In the middle of the Summer movie season, Townhall.com sat down with author, screenwriter Andrew Klavan to discuss life in Hollywood as a conservative. Klavan’s newest novel, Empire of Lies just hit bookstores.
Jonathan Garthwaite: I see you’re an out of the closet conservative in Hollywood. How is that going for you?
Andrew Klavan: It’s cost me I think, you know. It’s hard to tell you. No one ever says to me “you’re a conservative get out,” but there’s definitely been a drop in the number of calls I’ve gotten. I’ve heard a couple of stories from agents and managers that media executives say “oh yeah I’ve heard of him, who else have you got?” It’s definitely cost me. I hope I’ve made some friends but it’s so one sided out here, it’s such a one-party town that you can’t help but get hurt.
Jonathan Garthwaite: Every citizen has a right to be active in the political process. What motivates you to be upfront with your politics in a profession where it could hurt you?
Andrew Klavan: I think that the culture is hugely important and I think we’ve lost it. I think the arts are important and we’ve lost them. I think conservatives have can be really lunkheaded about this. We constantly complain about Hollywood and complain about the arts but we never do anything about it. We understand the political process, we understand the Supreme Court, we understand economics, but we seem to have no clue when it comes to the arts. And the way I look at it - If you win the political process but lose the culture, you ultimately will lose the country.
It won’t happen right away but you can see the effect. I think the arts for the past thirty or forty years have been a wholly-owned subsidiary to the left. It’s like dripping slow poison into the country’s consciousness. I keep trying to explain this to people. It’s not the preachy left-wing anti-war pictures that are the worst, although I think those are really bad. It’s just all the underlying assumptions that are constantly in every story. You know, businesses are always the bad guys, house wives are always desperate, religious people are always bigots, soldiers are always driven crazy by war. Those things are just assumed now in the arts and I think it has over time, a terrible effect on people. It seems to me right now that we are under attack -- seriously under serious attack -- and I’m far less concerned about violent attacks than I am about the so-called soft jihad, the stuff where they eat away at our principles and at our self-confidence and depend on our self-confidence being weakened. I think the arts have a lot to do with that, so I just think it’s important. I’ve never been good at shutting up, anyway. But even if I were, I’d think this is too important to shut up now.
Jonathan Garthwaite: What’s your take on Hollywood and Obama? Is this the perfect Hollywood casting job -- all special effects and no plot?
Andrew Klavan: It’s a pure act of show business and pop culture, You see that [Obama] standing on stage with 200,000 Germans chanting his name and you think “What has he done? What has he ever done?” Name an act of political courage he’s that committed, name an act of personal courage, name an act of personal achievement other than getting into Harvard. And you can’t. He’s purely an icon. You know, people keep saying “Obama’s a rockstar!” and I keep thinking “Yeah, he makes a lot of meaningless noise and people cheer.” That’s what he is. Obama is the very reason why we have to take back the culture because he’s pure imagery.Jonathan Garthwaite: Even though McCain in the past couple days has taken to likening [Obama] to Paris Hilton, David Hasselhoff and Britney Spears, might it simply endear him more to those that are wrapped up in his buzz right now?
Andrew Klavan: This kind of thing happens every now in again. People that come along and catch the imagination of people without really having the substance to back it up. The only question is, Will people wake up for November? You know, Americans always come to their senses, but the question is when?
Jonathan Garthwaite: I saw the other day you had comments on the new Batman movie. A number of social conservatives have critiqued it strongly, calling it too dark, violent, or simply psychotic. Other conservatives point to a strong good vs. evil theme in the movie. Where do you fall in that debate?
Andrew Klavan: I set off a bit of firestorm with my editorial about this because I compared Batman to Bush because Batman was fighting against terrorism and his working with surveillance and most importantly, giving up his popularity to keep people safe so that in the end the very people he was keeping safe hated him for it.
The other issue that you brought up about conservatives complaining that it’s too dark, too psychotic and all that -- this is a real problem, especially for artists like me who don’t write squeaky clean stuff.
Conservatives are the first people to tell you that society is imperfectable and that man is a falling creature. Put that in religious terms or not, you can say its original sin or that man is imperfectable. That’s the first rule of conservative ideology but they tend to turn their backs on works of art that actually show man as he really is. I think that as long as they do that, the left will own the arts because it leaves us nothing we can make except fantasy stories and squeaky-clean Christian stories that don’t make the argument and that don’t show the world as it really is.
And if you don’t show man as he is, you can’t show a world in which conservatism works. If society were perfectable, Marxism would be a great idea. It’s only because of human nature that we’ve developed the kinds of rules of economics and competing government powers that we have. And so you have to show that world and I think Batman exposed some of the complexities of being moral in an immoral world.
Andrew Klavan: My objection to Hollywood is not the movies that it makes, it doesn’t matter to me that Oliver Stone is working in Hollywood. He’s a beat-up guy who intends to make movies about the inside of his imagination rather than the world. But then the New York Times tends to report on the inside of its imaginations. It’s not the movies that get made, it’s the movies that don’t get made. It’s the movies in which the democratic politician is the bad guy, it’s the movies in which the liberal idea fails. It’s true in novels, too, by the way. It’s true in the publishing world, too. It’s not a question of silencing them or taking away from them the sole right to determine what works of art are important, which ones get made. We have to stop being the complaining guys if we’re just being critical. We have to start being the creative people and making the works that people go to see.
Jonathan Garthwaite: Your latest book just came out?
Andrew Klavan: It’s a thriller in which the bias of the media is like a character. It’s a story about a conservative Christian guy from the Midwest who has to return to the scenes of his kind of degraded past in New York. And while he is looking for the same girl there, he begins to unravel an Islamofascist conspiracy. And the problem is that he’s so surrounded, gets so sunk in the bias of media that he begins to doubt his own sanity, so it becomes a race against time about where he’s trying to unravel this conspiracy. At the same time, he’s kind of delving into his troubled past and troubled mind to test his sanity, to see if he’s going nuts.
Jonathan Garthwaite: Any chance we’ll see it in the theaters in the next few years?
When it came out and people asked me if it was going to be a movie, my immediate reply was “Not in the universe.” It’s a very openly right-wing book. It’s a book about being a conservative in a world of un. I’d be shocked if it sold.
Jonathan Garthwaite: It’s okay to have 13 movies that are anti-war on terror in one year but you can’t have one?
Andrew Klavan: Not one, you just have to look at the risk. And the fact that it openly talks about Islamofascism as a bad thing and calls it by name, all those things count against it.
Jonathan Garthwaite: Thanks for joining us Andrew.