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Donald Fey, who was a Korean War veteran and a professional writer for more than 30 years, died of heart failure on Oct. 18 — just as directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra were editing the dark comedy. It stars Fey as journalist Kim Baker, a dissatisfied American news copy producer who heads to wartime Afghanistan as a foreign correspondent.
It turns out the quiet tribute was producer Lorne Michaels’ idea. “He said, ‘You only have one father, and you only have one chance to do this,’ Fey told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s Tuesday night screening in New York City. “Like many, many times in my life, I took his advice.”
“He’s a journalist and a vet, so it’s so fitting — he really is a guy who embodied what the movie is about,” said Requa. Ficarra added, “I think he would’ve absolutely loved it.”
Rather than traditionally including a card with a photo after the final scene, the dedication strategically appears after the titles of individual cast members flash onscreen, and only as a line of text at the beginning of the scrolling credits.
“We actually argued a little bit,” Requa said of the dedication’s placement. “We’re like, ‘Just put it right at the end of the movie, before the titles.’ She said, ‘No, no, it’s better if you put it in a little bit, so it doesn’t draw too much attention.'”
Additionally, Fey and the cast — which also includes Christopher Abbott, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina and Stephen Peacocke — hope the movie’s multiple messages resonate. Fey noted that “it reminds people that Afghanistan is still happening, and that people are still suffering over there,” and co-star Margot Robbie said she admires “such a big leap of faith and tried something new — that’s grows you as a person.”
Kim Barker, the film’s real-life subject and author of the original book, is thankful the adaptation isn’t “Anchorman in Afghanistan,” but so much more.
“This is a different kind of movie for strong women — it shows women actually following their dreams,” she said on the red carpet, alongside her wartime team members in attendance. “If I had ended up, at the end of this movie, married and holding a baby, I would’ve punched this movie.”
Paramount Pictures releases Whiskey Tango Foxtrot in theaters on March 4.
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