Two decades after it hit theaters, Wag the Dog feels more relevant than ever — which might explain why HBO is rebooting it.
The pay-cable network is turning the 1997 big-screen political satire starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman into a half-hour scripted comedy, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And it has the blessing of the original team: The film’s director, Oscar winner Barry Levinson, is on board to executive produce the series and direct the pilot, and De Niro will serve as an EP as well. Rajiv Joseph (Nurse Jackie) will write the pilot.
The film starred De Niro as a political operative who hatches a scheme to distract the public from his candidate’s sex scandal with a fake war drummed up by a Hollywood producer (Hoffman). After its release, the term “wag the dog” became shorthand for a manufactured political crisis, and was referenced when Bill Clinton bombed a Sudanese factory during the 1998 Monica Lewinsky scandal — and again earlier this month, when President Trump ordered missile strikes in Syria while his administrations’ ties to Russia were being investigated.
HBO calls the reboot “an ode to the classic film but moving the weapons of mass distraction beyond politics and into business, entertainment and, yes, nonprofits. In the 21st century with the tools of social media at their hands, nothing is off limits to a small group of operators when it comes to manufacturing reality. Fake news is so yesterday.”