Filmed in Los Angeles and New Orleans, David Gordon Green’s feature adaptation of the 2005 political campaign doc of the same name stars Sandra Bullock as retired political consultant “Calamity” Jane Bodine. She’s pulled back into the game by a team of Americans tasked with getting an unpopular Bolivian president reelected. The campaign gets chaotic when Billy Bob Thornton shows up as the opposition — and, as we learn, he’s also Jane’s worst enemy.
The movie got made because Bullock—who should pocket some $70 million from surprise Oscar-winning blockbuster “Gravity,” thanks to her share of the gross—wasn’t satisfied with the scripts she was reading and asked her agents to check out some of the roles written for men. She liked “Our Brand is Crisis,” which George Clooney told me in Toronto he was developing for himself to direct, but put aside. With Bullock on board and director Green, the project took off.
Green, who has deftly carried projects both indie (“George Washington,” “Prince Avalanche” and “Joe”) and mainstream (“Pineapple Express”) to success, directs a screenplay from Oscar nominee Peter Straughan (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), who loosely based his script on Rachel Boynton’s doc outlining the real-life 2002 Bolivian presidential election.
They didn’t have to make many changes, Bullock says in our video interview. She got a kick out of striding around in a long camel coat and flat shoes with her roots showing, playing a flawed, complicated character without romantic entanglements. The movie questions the pursuit of winning. “You need to leave a winner,” she says. “What does that mean? What is a winner? What is the cost?”
She approves of the “humbly eloquent” and “timely, blunt, fearless” way Jennifer Lawrence wrote about Hollywood’s gender gap in pay: “She wasn’t accusing, she was just stating a fact. I couldn’t have said it better myself. My question is, why are women thought of as less than? Why doesn’t someone go, ‘you can’t say that! You can’t!” At the end of the interview she touts her young costar Zoe Kazan as someone to watch—and a future director.
Bullock is fighting to lead a balanced life, using her clout to shoot her movies in L.A. so she can spend time with her young son. “Let’s bring more incentives and business back to LA!” she says. She admires the work being done in television, which “has become so fearless, especially in the women’s roles.” That’s one way to stay in town.
“Our Brand is Crisis”‘ top drawer cast also includes Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”), Scoot McNairy (“Argo”), Ann Dowd (HBO’s “The Leftovers”) and Joaquim de Almeida (“Fast Five”). The Warner Bros. release was produced by Smokehouse Pictures’ principals George Clooney and Grant Heslov (“Argo”), with Bullock, co-financier Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King, and Stuart Besser as executive producers.