|Based on||First Ladies Volume II
by Carl Sferrazza Anthony
|Written by||Carl Sferrazza Anthony
|Directed by||Robert Allan Ackerman|
Mary Beth Peil
Francis Xavier McCarthy
|Theme music composer||John Altman|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Producer(s)||Robert Allan Ackerman
Carl Sferrazza Anthony
|Running time||180 (2x90 minutes)|
The Reagans is a 180-minute television film about U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his family which CBS had planned to broadcast in November 2003 during fall "sweeps", but was ultimately broadcast on November 30 of that year on cable channel Showtime due to controversy over its portrayal of Reagan.
The miniseries featured James Brolin as Ronald Reagan and Judy Davis as Nancy Reagan, and covers the period in time from 1949 when Reagan was still in Hollywood, through his governorship of California until Reagan's last day in office as President in 1989.
About a month before it was scheduled to air, portions of the script were leaked. As a result of these stories, the miniseries began to be widely criticized by conservatives as an unbalanced and inaccurate depiction of Reagan. CBS reportedly had ordered a love story about Ronald and Nancy Reagan with politics as a backdrop, but instead received what they later claimed was an overtly political film. Supporters of the film claimed that these criticisms were simply partisan bias, and were an attempt to censor a film because it did not always portray the former president in a positive light.
Conservatives began criticizing it before it was broadcast and claimed that it put words in Reagan's mouth and condemned it as leftist historical revisionism. Some of the criticism was based upon early drafts of the script and featured scenes that were not shot or were dropped from the final version. Eventually, after several weeks of outspoken criticism by conservatives, on November 4, 2003, CBS withdrew the broadcast saying that it did "not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans." The network chose instead to broadcast the miniseries on the cable channel Showtime, which along with CBS was owned by Viacom. In a statement on its web site, CBS said:
CBS will not broadcast The Reagans on November 16 and 18. This decision is based solely on our reaction to seeing the final film, not the controversy that erupted around a draft of the script.
Although the mini-series features impressive production values and acting performances, and although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans for CBS and its audience. Subsequent edits that we considered did not address those concerns.
A free broadcast network, available to all over the public airwaves, has different standards than media the public must pay to view. We do, however, recognize and respect the filmmakers' right to have their voice heard and their film seen.
CBS's denial that it was yielding to the furor did not persuade its critics. The producers of the movie noted that, before the outcry, CBS had approved both the script for the miniseries and had seen dailies as they were shot, and the film had been approved by two sets of lawyers. Jeff Chester, head of the Center for Digital Democracy, a communications lobbying group, said that CBS had chosen not to offend Republicans at a time when the federal government was considering rules restricting ownership of local television stations. CBS executives "made a business decision," he said. "In doing so, they clearly caved in to the political pressure." Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader of the time, commented that the decision "smells of intimidation to me."
A controversial line excised
One of the most controversial points in the script, and often the only one referred to in media reports, was the depiction of Reagan telling his wife during a conversation about AIDS patients, "They that live in sin shall die in sin." The screenwriters admitted that there was no evidence that Reagan ever said this; however, in the C. Everett Koop papers at National Institutes of Health, Koop stated that AIDS "predominantly affected people--homosexuals and intravenous drug users--who, in the view of President Reagan and his domestic policy advisers, brought the disease upon themselves by engaging in immoral conduct, and who were in greater need of moral reform than of new health information or policies."
This line was dropped in the Showtime and DVD versions of the film. The Reagans producers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, have insisted that every fact, though not every line of dialogue, was supported by at least two sources. However, according to Patti Davis, no family member or close friend of the Reagans was consulted by the filmmakers throughout the production.
Another factor which has motivated certain critics to claim bias was that Reagan was played by James Brolin, whose wife Barbra Streisand is an outspoken liberal. Brolin would later play Governor Rob Ritchie, a fictional Republican candidate for the Presidency in The West Wing, while his son Josh would play the 43rd President George W. Bush in the 2008 Oliver Stone film W.
- James Brolin – Ronald Reagan
- Judy Davis – Nancy Reagan
- Željko Ivanek – Michael Deaver, Deputy White House Chief of Staff 81-85
- Mary Beth Peil – Edith Davis, Nancy's mother
- Bill Smitrovich – Alexander Haig, Secretary of State 81-82
- Shad Hart – Ron Reagan, son
- Zoie Palmer – Patti Davis, daughter
- Richard Fitzpatrick – Ben Weldon
- Vlasta Vrána – Edwin Meese, Counselor to the President, member of the National Security Council 81-85, and United States Attorney General 85-88
- Francis Xavier McCarthy – Dr. Loyal Davis
- Frank Moore – Don Regan, Secretary of the Treasury 81-85 and White House Chief of Staff 85-87
- Aidan Devine – Bill Shelby
- John Stamos – John Sears, Deputy counsel to Richard Nixon and campaign manager for Reagan in 76 bid and briefly in his successful 80 campaign
- Stewart Bick – Lew Wasserman, Hollywood agent and Democratic Party fundraiser who was a lifelong mentor/friend to Ronald Reagan
- Tom Barnett/Tod Fennell – Michael Reagan, adopted son of Ronald Reagan
- Laura Press – Betsy Bloomingdale, well known socialite and close friend of Nancy's
- Dan Lett – Robert H. Tuttle, assistant and director of Presidential Personnel
- Carolyn Dunn – Maureen Reagan, daughter from Jane Wyman
- Victor A. Young – Alfred S. Bloomingdale, close friend and member of President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
- Don Allison – James Baker, White House Chief of Staff 81-85 Secretary of the Treasury 85-88
- John Bourgeois – John Tower, U.S. Senator from Texas and led the Tower Commission investigating the Iran-Contra Affair
- Rodger Barton – Robert McFarlane, National Security Advisor 83-85
- Frank Fontaine – William J. Casey, Director of Central Intelligence 81-87
- George R. Robertson – Barry Goldwater, Republican U.S. Senator from Arizona and key figure in Reagan's rise in the Republican Party
- John Koensgen – Mervyn Leroy, Hollywood director/producer who set Ron and Nancy up
- John Robinson – Jerry Parr, Secret Service agent who pushed Reagan in car during assassination attempt
- Sean McCann – George P. Shultz, Secretary of State 82-89
- Tom Rack – Elie Wiesel, Jewish writer, Holocaust survivor, professor who was critical of Reagan's visit to Bitburg, Germany to visit a cemetery in which some SS soldiers were buried
- Al Goulem – Oliver North, Decorated U.S. Marine who was on the National Security Council and although controversial, widely believed to be a scapegoat in the Iran-Contra affair
- Suzanna Lenir – Colleen Sterns Reagan, daughter in-law and wife of Michael Reagan
- Claudia Besso – Doria Reagan, daughter in-law and wife of Ron Reagan
- Lubomir Mykytiuk – Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Soviet Union
- Tatiana Chouljenko – Raisa Gorbachyova, wife of Mikhail Gorbachev
- Susan Glover – Helene Von Damme, assistant of Presidential Personnel and United States Ambassador to Austria
- Daniel Pilon – Donn Moomaw, friend, pastor of Reagan who gave the invocation at the 1981 Inaugural
- Christopher Dyson – Bernie Leadon, one time Patti boyfriend and founding member of the band The Eagles
- Lisa Bronwyn Moore – Kathy Reynolds
- John Andersen – Jimmy Carter 39th President
- Sarah Carlsen – Sarah Brady, lobbyist on gun control/wife of James Brady who was disabled after being shot during Reagan assassination attempt
- Brett Watson – Paul Grilley, son in-law and husband from 84-90 of Patti Davis Reagan
- Peter Colvey – Gerald Ford 38th President
- Alan Fawcett – Larry Speakes, assistant and White House Press Secretary
- Jerome Tiberghien – William F. Buckley, famous conservative commentator and personal friend of Reagan
- Bibi Burton – Christina Taylor based on Joan Quigley, Nancy Reagan's astrologer
- Marjorie Silcoff – Joan Didion, journalist, essayist, novelist who wrote articles for several papers including Buckley's National Review
- Kevin Woodhouse (uncredited)– John Hinckley, Jr., attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan
- "CBS pulls Reagan miniseries". CNN.com (Associated Press). November 5, 2003. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008.
- Buncombe, Andrew (November 5, 2003). "Reagan series dropped after attacks from conservatives". The Independent. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
- "CBS statement regarding "The Reagans"". CBS. November 4, 2003. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
- Susman, Gary (November 4, 2003). "In Dutch". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
- https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/QQ/Views/Exhibit/narrative/aids.html AIDS, the Surgeon General, and the Politics of Public Health