'hollywood On The Potomac': New Book Captures D.c. On Film (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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'Hollywood On The Potomac': New Book Captures D.C. On Film

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and this week our theme is Homegrown D.C. We'll visit D.C.'s first public-housing project designed and built by African Americans.

MS. BARBARA WATKINS HAGANS

00:00:19
I do remember all the doors were painted blue and everyone had little red lawn mowers. Even though it was not our property, we treated it as it was.

SHEIR

00:00:27
And we'll motor around with a Washington cabbie/amateur filmmaker.

MR. OLEG MERKULOV

00:00:32
And so it was a guy kicked with his leg, that kicked the door, that bang in the door. Then he kicked my window out. All the glass was flying all over me.

SHEIR

00:00:41
Plus, hanging out with a local band whose songs draw from D.C. in a major way.

MS. RACHEL LORD

00:00:45
Remembering that space was something else before the Target, I think is sort of an idea we were trying to sort of play within the lyrics of D.C. USA.

SHEIR

00:00:58
But, before we get to all that, we're going to bring you some memoirs inspired by life in our fair city. Six-word memoirs, to be exact. An idea we're kind of borrowing from our friends at WLRN in Miami. We really dug this idea of describing daily existence in your city in just a few words. So we went around the halls of WAMU and asked our colleagues to do just that. Not surprisingly the homegrown denizens among us wanted to show their D.C. pride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

00:01:25
D.C. native, raised in Shepherd Park.

SHEIR

00:01:28
Others wanted to vent about their commutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

00:01:31
Summer heat, MARC train delayed again.

SHEIR

00:01:34
Some just made us laugh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2

00:01:36
It'll look good on your resume.

SHEIR

00:01:38
And others, well, in a weird way they were just simply classic D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2

00:01:42
Jumbo slice on a car windshield.

SHEIR

00:01:45
In any case, we want to toss the ball into your court now. If you have a six-word memoir you'd like to share with us, we'd love to hear it. You can reach us at metro@wamu.org or find us on Twitter. Our handle is @wamumetro.

SHEIR

00:02:07
So as we get our Homegrown D.C. show rolling, we're actually going to look across the country now and turn to Hollywood. This weekend marks a momentous occasion for Tinseltown, as stars of the silver screen gather for the 85th Academy Awards.

SHEIR

00:02:22
And among the various contenders in different categories, you'll find a handful of films, "Argo," "Lincoln," and "Zero Dark Thirty," among them, that cast the nation's Capitol in somewhat of a starring role.

MR. MIKE CANNING

00:02:33
In my own researches about movies made in D.C. or about D.C., the last 20 years I'd say, almost a Washington genre has grown up because 80 to 85 Hollywood movies have been shot here on and off in that time, which is a lot.

SHEIR

00:02:46
And this guy should know. Longtime Capitol Hill resident Mike Canning has indeed done a ton of research about movies in, on and about Washington. And he's compiled all of that research into a brand new book.

CANNING

00:02:59
Called "Hollywood on the Potomac."

SHEIR

00:03:00
Subtitle, "How the Movies View Washington, D.C." In the book, Mike points out that despite the plethora of D.C.-based or D.C.-inspired movies, the District is not an easy place to shoot a commercial film. First, you have to negotiate your way through all the various jurisdictions. I mean, you've got executive, congressional and local. Second, D.C. just doesn't offer the financial incentives that other cities like Baltimore or Richmond do. And third, of course, there's the issue of security, which leads us to the particular location where I met up with Mike Canning not too long ago, 3rd Street Southeast and East Capitol.

CANNING

00:03:36
I picked this location because it has the confluence of a number of locations that have been used in Washington movies over the years and in part, too, because it defines the limit of where you can shoot the Capitol from. Third Street, right in front of us here, is the limit, the closest you can get to shooting the Capitol. While cars can drive down East Capitol and be shot, basically action takes place right at this point. And examples of which are the Folger Library, just on the other side of the street from us, has been used a couple of times in Washington movies.

CANNING

00:04:10
Once in "The Seduction of Joe Tynan," from 1978, an Alan Alda film used one of the rooms inside for a senator's office.

SHEIR

00:04:21
So the Folger's never played itself? It's always played a different role?

CANNING

00:04:24
I don't think the Folger as such has ever played itself. Maybe it should. Across the street are a couple of buildings in more recent films that people might remember. The large one is the John Jay Building on East Capitol in the 300 block, where Clint Eastwood climbed up on the roof to chase John Malkovich, the villain.

SHEIR

00:04:42
He totally did. That's right.

CANNING

00:04:42
Yeah, "In The Line of Fire," in 1993.

CANNING

00:04:52
And it's very evident when you see it, because you can see the background of the Supreme Court and the Capitol. Just next to it is an apartment building called the Colcord, which was the site of Annette Benning's apartment in "The American President," from 1995.

SHEIR

00:05:06
With Michael Douglas.

CANNING

00:05:06
With Michael Douglas as the sweet president, a Rob Reiner film with an Aaron Sorkin script.

CANNING

00:05:44
But that's where she lived and where she had trouble getting to the President's house in a cab via Dupont Circle a couple of times. Typical Washington goof.

SHEIR

00:05:53
So what about goofs or gaffes? Do you have some favorites where they're depicting Washington, but we all know that's not Washington or that's not how Washington works?

CANNING

00:06:03
Well, indeed. My favorite gaffe, which I highlight in the book. It's just hilariously funny for somebody who lives here. And this is from a movie that was released in 1987 called, "No Way Out," with Kevin Costner.

CANNING

00:06:14
There's a sequence where he's in a chase, running in a car from the Pentagon to Georgetown, where he's trying to warn a woman who's going to be assassinated. He and the assassins are coming across the Whitehurst Freeway and he stops their car, to stop them, he jumps over the Whitehurst Freeway Bridge down onto K Street, which is correct, and he runs in and around Georgetown and he runs on the C & O Canal Route, all very effectively and rather with verisimilitude. That's basically where you would go, trying to get to this woman's office.

CANNING

00:06:49
And then the kicker is he comes off the C & O Canal, up some steps, into the Georgetown Metro. Anybody who lives here knows there is no, and has never been, pointedly, a Georgetown Metro. So my wife and I always remember when we saw this movie in 1987 in first run, the audience went nuts. One guy threw popcorn at the screen because it was so ludicrous. And the whole sequence is just a hilarious goof and one of the best.

SHEIR

00:07:19
Well, Mike Canning, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.

CANNING

00:07:22
My pleasure.

SHEIR

00:07:24
Mike Canning is the author of "Hollywood on the Potomac: How the Movies View Washington, D.C.," published by the Friends of Southeast Library.

SHEIR

00:07:32
You can find more on the book, including photos from some favorite Washington films of years gone by on our website, metroconnection.org. And we want to know, do you have a favorite movie about Washington, D.C.? Or a favorite movie gaffe perhaps? Tell us all about it. Our email address is metro@wamu.org.
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