In a 2005 Vanity Fair article, Mark Felt revealed he was the FBI source Woodward and Bernstein dubbed Deep Throat in their Watergate investigation. The new film, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House, tells his story but it’s still not the whole story.
Liam Neeson stars as Felt. At a press conference he shared regrets that much of Felt’s home life was omitted from the film. Diane Lane plays Audrey Felt but many of her scenes hit the cutting room floor (or trash folder since editing is digital now).
“We shot a lot more stuff with Diane, who played my wife, a lot more stuff that may be on the DVD, a director’s cut, I don’t know,” Neson said. “I feel saddened a little that we’ve lost some of that stuff for audiences, because as devoted as he was to the FBI, he was totally devoted to her too.”
Audrey Felt had a tragic ending. The film does not mention her suicide.
“The film’s heavily edited,” Neeson continued. “There’s a lot of stuff that may be in the director’s cut, and I’m not saying that behind [director] Peter [Landesman]’s back at all. In any film stuff has to be cut out. I was surprised, especially a lot of stuff with Diane and myself that explains a little bit more about his situation. The stress they were under for a long time, that goes somewhat to showing a lot more of the private man than the bureaucrat and the hero.”
Landesman understood Neeson’s concerns.
“There is a whole movie I could’ve cut that the A story would’ve been about the marriage and the daughter,” Landesman said. “Watergate and the FBI almost would’ve been the B story. I could’ve made that movie. I could’ve cut that movie. I think at the end of the day you were watching a political thriller that was a procedural that was an inside look into the FBI and that world that I don’t think anybody had ever seen before. The marriage, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe or Revolutionary Road had a parallel storytelling structure about those kind of marriages. I feel like we’ve heard that story before. I wanted to tell a story we just hadn’t heard before.”
The deleted scenes will be included in Mark Felt’s home video releases and fans will get to see more of Lane’s work.
“There are probably half a dozen scenes that didn’t make it into the film,” Landesman said. “Diane is such an electric actress and at the end of the day the story we were telling was the story we were telling. I had to keep reminding myself and it was painful but every director goes through that process. Mostly the scenes you will see on the DVD or the download have to do with the marriage and the daughter. Diane, I can’t tell you how great she is. We all are heartbroken when we lose stuff. I wrote it, I shot it, I edited it. You’re always broken hearted but at the end of the day, you have to make hard decisions.”
Also, because the film focuses on Mark Felt, it does not delve into the broader social upheavals of the Watergate years.
“In an ideal world and a bigger budget, I would’ve loved our film to have shown more of that, to show there was almost a civil war in America at that time,” Neeson said. “What was happening in Vietnam and the protest against Vietnam, on Nixon’s inauguration day there were thousands of people descended in protest to the White House. They had to put a ring of busses like wagons around to protect the President in the White House. You had serial killer Son of Sam. You had Charles Manson in ’69, the Zodiac Killer, Black Panthers, The Weather Underground, hundreds of bombs going off. I just wish we could’ve shown more of that.”
Still, Neeson agreed to portray Mark Felt in Landesman’s version of events.
“Did Peter write a more intimate script?” Neeson asked. “Yes, he did, sure. Maybe if Ridley Scott had been directing it it would’ve been a different script and it would’ve been bigger, but this is what Peter did and I think he did an extraordinary job. I just wish for younger viewers that may go and see the film that it would’ve been a bigger painting so that kids, young people could see what was at stake and the travails the country was going through. The images that were still coming through to living rooms from Vietnam, we were told one thing and we’re seeing these images that are saying something else. I think a huge cynicism got into the country, to all of us at that time and it’s still here.”
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House is now playing in New York and Los Angeles.