Outgoing GOP Congressman Wants to Be a Hollywood Screenwriter

Dana Rohrabacher - H - 2018

After losing his Orange County seat, Dana Rohrabacher is dusting off his script treatments for adventure films, World War II spy thrillers and surfing projects that he's shopping to producers ("there’s no deal until the contract is signed").

"Where is that treatment? I’ve got it somewhere," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher says while clearing out his space at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington.

Rohrabacher, a Republican, lost his Orange County congressional seat to Democrat Harley Rouda on November 6 after 15 terms in office. Now, he is pursuing his next act: Hollywood screenwriter.

"People forget I was a writer by trade," he says. "I was not Ronald Reagan’s best speechwriter — but I was his fastest. That’s my style. Work your damndest to file on time, then tinker with it until it’s perfect."

Rohrabacher now finds himself searching his Washington office for a particular treatment he can’t immediately put his hands on. It’s one of a dozen he has written over the course of decades, on top of two completed screenplays he has finished and is now in discussions to produce.

"I can’t name them, but they’re serious people and it looks positive," he says. "But, of course, there’s no deal until the contract is signed and the check clears."

Rohrabacher has had a colorful life — including fighting communists as a civilian in Vietnam and Czechoslovakia and as a congressman engaged in the war on terror.

Even more recently, he has been outspokenly pro-Trump and has been dubbed "Putin’s favorite congressman" in a profile by Politico for his Russian viewpoint and stances in the Beltway. His ties to Russia have been close enough that The New York Times reported last year, "the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name."

While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter by phone, Rohrabacher is standing on a rug given to him by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose work with the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan alongside a handful of American soldiers was featured in the Jerry Bruckheimer film, 12 Strong.

"Unfortunately, I can’t keep the rug because rules prevent us from accepting a gift worth more than $100," he laments. "I could just leave it for the office, I guess."

He adds, "I knew Dostum because after 9/11 I knew the warlords our CIA did not know. I have those experiences. Hollywood has great writers, but most of them have no life experience."

One of his completed scripts, dubbed, Baja, had been about a Vietnam war vet who teams with an archaeologist in Ensenada, Mexico, though he has updated it so that now the protagonist is back from fighting in the Middle East.

"It’s great because the Marine returning from war is the good guy, as opposed to so many in Hollywood portraying them as the bad guy," he says. "It’s a combination of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Easy Rider and Raiders of the Lost Ark."

His second full script is one he completed circa 1991 called The French Doctoresse, and it is based on the true story of a French woman who was a spy during World War II, then was put on trial as a traitor.

"I worked with her son for six months going through the transcript of her trial. You don’t know whether she’s the hero or the villain until the very end," he says.

"The people looking at it tell me it has the grandeur of Doctor Zhivago," he adds, without a hint of modesty.

Among his treatments he is tinkering with is the story of an American mercenary fighting in a third-world country and another about a few would-be thieves who tunnel into Fort Knox only to discover there is no gold there. "They realize the trouble they’re in because people need to shut them up about it. It’s a comedy," he says.

Ironically, he’s written nothing about politics in the nation’s capital, but if he does, it won’t be anything mundane like a drama about passing this or that bill, no matter how controversial. "My approach to serving was more hands-on than that," he says.

"I basically want to produce product that will make money and uplift the American people," Rohrabacher says. "I’m a 71-year old surfer, so I have some treatments involving surfing. I have real-life stories about attending pop festivals with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Grace Slick. Two weeks later, I was a teenager fighting Communists in Vietnam."

Despite being disappointed that Democrats outspent him during the election in which he was narrowly ousted, Rohrabacher says he’s not disappointed about losing his congressional seat after three decades in office.

"I feel liberated. I can communicate with a lot of people via the film industry," he says.