Rob Reiner, the prolific filmmaker and liberal activist, spoke more about politics than movies when he sat for a live interview at the Hamptons International Film Festival on Sunday, taking repeated shots at President Donald Trump and waving away the notion that celebrities should stay silent on touchy issues.
“I’m not just some wacky liberal,” said Reiner, who has helped push California ballot measures regarding education, same-sex marriage and other issues. “I actually do think about policy.”
Reiner, the director of such popular classics as 1984’s “This Is Spinal Tap,” 1987’s “The Princess Bride” and 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally . . . ” was at the festival to promote his latest film, “LBJ,” starring Woody Harrelson as President Lyndon Baines Johnson. (The film screened later that afternoon.) Reiner is also working on “Shock and Awe,” about the Knight-Ridder journalists who repeatedly debunked President George W. Bush’s rationales for invading Iraq in 2003. Despite Reiner’s activist history, his move toward expressly political films is new.
Reiner, 70, began his “A Conversation With . . . ” talk by telling interviewer Alison Willmore, film critic for BuzzFeed News, that his youthful estimation of Johnson as the villain behind the Vietnam War has changed to give him more credit for his domestic policy changes, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Civil Rights Act. “He’s a very complex person,” Reiner said, adding that Harrelson’s performance as Johnson is “off the charts. I hope he gets a[n award] nomination, he deserves it.”
It wasn’t long, though, before the conversation turned to current affairs and politics. Even the sexual harassment scandal surrounding ousted movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein became a partisan issue, as Reiner asked why politicians have promised to return donations from Weinstein but not from Trump, who once bragged about sexually assaulting women.
Reiner received a warm reception in the famously liberal Hamptons, earning several rounds of applause for his comments. He also, however, remembered to keep his sense of humor.
“You should run for President,” an audience member shouted, but Reiner made a skeptical face.
“You know,” he said, “last thing I looked, I was Jewish.”