An Actor's Range: From John Adams to...Khrushchev
Actors love to display their "range," but it might be sad for fans of HBO's John Adams miniseries to see Paul Giamatti go from Founding Father to Soviet dictator. Tom Hanks and his PlayTone Productions, who made the Adams project, are now preparing a film on Nikita Khruschev's 1959 trip to America. Variety reports:
HBO and Playtone are looking to revisit one of the lighter chapters of the Cold War: Nikita Khrushchev's two-week tour of the U.S.
Paul Giamatti is attached to play Khrushchev in the telepic that is in the early stages of development. HBO and Playtone have acquired the rights to the book "K Blows Top," by Peter Carlson, which recounts Khrushchev's 13-day American sojourn in September 1959, a time when Cold War tensions between the world superpowers were running high.
Carlson is a former Washington Post writer, and long reviewed the magazine business for the paper's Style section. His 2009 book (cozily puffed by The Washington Post) contains some less than "light-hearted" moments about Soviet control:
Khrushchev's mood didn't really improve as his motorcade went on a meandering, two-hour tour of tract housing developments, while curious Angelenos gathered along the roads to catch a glimpse of the communist dictator. Most were friendly, but one woman, dressed all in black, clutched a black flag and a terse sign that read: "Death to Khrushchev, the Butcher of Hungary." Enraged, the premier asked Henry Cabot Lodge, the American ambassador to the United Nations who was accompanying him, "If Eisenhower wanted to have me insulted, why did he invite me to come to the United States?" Lodge was baffled. Surely Khrushchev didn't believe that the president had personally arranged for the woman to stand on that particular street corner? "In the Soviet Union," Khrushchev replied, "she wouldn't be there unless I had given the order."Or will Hollywood bite on the temptation to mock Fifties "red baiting"?
As Khrushchev veered between trying to seduce America and threatening to blow it to smithereens, he met with a mostly fawning reception. In New York, W. Averell Harriman hosted a cocktail party at his Manhattan townhouse, where the titans of American capitalism, including John D. Rockefeller III and John McCloy, chairman of Chase Manhattan, spent the evening trying to persuade Khrushchev that they wielded no great power. Scarcely less ingratiating was Sen. Joseph McCarthy's former henchman G. David Schine, who had gone into his father's hotel business. When Khrushchev arrived at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Schine greeted him effusively. Carlson tartly observes, "Finally, the famous Commie-hunter had found an authentic Communist, and he sent him upstairs to the hotel's luxurious Royal Suite."