'Truth' Opens 23rd Hamptons International Film Festival

Dennis Quaid plays Roger Charles in "Truth." He came to the festival opening night to talk about the film. Morgan McGivern

The Hamptons International Film Festival opened on Thursday night with “Truth,” about the events that led up to the resignation of Dan Rather from CBS News.

The screenplay is based on a book by Mary Mapes, the producer of the segment on George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War that caused Mr. Rather’s resignation and led to her firing. The cast includes Robert Redford as Mr. Rather and Cate Blanchett as Ms. Mapes, as well as Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Moss, and Topher Grace.

After the screening James Vanderbilt, the screenwriter and first-time director on this film, sat down with his producer Brad Fischer, Mr. Quaid, and David Nugent, the programming director of the festival, to discuss the film. 

According to Mr. Vanderbilt, he was drawn to the story when he read an excerpt of Ms. Mapes’s book in Vanity Fair. “It struck me how much I didn’t know about something I thought I knew about.” He said he wanted to present a great story. “I never wanted the film to feel like homework.”

He also wanted his actors to portray real people, not villains. “These are real people who have families, who are walking around today. If you make a movie about them, it is going to have an effect on their lives.” In approaching the characters, his ethos was “it’s not the case that this person is a bad person. Everyone is just trying to do their job." For actors "to play bad, to play evil, it's not a character. It’s not a motivation.” He said the cast needed to play their roles as human beings.

As a first time feature-length film director, Mr. Vanderbilt was understandably cowed by the talent of his cast. When Mr. Redford called personally to take the role, he said he nearly fell out of his chair. In his first scene, he admitted he was “peeing himself,” but Mr. Quaid, who played that scene only 36 hours after agreeing to the role, reassured him.

“We had a drink in my trailer and he told me ‘You’re ok, it’s going well. You’re good.’” And, Mr. Vanderbilt said, it gave him the encouragement he needed, to realize he could do it.

Mr. Quaid, for his part, said his interest in the story and acceptance of the role came from the quality of the script and his respect for Mr. Rather. “I grew up in Houston . . . Dan Rather was an icon to me.”

Mr. Rather will be the subject of one of the festival’s Conversation With….  discussions on Saturday in Sag Harbor at 2 p.m. The film, will also screen on Sunday at the East Hampton Cinema at 7 p.m.  The festival website has the ticket information and instructions on using the rush line for sold out events and screenings.

Left to right: Elisabeth Moss as Lucy Scott, Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes, Topher Grace as Mike Smith and Dennis Quaid as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles Lisa Tomasetti, RatPac Truth LLC/Sony Pictures Classics
Bobby Flay, Anne Chaisson, and Josh CharlesMorgan McGivern
Brad Fischer, a producer of the filmMorgan McGivern
Blythe Danner and Stuart Match Suna, the outgoing chairman of the festival arrived at the red carpet on Thursday night.
David Nugent, Anne Chaisson, Dennis QuaidMorgan McGivern
In a panel after the film, Dennis Quaid joined Brad Fischer, James Vanderbilt, and David Nugent for a discussion of the film.Jennifer Landes
The after party at Club PhliippeMorgan McGivern