CBS's Smith on Valerie Plame Movie: CIA Agent's Life 'Torn Apart' By Bush Administration
Near the end of Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith interviewed actress Naomi Watts about her latest role as former CIA agent Valerie Plame in the movie 'Fair Game': "...a ripped from the headlines true story of espionage and betrayal. Naomi Watts plays former CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose life was torn apart when her cover was blown by the U.S. government."
After playing a clip from the new film, Smith briefly summarized the controversy this way: "Joe Wilson was sent by the CIA to Niger to determine whether or not yellow-cake uranium was being exported to Iraq....when [he] said no, the Bush administration said somebody's got to pay and that was Valerie Plame." Smith went on to proclaim: "...it is not only this very public story but it is also sort of the private anguish of this family....That is almost torn asunder by this."
Smith failed to point out Plame's role in personally selling her husband for the Niger trip in a February 12, 2002 internal CIA memo, pushed forward by Sen. Kit Bond in May of 2007: "My husband is willing to help, if it makes sense, but no problem if not. End of story....my husband has good relations with both the PM [of Niger] and the former minister of mines, not to mention lots of French contacts, both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity. To be frank with you, I was somewhat embarrassed by the agency's sloppy work last go-round, and I am hesitant to suggest anything again. However, [my husband] may be in a position to assist."
In addition, he failed to mention Plame's spread in Vanity Fair shortly after her name was made public or her $2.5 million book deal which led to the movie deal.
Watts sympathized with Plame and Wilson: "...you get to be inside the privacy of their own home and see how it affects them as – as, you know, a couple....the mind-set of who she was in dealing with this crisis and, as a mother, a professional, a wife, you know, all those things. The personal stuff." Smith remarked that Plame was "almost like a soccer mom who happens to be a secret agent" and would be "very relatable to a lot of people."
Near the end of the interview, Smith eagerly wondered how Watts convinced left-wing actor Sean Penn to play Joe Wilson in the Bush-bashing film. Watts described contacting Penn, "Knowing that this content would really-" Smith interjected: "Irresistible." Watts continued: "Kind of be irresistible for him. And Immediately I got a message back [from Penn] saying, 'great script, a necessary story to tell.'"
Here is a full transcript of Smith's October 11 interview with Watts:
8:30AM ET TEASE:
HARRY SMITH: Plus, Naomi Watts tells us about her compelling new film based on a true-life story of betrayal on a grand scale, it's the case of CIA agent Valerie Plame, so much in the news during the Bush administration. And she'll tell us a little bit about how she got Sean Penn to co-star with her.
8:33AM ET SEGMENT:
SMITH: The new movie, 'Fair Game,' is a ripped from the headlines true story of espionage and betrayal. Naomi Watts plays former CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose life was torn apart when her cover was blown by the U.S. government.
[CLIP FROM 'FAIR GAME']
NAOMI WATTS: I had no plan for this day.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: When did you join?
WATTS: '85, straight out of college.
ACTRESS: Wow, that's-
WATTS: 18 years.
ACTRESS: So did they find you or-
WATTS: No. I approached them.
ACTRESS: And did Joe know?
ACTRESS: Your parents?
WATTS: Yes, but that's all.
ACTRESS: So, you have like lovers all over the world? Do you have a gun? Have you killed people?
[END OF CLIP]
SMITH: Naomi Watts joins us this morning. Good morning.
WATTS: Good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Naomi's Fair Game; Watts on Real-Life Spy Film]
SMITH: And in real life Valerie Plame was married to Joe Wilson, and Joe Wilson was sent by the CIA to Niger to determine whether or not yellow-cake uranium was being exported to Iraq to prove once and for all whether or not Iraq was making weapons of mass destruction. And when Joe Wilson said no, the Bush administration said somebody's got to pay and that was Valerie Plame. And here you are.
WATTS: Yeah. It stands alone, even without the truth involved, you would – this – it feels like something for the movies, you know.
SMITH: You couldn't – could not have made it up, almost.
SMITH: This is very – the whole arc of this is very interesting to me, not the least of which is, you had just had your second child.
SMITH: And somebody knocks on your door and says 'please read this screenplay.' And were you really looking to go back to work?
WATTS: Absolutely not. It could have not have been the worse timing. I mean, basically December 13th, I gave birth and the e-mail came on the 26th and I said, 'look, I'm not reading anything right now.' And I'm on the two-hour feeding schedule. And I knew, obviously, the story, I'd followed it well at the time. So, I was instantly intrigued and he said just read ten pages, you know, have a look at ten pages.
SMITH: And it was all over.
WATTS: There you go. You can't just read ten pages of this story. And I – what I was surprised is how much more I learned. You know, following it through the media, quite closely-
WATTS: And then, yeah, the details and what she went through.
SMITH: Because it simultaneously, it is not only this very public story but it is also sort of the private anguish of this family.
SMITH: That is almost torn asunder by this.
WATTS: Yeah. And that's what I loved about the script reading, was that you have a way in, it's set against these political events that we have to relive, which is disturbing. But, you have this – you get to be inside the privacy of their own home and see how it affects them as – as, you know, a couple.
SMITH: You got to meet Valerie Plame, right?
SMITH: And so, you're, as an actress, trying to plumb the depths of her soul. Was she penetrable?
WATTS: She's not someone that's easy to get things out of. She still has her secrecy agreement with the CIA.
WATTS: So, you know, those questions that you just saw now in the clip, you know, the temptation to ask those questions is there.
WATTS: But, you know, she's not going to answer those so you just, kind of just have to push all that stuff aside and the research was very extensive, what the writers came up with. And so I went with the facts available. But then, wanting to just get into the mind-set of who she was in dealing with this crisis and, as a mother, a professional, a wife, you know, all those things. The personal stuff.
SMITH: Yeah. She's almost like a soccer mom who happens to be a secret agent.
SMITH: I mean it's just – so that whole thing ends up, I think, being very relatable to a lot of people.
WATTS: Yeah. And if you met her in a social setting, you would never know that she could take you out in three seconds.
SMITH: I have the feeling that way about you sometimes.
WATTS: Oh, really? Well, I had some paramilitary training, actually.
SMITH: I read that, I read that.
SMITH: It's a different you now. Now Sean Penn was not originally involved, but you guys had done '21 Grams' several years ago.
WATTS: Correct, yeah.
SMITH: So you called him up and said or somebody – did you did call him, what?
WATTS: Yeah. I mean, we're friends from filming that and Doug and Jez Butterworth told me that they would-
SMITH: The screenwriters.
WATTS: Yeah, and the director said, 'look, we'd love to have Sean, you know, and we have a small window of opportunity let's cut out all the other middlemen, and can you just send the script to him right away?' So I said, okay, fine. Knowing that this content would really-
WATTS: Kind of be irresistible for him. And Immediately I got a message back saying, 'great script, a necessary story to tell.'
SMITH: Nice to see you, again.
WATTS: Thank you, nice to see you.
SMITH: 'Fair Game' opens in select cities on Friday, November 5th.