Don’t believe everything you see on TV. Unless, of course, you lived it yourself. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Senator John McCain said they had no intention of watching Game Change, HBO’s adaptation of John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s stunning behind-the-scenes best-seller. Palin called the film — which EW.com readers thought was more than fair to the former vice-presidential candidate — “Hollywood lies” and her PAC wanted the cable network to put a “fiction disclaimer” on it. But some of the others portrayed in the movie opted to check it out, and had a noticeably different reaction.
During a visit to Morning Joe on Monday, Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist played by Woody Harrelson who was instrumental in choosing Palin as McCain’s running mate, said, “I think it was very accurate. For all of us in the campaign, it really rang true. It gave you a little bit of PTSD at times. It did for me. But, look, I think it’s a story of when cynicism and idealism collide. When you have to do things necessary to win, to try to get in office to do the great things you want to do for the country. And I think it showed a process of vetting that was debilitated by secrecy, that was compartmentalized, that failed, that led to a result that was reckless for the country.”
Schmidt, who also said there was a scene between Harrelson and Ed Harris (who played McCain) that was “almost verbatim” to a conversation that happened between himself and McCain, added, “The experience on this campaign is that there are worse things than losing…. I think the notion of Sarah Palin being president of the United States is something that frightens me, frankly. And I played a part in that.”
Schmidt isn’t the only one facing his past with the movie adaptation of Game Change. Fellow Republican strategist and adviser on the 2008 campaign, Nicolle Wallace, who is played in the film by Sarah Paulson, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that Jay Roach’s Game Change rang “true enough to make me squirm.”
In an interview with This Week, Wallace — who is portrayed in the film as the person taking much of the brunt of Palin’s insecurities and demands on the campaign trail — said, “This is a movie about the vast gray area where 99 percent of our politics actually takes place. You’re just feeling your way though a gray area and doing your best and that campaign was one of those instances for me.”
Meanwhile, other Palin staffers, despite not seeing the film, have continued to rally against it. For instance, ex-spokeswoman Meg Stapleton, who is not portrayed in Game Change, told the AP, “They don’t want to hear anything good. We all know Palin sells and the dramatization of Palin sells even more. This is sick.”
Game Change became HBO’s most-watched original film in nearly eight years, earning an average audience of 2.1 million viewers.