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Recounting Recount

May 29, 2008

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Neal Conan

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There can be few of us who have never fantasized about a movie being made about our lives — I can't tell you the number of beery, after-work conversations during which my co-workers and I cast the NPR movie (I usually get Dustin Hoffman). Twice this week — once on purpose, once by happenstance — we spoke with players/characters in the HBO film Recount, which debuted last Sunday night, about the battle in Florida after the 2002 presidential election.

On Tuesday, we asked Democrat Mitchell Berger and Republican Ben Ginsburg to review the picture, and to talk about what it was like to see representations of themselves (actors Bruce Altman and Bob Balaban, respectively) on the screen. Berger joined us by phone, so I can't tell you how good the casting was in his case, but the resemblance between Ginsburg and Balaban is simply uncanny. With one important distinction. If you heard the segment, Ginsburg is both warm and quite funny. I accept that those qualities may not have shone through amid the bitterness in Florida, but Balaban played him as, yes, smart and tough and highly partisan, but also as, well, a pill. He didn't come across that way in Studio 3A at all.

Then yesterday, when we wanted to talk with somebody about the process of choosing a vice presidential candidate with Political Junkie Ken Rudin, we booked Ron Klain. A former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, he played a big part in the selection of Sen. Joe Lieberman as the running mate. He also played a huge part in Florida in 2000 and, as played by Kevin Spacey, was pretty much the lead character in Recount. He told us that he has lots more hair than Spacey (he's right) and I noted that he looks a lot younger, too, but, in the few minutes we got to spend with him, he came across very much like the character as Spacey played him.

We should all be so lucky when our movies get cast.

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