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How do you get Bill and Hillary Clinton to come to a screening of your film?
“That’s a terrific question now, isn’t it?” laughs Danny Strong, who actually knows the answer. The 43-year-old multihyphenate recently hosted Bill and Hillary Clinton at Crosby Street Hotel for a friends-and-family showing of his directorial debut, Rebel in the Rye. Turns out you just have to ask.
“My manager, the great Ellen Goldsmith Vein, and her husband know [the Clintons] very well. He asked them if they wanted to come and they said yes,” Strong tells THR. “It blew my mind. I literally couldn’t believe it. It was that simple.”
Not only did they attend — as did longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black and diver husband Tom Daley, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, filmmaker Richard LaGravenese and screenwriter Scott Silver — they stayed for 1.5 hours after the Aug. 10 screening just to hang out.
“They really loved the film and were so sweet and energetic,” Strong recalls of the nerve-racking meeting. “We took some pictures before, and then after the screening, I asked if we could take another picture and Hillary said, ‘Let’s do a selfie!’ “
Strong wrote and directed Rebel — opening in limited release on Sept. 8 in L.A. and New York — based on Kenneth Slawenski’s biography J.D. Salinger: A Life, following a story that centers on the author’s life surrounding the publication of his American classic Catcher in the Rye. It stars Nicolas Hoult as Salinger alongside Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson and Zoey Deutch. It may be Strong’s feature directorial debut, but he has sat in the director’s chair before, helming several episodes of Empire, which he co-created.
It’s not the first film the Clintons have seen in August. The political powerhouse pair attended a private screening of Wonder Woman in New York at the Alamo Drafthouse theater.
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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