Local couple attends movie premiere
When Shaun and Tammy Davis went to see a movie premiere in Washington, D.C., this past week, they were anxious to see how the tale they lived through made the big screen. They weren’t disappointed with “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
“It’s laugh-out-loud funny and then serious, too,” Mrs. Davis said. “Everyone loved it.”
Shaun Davis, now the head of the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, worked in East Texas 10 years for Congressman Charlie Wilson. Wilson represented the Texas Second Congressional District, including Orange County, for 24 years. Davis said the movie captures Wilson’s personality and mannerisms with “dry, witty” humor.
In a telephone interview earlier this month, Wilson said he had seen the movie and enjoyed it. “I think it will be a crowd-pleaser,” he said. Wilson sometimes visited the set and gave advice, but he was not paid.
“60 Minutes” producer George Crile wrote the book, “Charlie Wilson’s War” in 2003 about the Texas congressman, known as “Goodtime Charlie” for his drinking and dating beautiful women. Wilson, an anti-communist, developed a behind-the-scenes covert war to run the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Crile credits Wilson with ending the Cold War as the USSR was defeated in the small country.
Today, though, we know the arming of the Afghan rebels led to the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaida. Wilson in past interviews said the United States should have kept a presence in Afghanistan to discourage the Islamic extremists.
The big-budget movie has big-name stars, including Tom Hanks as Wilson, Julia Roberts as Houston socialite Joanne Herring, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a renegade CIA agent. The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin, creator of “The West Wing” television series, and directed by the legendary Mike Nichols. Though the movie doesn’t open in theaters until Friday, the movie has been nominated as Best Comedy or Musical for the Golden Globe Award, plus Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman, all Academy Award winning actors, have been nominated for Golden Globes, along with Sorkin.
Davis said he was worried the film would portray Wilson as a buffoon, but he loved the results. “It could not be more awesome,” he said.
He had seen previews with Tom Hanks as Wilson and didn’t think Hanks perfected Wilson’s speech and accents. Hanks portrayal of Wilson’s mannerisms and dress made Davis forget about the voice.
Mrs. Davis said she wasn’t expecting to see the stars at the Washington premiere, but had been hoping. None, appeared, though.
She knew not to expect Wilson in Washington.
Wilson, now 74 and married, had a heart transplant in October. He has been recuperating at a friend’s house in The Woodlands to be near the Houston medical team that did the transplant. News media reported Wilson made the Dec. 12 premiere in Los Angeles, along with his wife and cardiologist.
The Washington premiere was invitation-only and benefited the Disabled Veterans of America. Wilson is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Navy.
The event was a reunion for the Davises and former Wilson workers, including “Charlie’s Angels.” Wilson was legendary for hiring beautiful women, particularly blondes, for his staff. His famous quote “You can teach ‘em to type but you can’t teach ‘em to grow tits” is included in the movie.
The women were also known for their brains, Davis said. The one thing he didn’t like about the movie was the “Hollywood” depiction of Charlie’s Angels with big hair and low-cut dresses.
“They were incredibly smart,” Davis said about the Angels. “They knew all the committees like the back of their hands and they knew all about the weapons systems Charlie was working with.”
Davis said Charlie didn’t have children, some nieces and nephews, so he treated his staff like family. One time on a campaign bus, Charlie asked Davis about his three children. When Davis mentioned that Hunter, then 5, was playing in an all-star baseball game in Corrigan, Charlie decided to drive by the ball field. One of the Davises’ prized photographs is of Charlie, squatting down and talking face to face with Hunter at the game.
Peyton Walters, a longtime Wilson employee known for his work in Orange, also attended the premiere. Walters was one of Wilson staff members who drove the Congressman around the district in a recreational vehicle. The RV was a traveling office and Wilson and his staff met with many constituents.
Mrs. Davis said Wilson was known for helping individuals in his district.
“That’s why he kept getting re-elected,” she said. “Everybody in his constituency knew what he did for the people.”
Davis began work for Wilson in 1986 when the covert war was going on. Davis said it took him a couple of years to figure out what was going on with Wilson
The book “Charlie Wilson’s War” begins with a photograph of Wilson and Orange native Liz Wickersham in the early 1980s. It also mentions Ms. Wickersham’s father, the late Charlie Wickersham, a good friend of Wilson.
Ms. Wickersham, a former beauty queen and CNN anchor, said the first draft of the script used her name and she was paying attention to how she would be depicted. However, her character was deleted from the final script.
Besides Charlie Wickersham, lawyer Lynwood Sanders of Orange is another close friend of Wilson. Wilson always stopped at Sanders’ office and held press conferences there.
And in a round-about way, Orange has another connection with the movie. Tracy Phillips, the daughter of Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips, plays the Fort Worth belly dancer Wilson took to the Mid-East. Coach Phillips and his father, Coach Bum Phillips, were born in Orange.
Wilson will remain a permanent part of Orange. The Wilson Building at Lamar State College-Orange is named in his honor.