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American Made, opening today, was poised to be the rare movie that could unite those on either side of the political divide. After all, it’s based on the one conspiracy theory that implicates both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in a massive operation that involved cocaine smuggling, money laundering and illegal arms exporting.
But those hoping for some Clinton dirt will ultimately be disappointed. The filmmakers decided to cut a scene showing a young Clinton getting a lap dance at an Arkansas strip club. In the script, it’s the moment when the movie’s real-life protagonist Barry Seal, played by Tom Cruise, hatches an idea to enlist Clinton, who was then governor of Arkansas, in the CIA-backed scheme.
The scene was nixed from the Gary Spinelli-penned script because the producer and financier, Cross Creek Pictures, wanted to keep the film from being political, according to sources.
Cross Creek declined comment.
The Doug Liman-helmed film’s original title, Mena, also was changed to American Made in an effort to downplay the Arkansas connections. “Mena” references the name of the town in Arkansas that contained a clandestine airfield used to smuggle guns and drugs back-and-forth to Latin America, during Clinton’s watch as governor.
Another scene cut from the film would also have implicated Bush, who was then Ronald Reagan’s vice president, in the illegal scheme that sent arms to the Contras and even trained them on U.S. soil in Mena. The scene in the script put the former president in the same room as Seal. According to the conspiracy theorists, Bush was knee-deep in the plot dating back to his days as head of the CIA. Though he appears in the shooting script, he does not appear in the finished film (George W. Bush does make a brief appearance in the film, where he’s portrayed by actor Connor Trinneer). Besides Seal, the real-life character who gets the most screen time is Oliver North (Robert Farrior), the former National Security Council staff member who was convicted in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair. He is depicted in the movie as an unambiguous criminal.
Depicting real-life characters on film is always tricky, given the potential for legal action — to say nothing of portraying two former presidents in Bush Sr. and Clinton. The filmmakers apparently had more leeway in the case of North since he was convicted, though his conviction was later vacated and reversed and all charges against him were dismissed in 1991.
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