American Made Bill Clinton

An actor playing a young version of former President George W. Bush has a brief cameo appearance in American Made, the newest film from director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow), but the filmmaker’s drug smuggling period piece very nearly included an appearance from another former president. According to a new report, Bill Clinton was nearly depicted getting a lap dance in an Arkansas strip club. The Tom Cruise movie establishes a small Arkansas city as a hub of the Columbian drug trade, and Clinton was the state’s governor at the time.

In the movie, Cruise plays a real-life civilian pilot named Barry Seal was was recruited by the CIA to run drugs and guns into the country so the US could arming the Contras, and even train them on our own turf. The Hollywood Reporter describes a scene in which Seal comes up with the idea to list the Arkansas governor for help in which we see Clinton receiving a lap dance, but explains that the film’s financiers demanded that it be cut “to keep the film from being political.” Apparently the movie is “based on the one conspiracy theory that implicates both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in a massive operation that involved cocaine smuggling, money laundering and illegal arms exporting,” and yet another deleted scene would have pegged the elder Bush (then the Vice President) as being directly involved in the illegal scheme.

While a young George W. Bush makes a quick comment to Seal’s character in person, Clinton is actually referenced as well; the film’s version of the Arkansas assistant attorney general (Jayma Mays) talks to him on the phone at one point.

American Made has an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes as I write this, which THR says is one of the highest scores of Cruise’s entire career. I can’t understand why: I saw the movie earlier this week and it left zero impact on me. I was baffled at why Cruise and Liman felt so strongly that they had to tell this particular story, and putting that aside, I found the movie to be frustratingly shallow and not even fascinating from a stylistic perspective (an area in which Liman typically excels). Cruise seems to be having some fun with the part, but there’s nothing there, and I just couldn’t shake the thought that even though I’d never seen this story from Barry Seal’s perspective, the film felt like a checklist of tons of Medellin movies and TV shows we’ve seen over the years. If you go see the movie this weekend, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

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