An early suggestion for next year’s Oscar for Best Visual Effects: “The Adjustment Bureau,” for making Damon appear to be a credible U.S. Senate candidate, via the magic of CGI.
Computer-generated imagery? Nope: the Clinton Global Initiative.
In a brisk early sequence, Damon’s character David Norris is seen schmoozing with a dazzling array of Democratic heavy-hitters: Jesse Jackson, Madeleine Albright, Terry McAuliffe, Wes Clark, John Podesta. It would have taken months to wrangle so many VIPs onto a studio lot, but director George Nolfi pulled it off in a mere afternoon — by hanging out with Damon at Bill Clinton’s annual big-ideas summit in New York.
“It was totally on the fly!” McAuliffe told us. He was at the September 2009 CGI gathering, about to head into a main session with various heads of state, when a producer approached and said they needed someone to play a tough party chairman.
“I said, ‘Mike me up,” the former DNC chair recalled. And so he did his brief scene, counseling Damon on political strategy — no makeup, no script. “Telling candidates what they needed to do was not something I needed to spend a lot of time rehearsing,” McAuliffe bragged. He nailed it on one take.
Nolfi told our colleague Jen Chaney he was inspired by advice from Steven Soderbergh whose 2000 “Traffic” also deployed several ad-libbing pols (Orrin Hatch, William Weld, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer): “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.”
It helped that Damon is a big donor and longtime favorite of the Democratic establishment, as well as “a good and longtime friend” of the Clinton Global Initiative, its communications director Craig Minassian told us.
The actor was on official business at the '09 summit, rolling out his “commitment to action” with a clean-water program to aid third-world countries. Albright — who, like McAuliffe, first met him at a 1997 Camp David screening of “Good Will Hunting” — told us he’s “very smart and has serious issues he’s focusing on. . . I admire that.” No need to role-play for her cameo, they simply had a normal conversation: “He was talking about water, I was talking about the United Nations.”
So did that create a comfort zone for the pols? Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, laughed: “I probably would have done it even if I didn’t know them!” Hey, who doesn’t want to be in the movies? McAuliffe's caught the bug: After a visit to the set of “Hangover 2” (long story!) he’s hoping to score another cameo.