The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Emmy Award-winning actor Damian Lewis (“Homeland,” “Billions”) has officially signed on to play the controversial former Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. Lewis will star in “Run This Town,” a Hollywood drama based on the troubled personal life and career of Ford, who died in 2016. With Ford’s name once again making international headlines, a new controversy has emerged — and this time it has nothing to do with smoking crack.
The film, written and directed by Ricky Tollman, reportedly centres around a young male reporter as he attempts to expose a political scandal involving Ford during his last year as mayor. While that may seem like a juicy plot, Canadians, and specifically Torontonians, know that when it comes to investigating Rob Ford and his antics, only one reporter comes to mind, and her name is Robyn Doolittle.
Doolittle, an award-winning reporter, spearheaded the investigation into Rob Ford’s addiction, allegations of domestic abuse, absenteeism and the infamous video in which the former-mayor smoked crack-cocaine. Doolittle’s work with The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, as well as her best-selling novel Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, would provide more than enough material to launch not just a movie, but an entire television series based on Ford’s chaotic life.
Although many details of Tollman’s film have not been released, the erasure of Doolittle is an obvious example of a male-dominated industry flexing its muscles to maintain power over women. While the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements made headlines by highlighting rampant sexual predation in Hollywood, the entertainment industry’s problem with women is so layered that it includes limiting the on-screen female representation in general.
In Hollywood, there is the long-standing belief that films starring women, racial minorities and LGBTQ charactes don’t translate to box office dollars. Although films with female leads such as “Wonder Woman” and “Beauty and the Beast” dominated the 2017, box office many scripts featuring minority leads are not backed by studios who are looking for the largest return on investment possible. This means that women and minorities are often relegated to supporting roles – the long-suffering wife, the love interest or the best friend. These characters are on screen, but not in the leading roll. They are seen — perhaps without clothes — but not heard.
In the case of the Rob Ford story being retold in Tollman’s film, one can only speculate the reason why the immensely complicated relationship between a politician and a reporter needs to be told from the perspective of a male lead. Tollman, the writer and director of the film has yet to issue a comment. However, Ben Platt, the Tony winner who has been tapped to play the young male reporter, replied to Doolittle on social media regarding the role.
Platt’s response, although well-intentioned, reiterates the problem with this adaptation of the Rob Ford scandal. It shows that when it comes to Hollywood, studios believe audiences would rather see an entitled, incompetent and fictionalized male character rather than watch a film based on an ambitious, competent and talented woman. Powerful women don’t get to star in the movie version of this story, they merely get to do all of the work in real life and hope that one day, a man will direct a film and make a buck or two.
With filming already in progress, it’s too late for Tollman and the production team of “Run This Town” to right their wrongs, and give Doolittle’s work the respect it deserves. The good news: for anyone looking to develop an interesting drama based on the powerhouse behind the real story, there’s still time and opportunity.
Perhaps someone should tweet Reese Witherspoon and see if she’s interested in another HBO female driven miniseries? Why wait for a man to do it? I’ll tweet Reese myself.