A 2007 comedy-drama presented by Universal Pictures in association with Relativity Media, Charlie Wilson’s War tells the unbelievable true story of a United States congressman whose determined efforts at the height of the Afghan War have had an immeasurable impact on global politics. Prompted by a longtime friend and wealthy Houston socialite and aided by a hardened CIA agent, Texas Representative Charlie Wilson secures federal support to provide vital aid to the Mujahideen, giving Afghanistan’s freedom fighters the support they need to liberate their nation.
Written by an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and directed by an Oscar-winning filmmaker, Charlie Wilson’s War also features an impressive ensemble cast comprised of no fewer than three Academy Award winners. Drawing on their collective talent and the storied political history of Charlie Wilson, the following revered creative professionals came together to tell this outrageous true story:
Charlie Wilson’s War marked Mike Nichol’s final directorial performance before his passing in 2014. Over the course of his prolific entertainment career, the Oscar-winning director and producer earned acclaim for such modern classics as The Graduate (1967), The Birdcage (1996), and Closer (2004). Nichols received four Best Director Academy Award nominations for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988), and The Graduate (1967), taking home the prize for the latter. He also earned a 1994 Best Picture nomination for The Remains of the Day (1993), which he helped produce.
Mike Nichols’ mark on the entertainment world has spanned film, television, and theater, and he is one of only a dozen entertainers to earn an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Early in his career, he and a group of fellow actors and writers, including Elaine May, Byrne Piven, and Paul Stills, founded the famous Second City Improv comedy troupe, which has since served as a launching pad for such noteworthy comedic stars as Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Jane Lynch. For his wide-reaching and significant impact on not only American entertainment, but also American culture, Mike Nichols received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003.
The American public first became aware of Charlie Wilson’s significant role in the Afghan War when prominent journalist George Crile III profiled the politician in a 1988 episode of 60 Minutes. After accepting Mr. Wilson’s personal invitation for a tour of the Middle East, George Crile decided to expand upon his exploits in what would eventually become a best-selling book.
After reading just 50 pages of Crile’s engaging nonfiction novel, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin learned that Playtone had recently purchased the rights to the film and immediately set upon courting the producers to earn a shot at the project. As an Emmy Award-winning writer well-known for his sharp, witty dialogue and engaging political storylines, it didn’t take much convincing for Sorkin to get the job. In addition to Crile’s novel, Sorkin also drew on meetings with the author, his personal research, and interviews with Charlie Wilson to adapt the incredible story for the big screen.
Aaron Sorkin previously explored topics of political power and intrigue in A Few Good Men (1992), The American President (1995), and the popular televisions series The West Wing (1999). He later received the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Social Network (2010)and earned an additional nomination for the adapted screenplay of Moneyball (2011) the following year.
Tom Hanks stars in the leading role of Charlie Wilson, the charismatic congressman whose penchant for revelry has earned him the nickname “Good Time Charlie.” While Wilson’s charms often helped him avoid scandals stemming from his love of women and whiskey, his political success was no fluke. By the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, he had served for an unprecedented six years as the representative of Texas’ 2nd district, subverting regional political archetypes as a liberal champion of the underserved who simultaneously supported a woman’s right to choose and opposed gun control. But Wilson’s unique political influence would have far broader implications, as he would soon become involved in a covert political effort that would change the future of international relations.
Tom Hanks is one of the most well-known actors in Hollywood. After receiving his first Academy Award nomination for Big (1988), the actor and producer earned consecutive Best Actor Oscars for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994). Hanks would later garner nominations for his starring performances in Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Cast Away (2000). He remains recognizable for his lead performances in a diverse array of films including The DaVinci Code (2006), The Green Mile (1999), and Toy Story (1995).
Beloved by audiences for her musical voice, beautiful smile, and charming demeanor, Julia Roberts has captured America’s heart with a variety of leading roles. She earned popularity among younger moviegoers in the 1988 cult classic Mystic Pizza, soon after receiving an Oscar nomination for her supporting performance in Steel Magnolias (1989). Roberts obtained her first Best Lead Actress nod for Pretty Woman (1990), and the 2000 biographical drama Erin Brokovich would land the talented actress her first Academy Award.
In Charlie Wilson’s War, Julia Roberts plays Joanne Herring, the wealthy Texas socialite, supporter, and sometimes romantic interest of Charlie Wilson, who urges him to use his political clout to advocate for the cause of Afghan people. Roberts reported being drawn to the depth of the script and its characters, and she enjoyed the uniqueness of Joanne in particular. “She is really a contrast study in every way—a beautiful socialite who also is zealously interested in the plight of these Afghan fighters.” As a strategic artistic decision, Julia Roberts chose not to meet the real Joanne until she’d extensively researched the part, noting that playing a real individual requires toeing the “fine line between imitating and interpreting.”
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the astute and quick-tempered CIA agent
Gust Avrakatos, who helps Charlie Wilson and Joanne Herring connect with the people and resources needed to accomplish their goals. Although Avrakatos passed away in 2005, Hoffman spent time with the operative’s son and former associate Milt Bearden—who also served as the film’s CIA technical advisor—to get to know him. Both Mit Bearden and Charlie Wilson were impressed at how accurately he portrayed their late partner.
Philip Seymour Hoffman garnered widespread acclaim as one of Hollywood’s most talented actors, landing his breakthrough role in Boogie Nights (1997) before giving several impressive supporting performances in films like The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Almost Famous (2000), and Red Dragon (2002). Hoffman earned the Best Actor Oscar for his lead performance in Capote (2005), later receiving Best Supporting Actor nominations for his performance in Charlie Wilson’s War, Doubt (2008), and The Master (2012). Sadly, Philip Seymour Hoffman passed on February 2, 2014.