You've heard from G. Gordon Liddy, Richard Nixon and a host of other Watergaters, but now it's time for a movie from one of the good guys: U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica, the hero of a forthcoming movie.
Scriptwriter Sam Gallu (he wrote "Give 'em Hell, Harry!") along with a partner, producer Lee Mendelson, bought the dramatic rights to Sirica's best-selling Watergate memoir, To Set the Record Straight . And now they hope actor Martin Balsalm will portray Sirica in movie, possibly for television, that will give a judge's-eye view of the sordid episode.
"I think only 5 percent of the public reads books," Sirica says, "and there are millions of people who heard about Watergate but didn't really know the details. From a historical standpoint, I think that would be the principal value of a movie like this."
Says Gallu: "The strength of Sirica is that he refused to believe the seven guys, and he took it upon himself to try and break them down and took it upon himself to subpoena the president's tapes. Had that not been done, it would have gone down as one of the great whitewash trials of all time."
"I became an activist judge, I didn't just sit back and say, 'Hell, this is just a two-bit burglary; it isn't my job to get the truth here, leave that to the prosecutor,'" recalls Sirica, who said if he hadn't forced the case open wider, "that parade of liars" would someday "walk by my courtroom and laugh."
The script calls for a minmum of courtroom action, focusing instead on the pressures in Sirica's life as he heard the case. "He was 65 years old at the time," Gallu says. "He didn't marry until he was 55. He had three teenagers on his hands, plus the president of the United States . . . There were a lot of threats on his life."
Footnote: Sirica says today he has received more than 20,000 letters about Watergate. During the peak of the scandal, a full-time staffer was hired just to sort mail, which Sirica says ran nine to one in favor of his handling of the case that led to Richard Nixon's resignation.