'Front Runner' recalls fall of presidential hopeful Gary Hart

ByMarsha Jordan WLS logo
Friday, November 16, 2018

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The career of a candidate on the road to the White House was destroyed when the press found out about his extra-marital relationship. It's a true story told in the new movie 'The Front Runner," which opened Friday to rave reviews.

Senator Gary Hart was emerging as a John Kennedy kind of candidate: a vibrant young contender for the White House in 1988.

But a scandal over his involvement with a young woman that caught wildfire in the press made him quit the race. Director Jason Reitman was fascinated by how it all played out.

"I frankly couldn't believe that this had happened, that there was this moment in our recent history when the presumed next President of the United States wound up in an alleyway in the middle of the night with some journalists and no one knew what to do because no one had been in their shoes before," he said.

Reitman convinced Hart and his wife to speak with him for the film.

"If I told you, 'Hey, I'm gonna make a movie about your life and I'm going to pick the worst week,' that's a tough endeavor, but I think they found the film had empathy for them," Reitman said.

The director also met with Donna Rice, the woman at the center of this story, and has empathy for what happened to her.

"Gary Hart and Donna Rice met on a boat. They were two private people who wound up in a very public moment and Gary Hart invited her to stay with him in D.C.," Reitman said. "The tide turned, people started to understand people like Monica Lewinsky as a human being. That hadn't happened for Donna Rice, and that became very key in how we approached this film, humanizing her."

Hugh Jackman wasn't an obvious choice for the role, but a standout for Reitman.

"I say any chance you get to work with Hugh Jackman, you take it. He's just one of the great movie stars of all time. He's a brilliant actor. He works harder than anyone and he's more decent than any other actor. He's kind to the cast, to the crew, he's kind to every person he meets."