Chetwynd: 'I stuck out like a sore thumb'

Industry veteran talks being a Republican in Hollywood

With this year's passing of Charlton Heston, the elder statesman of Hollywood Republicans might be producer, director and screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd. He has been open about his conservative politics since supporting Ronald Reagan for president nearly three decades ago, then making "Hanoi Hilton" in 1987.

That film, which shows a heroic U.S. military during the Vietnam War, is set for a DVD release after the Nov. 4 election and includes an interview with McCain as a DVD extra.

"I didn't set out to marginalize myself among my colleagues," Chetwynd said. "It just happened that from the way I live my life, it was obvious that I was a conservative, so I stuck out like a sore thumb."

Like conservative actor Kelsey Grammer, Chetwynd advises Republicans just starting out in Hollywood to keep their political opinions to themselves.

"You're under no obligation to declare yourself -- that's a tyranny of the left," he said. "There's no percentage in speaking out."

That said, Chetwynd maintains that it's easier to be a Republican in Hollywood today than it was in the past, partially because of supportive secret and not-so-secret organizations that arrange gatherings for industry conservatives.

Some, of course, say that this bit about Hollywood being hostile to conservatives is so much urban legend. "For some people, it has become part of their useful rhetoric," former Viacom CEO Jonathan Dolgen said.

Actors pressured for political donations, set workers belittled for expressing conservative views, anti-Republican posters and anti-military slurs come from the fringe. Those who engage in such behavior "are stupid," Dolgen said. (Related story)

"At Paramount after 9/11, we adopted a military base, just like we adopted schools," he said.

Dolgen -- who has been to about four Obama fundraisers (he lost count) -- can't explain why recent Hollywood political donations were going to Democrats over Republicans by an 86% to 14% margin. He notes, though, that, "There's probably a town in Iowa that's 86-14 in the other direction. It's meaningless. I just don't see Hollywood being hostile."

But for those who do perceive a problem, perhaps the solution is for both sides to change the topic while at work. "We should be talking about business, not politics," Dolgen said. "Maybe the problem in Hollywood is we have too much free time."

Not talk politics? Fat chance. "I can't take a meeting anymore without getting, 'You still support that blankety-blank?' Chetwynd said. "It gets tedious."
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