Dick Wolf Makes Time for 'Wounded Knee'

By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, January 13, 2007

PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 12 Dick Wolf, the network-saving, moneymaking machine, is doing his first work for HBO, an upcoming 2 1/2 -hour adaptation of the early 1970s book "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," which documented the subjugation of Native Americans during the latter half of the 19th century.

"I'd do anything HBO wants me to, given the strictures I'm under contractually," Wolf, the brain trust behind NBC's "Law & Order," told the media at Winter TV Press Tour 2007. Wolf's production house is set up at NBC Universal, which doesn't leave him a lot of time to do work elsewhere.

Working with HBO was "an amazing experience. I'd love to send some network people to intern there for a while," he said, getting a laugh from the crowd.

One critic wanted to know what the broadcast network interns would learn. He admitted he'd been flip, adding, "It's a little unfair -- they're two completely different business models."

He said: "The attention to detail on every level at HBO is different than a network, but a network has 22 hours to be filled every week. It's a completely different set of parameters. But I can say it's wonderful to be with people whose only aim is to get on the screen the best possible film they can get up there.

"The networks have a tendency -- they're in the numbers game, the daily numbers game. . . . It leads to decisions that are not necessarily artistic."

HBO isn't nearly as rushed to get product on-screen as are the broadcasters, he said, noting that this project was five years in the making.

"I'm not kidding. I think this picture was fast-tracked at HBO." HBO, he said, is "famous and notorious for taking a great deal of time between the first meeting and [my being] up here talking to all of you. The reality is, they end up doing it right. Sometimes it's way too expensive, like 'Rome,' but 'Rome' was one of the most awesome TV [projects] in the last 20 years. You look at it and say, 'Wow, they really didn't care how much it cost!' "

"Wounded Knee" is scheduled for a May premiere on HBO. It stars Aidan Quinn, Adam Beach, August Schellenberg and -- as President Ulysses S. Grant -- former Republican senator and "Law & Order" regular Fred Thompson.

Wolf said he hopes "Wounded Knee" not only "affects people's way of thinking about this part of our history" but also gives them pause when thinking about "other things this nation becomes involved with."

One TV critic asked him if he was referring to Iraq. "If Iraq was the only thing you could reference, maybe," he said. "When any society says to another group, whether indigenous, offshore, next-door, that our way of life will be better for you and we have a better way than you have, you get into real trouble. That's why the world is multicultural and multicolored. What works here is not necessarily going to work there."

* * *

Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Speaker Nancy, came to the press tour to plug her new HBO documentary about the evangelical Christian movement.

Unlike her earlier HBO documentary, "Journeys With George," in which she spent 18 months on the 2000 presidential campaign trail with George W. Bush," Pelosi is not seen in this new film. That's "because I was trying to take myself out of it -- I'm not trying to make an ego-mentary," she said.

Did I mention the title of the documentary is "Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi"?

Pelosi likened the process of making the film to an "archaeological dig"; she also likened herself to an "ambassador of the blue states." In "Friends of God," she traveled to red states to meet evangelicals, including the usual suspects, such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority and founder of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Also Ted Haggard, who recently stepped down as president of the country's largest evangelical group, National Association of Evangelicals, when word got out that he had patronized a male prostitute and bought illegal drugs.

Pelosi said she learned to respect evangelical Christians "on a professional level" because they are "really mobilized." "They go to church every Sunday," she said, after which they "have meetings to talk about the Colorado marriage amendment."

Asked if being the daughter of Nancy Pelosi made people she met hostile toward her, she said there had been some skepticism but "it was a lot harder to walk into the door of the church and say 'HBO' -- they call it Hell's Box Office. . . . And yes, I did get saved a number of times a day."

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