TOBACCO HOLLYWOOD: Of Whistle-Blowers and Silver Screens
Having fought the states and Congress, and now the Department of Justice, the tobacco industry must prepare to do battle with a different kind of adversary -- Hollywood. With a "long tradition of putting true stories" on the big screen, Hollywood's latest life-to-celluloid account occurs in the Disney film about "Big Tobacco's knowledge of nicotine addiction," the Los Angeles Times reports. Michael Mann, the producer of the $68 million drama, "The Insider," chronicles the "real-life relationship" between a Brown & Williamson scientist, Jeff Wigand, and "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman. The movie, described by the film's producers as "a drama, not a documentary," attempts to follow the "searing human experience" of Wigand's public disclosure [in a CBS interview] of Brown & Williamson's knowledge of nicotine addiction, paired with Bergman's attempt to air the interview (Eller, 10/19).
A Matter of Fact
While some of the facts -- for example that Wigand granted CBS an "explosive interview" detailing tales of perjury and cover-up by Brown and Williamson execs -- are not in dispute, both "60 Minutes" reporter Mike Wallace and executive producer Don Hewitt raise objections to the movie, believing that "the film grossly and unfairly distorts the facts and their roles in the events." While neither man has seen the film -- producer Mann denied screening requests -- Hewitt told the Daily News, "Because no one in television had done more stories about the way tobacco companies deceive the public, we were heartily in agreement that this was a great subject for a movie." But Hewitt fears the film's "negative portrayal of CBS" could the damage reputation of "60 Minutes," stating, "I hope that the 31 years we've been on the air wouldn't disappear in this cloud of smoke" (Beale/Mink, 10/20). "The Insider" opens nationwide Nov. 5, and "is already being touted in Hollywood as a likely Oscar contender" (Los Angeles Times, 10/19).