7.2/10
76,464
230 user 144 critic

Wag the Dog (1997)

Trailer
0:31 | Trailer
Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a Presidential sex scandal.

Director:

Barry Levinson

Writers:

Larry Beinhart (book), Hilary Henkin (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
4,573 ( 293)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dustin Hoffman ... Stanley Motss
Robert De Niro ... Conrad Brean
Anne Heche ... Winifred Ames
Woody Harrelson ... Sgt. William Schumann
Denis Leary ... Fad King
Willie Nelson ... Johnny Dean
Andrea Martin ... Liz Butsky
Michael Belson Michael Belson ... President
Suzanne Cryer ... Amy Cain
John Michael Higgins ... John Levy
Suzie Plakson ... Grace
Kirsten Dunst ... Tracy Lime
Jason Cottle ... A.D.
David Koechner ... Director
Harland Williams ... Pet Wrangler
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Storyline

After being caught in a scandalous situation days before the election, the president does not seem to have much of a chance of being re-elected. One of his advisers contacts a top Hollywood producer in order to manufacture a war in Albania that the president can heroically end, all through mass media. Written by Christy

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Is this life imitating art in the film that preceded the biggest news story of 1998. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Despite their hectic schedules, Barry Levinson and David Mamet were able to communicate via phone and fax to put together what they felt was a viable draft script. Once the screenplay was delivered, Jane Rosenthal rallied the troops, and quickly assembled a table reading with Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, and several other talented actors and actresses, many of whom appeared in this movie. See more »

Goofs

On the blackboard stating the days until the election, the number 8 is written twice. See more »

Quotes

Conrad 'Connie' Brean: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"Special Thanks to The Cast and Crew for Completing Principal Photography in 29 Days!" See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Disney's Doug: Doug: Night of the Living Dougs (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Wag The Dog?
Written and Performed by Mark Knopfler
See more »

User Reviews

 
This is not nothing
1 March 1999 | by SKG-2See all my reviews

I saw this before the brouhaha with Clinton and Lewinsky broke, and I imagine most of the negative comments about this film came because they saw it after and thought this was a Nostradamus film. When I saw it, I thought it started a bit slow, and was a bit too self-satisfied (like the scenes of people crying at a concert; that seemed fake). However, for most of the way, this is sharp, biting, and yes, funny, though when I first saw it, I thought it was more accurate in its Hollywood satire than on its government satire. Time, of course, proved me wrong.

David Mamet will never be universally loved, because not only does there seem to be a large group that doesn't get him, but that thinks those of us that like him are degenerates. Myself, I happen to think he's one of the best playwrights and screenwriters working today (though I'm split so far on his novels). His writing may be highly stylized, but I guess I'm in tune to the rhythms of his dialogue. And he doesn't assume his audience is dumb; rather, he seeks to challenge them by asking you to come to your own conclusions, rather than hit you over the head. And he does that very well in this movie; at the beginning, we may think Conrad Brean and Stanley Motss are real sleazebags, but at the end, while we deplore the action they take of faking a war just for political ends, we can't quite dismiss them either.

Of course, a lot of that has to do with the performances of Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman (Anne Heche is also a standout as Winnifred Ames, the increasingly bemused presidential aide). DeNiro seems at first like a teddy bear here, with his beard, his hat, and his bow tie, but he transfers the energy associated with his more volatile roles (TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS et al) to guile and street smarts here. The way his eyes probe whoever he's talking to, and the way he anticipates almost every verbal comeback the other person has demonstrates that(he can't anticipate every event, of course, but once he gets used to it, he can).

But the standout here is Hoffman. There's been a lot of comment on Hoffman basing his character on Robert Evans. My own theory is he read Lynda Obst's excellent book HELLO, HE LIED, which talks about the producer's role, and simply played that. I formed that theory because of his mantra whenever things go wrong, "This is nothing!", especially when Winnifred reads him the riot act after their plane crashes. There's a part in the book where Obst talks about having to argue budget with the studio, and realizes it's all a game where they have roles to play; she argues for more money, the studio for less. Just as Winnifred's role is to be pessimistic, and Stanley's is to be optimistic. And Hoffman never condescends to Stanley, instead showing a talented, maybe amoral guy who deep down is so insecure that he values credit even over his life("F*** my life, I want the credit!" is one of the best lines of the film"). Contrary to his line, this film is not nothing.


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Details

Official Sites:

Barry Levinson | Production Notes 1 | See more »

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Albanian

Release Date:

9 January 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bite the Bullet See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$92,079, 28 December 1997

Gross USA:

$43,061,945

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$64,256,513
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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