The Sundance Channel is running the absolutely wonderful, and little-known movie from 2003, Shattered Glass. If you haven't seen it, and you get the channel, do a search of its schedule and do yourself a favor to watch it. I hadn't seen it in a few years, but turned it on last night and was immediately caught up in it. And checked it out again this afternoon.
The film is based on the true story of star journalist Stephen Glass who wrote countless stories for the highly-regarded magazine, The New Republic. It turned out however that he totally fabricated over half of them. The film is a riveting tale, almost a detective story thriller, as questions start to arise, and little by little details are investigated, make all the more difficult by Glass's ingratiating, boyish -- and near psychopathic charms. It's made with much the same focused, really smart, engrossing sensibility as another true story, All the President's Men. And like that, even though you know the truth before going in, you're on the edge of your seat as the layers are peeled away.
The movie stars Hayden Christiansen as Glass, and Peter Sarsgaard as his new editor Chuck Lane. Others in the cast include Hank Azaria, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson.
It's superbly written and directed by Billy Ray. He's had a terrific career as a screenwriter, but why he hasn't directed more is beyond me, considering that he also wrote and directed the great, Breach, a similarly-tense, stylish, low-key thriller based on the true story of Robert Hanssen, who infiltrated the FBI as a spy. (That film starred Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe.) As a screenwriter alone, Billy Ray wrote The Hunger Games, Captain Phillips, State of Play and Hart's War.
A few years ago, I had a funny story related to the film.
It was during the last Writers Guild strike. I was assigned to picket at Paramount Studios, and signed in one day, and then wandered over to get a bagel and some juice. As I was standing there, three other writers -- two men and a woman -- were standing around with their picket signs, getting ready to join the line. They were talking about movies (of course...), and I heard one of them mention Peter Sarsgaard, and how much they liked them.
I liked Shattered Glass so much, and knew it was so little-known that decided to interrupt. "Excuse me," I said, "but if you like Peter Sarsgaard, you really have to check out the movie, Shattered Glass. It's amazingly good. And Peter Sarsgaard is just great in it."
"I know," one of the guys said, "I made it."
It was Billy Ray.
And yes, he was thrilled by the compliment. And one of the best kinds of compliments a person can get -- being told directly to his face without knowing who I was talking to.
Here's the trailer. It doesn't begin to do the film justice.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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