“The Comey Rule’s” release date is both unfortunate and hardly accidental. Showtime’s two-part miniseries, starring Jeff Daniels as former FBI Director James Comey, follows his attempts to tie President Donald Trump’s electoral victory to Mother Russia. The miniseries hits the pay channel Sept. 27-28. Creator Billy Ray all but demanded it drop prior to Election Day. Anyone interested in the truth, though, would argue production wrapped long before all the facts emerged. Maybe that was the plan all along. Here’s everything we know about the production, the timing and its intended impact.
Meet Your New POTUS
Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, a screen veteran for three decades, transformed himself to play President Trump. Gleeson won an Emmy in 2009 for portraying Winston Churchill in the TV project “Into the Storm.” Other notable films include “In Bruges,” the “Harry Potter” series and “Calvary.”
Gleeson initially turned down the Trump role for fear of potential blowback, but he later relented.
Billy Ray – Writer, Director and Partisan Cheerleader?
“The Comey Rule” comes courtesy of Billy Ray, who brings an impressive resume to Showtime. Ray wrote and directed the excellent spy thriller “Breach” as well as the journalistic expose “Shattered Glass.” Since then, he’s penned Tom Hanks’ “Captain Phillips” and, most recently, last year’s little-seen “Richard Jewell.”
Ray’s previous work suggests an apolitical mien with a dash of anger at the Fourth Estate. Both “Glass” and “Richard Jewell” excoriated reporters who failed to do their jobs. The latter proved so effective that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the newspaper at the heart of the story, demanded the film studio (Warner Bros.) add a disclaimer to the film. The outlet claimed the portrayal of late AJC journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) didn’t reflect her reportage.
“The AJC hung Richard Jewell, in public. They editorialized wildly and printed assumptions as facts. They compared him to noted mass murderer Wayne Williams. And this was after he had saved hundreds of lives … I will stand by every word and assertion in the script.”
Ray proved equally outraged when Showtime flirted with a post-Election Day debut for “The Comey Rule.” He all but demanded the pay channel change course and release the miniseries prior to the Election. Someone leaked a letter written by Ray to his cast and crew on the subject.
“[W]hile I’ve made movies about my country before, this was the first time I ever made a movie for my country. We all were hoping to get this story in front of the American people months before the coming election.”
Deadline reported that the cast signed on for “Rule,” in part, believing it would hit small screens prior to Election Day.
The miniseries price tag? $40 million.
That’s a Wrap
We don’t know the exact date of the film’s final shooting days, but press reports indicate cameras began rolling in November.
Ben-Adir says he shot his Obama footage around Christmas time.
We all know that in late March everything, from coast to coast, essentially shut down due to the pandemic. So we can safely assume the shooting part of the production ended at that time (more likely a month or two earlier).
Of course we’ve learned quite a bit since that time about the Russian collusion narrative, little of it flattering to Comey or the media narrative on the subject.
Meet the Cast
Showtime had little trouble assembling a crackerjack cast for the project. In addition to Daniels and Gleeson you’ll see Holly Hunter as former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Michael Kelly playing former FBI Director Andrew McCabe, “Breaking Bad” favorite Jonathan Banks as James Clapper and Scoot McNairy as former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Co-star Kingsley Ben-Adir gets his closeup as President Barack Obama, whose role in the Russian collusion saga is continually downplayed by the press.
We’ll have to see if Peter Coyote, cast as former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, will create the real figure’s disastrous July 24, 2019 appearance on Capitol Hill.
What the Pretend Obama Knows
Actor Ben-Adir is tasked with recreating one of the most famous people on the planet – former President Obama. He recently spoke to The LA Times about the gig and the bigger picture.
“I think the function of Obama in the piece is to provide contrast to Trump, as an example of a president who operates from decency and kindness, someone who just wanted to leave the country in a better place than when he found it.”
“A Higher Loyalty” – Fact or Fiction?
Ray based his miniseries partly on Comey’s best-selling memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.” He also leaned on, according to Showtime, “more than a year of additional interviews” to flesh out the narrative with “key principles” involved with the case.
What About the “FBI Lovebirds”?
“The Comey Rule” casts “Game of Thrones” co-star Oona Chaplin and Steven Pasquale as FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok,” respectively. The pair famously worked on the Russia collusion case and, more famously, had an affair they revealed via flirty phone texts.
That’s not all the pair revealed.
Their messages included a reference to an “insurance policy,” something Page and fellow Democrats tsk-tsked as something inconsequential. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. disagreed. He describes the verbiage as plans to attack Trump via the now-discredited Steele Dossier. The latter was used by the FBI to spy on Page.
Phelim McAleer created “FBI Lovebirds: Undercover,” a stage play starring Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson, based on the couple’s text exchanges.
Will TV Comey “Go Rogue,” Too?
We recently heard Yates throw Comey under the Beltway bus during testimony about the FBI’s farcical handling of the Russia investigation.
The former Deputy Attorney General testified that Comey went “rogue,” a term she approved of, by “unilaterally” directing fellow agents to interview Michael Flynn, the president’s former National Security Advisor.
Another key fact that won’t do Team Comey any favors? The 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” lurking in the FISA applications the FBI used to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Yes, “Comey Rule” Will Take Sides
The writer/director opened up about the creative process behind “The Comey Rule” recently to Vanity Fair. Here’s how he described capturing the title figure for posterity.
“As a dramatic character, basic story structure, you want to put your hero between a rock and a hard place, write the hero into a corner, and then he has to overcome the obstacles to come out of it, one way or another. And Comey, what he went through was a rock and hard place.”
Ray also adores Mueller, whose titular Report proved a massive dud second only to his bumbling Congressional testimony which even the biased press said was disastrous to the Democrats. The writer/director dubbed Mueller “iconic” and a “hero.”
Jeff Daniels, TDS Victim
The veteran actor’s career couldn’t be more diverse. He’s played a blithering idiot in two “Dumb and Dumber” films, a philandering father in “Terms of Endearment” and now an FBI director at the heart of a massive scandal.
In recent years Daniel has sounded as unhinged as Rob Reiner, John Cusack and other actors suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.
In fact, on a 2019 MSNBC interview he said Trump’s re-election would mean “the end of democracy” in America.
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