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‘Reagans' Bows on DVD After Network Shutout

14 May, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

CBS last fall yanked “The Reagans” after reportedly yielding to conservative critics who chastised the biopic miniseries as liberally biased and unfair to former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.

Lions Gate Home Entertainment May 18 will release The Reagans on DVD ($19.98), complete with commentary from executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and director Robert Allan Ackerman. Additional bonus material includes an interview with actor James Brolin on “being a Republican,” and 11 deleted/extended scenes.

Brolin and Judy Davis, who play Ronald and Nancy Reagan, respectively, each earned best actor Golden Globe nominations for their performances.

“Hopefully all of the controversy will have died down, and people can watch the movie as a movie and appreciate it for what it is,” Ackerman said. “What I'm hoping for is an audience.”

Cable station Showtime aired the program at the end of November, reportedly garnering its largest audience in two years.

Ackerman, who said he's never discussed the show's withdrawal with CBS, said the producers were “caught by surprise by the reaction from the right wing,” who he said alleged the film contained “unsubstantiated claims” about Reagan's attitude towards a burgeoning AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, and a “Mommy Dearest” portrayal of Nancy Reagan, among other charges.

“They cited scenes in the movie that weren't even in the movie, such as scenes in which she [allegedly] beat her children,” Ackerman said. “The complaints were way over the top, completely out of control and wildly exaggerated.”

He said criticism came primarily from people who had only seen trailers of the series — a situation he says was replicated prior to the recent ABC “Nightline” TV broadcast of the names and pictures of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.

“That's the scariest part,” Ackerman said. “Are we beginning to see real censorship in this country?”

He said the film was never intended to be about the Reagans specifically; opting instead to raise questions about leadership, how this country chooses its leaders, what they actually know about the running of a country and what is going on behind their backs.

“I think it is sort of prophetic, because that is exactly what is going on now,” Ackerman said of Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal.

“Who knew about the abuse in the Iraqi prisons?” he said. “Who knew about the fact that there might not be weapons of mass destruction? What did the president know before 9-11? What was kept from him? The movie just keeps asking [those types of questions] over and over.”

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