Director Joel Zwick Imagines a Trump White House at 'Hillary and Monica' Play Premiere
The helmer discussed his 'Big Fat Greek Wedding' collaborator — and bashed the Republican candidate — at the premiere of his new play about a fictional meeting between the future 2016 presidential candidate and her husband's one-time mistress.
It’s all about politics and sex at L.A.’s Odyssey Theatre this week, where the new comedy, Hillary and Monica, is celebrating its world premiere.
It’s music to your ears if you’re a Donald Trump supporter who hopes to rattle some skeletons in the Hillary Clinton closet as the general election approaches. On the other hand, a play that trivializes the Lewinsky affair may be just what the doctor ordered if you’re a Clinton supporter.
Director Joel Zwick (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), is among the latter, saying the rise of Trump "scares the pants off of me."
“I don’t like this man at three o’clock in the morning with a red button under his thumb," Zwick continued. "He makes instantaneous decisions and even if I believe most of them are wrong, you don’t make instantaneous decisions when you’re running a major country like the United States.”
Zwick defines Hillary and Monica as a "moral comedy," even though the title and poster with the presidential seal imply cutting political satire. “The same people that are wondering about what happened with Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton are living lives much more amoral than anything those people are involved in.”
Trump is only mentioned once in the new comedy, (as an “orange orangutan”), but a fictional meeting between Clinton and Lewinsky is dreamed up by the story's protagonists, a pair of playwrights (Barry Pearl and Rick Pasqualone), desperate for a hit. As such, Hillary and Monica is hardly political, instead focusing on interconnected friendships and romances among two writing partners, their lawyer, (Phil Morris, best known as Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld), and a disgruntled girlfriend (Rena Strober).
“A blow job is so important it almost closed down the whole government. Can you imagine that?” co-writer and producer Edward Michael Bell (married to the late Esther Williams), asked about the initial scandal in 1998 that paved the way for the Republican-led congress to impeach the president. Still, Clinton finished his term with 66 percent approval ratings despite the public shaming. “We’ve all had blow jobs, big deal. But it’s where we place this in our American psyche.”
Bell’s co-writer on the play is Victor Bardack, who, along with Zwick, graduated Brooklyn College in the 1960s. Despite sharing common roots, the two only met 15 years ago, around the time of Zwick’s breakout hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. A sleeper budgeted at $5 million, it earned $368 million worldwide, launching the career of Nia Vardalos. The recent sequel earned roughly $88 million since its March release. Zwick was one of the few above-the-line names from the first movie who didn’t sign on for the second.
“Nia and I didn’t do very well after the movie was finished. She started to run off and took credit for everything and became a bit of a publicity whore,” recalls Zwick. “She just took over when the thing started to grow. She took all the credit for it. As a matter of fact, she never even acknowledged the fact that she had an ensemble of actors that was nonpareil. They were just phenomenal actors that supported that movie and she wasn’t crediting them either. But they needed the payday so they did Greek Wedding 2. But I didn’t need the payday.”
One of Hollywood's few septuagenarians who continues to work regularly, Zwick currently directs both Girl Meets World and K.C. Undercover for Disney. And he owes it all to Hillary — not Clinton, Hillary Zwick, his daughter, who, while working at Disney, introduced him to her boss, Adam Bonnett, head of programming. “I’m decidedly grandfather age, which elevates my position. Plus, my track record gives me a lot of credibility.”