewhat cynical about heavy bias in documentary portrayals of ongoing cases. Facts are sometimes omitted, theories skirted over and the opinion of armchair detectives given too much credence. From the off, TCAAS doesn’t hide its allegiances to Adnan and most of the voices we hear believe Adnan is innocent or are at least unsure whether he did it or not. But that doesn’t mean there’s no scope for doubt. Because the fact is, we don’t know whether Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee or not and the question here, for now at least, seems to be less whether he did it, and more whether he got a fair trial.
With the case still ongoing there’s plenty of scope for a second season. Though not perhaps as sensational, strange and packed with larger than life figures as MAM nor as shocking and final as The Jinx, The Case Against Adnan Syed perhaps has the best chance for a positive outcome in the future (if you think Adnan is innocent at least). At the very least it’s an engrossing look into a tragic death and a legal system badly in need of reform.
The Case Against Adnan Syed debuts on HBO on 10 March at 9pm. The documentary will debut in the U.K. via Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW TV on 1 April.
The Baltimore murder case that launched the true-crime podcast craze will be under scrutiny again, starting March 10, when HBO launches its four-part documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed.
The pay cabler is revisiting and updating the nearly two decades old case “get closer to the truth,” director Amy Berg told TV critics at TCA.
Syed was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999 when she was an 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student.
“I wasn’t satisfied with the case that was presented in 1999 and the outcome,” Berg told TV critics.
After listening to Serial, she said she felt “very frustrated” and set about “trying to understand what actually happened and investigate the original investigation.”
“Three-and-a-half years later, I still feel very frustrated that police detectives didn’t do their jobs in a more thorough way. We probably wouldn’t be sitting here today if there was more of an investigation done at the time.”
“They did not even take color photos of the autopsy,” she criticized.
Lee’s family would not to participate in the project but they also had turned down Serial’s creator. But Berg did speak to a family friend speaking on their behalf and she got access to the victim’s journal..
Calling it important to bring Lee “to life” the series begins with journal entries dramatized via animation. “She started the journal when she mat Adnan, and the last entry is the night before she disappeared,” Berg said, explaining she wanted to make the series accessible for those who had not watched Serial, but fresh for people who did.
Syed friend Rabia Chaudry, who advocated for him in the podcast and in HBO’s project, credits both with changing perceptions about the case.
“In the era of… the highest anti-Muslim sentiment in this country ever, this is a story that has resonated across the hearts of this country,” she said.
“People don’t care that he’s a young American Muslim guy. His religion all of a sudden didn’t matter so much. Serial was able to do that. This documentary is…going to do it even further.”
Five years ago, Chaudry said, Syed came to terms with the fact he probably “would leave prison in a coffin.”
His conviction, however, was overturned in 2016, though a new trial has yet to be set as it bounces back and forth in appeals court.
Even so, Chaudry said, he has “a lot of hope” that, in the next couple years he will be home.
But Berg said she ends the documentary when it does because it “we’ve been waiting over two years for the trial,” and “the film might be the only new trial he will ever receive.”
More than four years after the first season of Serial wrapped, leaving millions of podcast listeners with unanswered questions about the 1999 death of Maryland high schooler Hae Min Lee, her murder gets another look with HBO doc The Case Against Adnan Syed.
The four-part series, set to premiere March 10, picks up largely where the podcast left off — focusing on the ongoing work to see Syed, who was convicted of Lee’s murder in a particularly controversial trial, get another shot at freedom. Director Amy Berg was joined Friday afternoon by two attorneys involved in Syed’s case, as well as his former classmate Asia McClain, in a panel to discuss the project. The foursome all seemed optimistic about Syed’s prospects in a new trial, something he was finally granted in 2018.
“The goal of this series was to get closer to the truth, and I think you’ll get there by the end,” said Berg, who also directed Deliver Us from Evil Producer and West of Memphis. “I wasn’t satisfied with the case that was presented in 1999 or the outcome. I still feel very frustrated that police detectives din’t do their job in a thorough way. Things have changed since 1999. They didn’t even take color photos of the autopsy. There are so many cases that need to be reexamined because of these injustices.”
The lack of proper procedure that led to Syed’s prison sentence, and the wave of documentary programming about the wrongfully convicted that followed Serial, were a focal point of the discussion.
“Systems protect themselves” said Rabia Chaudry, the attorney and activist who wrote the book Adan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial. She emphasized that prosecutors tend to fight even harder in case’s like this one. “It’s not always about the truth. It’s about maintaining status quo. It’s harder when there’s so much notoriety around a case, because it gives the State more incentive to save face.”
The State of Maryland was not particularly helpful in making the series, according the Berg. She emphasized that she was granted less access there than she had in Arkansas where she documented the wrongful conviction of the West Memphis Three. “They would not let us go into prison to interview Adnan,” she said. “Its’ really upsetting.”
In Serial, Syed was interviewed over the phone on several occasions. As for Syed, now almost 40 years old and still serving a life sentence, Chaudry spoke about his current outlook before the new trial.
“Adnan hears everything about him on the news,” she said. “The guards keep him updated. He’s doing well. He has hope finally after many years. He has a ray of light. I think he’ll be home in the next couple of years. I really do believe that.”
Larry Morris/The Washington Post, via Getty Images
“The Clinton Affair,” A&E’s six-part mini-series on the scandals of Bill Clinton’s presidency, lacks a point of view. It is straightforward in style and evenhanded in tone. Strangely, this recommends it.
The events it covers have been so sensationalized and so politicized for so long that seeing them presented neutrally and in roughly chronological order is revelatory, particularly regarding the stories of three women: Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. These are the women who, in the 1990s, publicly accused the president of the United States of sexual harassment and assault.
It’s been a year for reconsidering Bill Clinton’s presidency and its players; December is the 20th anniversary of his impeachment. Ken Starr returned to defend his investigation in a memoir, “Contempt.” Linda Tripp reappeared on Capitol Hill, where she styled herself as a brave truth teller who faced a “high-tech lynching” for blowing the whistle. And Bill and Hillary are setting off on an arena tour billed as “An Evening With the Clintons.”
Much of the buzz around the A&E series has focused on the participation of Monica Lewinsky. Though the filmmakers — the director Blair Foster and the producer Alex Gibney — interviewed more than 50 subjects, including James Carville and David Brock, the one boldfaced name in the network’s news release is hers. This prime-time appearance caps her comeback. After spending a decade and a half out of the public eye, she has returned with a perch at Vanity Fair, a TED Talk and an anti-bullying cause. She has called herself “patient zero” of online shaming. She has emerged from years of media torture as an unexpected darling of the press.
The same cannot be said for Jones, Willey and Broaddrick. In the ’90s, they were dismissed as “bimbos” deployed in service of what Hillary Clinton called the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and with few exceptions, their stories have remained relegated to the margins of respectable conversation. They have been featured not in glossy fashion magazines but in self-published memoirs and political smear campaigns. They have been used as right-wing pawns and left-wing punching bags.
In 2016, when they sat together in an on-camera interview during Hillary Clinton’s run for president, it was for the nationalist outlet Breitbart. And when they convened in public to tell their stories, it was in service of a Donald J. Trump campaign stunt at the second presidential debate; Steve Bannon could be spied stalking the perimeter. Their stories have been twisted in so many ways for so many years that it seems unworkable to unravel them now.
“The Clinton Affair” does the work. It quite literally shows these women in a new light. They are filmed in places that look like well-appointed hotel rooms. The lighting is soft and generous. The filmmakers place their stories on the same level as those of Lewinsky and Carville, of career F.B.I. agents and prestigious lawyers. As a result, a space opens there for them to speak about Bill Clinton but also about themselves. The series lifts their accusations from the tabloid gutter and repositions them in the context of their lives as women.
Paula Jones, in particular, rises. In 1994, she said that Bill Clinton had summoned her to a hotel room and exposed himself when he was the governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee. (Clinton has always denied the charges from Jones, Willey and Broaddrick). Later she filed suit against him for sexual harassment. Her story was politicized from the start: It was seized by a Republican operative, who urged her to go public at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the right’s annual activist spectacle.
In turn, Clinton’s advisers trashed her on television. Carville said this: “If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” George Stephanopoulos compared Jones to Tonya Harding: just another woman seeking cash for telling a tabloid tale. (Even Harding — not the victim in that story — has since had her legacy revised.) The assessment lingered: In 2016, Vox published an “explainer” dismissing her charges as “probably bunk,” relaying, in part, that her description of Bill Clinton’s penis did not align with those of some anonymous sources.
“The Clinton Affair” gifts her a blank slate. The aspersions cast against her can be resolved here. Yes, she was poor: She sought out an Arkansas state government job in an attempt to transcend her only other options, “the Walmart and the Pizza Hut.” And yes, she leaned on conservatives; in a contemporaneous interview with Sam Donaldson, she explained, “Those are the only people that are coming to my defense.” In her new interview, she retells her story of harassment while fighting back tears. She appears guileless and helpful. In a word: credible.
Jones’s account is further clarified by Slate’s eight-part investigative history podcast “Slow Burn,” in which the journalist Leon Neyfakh pursues the uncovered stories of Clinton’s impeachment. If “The Clinton Affair” seeks an even retelling, “Slow Burn” snakes in and out of the narrative, teasing out themes and sorting out confusions. One of its achievements is in its meticulous documentation of how the harassment and assault claims against Clinton came to be politicized.
Jones’s representatives made efforts to place her story in mainstream newspapers, only to be frustrated by foot-dragging journalists. As Michael Isikoff, a Washington Post reporter at the time, puts it in an interview with Neyfakh, his editors “viewed it as tawdry.” (Isikoff was later ready to report the Lewinsky story for Newsweek, but higher-ups held it, according to “Slow Burn” and “The Clinton Affair”; Matt Drudge broke the news instead.) Later, NBC sat on the tape of an emotional interview with Broaddrick in which she accused Bill Clinton of raping her, finally airing the segment only after Clinton had weathered his impeachment and trial.
“Slow Burn” concludes with an episode about that NBC appearance. Through new interviews with Broaddrick and Lisa Myers, the NBC reporter who championed her story, it paints a convincing picture of a network news division that seemed incapable of handling assault claims against powerful men, no matter how credible or well-sourced. In the ’90s, these women’s stories cut directly to the biases of the mainstream media: that sexual harassment and assault were tabloid tales and that publishing anything that seemed to sway a political process was ill advised.
For the past several years, we have been recalibrating Clinton’s legacy through micro historical trends. When Lewinsky re-emerged in 2014, she aligned herself in the causes of the moment, speaking out against bullying and shaming. When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, the accusers’ stories were again co-opted for political attack, by both the Trump campaign and Clinton supporters. An Emily’s List rep told BuzzFeed of Broaddrick: “Women know that this is an unfair attack on Hillary, and that’s why it continues to exist in this small corner of the right-wing media world.”
Today these stories are being re-evaluated in the context of the #MeToo movement. In an essay for Vanity Fair earlier this year, Lewinsky wrote that #MeToo had given her a “new lens” for seeing her own story: “Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern.”
Lewinsky has always been cast as the central female character of Bill Clinton’s scandals, and while that has been hell for her, it has been rather convenient for him. Over two decades, it was easy to forget that the reporting on Clinton’s consensual affair with an intern arose out of an even more damning context: Jones’s harassment suit. (It was Lewinsky and Clinton denying their affair under oath in the Jones case that gave Starr the material to pounce.) Paula Jones spoke out against the most powerful man in the world, and when his lawyers argued that a sitting president couldn’t be subject to a civil suit, she took them all the way to the Supreme Court and won. In another world, she would be hailed as a feminist icon. But not in this world — not yet.
“The people were so outraged,” James Carville tells a cameraperson in The Clinton Affair, the new three-night A&E documentary series retracing the events leading up to Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment. Two decades later, Clinton’s former lead strategist can’t talk about the scandal without looking visibly chagrined; he throws the word “outraged” out as an insult.
While he may be the most staunch Clinton defender in the docuseries, Carville’s attitude toward the investigation into Clinton’s sex life—that it was an overblown nothing, a sick partisan pageant, properly discussed with an eye-roll when pressed, though preferably not at all—was common at the time. The president’s approval rating climbed during his impeachment, as though the public was so sick of hearing about how bad he was, it ended up liking him more. But despite Carville’s efforts, watching The Clinton Affair makes it difficult to see the events leading up to Clinton’s impeachment as anything other than genuinely, morally outrageous. It is a maddening documentary, but the queasy anger it provokes is earned. Sometimes “outraged” isn’t an insult. Sometimes it’s a rational response.
The story The Clinton Affair tells—the scandal that shook America so hard it made it nauseous—has already been told many times. But it’s been 20 years since the impeachment, which means content creators are contractually obligated to pump out anniversary content. The docuseries is not the only new look at the impeachment scandal; along with the excellent second season of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast and the third episode of Showtime’s Enemies, The Clinton Affair is part of a new wave of reappraisals about Clinton’s troubles. However well-trod the material is, and however much anyone who lived through the ’90s might like to avoid ever thinking about presidential ejaculate ever again, The Clinton Affair is a valuable, timely look backward. Its reexamination is powered by its extensive interviews with Monica Lewinsky, who walks viewers through the worst years of her life in meticulous, bracing detail. Lewinsky, who did not speak with either Slow Burn or Enemies, is The Clinton Affair’s moral anchor. She is honest and earnest, a buoyant personality revisiting the decisions that almost ruined her life. “I thought the only way to fix this was to kill myself, to jump out the window,” Lewinsky says, crying while talking about the pressure that investigators put on her to flip on Clinton. “I was mortified, I was afraid of what it was going to do to my family. I was still in love with Bill at the time. I felt really responsible.” The series outlines how relentlessly Lewinsky was mocked, her name itself a shorthand punch line for bimbo-dom, and how long it took her to figure out a path forward, all while the other person in her notorious dalliance continued to be president of the United States and then a respected statesman (and never talked to her again).
The Clinton Affair’s major strength is the way it places Lewinsky’s narrative within the context of stories from other women who now have their names and reputations forever linked to Clinton. Lewinsky and Clinton’s sexual encounters became part of the Ken Starr investigation because Lewinsky was subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit Paula Jones brought against the president for sexual harassment. However, Jones’s story was often treated as a lamentable sideshow instead of a testimony that should be considered seriously. The Clinton Affair does not make that error. It presents the firsthand stories of Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Kathleen Willey as integral to understanding what happened with Clinton and Lewinsky. While it acknowledges that these women have willingly aligned themselves with the Trump camp, it does not treat their political affiliations as disqualifying. With figures like Willey, whose promotion of hateful conspiracy theories about the Clintons have damaged her general credibility, The Clinton Affair nails a tricky balancing act in documenting her far right-wing beliefs but encouraging her to tell her story nonetheless, allowing for the possibility that someone who has nurtured an animating hatred for the Clintons over the years might also have a legitimate grievance with them. By including these women and their accounts in detail, allowing the women involved to speak about the lasting effects that their encounters with Clinton had on their lives, the severity of Clinton’s misbehavior is impossible to turn away from. (Slow Burn also deliberately pressed on the repercussions with a Broaddrick interview.) The wallop of hearing so many stories about Clinton’s sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape, all at once, is considerable. The documentary frames Clinton’s behavior toward Lewinsky as a trait rather than a mistake, part of a larger pattern.
In The Clinton Affair, Juanita Broaddrick describes how she decided to talk about being raped by Bill Clinton again only after Hillary Clinton tweeted about the necessity of sexual assault survivors speaking up—a reminder that complicity in dismissing accounts of sexual crimes when it’s politically convenient is an across-the-aisle issue. However one might feel about these women allying themselves with Trump, they have been telling the same stories for years, often to unsympathetic listeners. The Clinton Affair chips away at the idea, so popular among Democrats at the time, that outrage at Clinton was a regrettable by-product of the right wing seizing on a national puritanism. “We were the original ones who broke our silence,” Kathleen Willey says. “And we were absolutely hammered for it.”
The plight of Clinton’s accusers is not a vestigial struggle from a less enlightened era; despite the progress the #MeToo movement made in urging people to take reports of sexual misconduct in the workplace seriously, women who come forward today risk facing similarly harsh reception for their testimony. The series briefly notes that Brett Kavanaugh worked on the Clinton investigation, and Kavanaugh’s involvement provides a clear through line between the way that Clinton’s accusers were treated and the way women who step forward today are treated. The treatment that Paula Jones received by dismissive Democrats resembles, uncomfortably closely, right-wing scoffing at Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified this year that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were young. Congress’s decision to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice in light of Ford’s testimony reconfirmed how these stories are not de facto keys to unseat the powerful. The guardrails immuring powerful men from the consequences of their actions are still in place, and often supported by characterizations of women as nothing more than ideologically motivated harpies. At least 22 women have stated that Donald Trump sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted them, and the press secretary of the United States is still able to stand at her podium and call them all liars. Although Jones has allowed herself to be used as a prop by the current president, her treatment by the Clinton administration and the Clinton-friendly press is also a blueprint for current powerful abusers: mock, belittle, deny.
In March, Lewinsky wrote a column for Vanity Fair reflecting on her scandal within the context of the #MeToo movement. She believes that the recent surge in attention to sexual abuses of power is providing a “new lens” for viewing her experience. “Until recently (thank you, Harvey Weinstein), historians hadn’t really had the perspective to fully process and acknowledge that year of shame and spectacle,” she wrote. “And as a culture, we still haven’t properly examined it. Re-framed it. Integrated it. And transformed it.” The Clinton Affair is not going to transform anything. That project is far bigger than a documentary. But it is a proper examination, one that interrogates Clinton’s legacy by integrating stories about him that are often not given enough consideration.
Monica Lewinsky at Vanity Fair’s Oscar party in Los Angeles, California on 4 March. Photograph: Owen Kolasinski/BFA/REX/Shutterstock
Monica Lewinsky opens up about her relationship with former president Bill Clinton in a new series set to debut on Sunday.
Lewinsky – a 22-year-old intern when she and Clinton began a sexual relationship that ultimately led to his impeachment – has emerged as an anti-bullying advocate and voice in the #MeToo movement after having years of her life derailed by the scandal that broke 20 years ago.
She gave 20 hours of interviews for the new A&E docuseries, called The Clinton Affair – a title Lewinsky found appropriate.
“Bye-bye, Lewinsky scandal,” she wrote in an essay in Vanity Fair last week, explaining her decision to speak out for the series. “I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle.”
In clips released from the series, Lewinsky recalls sexual encounters with Clinton in his private suite off the Oval Office, and their unsuccessful efforts to keep the relationship private.
“We were both cautious. But not cautious enough,” she said in a clip aired on Good Morning America.
Lewinsky recounted how Clinton warned her that she could face questioning as part of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by another woman, Paula Jones.
“I was petrified. I was frantic about my family and this becoming public,” she said, explaining that Clinton told her she could sign an affidavit to avoid testifying.
“He did not say: ‘Listen, you’re going to have to lie here.’ But on the flip side, he also didn’t say: ‘Listen, honey, this is going to be really awful – we’re going to have to tell the truth.’”
Lewinsky signed a document denying the relationship, which Clinton also denied publicly and under oath. Clinton faced impeachment for lying about the affair, but the Senate declined to remove him from office and he went on to complete his second term.
“Some closest to me asked why would I want to revisit the most painful and traumatic parts of my life – again. Publicly. On-camera,” Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair. “An important part of moving forward is excavating, often painfully, what has gone before.
“Filming the documentary forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of. There were many, many moments when I questioned not just the decision to participate, but my sanity itself,” she wrote.
After his presidency, Clinton went on to run a charitable foundation and campaign for his wife for president, facing only occasional scrutiny over his affair with Lewinsky and allegations of sexual harassment and assault lodged by other women.
With the advent of #MeToo, some Democrats have reconsidered their steadfast support for Clinton two decades ago.
He was asked in June in an interview on NBC whether he owed Lewinsky an apology, and said he did not.
“What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it,” Lewinsky wrote. “And we, in turn, a better society.”
She noted Clinton’s answer in another interview where he was asked why he entered into an inappropriate relationship with an intern and answered: “Because I could.”
“Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could,” Lewinsky wrote. “Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words.”
In a new essay for Vanity Fair, where she serves as a contributing editor, Monica Lewinsky opens up about her decision to participate in A&E’s upcoming docuseries The Clinton Affair, which premieres on Sunday, and reveals that if she met Hillary Clinton in person today, she’d apologize to her for her affair with former President Bill Clinton.
“If I were to see Hillary Clinton in person today, I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her — sincerely — how very sorry I am,” she wrote in her piece, which was published on Tuesday.
Added Lewinsky: “I know I would do this, because I have done it in other difficult situations related to 1998. I have also written letters apologizing to others — including some who also wronged me gravely. I believe that when we are trapped by our inability to evolve, by our inability to empathize humbly and painfully with others, then we remain victims ourselves.”
Back in 1999, the former White House intern expressed remorse and apologized to the former first lady and the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea Clinton, during an interview with Barbara Walters.
“I recognize the pain and the suffering they’ve gone through because of this,” she said at the time. “I wouldn’t dream of asking Chelsea and Mrs. Clinton to forgive me, but I would ask them to know that I am very sorry for what happened, for what they’ve been through.”
During a June interview with NBC News, Bill Clinton was asked if Lewinsky deserves an apology from him, to which he responded, “No I do not.” He added, “I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion that I was sorry…. The apology was public.”
In her Vanity Fair piece, Lewinsky also explained why she decided to participate in The Clinton Affair. “Filming the documentary forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of. There were many, many moments when I questioned not just the decision to participate, but my sanity itself,” she wrote.
Lewinsky, who was in her early 20s at the time of her affair with Bill Clinton, went on to say that she hopes to help other young people avoid similar experiences by shedding more light on her story.
“Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful,” she continued. “But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life — a time in our history — I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again.”
In a preview for A&E’s upcoming docuseries The Clinton Affair, Monica Lewinsky recalls the emotional aftermath of her affair with former President Bill Clinton. According to the White House intern-turned-social activist, she became suicidal in 1998 when the FBI questioned her about her interactions with Clinton.
“There was this point for me somewhere in the first several hours where I would be hysterically crying and then I would just shut down,” Lewinsky says in the clip, released Tuesday. “And in the shut-down period, I remember looking out the window and thinking that the only way to fix this was to kill myself, was to jump out the window.”
She tearfully adds: “I felt terrible. I was scared, and I was just mortified and afraid of what this was going to do to my family. I know I was still in love with Bill at the time, so I felt really responsible.”
In another preview, Lewinsky explains why she was attracted to Clinton. “I don’t talk about this very often and I still feel uncomfortable talking about it because I think it’s one of those things where it’s not as if it didn’t register with me that he was the president. Obviously, it did,” she says.
“But I think in one way, the moment we were actually in the back office for the first time, the truth is I think it meant more to me that someone who other people desired, desired me,” Lewinsky continues. “However wrong it was, however misguided, for who I was in that very moment at 22 years old, that was how it felt.”
Lewinsky revealed why she decided to participate in The Clinton Affair in a recent piece written for Vanity Fair, where she serves as a contributing editor.
“Filming the documentary forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of. There were many, many moments when I questioned not just the decision to participate, but my sanity itself,” she wrote. “Yes, the process of filming has been exceedingly painful. But I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life — a time in our history — I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again.”
Lewinsky also wrote that she would apologize to Hillary Clinton for her affair with the former first lady’s husband if they were ever to meet in person: “If I were to see Hillary Clinton in person today, I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her — sincerely — how very sorry I am.”
The Clinton Affair premieres on A&E on Nov. 18 at 9 p.m.
(CNN)Monica Lewinsky said Monday that she decided to participate in a new documentary series about her infamous 1990s affair with then-President Bill Clinton so that she could ensure that her experience “never happens to another young person in our country again.”
In a Vanity Fair essay published early Monday, Lewinsky outlined her decision to participate in the three-night series, “The Clinton Affair,” which will premiere Sunday, November 18 on A&E. The series, according to the network, “weaves together never-before-seen archival footage with exclusive new interviews to examine the biggest political scandal of a generation and its lasting influence and reverberations on our country.”
“I hope that by participating, by telling the truth about a time in my life—a time in our history—I can help ensure that what happened to me never happens to another young person in our country again,” Lewinsky wrote.
Lewinsky also said she decided to participate in the series because “throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced.”
“Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words,” she wrote.
In the essay, Lewinsky suggested that the name of the documentary served as a way to rewrite the narrative around her relationship with Clinton, writing, “Bye-bye, Lewinsky scandal…I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle.”
By agreeing to be interviewed for the series, she said, she was allowing herself to “heal.”
“An important part of moving forward is excavating, often painfully, what has gone before…That’s exactly where we need to start to heal—with the past. But it’s not easy,” she wrote.
Lewinsky, whose struggle to maintain a private life following the affair has been marred by questions about the scandal, recently declined to publicly address it.
In September, she cut a live interview in Israel short after being questioned about it.
“I’m so sorry, I’m not going to be able to do this,” Lewinsky said before walking off stage after Israeli TV news anchor Yonit Levi began the interview by asking Lewinsky whether she still expected a personal, private apology from Clinton regarding their affair.
But on Monday, she addressed the question straight on, writing that Clinton “would be a better man” if he apologized.
“[W]hat feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize,” she wrote. “I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him.”
Asked in June if he owed Lewinsky an apology, Clinton told NBC’s Craig Melvin, “No, I do not — I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.”
Lewinsky also wrote that if she were to see Clinton’s wife, Hillary, in person today, she would offer up an apology to the former first lady.
“I know that I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her—sincerely—how very sorry I am,” Lewinsky wrote.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Donald Judd and Dan Merica contributed to this report.
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
With “The Clinton Affair,” Monica Lewinsky is ready to revisit the 1998 sex scandal that nearly unraveled Bill Clinton’s presidency, and she hopes by doing so she can retire the term “Lewinsky scandal” once and for all.
“I think 20 years is enough time to carry that mantle,” the former White House intern, now 45, writes in a new Vanity Fair essay published Tuesday.
In the essay, she explains what motivated her to take part in the 6 1/2-hour series, which premieres Sunday (9 EST/PST) from Emmy-winning producer Blair Foster (“Get Me Roger Stone,” “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind”) and Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “The Looming Tower”).
Foster, she says, “pointed out to me during one of the tapings that almost all the books written about the Clinton impeachment were written by men. History literally being written by men. In contrast, the docuseries not only includes more women’s voices, but embodies a woman’s gaze: Two of the three main editors and four of the five executive producers are women.”
Another impetus, she says, was grief: “Grief for the pain I caused others. Grief for the broken young woman I had been before and during my time in D.C., and the shame I still felt around that. Grief for having been betrayed first by someone I thought was my friend, and then by a man I thought had cared for me. Grief for the years and years lost, being seen only as ‘That Woman’ – saddled, as a young woman, with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire. (You can imagine how those constructs impacted my personal and professional life.)”
She admits she wishes she could erase her memories of her Washington years, but realizes, “in order to move forward in the life I have, I must take risks – both professional and emotional. (It’s a combustible combination.) An important part of moving forward is excavating, often painfully, what has gone before.”
She adds, “When politicians are asked uncomfortable questions, they often duck and dodge by saying, That’s old news. It’s in the past. Yes. That’s exactly where we need to start to heal.”
And even though Lewinsky made personal apologies to Hillary Clinton in a 1999 interview with Barbara Walters, she says that if she saw the former first lady, secretary of state and presidential candidate in person, she’d say it all over again.
“I would summon up whatever force I needed to again acknowledge to her – sincerely – how very sorry I am,” she writes.
As for ever getting an apology from the ex-president himself, she says, “What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it … and we, in turn, a better society.”
More than 20 years after she began facing public humiliation and demonization because of her affair with then-President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky has become a prominent voice in reflecting on the ways powerful men abuse their positions over less powerful women.
“I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she wrote in March for Vanity Fair. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances — and the ability to abuse them — do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)”
In a new Vanity Fair essay published Tuesday, Lewinsky again examines this disparity in power as she explains why she decided to relive the painful memories of her experience for a forthcoming documentary series airing on A&E.
Central to her decision to participate was being able to redefine the narrative about herself, she wrote, noting how Clinton’s position of power has allowed him to escape the same levels of public scrutiny.
A recent example: Clinton’s continued refusal to personally apologize to her and accept responsibility for contributing to her public humiliation, which he demonstrated during a combative interview on NBC’s “Today” show in June.
This summer, Clinton participated in a number of interviews to promote a book with author James Patterson. In several of them, the former president appeared to be caught off guard by questions about the Me Too movement and gave tone-deaf answers, despite Me Too bringing an increased focus on and a re-examination of his affair with Lewinsky, as well as the multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him.
“If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn’t want to answer,” Lewinsky wrote of Clinton.
In the “Today” interview, an indignant Clinton asserted to host Craig Melvin that he did not owe Lewinsky an apology. But Lewinsky wrote that the problem with his response was less about the apology directly and more about his insistence that he need not apologize.
“What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him,” she wrote. “He would be a better man for it … and we, in turn, a better society.”
Another example of the disparate power dynamic, according to Lewinsky, is how at the time of the affair, Clinton’s position of power protected him from experiencing as much public humiliation as she did.
Recalling his infamous Oval Office declaration that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” which turned out to be a lie, she said that at the time, she thought it was good that he was not planning to resign.
“Forty-five-year-old me sees that footage very differently,” she wrote Tuesday. “I see a sports coach signposting the playbook for the big game. Instead of backing down amid the swirling scandal and telling the truth, Bill instead threw down the gauntlet that day in the Oval Office: ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.’ With that, the demonization of Monica Lewinsky began. As it so often does, power throws a protective cape around the shoulders of the man, and he dictates the spin by denigrating the less powerful woman.”
In the essay, Lewinsky also explores how our public narratives are often shaped by men, as was the case with the coverage of her and Clinton’s affair — “history literally being written by men,” she wrote, explaining that she appreciated that the A&E docuseries “embodies a woman’s gaze,” with a majority of the editors and producers being women.
“Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could,” she wrote. “Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words.”
“Unbeknownst to me, I was on the precipice of the rabbit hole,” says Monica Lewinsky of her first encounter with then-President Bill Clinton in November 1995. Interviewed for A&E’s new docuseries The Clinton Affair, Lewinsky is candid, if not exactly nostalgic, about the torrid affair between her and Clinton that would come to define his presidency and, at the risk of sounding dramatic, the rest of her life.
The six-part series, which premieres Nov. 18, is yet another examination of Clinton’s presidency, and the various scandals—notably, the Whitewater controversy and the Paula Jones case, which would ultimately bring the Lewinsky affair to light—that punctuated his time in the White House. What’s notable about The Clinton Affair, however, is that it includes interviews with Lewinsky herself—and allows her to redefine the narrative years later, in the midst of #MeToo-inspired outrage at toxic men.
Not that Clinton was, in the eyes of Lewinsky, toxic at first. She concedes in the series that soon after starting work at the White House as an intern, she developed a “crush” on the charming, saxophone-playing president. Fresh out of college and working her first job, Lewinsky’s attempts at capturing Clinton’s attention are endearingly innocent at the start—attending official White House events, where Clinton would frequently interact with interns and staff. After finally meeting Clinton at one such event, the next day Lewinsky ran home during lunch to change into the same green suit she’d been wearing the day previous when Clinton had noticed her. “I thought, ‘Well maybe he’ll notice me again,’” she explains. “And notice me, he did.”
For the next few months, as Lewinsky tells it, their flirtation escalated, although nothing more than flirty banter or slight familiarity ever occurred, at least until the government shut down in November of 1995. Most full-time staffers were sent home, which left a skeleton crew and the White House interns to pick up the slack. Clinton would frequently wander around the West Wing, which just so happened to be where Lewinsky was working. “He passed by the office, looked in, and saw me sitting there, and smiled,” she says. “And I smiled back.” From there, the flirtation reached new heights.
At a birthday party for a staffer later that day, Lewinsky purposefully didn’t adjust her pants (to leave her underwear peeking through) and went to go wash her hands. “As I passed George Stephanopoulos’ office, I kind of looked into the open doorway,” she explains in the second episode of the show. “And Bill happened to be standing there. And he motioned me in—I don’t think my heart had ever beat as fast. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the precipice of the rabbit hole.”
The rest of the details about Lewinsky and Clinton’s affair are, by this point, common knowledge. It continued on and off for nearly two years, until the specter of Ken Starr and his investigation forced it to end. “I was completely at his mercy,” Lewinsky says of the power dynamic of their relationship. She was never able to contact him directly, and would instead spend weekends idling at her desk, waiting for him to call. And, of course, there was the clandestine aspect of the relationship that further complicated things. “There were always narratives of secrecy in this relationship,” Lewinsky explains. “We were both cautious, but not cautious enough.”
Monica Lewinsky doesn’t get enough credit for being a solid writer. She is a public figure who had unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the highest office of the United States, and she’s drawn from her experiences to craft consistently wrenching prose about complicated sexual dynamics and the nature of victimhood.
Now, as she prepares to release a new docuseries, Lewinsky has published a new first-person essay with Vanity Fair in which the activist and former White House intern recounts how difficult it was to revisit the affair with Bill Clinton that made her a household name in 1998.
Lewinsky, who was only 24 when the scandal broke, excavated her past while undergoing interviews for the six-and-a-half hour documentary series The Clinton Affair, which premieres this Sunday, November 18, on A&E.
“It’s not as if it didn’t register with me that he was the president,” Lewinsky says in the first episode of the show. “Obviously it did. But I think in one way, the moment we were actually in the back office for the first time—the truth is, I think it meant more to me that someone who other people desired desired me. However wrong it was… for who I was in that very moment, at 22 years old, that was how it felt.”
“As I passed George Stephanopoulos’ office, I kind of looked into the open doorway,” Lewinsky continues in the second episode, recalling how the affair began. “And Bill happened to be standing there. And he motioned me in—I don’t think my heart had ever beat as fast. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the precipice of the rabbit hole.”
The much younger Lewinsky was in the thrall of a power imbalance that left her totally vulnerable. “I was completely at his mercy,” she says of her relationship with Clinton, who was 49 at the time.
Lewinsky has always been a formidable public figure, someone with valuable insights into the dark side of celebrity journalism and the toll that intense scrutiny can take on the psyche. She is fully aware and unafraid of the glee the public took in unspooling the vulgar specifics of the Clinton affair. That vulgarity first subsumed her, and spit her back out.
“The process of this docuseries led me to new rooms of shame that I still needed to explore, and delivered me to Grief’s doorstep,” Lewinsky writes in Vanity Fair. “Grief for having been betrayed first by someone I thought was my friend, and then by a man I thought had cared for me. Grief for the years and years lost, being seen only as ‘That Woman’—saddled, as a young woman, with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire.”
A&E has pulled off a coup by securing Monica Lewinsky to feature in six-part documentary The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (w/t).
The cable network has ordered the series from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, Jemina Khan’s Instinct Productions and Emmy-winning director Blair Foster (Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge). It will weave together never-seen-before archival footage with exclusive new interviews, of which Lewinsky’s appearance is the most high-profile.
Beginning November 18, the limited doc series will explore the biggest political scandal of its generation and look at broader topics including media, feminism, politics and power. It will investigate the history leading up to the impeachment trial and chronicles the role each of these forces played in this story of sex, power, money, lies and ideological warfare.
The doc series comes a few months after A&E sister network History scrapped its planned drama series, The Breach, about the same subject.
Gibney, Foster and Stacey Offman serve as executive producers for Jigsaw Productions, while Khan and Henrietta Conrad serve as executive producers for Instinct Productions. Rich Perello serves as co-executive producer and Trevor Davidoski as producer for Jigsaw. Executive producers for A&E are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Molly Thompson and Evan Lerner. A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights to The Impeachment of Bill Clinton.
“A real-life political thriller, The Impeachment of Bill Clinton is the most in-depth and intimate account of how one of the biggest scandals in our nation’s history unfolded, forever changing the landscape of American politics,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President & Head of Programming, A&E. “Alex, Blair and the rest of our incredible creative team masterfully take viewers through the events that divided the nation, while exploring the deeper conversations that resulted from them about sexism, harassment and public shaming that the country still wrestles with today.”
“I thought I knew a lot about President Clinton’s impeachment because I lived through it. However, when I began this project, I quickly realized much of what I thought I knew was incomplete, or worse, inaccurate,” said Foster. “My goal for this series was to do a deep dive into the facts and speak to as many people as possible who were involved. The deeper I got the clearer it became that this series is as much about the present day as it is about the 1990s. To borrow a phrase from Barbara Tuchman, this series serves as a ‘distant mirror’ on our current political situation and is far more timely than I ever anticipated.”
“Blair has done magnificent work with this mini-series. She takes a story we thought we all knew and shows it to us in an entirely new light,” added Gibney. “Through the testimony of an extraordinary number of key participants, Blair illuminates the origins of today’s political chicanery and tribalism, the media madness of scandal and the way that individuals – with all their messy, contradictory and deeply human motivations – are sacrificed at the altar of power and ambition.”
Twenty years after the president’s affair with an intern led to congressional action, A&E and Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions will reexamine the events with a three-part event featuring new accuser interviews and explosive never-before-seen footage.
Twenty years after Bill Clinton became only the second president to be impeached, A&E is producing what strives to be the definitive examination of the investigation that consumed the national media and forever altered the lives of the principals involved. The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (working title) includes explosive never-before-seen footage of Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, whose life was turned upside down by special counsel Ken Starr’s investigation, as well as new interviews with Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, who alleged that Clinton raped her in 1978. The six-hour series from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions and directed by Blair Foster (Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge) will bow Nov. 18 on A&E and air over three nights.
Elaine Frontain Bryant, executive vp and head of programming at A&E, calls it “a real-life political thriller and the most in-depth and intimate account of how one of the biggest scandals in our nation’s history unfolded, forever changing the landscape of American politics.” The project includes revealing interviews with Lewinsky and takes on new relevance in the wake of #MeToo and at a moment when another special counsel investigation is looking into a sitting president. It is the first time Lewinsky, who has re-emerged in recent years, has talked so candidly about her experiences. She sat for several interviews with Foster and Gibney; executive producer of the miniseries Jemima Khan — who founded Instinct Productions with Henrietta Conrad and who worked with Gibney on the Wikileaks film We Steal Secrets, helped broker the first meeting several months ago. (Instinct also is a co-producer on the A&E series.)
In an episode seen by The Hollywood Reporter, Lewinsky speaks frankly about betrayal (her friend Linda Tripp secretly recorded their conversations), of being in love with Clinton (she details how they would arrange to meet with the help of Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Currie) and that fateful tryst during which she was wearing the blue Gap dress. She went out to dinner that night with friends, she recalls in the film, and no one commented that she had “stuff” all over her dress.
Lewinsky, now 45, first re-engaged with the topic earlier this year when she penned a first-person piece for Vanity Fair reflecting on her experiences through the current #MeToo prism. (The piece included the excruciating detail of running into Starr at a West Village restaurant on Christmas Eve in 2017.) But mostly she has remained reticent. On Monday (Sept. 4) she cut short a live interview at a TV conference in Jerusalem when the interviewer asked her if she expected a private apology from Bill Clinton. (Lewinsky later tweeted an explanation that there were “clear parameters” for her appearance and that the interviewer was aware that the topic was “off limits” and that the questions were “blatant disregard” of the agreement.) For his part, Clinton seemed woefully unprepared for questions about Lewinsky when he began doing press last spring for his mystery novel with James Patterson.
By the time she’s finished producing the series, Foster will have conducted more than 60 interviews — including with Clinton accusers Jones, Willey and Broaddrick, as well as several people close to the Clintons, like lawyer Jane Sherburne and campaign strategist James Carville, though not the Clintons themselves. “We would have loved to interview them,” Foster tells THR. “They’re certainly aware of the project.” She has not yet given up on the Clintons, or Linda Tripp, although Tripp has turned her down multiple times. But she acknowledges that the Clintons are highly unlikely.
“My goal for this series was to do a deep dive into the facts and speak to as many people as possible who were involved,” says Foster. “The deeper I got the clearer it became that this series is as much about the present day as it is about the 1990s.”
A&E Network in the US is preparing a documentary series about the impeachment of former US president Bill Clinton from noted producer Alex Gibney.
The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (working title) will blend archival footage with interviews with key figures involved in the impeachment and the events leading up to it.
Interviewees include former White House intern and staffer Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with Clinton sparked the scandal that led to his impeachment, plus ex-independent counsel Ken Starr and Clinton’s former political strategist, James Carville.
The series, which marks the 20th anniversary of the impeachment proceedings, will explore the political scandal and its legacy in the US. It will investigate the history leading up to the trial, telling a story of sex, power, money, lies and ideological warfare.
The series is produced by Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, with Gibney (Going Clear), director Blair Foster and Stacey Offman exec producing for Jigsaw. Jemima Khan and Henrietta Conrad serve as executive producers for Instinct Productions. The exec producers for A&E are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Molly Thompson and Evan Lerner.
A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights to the show, which will air on A&E over three consecutive nights starting with a two-hour premiere at 21.00 (ET/PT) on Sunday November 18.
The docuseries comes after a planned History channel drama based on the case was scrapped by A+E Networks in April.
A&E Network is marking the 20th anniversary of the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton with a comprehensive six-part docuseries from Alex Gibney‘s Jigsaw Productions.
Directed by Emmy-winner Blair Foster, The Impeachment of Bill Clinton (working title) will combine never-before-seen archive with exclusive new interviews to investigate the former president’s affair with former White House intern and staffer Monica Lewinsky, Clinton’s subsequent impeachment and its lasting influence on America.
The series, which will air over three consecutive nights beginning Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, will also explore the broader topics of the media, feminism, politics and power dynamics.
Featured in the six-parter are interviews with key players and observers who were intimately involved in the long-standing political drama, including Monica Lewinsky; former independent counsel Ken Starr; former political strategist James Carville; former Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett; former Clinton attorney Amy Sabrin; former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart; former deputy independent counsel Bob Bittman; and former White House special counsel Jane Sherburne, among others.
The Impeachment of Bill Clinton is produced by Jigsaw Productions and Instinct Productions. Executive producers are Alex Gibney, Blair Foster and Stacey Offman (Jigsaw Productions); Jemima Khan and Henrietta Conrad (Instinct Productions); and Elaine Frontain Bryant, Molly Thompson and Evan Lerner (A&E).
Rich Perello is co-executive producer, and Trevor Davidoski is producer for Jigsaw.
A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights to the series.
“My goal for this series was to do a deep dive into the facts and speak to as many people as possible who were involved,” said series director Blair Foster in a statement. “The deeper I got the clearer it became that this series is as much about the present day as it is about the 1990s. To borrow a phrase from Barbara Tuchman, this series serves as a ‘distant mirror’ on our current political situation and is far more timely than I ever anticipated.”
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Serial is finally coming to TV… HBO and Sky have partnered on a four-part documentary – The Case Against Adnan Syed about the disappearance of high school student Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed.
The series will be directed by Deliver Us From Evil and West of Memphis director Amy Berg and will explore the case that prompted the podcast phenomenon.
It will be produced by Jemima Khan’s production company Instinct Productions, which she runs with former Princess chief Henrietta Conrad, and Working Title TV. Nick Cave will provide original music and it will be exec produced by Khan, Conrad, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Andrew Stearn.
It is the latest co-pro between the two companies following nuclear drama Chernobyland Julia David comedy Sally4Ever.
Director of Programming, Sky Entertainment UK & Ireland, Zai Bennett said, “We’re excited to partner with our friends at HBO to bring this fascinating and gripping case to television screens worldwide. We’ll be offering viewers a compelling window into one of the most talked about murder cases in recent years. The hugely talented Amy Berg has unprecedented access to those closest to the investigation, which is sure to make unmissable viewing.”
Sky and HBO are teaming again, this time for a documentary series about the Adnan Syed case, which inspired the popular ‘Serial’ podcast. Academy Award nominee Amy Berg (“Deliver Us from Evil”) will direct.
“The Case Against Adnan Syed” will run to four hours. Working Title TV and Instinct Productions are producing, and NBC Universal International Studios are distributing the follow-up to the case, which will play on the Sky Atlantic channel in the U.K. and in the U.S. on HBO.
The series will explore the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Syed. In production since 2015, the series will re-examine the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, the original police investigation, and the present day, when Syed awaits a new trial.
Sky said the series will present new discoveries and “ground-breaking revelations that challenge the state’s case.”
“We’ll be offering viewers a compelling window into one of the most talked about murder cases in recent years,” said Sky’s director of programming Zai Bennett. “The hugely talented Amy Berg has unprecedented access to those closest to the investigation, which is sure to make unmissable viewing.”
Nick Cave will provide original music for the series. It will be exec-produced by Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan for Instinct Productions and Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Andrew Stearn for Working Title TV.
Sky, Europe’s largest pay TV operator, and HBO have a $250 million co-production deal and are working together on various projects. The pair recently announced Julia Davis comedy “Sally4Ever,” nuclear disaster drama “Chernobyl” is in production.
Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was the focus of the popular Serial podcast, will be profiled in a forthcoming four-part investigative docuseries from HBO Documentary Films and European network Sky.
Directed by Academy Award nominee Amy Berg, The Case Against Adnan Syed explores the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed.
Featured in the docuseries are interviews with Syed; the defense team; Syed’s family, friends and former teachers; and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement.
Instinct’s Henrietta Conrad and Jemima Khan serve as executive producers alongside Working Title’s Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Andrew Stearn.
NBCUniversal International Distribution will distribute The Case Against Adnan Syed internationally.
In June 2016, a Baltimore Circuit Court Judge vacated Syed’s conviction and granted him a new trial after new evidence challenged the reliability of cell phone data linking Syed to the crime scene, and a long-awaited alibi witness took the stand. On March 29, 2018, the Court of Special Appeals also ruled to vacate Syed’s conviction and granted him a retrial 18 years after first being convicted.
Produced by Working Title TV and Instinct Productions, the project will re-examine Lee’s disappearance and murder, the original police investigation, and the present day while Syed, 36, awaits a new trial.
Berg has been in production on The Case Against Adnan Syed since 2015 and the series will offer “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case.”
HBO is taking on one of the most famous cases in America with The Case Against Adnan Syed. The cable channel is partnering with Sky for a four-hour documentary series directed by Oscar nominee Amy Berg.
The series will explore the 1999 disappearance and murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. The case gripped the nation when it became the subject of the popular podcast Serial. The documentary has been in production since 2015. According to HBO, The Case Against Adnan Syed re-examines the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, including the high school romance, cultural conflict and then the aftermath of her disappearance.
Syed is currently awaiting a new trial. According to HBO, the documentary will present new discoveries, “as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case” and will include “exclusive access to Syed, the defense team, the Syed family, friends and teachers of Hae Min Lee and Adnan Syed, and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement.”
During the fall of 2014, it seemed nearly impossible to go anywhere without falling into a conversation about the enthralling podcast “Serial,” which debuted in October of that year to a seemingly immediate (and obsessed) audience. Now the series is getting a small screen followup, thanks to HBOand Sky. The cable giants have now announced “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” a four-hour documentary series directed by Academy Award nominee Amy Berg (best known for her other crime documentaries “Deliver Us from Evil” and “West of Memphis”).
Per its official synopsis, the series “will offer a cinematic look at the life and 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and conviction of Adnan Syed, from the genesis of their high school relationship, to the original police investigation and trial, through to the current day, when Syed faces a new trial after serving 18 years in jail.” The series also includes “exclusive access to Adnan Syed, his family and his lawyers,” as Berg “has been closely following their efforts to obtain justice, with the outcome still to be determined — and possibly shaped by the investigation pursued within the series itself.”
The new series will reportedly include “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case.”
Per its official synopsis, the series “will offer a cinematic look at the life and 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and conviction of Adnan Syed, from the genesis of their high school relationship, to the original police investigation and trial, through to the current day, when Syed faces a new trial after serving 18 years in jail.” The series also includes “exclusive access to Adnan Syed, his family and his lawyers,” as Berg “has been closely following their efforts to obtain justice, with the outcome still to be determined — and possibly shaped by the investigation pursued within the series itself.”
Berg has been in production on the series since 2015, charting the various machinations and breakthroughs that have marked the case, including the latest twist.
Per an official press release, “In June 2016, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch vacated Adnan Syed’s conviction and granted him a new trial after new evidence challenged the reliability of cell phone data linking Syed to the crime scene, and a long-awaited alibi witness finally had her day in court. The State of Maryland appealed the lower court judge’s ruling, but on March 29, 2018, the Court of Special Appeals also ruled to vacate Syed’s conviction and granted him the retrial he has been waiting for.”
The series will also include original music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. An official air date has not yet been announced.
EXCLUSIVE: Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, a man who knows a thing or two about writing about the wealthy, has set his sights on the richest family in history for his next project.
I hear that Fellowes is developing a TV series about the Rothschild banking dynasty, who, in one generation, rose from the deprivation of the ghetto to become the richest and most powerful family in history. Fellowes is collaborating on the script with Ian Kelly (Mr Foote’s Other Leg).
The drama series is understood to be in development with Sky Atlantic.
The family saga is one of the ultimate rags-to-riches tales, set against the backdrop of war and revolution. It tells the story of how the family became to possess the largest private fortune in the world during the 19th century.
The family gained pre-eminence in the bullion trade during the Napoleonic Wars between 1803 and 1815 and Nathan Mayer Rothschild almost single-handedly financed the British war effort. It will also tell the story of European Jewry and the triumph over antisemitism as well as portray a story about human relationships, fraternal struggles for dominance, of brilliant but disenfranchised women, of generational conflict, of incestuous alliances and of forbidden love with outsiders.
Khan also knows a thing or two about dynastic families, having been born Jemima Goldsmith, the eldest child of Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart and banker Sir James Goldsmith, whose family made its money in merchant banking in the 16th century. The European editor-at-large of Vanity Fair and associate editor of the New Statesman launched Instinct Productions with Princess Productions founder Henrietta Conrad this year and Five Arrows is its first project.
Khan was previously the exec producer of the BAFTA-nominated documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks by Alex Gibney and co-produced Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars & Making A Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA and the play, Drones, Baby, Drones at The Arcola Theatre.