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The biographical drama, directed by Jason Reitman, stars Hugh Jackman as Hart at the height of a media circus surrounding his scandalous extramarital affair with Donna Rice (Paxton).
The actress admitted to having no recollection of the Democratic presidential candidate’s fall from grace but, nonetheless, happened to stumble upon the story a year prior to her casting on the way to an audition.
“I was in my car driving and I was listening to Radiolab and the episode was about Gary Hart and Donna Rice and everything that happened,” Paxton told The Hollywood Reporter. “I remember wondering to myself why I didn’t know about this beforehand and why this wasn’t talked about more. And then I went about my day and I didn’t think about it again until a year after that I got the script sent to me.”
Paxton didn’t have the chance to meet with her real-life counterpart and instead mapped her character’s tabloid ridden persona through Reitman’s script.
“What I cared the most about was just capturing the empathy of this woman in this situation,” said Paxton.
Rice, the CEO and founder of the nonprofit Enough Is Enough, told Reitman after viewing the film that she was happy to have been portrayed compassionately. Paxton revealed that it was gratifying to receive rave reviews from the activist after steering away from the villain persona that has long been attributed to her.
“She was a person who was so much more than what she was portrayed as,” said Paxton. “I feel like she’s finally getting the voice that she didn’t have 30 years ago.”
News-gathering and distribution played a large role in the impact of the scandal at the time and Paxton discussed the changing media landscape and its role today.
“People used to get their information from the newspaper by hitting the stand. Things like CNN were just in their infancy when I was a baby,” she said. “Now it’s like every hour there seems to be a new story.”
The Front Runner had a limited released Nov. 6 and will expand nationwide Nov. 21.
Watch the video above to hear Paxton discuss her favorite day on set, reveal how she reacted to her casting and more.
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