On the day Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks' true-to-life telling of his life story arrived on DVD, Charlie Wilson called SheKnows.
The real Charlie Wilson still lives in the Texas district he represented for over a decade. The incredible movie based on his extraordinary true story, "Charlie Wilson's War" has debuted for a home audience to treasure Tom Hanks' masterful portrayal of Wilson with an all-star cast that includes fellow Oscar-winners Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Hollywood sweetheart Amy Adams. Its pedigree goes even deeper than that. The screenplay was written by "West Wing" scribe Aaron Sorkin and it was helmed by "Working Girl" director Michael Nichols. Charlie Wilson was a little-known representative from Texas who secretly organized a war thousands of miles away that heavily influences today's world. He managed to arm and fund the freedom-fighter victory over Soviet forces in Afghanistan that placed a nail in communism's coffin toppling the U.S.S.R. Among those Mulahideen fighters was Osama Bin Laden -- talk about a relevant storyline!
SheKnows: I watched the movie last night and had such a good time. Charlie Wilson: Great! (Laughs) SheKnows: I adored it. I know it's a real serious issue, but it is a real joy to watchâ€¦ Charlie Wilson: Well that's the way we wanted it to be. SheKnows: Is that how you wanted the story told? Charlie Wilson: Yeah, I wanted it told in a movie that people would enjoy seeing. It would not be too heavy.
SheKnows: You knew the real people, socialite millionaire Joanne — played by Julia Roberts, and CIA operative Gust — brilliantly portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, how did the casting work for you? Plus, to have Tom Hanks playing you... Charlie Wilson: It's stupendous. How could you improve on that? Hanks was great, Seymour Hoffman wasâ€¦his acting, he's a genius. And of course, there's no one more charming than Julia Roberts. So, I thought it was terrific. SheKnows: Now, did you have the pleasure of being on the set as an advisor? Charlie Wilson: I had the pleasure of being on the set all I wanted to and that was a lot. My advice, I had to be very careful with it. I had no authority at all. It had to be more persuasion than anything else. SheKnows: Well, as a successful politician, that should have been easy for you. Charlie Wilson: It was fun. It was a challenge. I didn't change too much, but I did change a little.
Hollywood versus Washington politics
SheKnows: And how did the politics of movie-making differ from the politics of Washington, D.C.? Charlie Wilson: The politics of moviemaking is a little more subtle and a little more artful. But, the ultimate product is about the same. SheKnows: In the film -- as it was in your life -- the trip to Afghanistan, as shown by the refugee camp scene, for you was it as much a character-changing affect as it is was powerfully portrayed by Tom Hanks? Charlie Wilson: You've got it, Joel. It was really was. The refugee camp scene was a real epiphany in my life. That's where it came upon me that I was going to have to dedicate my life — as much time and energy and moxie as I could possibly sum up — to punish the Soviets for what they were doing to these people. As well as trying to relieve these people's suffering. SheKnows: And while you were going through that process and trying to drum up that support, what was your impression of the resistance fighters you repeatedly met in person? The people you cited to your Congressional colleagues, "these people are fighting our enemy." Charlie Wilson: I was surprised by their courage and war-like abilities. I was stunned. They were the best warriors in the world, just beyond description. SheKnows: I couldn't help notice at the end of the film as the screen goes dark, there's a glorious quote by you that I will paraphrase because of the colorful language, but "how we â€˜screwed up' the back end in Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson: (laughs) That's right, we did.
SheKnows: I was curious, that statement could apply to your experience after the Soviets left when the Afghani government fell into disarray, or to the more current U.S. involvement with the removal of the Taliban only to have them wreak havoc from the hills of Pakistan. When did you say that? Charlie Wilson: I said that when it became clear that there was no credible government in Afghanistan about 2-3 years after the Soviets left. They were just in chaos. Without a government, that went on for another six or seven years and then the Taliban filled the vacuum. SheKnows: In some ways, do you think that statement at the end of "Charlie Wilson's War" applies to how we are in Afghanistan right now? Is that a reach? Charlie Wilson: Yeah, that is a reach because in Afghanistan right now, we are there. We have made commitments. If we could just get out of Iraq, we would have the resources that we had at first when we were doing really well. We could stabilize the country, get rid of the Taliban completely, and probably catch Osama Bin Laden.
In the healing heart of Texas
SheKnows: Do you still live in Texas? Charlie Wilson: Yeah, I live in a small town in the middle of my old district. I'm doing well. SheKnows: What are you up to these days? Charlie Wilson: Really and truly, Joel, I am retired. I am not doing very much except some speech giving. You know what? I'm in the middle of recovering from a heart transplant. SheKnows: Oh, my! Charlie Wilson: Yeah, that is a big deal. SheKnows: Wow, Congressman, continued improved health to you. When was the operation? Charlie Wilson: Seven months ago. SheKnows: How are you feeling? Charlie Wilson: I'm feeling pretty good. It's a year-long recovery cycle. I've got about five months to go. For the last three weeks, I have really turned a corner and gotten my energy back. I'm feeling good. SheKnows: Well, all of our readers at SheKnows send you the very best. Charlie Wilson: Well, that is sweet of them. Thank you.