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The Assassination of Richard Nixon - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

THIS year’s Cannes Film Festival appeared to be a breeding ground for film-maker’s desperate to take a pot-shot at current world affairs.

Michael Moore grabbed the majority of the headlines for his latest documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, but another of Hollywood’s anti-Bush brigade, Sean Penn, also showcased his latest movie, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and wasted no time in applying its message to current world affairs.

The film in question finds Penn as a desperate salesman, who plans an assassination attempt on Richard Nixon, by crashing a plane into the White House in order to make his point.

It is based on the true story of an incident which happened, in 1974, by a furniture salesman.

According to Penn, the central character, Samuel Byck’s extreme stance against perceived corruption had manifested itself in him wanting to act violently, and claim the life of the US president.

The actor believes the film serves as a neat parable for the present-day situation, due to the striking similarities between the September 11 attacks and the ongoing situation in Iraq.

Penn is a vocal opponent of the George Bush administration and has spoken out against US foreign policy on several occasions since the start of the fighting, even travelling to Iraq before and after the war to view the situation for himself, and subsequently write an article for one of America’s leading newspapers.


He even claimed that his views had prevented him from securing several roles, but remains unrepentant for continuing to question Bush’s motives and policies.

Speaking at Cannes, he even went so far as to criticise Hollywood for shying away from politics in movies, declaring that it was one of the few art forms that has failed to respond to the times.

He went on to describe his own film as ‘the story of somebody who feels that there's a hand at their throat and that, bit by bit, they act to remove that hand’.

"Often when people's hearts are oppressed and silenced they will act in extreme and violent and horrible ways," he told a press conference. "So I'd like to think that in the parallel that this dramatises well, there will be some thoughts provoked about how to fix the problem before it happens."

The film marks the directing debut of Niels Mueller, who co-wrote the well-received coming-of-age drama, Tadpole, last year, as well as being the first production of director, Alfonso Cuaron’s company, Monsoon Entertainment (Cuaron is best-known for Y Tu Mama Tambien and current Harry Potter flick, The Prisoner of Azkaban).

It co-stars Don Cheadle, Naomi Watts (who last appeared alongside Penn in 21 Grams), and Michael Wincott (who appears as his brother).

No release date has yet been scheduled for the US.

In spite of Penn’s claims about roles, however, the actor appears to be extremely busy at the moment.

Aside from The Assassination of Richard Nixon, the talented star is also basking in the glory of his recent Oscar success, for Mystic River, as well as appearing alongside Nicole Kidman in upcoming thriller, The Interpreter.

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