Sandra Bullock's new film declares in its trailer that it is "inspired by true events," but that doesn't mean that Our Brand is Crisis is based on a true story entirely. In the film, a political satire of sorts, Bullock plays Jane Bodine, a smart political operative who has worked both successfully and unsuccessfully as a campaign manager. Our Brand Is Crisis finds Jane's career at a low, with one last opportunity for glory: the reelection campaign of Bolivian President Castillo. As for whether it's based in reality, all of this sounds more than plausible — with American politics in the headlines, both at home and abroad, why wouldn't political operatives — or "fixers" — go abroad to work on foreign campaigns?
It turns out that Jane Bodine and Bolivian President Castillo are simply works of fiction, but their professional relationship and conflict is based on the true story of James Carville, Jeremy Rosner and other political fixers, when they went into Bolivia to run the reelection campaign of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002. That 2002 Bolivian election was the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Rachel Boynton, also titled Our Brand Is Crisis, released in 2005.
The narrative set forth by Boynton's original documentary provided the inspiration for Peter Straughan's screenplay for Our Brand Is Crisis, but none of the characters are directly based on real people. In fact, Bullock has said that the character of Jane Bodine was originally written as a man.
"We take a lot of creative license. So, we basically take the general idea of the story and then, sort of, fictionalized the characters. We didn't want to be beholden — basically — and because a lot of people are alive who were in the original story," producer Grant Heslov told Variety.
It's unclear how much Boynton was involved in the development of Our Brand Is Crisis, but director David Gordon Green has been adamant that Boynton's documentary provided only a foundation for the film. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Green discussed his creative interpretation of the real events that inspired the story, saying,
"I rely on some sort of foundation of truth and authenticity. And I think that the documentary and the director of the documentary, Rachel Boynton, were very valuable to me. It's obviously not a re-creation of the documentary verbatim. We're taking a lot of creative liberties and designing this character to be a Sandra Bullock vehicle. So it was just making sure we had enough of an anchor of truth that we could then take our tangents and detours and combine characters or traits from multiple real-life personalities into one character that was fabricated for the purposes of the film."
In the same interview, Green admitted that Billy Bob Thornton, who plays Jane's political campaign rival Pat Candy, shaving his head for the role will undoubtedly draw comparisons between his character and James Carville. Green, however, did not consult Carville during the making of Our Brand Is Crisis.
The creative minds behind Our Brand Is Crisis may have kept their distance from the real people who inspired the story, but the movie is bound to incite some interesting debate as to the manipulative nature of modern politics.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures