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MAN OF THE YEAR

About The Production
For writer-director Barry Levinson, the concept for his latest comedy began with the much-discussed slipup that rocked 2004's presidential election: voting-machine error. Levinson says, "Following the election, there were many questions about the computer systems in Ohio and other states…whether or not they were ‘hackable.' Plus, you had Ralph Nader as a third-party candidate inserted into the mix. The ideas coming out of this election seemed a good basis from which to construct a screenplay.”

He was keenly interested in the fact that, as we move into the new millennium, computer-assisted voting has become an inevitability for our world. Beginning with 2000's Florida "hanging chad” challenges to election legitimacy—and culminating in the past few years' issues of technical problems with machines, delayed equipment arrival, incorrect exit polls and human error—the cautionary stories have blanketed the news.

The filmmaker joined many of his fellow Americans in wondering about the sanctity of the process. Further stimulating Levinson's imagination were the discussions of a reliable paper trail that would ensure the person voted for was the one who would assume presidential office.

Levinson questioned that if this was a problem in the early stages of computer-assisted voting, what could happen down the road in American politics? "We talk about our democracy and how important it is to us, yet on the other hand we have something that seems rather fragile and questionable,” he reflects. "We shouldn't have to question whether our votes count or don't. As Tom Dobbs says in the film, ‘We shouldn't put our faith in voting machines that have fewer safeguards than a Vegas slot machine.'”

Of parallel interest to the writer-director was the idea that certain people who have significant television or film exposure are becoming more and more involved in the political process, most often because they are becoming household names across the nation. He summarizes, "It's easier to sell a name brand than an unknown.”

The filmmaker felt that the best way to make certain political points, without the burden of pontification, "was to create a comical, human movie that doesn't force you into any political box. We can laugh, but simultaneously think about the issues brought up.”

Whereas 1997s much darker, more satirical film Wag the Dog was framed in a time and place where optimism more or less prevailed, Man of the Year comes to the amidst the backdrop of an unusually dark America. Levinson admits he wasn't interested in revisiting territory he had already explored, but rather liked the idea of creating a positive piece as balance to our new era. "Frankly, I liked the hope in this story,” he notes. "Two people with a great deal of honor and character are coming forward to tell the truth, regardless of the consequences.”

A fall 2005 meeting with James G. Robinson, the head of the production company Morgan Creek, would seal the production deal. Levinson and the producer had known one another for decades, but not worked together on a project. Over lunch, Levinson discussed his screenplay, Man of the Year, and the two agreed that Robin Williams signing on to play the lead role would galvanize Levinson's idea into a green-lit film. Robinson responded to the fact that "the script is a reflection of our culture. Tom Dobbs is an honest everyman who has some very big decisions to make about the power that's been granted to him.”

The producer felt audiences would enjoy not only the sometimes dry, often ribald, humor but also the film's "innocence and optimism. Humans are by our very nature optimists, and we want to believe things can get better.” That doesn't stop him from admitting, however, that the film should very much make fun of politics and politicians. "Sometimes you have to bring 'em dow

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