Dustin Hoffman knew how to reach the leader of the Free World.
During production on the political satire “Wag the Dog,” Hoffman convinced then-President Bill Clinton to allow actors to film outside the White House gates. In true “Bowfinger” fashion, Hoffman allegedly staged a scene in front of White House security guards to make it seem like the actors were exiting the building.
“Dustin, at some point or another, talked the guards at the White House into opening the front gate so that it would look like our actors were walking out,” production designer Wynn Thomas told Vanity Fair as part of the film’s 25th anniversary. “Initially they were walking along in front of the White House.”
Hoffman’s hairstylist Michael White recalled Hoffman taking credit for the “Wag the Dog” production access due to his friendliness with President Clinton.
“No, you can’t just convince a guard at a gate at the White House to film there, whether you’re Dustin Hoffman or Tom Cruise. There’s too much security,” White added. “What I heard was Bill Clinton came by to visit them or he was nearby and they went out to lunch. Dustin said, ‘We’ll get that shot at the gate at the White House,’ and Clinton said — Dustin called him ‘Bill’ — that if we need anything, you know, ‘the president will make it happen.’ They wanted the gate to open up and they would walk out. It wasn’t just, ‘Oh, let us shoot here.’ Because I remember Dustin was taking credit, you know, ‘See? I told you Bill would let us do it!'”
Producer Jane Rosenthal shared that Robert De Niro “actually has a picture of Dustin trying to explain what the movie is to Clinton during that lunch.”
Based on Larry Beinhart’s novel “American Hero,” the 1997 film starred Hoffman as a Hollywood producer who concocts a fictional war in Albania to draw attention away from a presidential sex scandal. De Niro played the spin doctor mastermind behind the hoax that quickly gains very real traction. William H. Macy, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Craig T. Nelson, and the late Anne Heche also starred. “Wag the Dog” premiered one month before Clinton’s infamous scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.