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Leonardo DiCaprio's 'October Surprise'
September 8, 2008

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

After failing to draw audiences with anti-Iraq war movie fare like "Rendition," "Stop-Loss," "The Kingdom," and "In the Valley of Elah," Hollywood is at it again.

In the closing days of the presidential campaign season, "Body of Lies," starring Leo DiCaprio, is set for release.

The film is another attempt to portray America as evil and includes themes of torture, covert operations, and terrorist accusations being made toward innocent victims.

A Los Angeles Times headline states that DiCaprio and director Ridley Scott "conspire" to make a hit movie, and then tags on the following subtitle: "The director and actor think 'Body of Lies' will be the Iraq-war movie that finally draws a crowd."

The Times also characterizes the movie as "the most stinging screen portrayal of American foreign policy by any Hollywood studio movie in recent memory."

In the flick, DiCaprio and Russell Crowe play CIA operatives who are pursuing terrorist cells in the Middle East. DiCaprio's character is an idealistic agent while Crowe's is a power-hungry bureaucrat.

American agents torture a suspect with a cricket bat, and one of the torturers whispers the words, "Welcome to Guantanamo Bay."

DiCaprio and Scott don't exactly seem to be on the same page when it comes to the torture of terrorists issue.

"If I'm going to get down to brass tacks, there's no rules," Scott says. "If I want to get the information out of somebody, I have to do it," he continues. "And it makes it a lot easier if that person put a bomb in a square or blew up a bunch of kids. I'd definitely take a cricket bat to him."

Scott looked to DiCaprio for consensus but got a "no" headshake in return. DiCaprio admits that films with these types of themes have not resulted in box-office success.

"It is a failed subject matter in the sense that none of those films has been successful," he says. "But whether ['Body of Lies'] was going to be commercial or not was never a factor."

I wonder how the investors feel about that.

Hollywood is also launching a new group of films, which contain themes that people of faith are likely to find offensive.

Bill Maher's "Religulous" embraces the substance of best-selling disbeliever books like Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and Christopher Hitchens' "God is Not Great." The HBO host's film attempts to use a "Borat" approach to belittling organized religion in particular, and theism in general.

Since the overseas success of "The Da Vinci Code," studios have been on the lookout for scripts with the same underlying concept: Jesus had offspring. They've apparently found two that fit the bill.

Johnny Depp is in talks to produce and play the lead in a film that features the so-called descendants of Christ. The movie will be based on a comic book novel titled "Rex Mundi." The story is a fanciful history in which the Reformation never occurred (elements of "The Golden Compass").

Taking adult comic books and making them into films seems to be of great interest to Hollywood execs. In another upcoming comic book novel novel-turned-action movie, Jenna Dewan, who has appeared in music videos for Justin Timberlake and Mandy Moore, will portray a female fantasy warrior in a film called "Magdalena."

The twist is that the heroine is the supposed descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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