Today marks the 100th anniversary of the late great President Ronald Reagan’s birthday, so it’s fitting that this year a biopic on his life, titled “Reagan,” will begin filming. Mark Joseph, founder of multi-media company MJM Entertainment Group and the film’s producer gave me an update on the film’s progress this week.
The first draft of the script is done, Joseph said. “I wanted the film to highlight both who Reagan was as a boy, as a man, as well as what his mission in life was, which was to roll back communism and the Soviet Union.” As those following this project know, he’s doing that with the help of two books optioned from professor and biographer Paul Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan and The Crusader.
“Ultimately people are going to the movies to see somebody’s story,” Joseph said. “The first book (God and Ronald Reagan) provides insight into who Reagan was. The second (The Crusader) is, frankly, it’s intrigue. It’s what’s going on behind the scenes – who is he working with to make his vision happen.”
Having read The Crusader, I’ll verify that it’s Cold War intrigue through and through. In addition to the books and input from Kengor himself, Joseph said that he and screenwriter Jonas McCord have been consulting with Reagan contemporaries like Ed Meese and George Schultz.
Joseph followed his own unique path to becoming the film’s producer. “I think I kept waiting for somebody else to do it and when nobody did I guess I decided I should,” he said. It started when he got a speeding ticket while driving from Chicago to St. Louis. The ticket required a court appearance in Dixon, Illinois, Reagan’s hometown. Being in the town touched him. “About six months later is when I optioned the film rights to the books,” he said.
As to the content of the script, Joseph said, “Frankly the hardest part in this story is deciding what gets left behind. He lived a life that is just so interesting and so full, so large.” Joseph verified that the film would include a young Reagan crossing the picket lines in Hollywood, his early efforts to combat communism in the Screen Actors Guild.
Joseph is currently in talks with actors to take the film from the page to the screen. An actress to play Nancy Reagan has signed onto the project, though Joseph couldn’t give me her name. He did confirmed that shooting will start this year.
One interesting addition to the project last year was that Ralph Winter – producer of fanboy flicks like Star Trek movies III-VI, the X-Men series, the Fantastic Four films, and the 2001 Planet of the Apes – signed on as a producer. I doubt this means that we’re going to see Reagan in tights physically battling the USSR, but having a guy like Winter on board can’t be a bad thing.