March 29 2003 - - Although George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani are from
different parts of the country and opposite sides of the track, they have
in common more than Republican Party politics.
Both were lifted to stratospheric heights by their responses to the challenge
of Sept. 11, history placing them in the right calamity at the right time.
These are different times. Bush went on to a presidency shaped so far by
a crusade against terror and polarizing invasion of Iraq to smash the regime
of Saddam Hussein. And after guiding New Yorkers through post-Sept. 11 like
Moses leading Jews through the desert, once-reviled, then-beloved Giuliani
cashed in his chips for big bucks, taking bow after bow during an extended
victory lap that landed him a reported $100,000 a speech. God didn't get
this much praise for parting the Red Sea.
Check back in a few years for a full biography of Bush. Giuliani's arrives
Sunday when James Woods, sporting the former New York mayor's
hair-combed-over-bald-spot look, plays him persuasively as part heavy, part
hero in "Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story," a worthy USA Network movie based
on a book by Wayne Barrett. Although less than defining, it's a memorable
account thanks largely to Woods' trademark seething intensity, whether Giuliani
is battling those around him or when snapping into action on Sept. 11 and
becoming the city's shoulder to lean on.
Just where dramatic license intercedes here, and to what extent, is hard
to say. Yet there's no sugarcoating in Robert Dornhelm's direction or Stanley
Weiser's script. Their story opens just before the epic jolt of the twin
towers terrorism, then bounces back and forth between an earlier Giuliani
and 2001, interwoven with actual footage of the disaster.
Giuliani is as complex, conflicted and volatile here as he appears in real
life. He's ruthless, engaging in a nasty feud as mayor with Bill Bratton,
who was New York police commissioner before heading west to take over L.A.'s
Police Department. And he's scrupulous, refusing to bend his personal beliefs
to political expediency. He's charming and he's hot under the collar, not
mincing words about demagogic Rev. Al Sharpton: "That self-serving, preening,
triple-talking egomaniac." He's stormy, tactless and coarse while suffering
from what one close associate calls a "kindness deficit" in his unsuccessful
first campaign for New York mayor.
He gets famous there as a crime-busting, Mafia-chasing federal prosecutor
whose political prospects grow as his marriage to Donna Hanover (Penelope
Ann Miller) atrophies. Meanwhile, he gets that look in his eye when near
his communications director Cristyne Lategano (Michelle Nolden).
Few major politicians have had messier private lives -- nor had them made
as public -- as Giuliani. Much of that disorder surfaces here, notably his
headline-making war with Hanover. That and other issues sent his popularity
as mayor diving before he ran for U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton,
a campaign he abandoned after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
You love him here, and you hate him, Giuliani the heavy being no one to adore.
It's the hero, though, who shows up Sept. 11.
'Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story'
Where: USA Network
When: Sunday, 8 p.m.
Rating: The network has rated it TV-14L (may be unsuitable for children younger
than 14, with an advisory for coarse language).
Rudolph Giuliani ...James Woods
Donna Hanover...Penelope Anne Miller
Cristyne Lategano...Michelle Nolden
Los Angeles Times: Charting the fall and rise of 'Rudy'