The Toronto International Film Festival played home to the world premiere of James Vanderbilt’s directorial debut, the fact-based political drama “Truth,” on Saturday night, an auspicious start to the veteran screenwriter’s new gig that was met with a standing ovation. The film, based on Emmy-winning news producer Mary Mapes’ 2005 memoir “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power” chronicles what would eventually become the last days of Dan Rather’s tenure as anchor of the “CBS Evening News.” The film features knockout performances by both Cate Blanchett (as Mapes) and Robert Redford (as Rather).
After an emotional conclusion that dramatizes Rather’s final broadcast, it came as little surprise that Rather’s appearance at a post-screening Q&A (he was also on hand for a red carpet walk and a pre-showing introduction with Vanderbilt and other members of the cast and crew, including Elisabeth Moss and Topher Grace) was greeted with a theater-wide standing ovation.
What did come as a something as a shock was Rather’s own reaction to the experience and Vanderbilt’s depiction of it in the film.
When asked by an audience member what it was like to watch both the film itself and specifically Redford playing him on-screen, Rather said, “It’s an eerie experience. I confess that I still didn’t quite have my head completely around it, to see one of the best actors of this or any generation, is both an honor and very humbling — not a word generally associated with people on television.”
Later in the Q&A, Rather was asked if he would change anything about his career. The newsman was reflective, and said, “Journalism is not an exact science. I’ve certainly made my mistakes, I have the scars to show for it. Of course, there are plenty of things I would do over, which is one of the reasons I spend a lot of my time now practicing humility, modesty and tremendous gratitude.” Rather couldn’t keep his emotions in check, and broke over the last line, tearing up in the process.
Rather’s honesty was met with a series of “awws” from the audience and further extended applause.
The final question was again directed at Rather, who was asked to provide some advice for an aspiring journalists out there. “It takes passion, and if you don’t burn with a hot, hard flame to do it, then think twice about getting into it,” Rather said. “News, quality news, done with honesty and integrity, matters. It counts. It’s important.”
“Truth” opens on October 16.