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Wag the Dog (1997) Poster

(1997)

Trivia

Jump to: Cameo (3)  | Director Trademark (1)
After this film was released, U.S. President Bill Clinton became involved in a sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky. Real life events seemed to mirror the film's plot in August 1998 when Clinton ordered bombing attacks of Al-Qaeda targets in the Middle East after he testified and just as Lewinsky was set to testify on the scandal, and later in December 1998 when his administration led a bombing raid in Iraq right before the U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote on his impeachment due to the Lewinsky scandal. Many political commentators and critics referenced the film even using the term 'wag the dog' to describe these events. Interest in the movie spiked quickly during this time.
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"Why change horses midstream?" was originally a campaign slogan for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
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"A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow", a line of dialogue in the film spoken by Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), is a real-life quotation from World War II General George S. Patton.
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The talk show phone number, 1-800-555-0199, is common to many films and television shows, because this is the only number that has been reserved by the phone company as an allowable fake 1-800 number for media usage.
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Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman made the movie for no upfront salary.
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During the filming of this movie, Director Barry Levinson and Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro had an impromptu co-incidental meeting at a Washington, D.C. hotel with President Bill Clinton. Clinton asked De Niro: "So what's this movie about? De Niro looked over to Levinson, hoping that he would answer the question. Levinson, in turn, looked over to Hoffman. Hoffman, realizing there was no one else, to whom to pass the buck, is quoted as saying, "So I just started to tap dance. I can't even remember what I said."
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Dustin Hoffman ad-libbed the line: "He didn't sell it".
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The scene in which shoes laced together are hanging from telephone and electric wires was shot on East Capitol Street a few blocks behind the U.S. Capitol. The production crew left several pairs of shoes behind and they remained hanging on the wires for years.
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This movie was filmed in twenty-eight days, during a gap in the production of Director Barry Levinson's other movie, Sphere (1998).
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The film's opening prologue states: "Why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail were smarter, the tail would wag the dog."
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Winifred Ames (Anne Heche) was originally written as a man.
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Dustin Hoffman (Stanley Motss) based the mannerisms and delivery for his character on his father, and on real-life Producer Robert Evans.
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The "American Dream" segment, with the choir singing, is a clear spoof of U.S.A. for Africa's "We Are the World". Willie Nelson (Johnny Dean) was one of the many artists who appeared singing in the "We Are the World" video.
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DIRECTOR CAMEO (Barry Levinson): With his back to the camera in the opening scene at the movie studio.
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Craig T. Nelson and Barry Levinson combined to do a stand-up comedy routine early in their careers.
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According to Wikipedia, "the title of the film comes from the idiomatic English-language expression 'the tail wagging the dog'." It is shown at the film's start, and reads "Why does the dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog."
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The face of the President is never seen, and he is only filmed from the back.
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The name of Sergeant William Schumann's (Woody Harrelson's) medication, "Prozalium", is a combination of Prozac and Valium.
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According to urbandictionary.com, the meaning of the phrase "wag the dog", is "when something of secondary importance improperly takes on the role of something of primary importance. The expression pre-dates this movie by the same name and was not coined by said movie."
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As of 2018, the only Oscar nominated performance by Dustin Hoffman in a non-Best Picture nominated film.
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The movie's closing credits state: "SPECIAL THANKS TO . . . THE CAST AND CREW for completing principal photography in twenty-nine days!"
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The claim of Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) that "there is no Academy Award for producing" is incorrect, since the Oscar for Best Picture has always been given to the main producer(s) of a film.
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The political talk show at the end of the film lists its phone number as 1-800-555-0199. This number is also Lester Burnham's office number in American Beauty (1999) as well as Lowell Bergman's fax number in The Insider (1999).
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"This is nothing!", the recurring phrase spoken by Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) in the movie, was nominated for the AFI's (American Film Institute's) "100 Years . . . 100 Movie Quotes" list.
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The film cast includes four Oscar winners: Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Richardson, and Barry Levinson; and three Oscar nominees, Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson and William H. Macy.
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Initiated as a group project by Producer Jane Rosenthal, Barry Levinson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert De Niro, the picture was conceived as a witty, incisive inside look at American politics, pundits, Hollywood, and the media, as a war is waged to divert public attention from a national disgrace, an unthinkable sex scandal in the White House Oval Office.
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Dustin Hoffman and Barry Levinson did this movie while on a break from making Sphere (1998).
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Three title cards of note, relating to this film, featured in the movie's related twenty-five minute DVD documentary Wag the Dog: From Washington to Hollywood ...And Back (1998) state: (1) "Just a few weeks after Wag the Dog (1997) was released, President Clinton was accused of having an affair with a White House intern"; (2) "The documentary, The War Room (1993), shows the actual love-hate relationship between politicians and the media that is parodied in Wag the Dog (1997)"; and (3) "So, will the next generation be able to tell the difference between real news, and news that has been faked?"
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While the genesis for the picture was originally a novel titled "American Hero" (1993) by Larry Beinhart, which was adapted for the screen by Hilary Henkin, the producers brought Writer David Mamet aboard, because "he is certainly the premiere playwright of his generation," Levinson said. "David's way of looking at the world was a perfect fit. Not a lot of movies are strong dialogue pieces anymore. But this is sharp writing. There's an edgy wit infused into the dialogue."
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Robert Richardson appeared in a cameo in the scene in the studio where the fake footage of the fake war was filmed.
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The fictional special operations unit created in the movie is given the designation "303". The cover designation for the group in the David Mamet-created TV series The Unit (2006) is the "303rd Logistical Studies Group".
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Despite their hectic schedules, Barry Levinson and David Mamet were able to communicate via phone and fax to put together what they felt was a viable draft script. Once the screenplay was delivered, Jane Rosenthal rallied the troops, and quickly assembled a table reading with Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, and several other talented actors and actresses, many of whom appeared in this movie.
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One of four cinema movie collaborations of Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. The others being Sleepers (1996), Meet the Fockers (2004), and Little Fockers (2010).
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With a twenty-nine day production schedule, and a modest fifteen million dollar budget, the picture relied on an intelligent storytelling and genteel character development to dramatize the ultimate whitewash at the White House (which ended up happening in reality).
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In the funeral scene, soldiers in the military band are played by members of the Riverside Community College marching band.
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One of numerous collaborations of William H. Macy and David Mamet.
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One of two theatrical feature films written by David Mamet that have starred Dustin Hoffman. The other being American Buffalo (1996).
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usingenglish.com states that "to 'wag the dog' means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. The expression comes from the saying that 'a dog is smarter than its tail', but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would wag the dog. The expression 'wag the dog' was elaborately used as theme of the movie. 'Wag the Dog', a 1997 film starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, produced and directed by Barry Levinson."
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The picture was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1998, Dustin Hoffman for Best Actor, and Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium, for Hilary Henkin and David Mamet, but the movie failed to take home an Oscar in either category.
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The film was released during the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton, which ran between January 1993 (inauguration) and January 2001 (end of term).
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One of five movie collaborations of Dustin Hoffman and Barry Levinson. The others being Sphere (1998), Sleepers (1996), Rain Man (1988), and Tootsie (1982).
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The film was nominated for inclusion in the AFI's (American Film Institute's) "100 Years . . . 100 Laughs" list.
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Dustin Hoffman starred in Hero (1992). The name of the source novel by Larry Beinhart, on which this movie was based, was called "American Hero" (1993).
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The film was entered into and then selected to screen in competition to compete for the prestigious Golden Bear and Silver Bear awards at the annual 48th Berlin International Film Festival, but lost out on the Golden Bear to Central Station (1998), but won a Special Jury Prize Silver Bear for Barry Levinson.
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The nickname of Sergeant William Schumann (Woody Harrelson) was "The Old Shoe".
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Robert Deniro's character says to deploy "General Scott and the Joint Chiefs," which is likely a reference to Seven Days in May, a 1960s film about an attempted military coup.
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Woody Harrelson has appeared in politically themed movies, such as LBJ (2016), Game Change (2012), this movie, Battle in Seattle (2007), and Welcome to Sarajevo (1997).
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The letter "t" in Stanley Motss' (Dustin Hoffman's) last name is silent, with it pronounced as if it were "Moss".
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Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro have won two Academy Awards for acting. Hoffman is a Best Actor Oscar winner for Rain Man (1988) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). De Niro is a Best Actor Oscar winner for Raging Bull (1980) and a Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar winner for The Godfather: Part II (1974).
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Government and intelligence organizations referenced in the movie include the White House, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the N.S.A., the Pentagon, and the U.S. Government.
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The film's closing credits declare that the picture was: "Filmed on location in LOS ANGELES, CA, BAKERSFIELD, CA, and WASHINGTON, D.C."
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Hilary Henkin as the same sounding first name as former U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of State, and 2016 Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time that this movie was released, Hillary Clinton was the First Lady.
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Anne Heche and William H. Macy appeared in Psycho (1998).
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Cameo 

Robert Richardson: Uncredited; the Director of Photography as a man at the television studio.
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Jim Belushi: As himself.
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Jay Leno: As himself.
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Director Trademark 

Barry Levinson: [Ralph Tabakin] Ralph (Southern Man) has appeared in every Levinson picture from Diner (1982) to Liberty Heights (1999).
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