Actor Robert Davi
feels a responsibility to tell you what he thinks about the latest headlines. He just happens to do so from the Right. The actor, best known for roles in "License to Kill," "Die Hard," "The Goonies," and the groundbreaking series “Profiler,” is also on the Steering Committee for George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute, and a national spokesperson for I-Safe, an intense Internet safety program taught to schoolchildren in all 50 states. In 2008, his feature writing/directing debut “The Dukes
” won nine international awards and you can see him next in “The Irishman
,” with co-stars Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer.
Robert Davi "The Dukes"
The actor spoke to Big Hollywood about his participation in the new film essay "Poliwood
." He's one of the few right-leaning actors featured in the movie, which explores how some of today's actors aren’t afraid to speak out on political matters.
"Poliwood" examines the role of actors in our culture, and whether they should participate in the political process. What are your thoughts on actors speaking out on the issues of the day? Have those thoughts evolved over time?
Since most know I am not shy about sharing my opinions, I would have to encourage it. But this comes with a responsibility to be informed and secondly -- it may cost one hiring possibilities or having fans who disagree with you not support your projects.
Levinson focuses more on liberal members of the Creative Coalition than conservatives ones and much of the documentary involves the DNC event last year in Denver. Does that surprise you, and should the coalition recruit more right leaning members to be true to its nonpartisan nature?
Well, I do not think the Creative Coalition stops any conservative from participating, I have felt welcome -- albeit I do sense a quiet tension from some, but that may just be my cologne. It may also be because there aren’t many vocally conservative actors who openly share their views for fear of repercussions to their livelihood -- though the majority of actors are definitely liberal or left leaning.
I understand you had long talks, on camera, with director Barry Levinson for the film. Those scenes didn't make the final cut ... can you share a little bit about that conversation and let us know what we missed?
I wouldn’t call it long, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. We had a discussion about the Iraqi War and the War on Terror that I wish had stayed in. Also there was a discussion with Dan Glickman the president of the MPAA, where I discussed the new Hollywood blacklist –- it’s called "taken off the list," but this happens in films -- sometimes some of our best scenes don’t make it in and wind up on the cutting room floor. But who knows, maybe we’ll see it in the DVD extras…
"Poliwood" includes a scene in which people in a focus group share their anger at actors who speak their mind on politics, and you're shown discussing how a fan became disenchanted with you simply based on your ideology. What are your thoughts regarding those scenes?
Well, that is, as I mentioned earlier, a hazard of being involved. Frank Sinatra, the greatest entertainer of all time, in my opinion, was one of the first celebrities to use his influence in politics and one of the first to support civil rights. He felt repercussions but didn’t let that stop him.
More interestingly, there was a very interesting exchange that I was part of in a focus group put together for the film with other actors and everyday citizens. Perhaps Frank Luntz [who moderated the group] will tell you about it, if he recollects -- as we discussed it sometime later. But “Poliwood” is not my documentary, I was asked to be a part of it to support the Creative Coalition and join fellow artists with differing points of view to discuss politics and Hollywood. It was not the film-makers intention to show the difference between the left and right in Hollywood --- although, personally, I think that documentary should be made. Get a conservative and a liberal filmmaker to co-direct -- that could be fascinating.
Do you ever have constructive debates with fellow actors who don't share your political views?
Well, I felt the one I had with Barry Levinson for the documentary was very interesting and while we may have disagreed, it was very cordial and I was moved by his sensitivity to our discussion. While Alec Baldwin and his brother Billy and I do not agree, we have had a spirited conversation or two over a good cigar. But I must say, I've had other discussions that were not so cordial. And at times an underlying tension does exist and no discussion takes place.
Actor Richard Schiff told me he doesn't mind it when actors speak their mind on politics, even if they do so with charged rhetoric (like Sean Penn). What do you think about actors whose comments are very inflammatory (and potentially alienating to fans who don't share the same world-view)?
I wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times months ago in defense of Sean Penn
being able to express his point of view. It explores my thinking on this subject and the last line of the article sums it up: "…in defense of Sean Penn, in defense of us all." If we attack speech we disagree with, we attack Free Speech -- it is a danger to our Republic. This is a more important issue than Global Warming. Look what happened in England; Michael Savage being silenced, or the attacks against Fox News and Talk Radio or Rush Limbaugh. My skin crawls when I hear some of the things Janeane Garofalo says, but she must be allowed to express her opinion.
I have asked all my colleagues in the arts to join the Free--Speech campaign
. This is something both left and right can agree on.
[Part one of this two part series can be found here.]