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STATE OF PLAY

Journalists And Politicians
"Did we just break the law?”

—Globe blogger Della Frye

"Nope, that's what you call damn fine reporting.”

—Globe senior metro reporter Cal McAffrey

When casting the role of The Washington Globe's veteran newsman Cal McAffrey, the filmmakers were looking for a performer who could play with grit and street smarts, but also a gruff newsman who is holding on to an old standard in the face of change. Macdonald explains of his "truth teller”: "Cal is the senior metro reporter of the newspaper—a guy who is really smart and should be the editor. He should be working in politics, but something's held him back. He represents the nobility of journalism…but also the decline of it.”

When considering actors for the part, the team had a fortunate break. Macdonald recalls: "The studio said to me, ‘Who do you want?' I said, ‘I want the best actor in the world, and that's Russell Crowe.' And they said, ‘Okay, let's see.' So we sent Russell the script. Three days later, I was on a plane to Australia. Twenty-four hours after that, he'd agreed to do it, and two weeks later Anne Collins (ROBIN WRIGHT PENN) and husband Stephen look to Cal for help. he was on set. Russell came in, took the character by the scruff of the neck and totally understood who Cal would be.”

Hauptman was as pleased as his director at the selection of Crowe to play the hard-nosed reporter who had an affair with his best friend's wife. "Russell feels this part; he looks it,” says the producer. "He has strong views of what journalists have become today versus the more idealized version of what they were years back. Stepping on the other side of that notepad or tape recorder, and having the investigative mind that he does, he dug to the core of who his journalist ought to be.”

Crowe found the character refreshingly atypical. "One of the things that this story goes into is the ambiguity of the concept of an objective press,” he states. "They want to tell you they're objective and their relationships and their lives don't affect what they write. But in this case, that's not true. This was one of the things that interested me; they're human. They do take things personally, and sometimes they can't get themselves out of the story—with both good results and bad.”

The actor was interested in how this character could never be 100 percent objective, as he was investigating a murder case in which a good friend was implicated. "I see Cal as a human who has one train of thought, and that pushes him into action,” says Crowe. "But it's not heroism; he's doing what he feels he should do on behalf of his friend. So, right from the beginning of the story, his point of view is polluted.”

McAffrey's long relationship with both Stephen Collins and Collins' wife, Anne, draws him into wanting to tell the story from their point of view. Initially, he loses the objectivity that is drilled into members of the fourth estate from their first day of journalism school. As Macdonald notes: "The guilt of his affair is one of the drivers for Cal, one of the things that makes him want to prove his friend innocent.” Ultimately, however, his dispassion returns, and he falls back on ingrained professional instincts.

When casting the role of Stephen Collins, the team looked to Ben Affleck to play the congressman struggling with the murder of his staff assistant/lover, Sonia Baker. Simultaneously, the character was dealing with the collapse of his marriage and potential halt to his ascension as a power player. The director explains of Collins: "Stephen has become chairman of this very important committee researching abuses in the Defense Department. He's a highflier; he's presidential material… the new Kennedy. Ben Affleck has those looks

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