Reporter Asks ‘The Front Runner’ to Declare His Portrayal Is Fiction

Debates over inventive license in motion pictures primarily based on actual life have raged, properly, since they’ve existed. “The Front Runner,” the drama starring Hugh Jackman that tracks Gary Hart’s failed run for president in 1988, is now the newest to upset an individual being portrayed onscreen.

In a letter to the filmmakers, Tom Fiedler, a former journalist who coated Hart’s marketing campaign and is now dean of Boston University’s College of Communication, requested that they “publicly acknowledge that the film’s depiction of me is essentially a fiction.”

The letter, despatched to the “Front Runner” director, Jason Reitman, and his co-writers, Matt Bai and Jay Carson, follows an op-ed Fiedler wrote final month for his former employer, The Miami Herald, headlined partly, “Truth is left on cutting room floor.”

Reitman, Bai and Carson declined to remark for this text.

[Read our assessment of “The Front Runner.”]

As a political reporter for The Herald, Fiedler broke the story that Hart was seen with a woman who wasn’t his wife, news that upended Hart’s campaign. The story was published after a Herald team, which included Fiedler, staked out Hart’s home following an anonymous tip — a move that was much criticized at the time. Hart and the woman, Donna Rice, then a 29-year-old actress and pharmaceutical representative, have said they were just friends.

Fiedler wrote in his letter, which was shared with reporters, that the movie vilifies him and doesn’t take into account the accuracy of his reporting. Further, he wrote, the actor who portrays him, Steve Zissis, never contacted him. “I wonder if Steve Zissis ever went to the trouble of finding a photograph of me, much less researched my reputation. Had he done so, he would have known I’ve never worn a beard; that I take pride in my appearance and in my physical fitness.”

Fiedler said in the letter that the negative portrayal could sway potential students from applying to Boston University, where Fiedler, who started in 2008, is in his final year as a dean. (This reporter attended Boston University’s College of Communication from 2006 to 2010.)

Though it was shut out of Golden Globe nominations on Thursday, “The Front Runner” has awards season hopes, and Fiedler said in an email that members of the communication school’s advisory board were concerned that the film might damage the university’s reputation and encouraged him to make public his criticisms.

In an October interview before the movie was released, he said that after a private screening, he told Reitman that he had “directed a terrific story and captures the action,” as well as “the frenetic activity that goes on in a campaign.”

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