During an early scene in “The Adjustment Bureau,” which opens in theaters today, Matt Damon’s character, David Norris, converses with several political big shots while campaigning for U.S. Senate.
Jesse Jackson. New York Mayor Michael Blomberg, Madeleine Albright. They all show up onscreen, followed a short time later by James Carville and Mary Matalin, who do some political commentary about Norris’s political future on a faux CNN show.
How did “Adjustment Bureau” director George Nolfi and the film’s crew wrangle so many well-known names? During a visit to D.C. -- during which time I spoke with both Nolfi and “Bureau” co-star Anthony Mackie, who is profiled in this Sunday’s Style section -- the filmmaker explained it all.
George Nolfi: “Surprisingly, everybody we asked pretty much wanted to do it. I specifically wanted Carville and Matalin because I wanted the Republican/Democrat combination talking about how this was kind of an exciting candidate who could go far. So I contacted them through some people who knew them and also contacted them through CNN, or my production did.
Bloomberg was an obvious one because I wanted a sort of -- he’s sort of post-partisan, nonpartisan, very centrist. I wanted to put David out there in as non-partisan a way as possible. And I thought it would be great to get an actual endorsement form someone who matters.
Matt was at the Clinton Global Initiative giving a speech, being honored for his work on water ... we asked CGI to let us come there [with cameras], and we went up to people there and said we’re doing a movie and Matt’s playing a Congressman -- some of them I sort of knew through other people. Jesse Jackson I just walked up to and said, I’m a director and Matt’s playing a congressman and here’s the background: are you interested in being in the movie? And we’re filming all this so you get the consent on camera. Everyone was game.
Jen Chaney: Did anyone say no?
Nolfi: We were at CGI, so we had Matt with [Bill] Clinton and his people said ultimately he didn’t want to be in the movie. But they were all fully aware -- there were two cameras at all times, one on Matt and one on them. Most of them, you can’t hear that much of what they’re saying, but most of them went into the mode of ad libbing for the role very effectively. Did you ever see “Traffic”? “Traffic” has a lot of real politicians in it and I’ve worked with [Steven] Soderbergh several times and you know, he said these guys are going to be great because they do this all day long. You just say, here are the circumstances, just do what you normally do.
Terry McAuliffe gave [Damon] a political strategy pep talk. I wish I had the time in the movie to show the whole thing ... And John Podesta was like, ‘I think what Hillary showed is that you’ve got to go upstate.’ And he talked about counties and stuff. It was like, we don’t have time for that! [Laughs] But it was amazing. Madeline Albright talked to him as Matt but she talked to him about a real issue, how important it was to think about countries abroad that get left off the geopolitical strategizing map. It was great. Obviously in the movie, [the interviews] are really trimmed down because that’s the nature of trying to do an hour and 39 minute movie.”