The Front Runner (film)

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The Front Runner
The Front Runner.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJason Reitman
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onAll the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid
by Matt Bai
Music byRob Simonsen
CinematographyEric Steelberg
Edited byStefan Grube
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • August 31, 2018 (2018-08-31) (Telluride)
  • November 6, 2018 (2018-11-06) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.2 million[2][3]

The Front Runner is a 2018 American political drama film directed by Jason Reitman, based on the 2014 book All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai, who co-wrote the screenplay with Reitman and Jay Carson. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J. K. Simmons, and Alfred Molina. It chronicles the rise of American Senator Gary Hart, a candidate to be the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, and his subsequent fall from grace when media reports suggested he was having an extramarital affair.

The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on November 6, 2018, by Columbia Pictures. The film received mixed reviews; while Jackman was praised for his performance, critics said the rest of the cast felt wasted and the film did not "dive deep enough into its central issues to make a compelling argument."[4]


After finishing second to Walter Mondale in the 1984 Democratic Party presidential primaries, former Senator Gary Hart is now the widely accepted frontrunner in the 1988 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Leading up to the formal launch of his campaign in April 1987, some of Gary's campaign staff are concerned he won't open up about himself (letting the public "get to know him"), instead focusing on ideas and policy. Meanwhile, at The Washington Post, editors and journalists discuss whether the paper should report on Hart's marital problems and rumoured promiscuity.

After the first week of campaigning, Gary joins his friend Billy Broadhurst for a yacht cruise from Miami to Bimini on the Monkey Business, where he meets Donna Rice, a young woman. Days later at an array of pay-phones in an airport, two reporters — A.J. Parker of the Post and Tom Fiedler of the Miami Herald — overhear Gary's end of a conversation, presumably with Rice.

On the campaign plane, Gary gets to know A.J., offering paternal advice and giving the young reporter a Tolstoy novel to learn about the Soviets. Later in Iowa, A.J. offends Gary during an interview by asking whether he has "a traditional marriage". Gary responds: "You want to know what I'm doing in my spare time, A.J., is that it? Follow me around, put a tail on me. You'd be very bored."

Meanwhile in Miami, Tom Fiedler has received an anonymous call from a young woman alleging that Hart "is having an affair with a friend of mine". Fiedler dismisses the call at first, but tracks two women on a flight to Washington D.C. and stakes out Hart's townhouse, seeing Hart go out and come back with Rice.

Knowing that the story will hit the news, Gary phones his wife, Lee Hart, and apologizes. After the story appears on page A1 of the Herald, Lee and daughter Andrea are besieged by reporters outside their home in Troublesome Gulch, Colorado. Meanwhile in D.C., campaign staffer Irene befriends Rice over alcoholic beverages for the purpose of getting information from her, and then sends Rice back to Miami, where her privacy is torn to shreds by the press.

Gary argues with his campaign manager, Bill Dixon, about whether to respond to the Herald story. Dixon thinks Hart needs to speak out to control the damage, but Hart vehemently argues that any response at all would legitimize the reporters' action, so that no politician would ever again have any privacy.

At the Post, reporters have received an anonymous package with photos taken months previous, of Hart with another woman. A.J. Parker argues that reporting on this aspect of Hart's life is not good journalism, but the editor, Ben Bradlee, overrules him.

Preparing for a press conference, Gary's campaign team notes that a majority of the public believe the Herald went too far, and candidates' private lives should be off-limits. When told that the media may ask whether he has ever cheated on his wife, Gary strongly retorts, "It's nobody's goddamn business!", which the team agrees is the perfect answer. As Lee arrives, the staff leaves. Lee tells Gary that she may leave him eventually, but not now.

At the press conference, it is A.J. Parker who asks whether Hart has committed adultery; instead of giving the rehearsed answer, Hart weakly stammers that he doesn't think it is a fair question. Later, A.J. asks for comment from the campaign, on the photos received by the Post anonymously.

Hart drops out of the campaign, and remains married to Lee for decades afterward.


Asterisk denotes fictional character

Presidential biographer and historian Jon Meacham appears in a cameo role as the moderator of a Georgetown town hall.



Political columnist Matt Bai became interested in American Senator Gary Hart after writing a 2003 profile of him for The New York Times; he released the book on which the film is based, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, in 2014.[5] The screenplay was written by filmmaker Jason Reitman, Bai, and former Hillary Clinton press secretary Jay Carson; Reitman also produced with Helen Estabrook for Right of Way Films, and Aaron L. Gilbert produced for Bron Studios.[6]


In June 2017, it was reported that Hugh Jackman would portray Gary Hart in The Front Runner.[7] In August 2017, the extended cast list for the film was announced, including Vera Farmiga as Hart's wife Oletha "Lee" Hart, Kaitlyn Dever as their daughter Andrea Hart, Sara Paxton as Donna Rice, Ari Graynor as journalist Ann Devroy, and J. K. Simmons as Bill Dixon, Hart's 1988 presidential campaign manager and longtime friend.[8] The following month, Jennifer Landon and John Bedford Lloyd joined the cast in unspecified roles.[9] In October 2017, Chris Coy was cast as press secretary Kevin Sweeney.[10]


Principal photography began on September 18, 2017, in Georgia, with Jackman revealing the first image from the set that day.[11][12] Production took place in both Atlanta and Savannah.[13]


In May 2018, Sony Pictures and Stage 6 Films acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, with a planned awards season release.[14][15] The Front Runner had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2018.[16][17] It then screened at the Toronto International Film Festival beginning September 8, 2018.[18]

The Front Runner began a limited release on November 6, 2018, the first film to ever be released on Election Day in the United States, a Tuesday. It then expanded to 22 theaters on November 16, 2018, and nationwide on November 21, 2018.[19]


Box office[edit]

The Front Runner made $6,849 from four theaters on its first day, Tuesday (an average of $1,712), a figure Deadline Hollywood noted as underwhelming; however, the site wrote that it is rare for a film to open limited on a Tuesday, and the film's impending opening weekend would be the true gauge of its box office strength.[20] The film ended up making $56,000 in its opening weekend (a six-day total of $76,199), which Deadline called "awful" and "really horrible when you consider that it's a limited launch of an awards contender wannabe."[21]

For its theatrical run The Front Runner earned $2,000,105 in domestic box office gross.[3]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 60% based on 222 reviews, and an average rating of 6.26/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Front Runner exhumes the wreckage of a political campaign with well-acted wit, even if it neglects to truly analyze the issues it raises."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[23]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
AACTA International Awards January 4, 2019 Best Actor Hugh Jackman Nominated [24]
AARP's Movies For Grownups Awards February 4, 2019 Best Actor Hugh Jackman Nominated [25]
Best Ensemble The Front Runner Nominated
Hollywood Film Awards November 4, 2018 Hollywood Actor Award Hugh Jackman Won [26]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards December 3, 2018 Best Portrayal of Washington D.C. The Front Runner Nominated [27]


  1. ^ "The Front Runner". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  2. ^ "The Front Runner (2018) - Financial Infirmation". The Numbers. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "The Front Runner (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  4. ^ Fujitani, Ryan (November 21, 2018). "Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II Are Certified Fresh". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  5. ^ Shafer, Jack (October 31, 2014). "Matt Bai's 'All the Truth Is Out,' About Gary Hart". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  6. ^ McNary, Dave (June 27, 2017). "Hugh Jackman to Play Senator Gary Hart in 'The Frontrunner' Movie". Variety. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  7. ^ Siegel, Tatiana; Galuppo, Mia (June 27, 2017). "Hugh Jackman to Play Gary Hart in Jason Reitman Political Drama (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  8. ^ Breznican, Anthony (August 23, 2017). "Here's Who's Starring With Hugh Jackman In the Gary Hart Film 'The Front Runner'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  9. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (September 29, 2017). "Jennifer Landon & John Bedford Lloyd Cast In 'The Front Runner'; Harold Perrineau Joins 'Dumplin'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  10. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (October 5, 2017). "Chris Coy Joins Hugh Jackman In 'The Front Runner'; Disney's 'Nicole' Adds Kingsley Ben-Adir". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  11. ^ Breznican, Anthony (September 18, 2017). "Hugh Jackman reveals first image as Gary Hart in 'The Front Runner'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  12. ^ Busch, Jenna (September 18, 2017). "Hugh Jackman Tweets a Pic from Day One of The Front Runner". Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  13. ^ Christopher Marc (August 23, 2017). "Hugh Jackman's 'The Front Runner' Shoots September–October In Atlanta". Omega Underground. Archived from the original on 2017-08-27. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  14. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (May 10, 2018). "Jason Reitman's Gary Hart Movie 'The Front Runner' Set At Sony, Will Bow In Fall – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  15. ^ "The Front Runner". Stage 6 Films. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  16. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (August 30, 2018). "'First Man,' 'Front Runner' and 'Roma' Among 2018 Telluride Film Festival Selections". Variety. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  17. ^ "Telluride Film Festival Program Guide" (PDF). Telluride Film Festival. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  18. ^ Vlessing, Etan (July 24, 2018). "Toronto: Timothee Chalamet Starrer 'Beautiful Boy,' Dan Fogelman's 'Life Itself' Among Festival Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  19. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 5, 2018). "Gary Hart Movie 'The Front Runner' Votes For Election Day Release In Industry First". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  20. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 7, 2018). "'The Front Runner' Election Day Opening Doesn't Win Bipartisan Support; Hugh Jackman Pic Hopes On Weekend Voters". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  21. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 11, 2018). "'The Grinch' Who Stole Business: Dr. Seuss Pic Opening To $66M As 'Overlord' & 'Spider's Web' Wither – Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  22. ^ The Front Runner (2018), retrieved 2020-09-22
  23. ^ "The Front Runner reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  24. ^ "International Awards". AACTA Awards. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  25. ^ "2018 Movies for Grownups Awards Nominees". AARP. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  26. ^ "Honorees Database". Hollywood Film Awards. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  27. ^ "The 2018 WAFCA Awards". Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Retrieved October 17, 2020.

External links[edit]