When Harvey Weinstein decided to plunk down about $2.5 million for U.S. distribution rights to “Code Name: Geronimo” at Cannes Wednesday, he was pocketing more than just a rousing real-life story about the fatal takedown of Osama bin Laden. The Weinstein Co. topper’s ambitions extend beyond the box office all the way to the Oval Office.
To many supporters, President Obama’s greenlight of the risky, but successful operation that sent Navy SEALs into Pakistan to turn Bin Laden’s lights out is one of his greatest assets heading into the November presidential elections. Obama’s use of it in campaign ads recently turned the event into a snipe-filled partisan debate, attesting to its value among the political class and, presumably, the voting public.
In the meantime, Weinstein is riding the momentum of a Spring that saw his Cannes 2011 pick-up “The Artist” win the best picture prize at the Oscars and his Tribeca 2011 pick-up “Bully” snowball into a national cause, anti-bullying legislation and a high-profile White House screening. At the time, he was quoted as saying, "This is an incredible turn of events and shows that art can have a transcending effect.”
So why not use a movie to help win Obama the presidency?
At a Cannes party late Wednesday night, Voltage Pictures’ Zev Foreman, a producer of “Geronimo,” claimed that the John Stockwell-directed movie could easily be ready by the end of summer. Meaning, the Weinstein Co. could promote and release it right through the fall campaign and up through the vote in early November.
While no decision on a release date has yet been made, Foreman notes, “Harvey’s a big supporter of Obama, so I think I know what he’s going to do.” A pre-election release would have the added benefit of stealing some of the thunder from Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s SEAL Team 6 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty,” which is currently scheduled for December.
Foreman says that the filmmakers began discussing “Geronimo” with Weinstein about two weeks before Cannes began, followed by about 20 minutes of footage a few days ago. A trailer they brought to Cannes apparently sold Weinstein on the project and its potential.
“Geronimo,” written by Kendall Lampkin, focuses on three groups of people involved in the ultimate raid: the SEALs, the CIA operation behind the scenes and operatives in Pakistan. Among the eye-opening real efforts detailed in the film is a CIA vaccination drive that was actually being used to collect DNA that could ultimately identify members of Bin Laden’s family, and thus the location of the man himself.
“Everyone knows how it ends,” says Foreman, who next starts filming “Cali” with Kristen Stewart mid-August. “This is about the three groups of people who took great risks to make it happen.”
With “Geronimo” in hand, Weinstein himself could soon be trying to make something happen with equally large impact.