McCain goes Hollywood

The GOP presidential candidate sells the movie rights to his bestselling memoir.

Published October 8, 1999 10:15AM (EDT)

GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain has sold the movie option rights of his bestselling memoir, "Faith of
My Fathers," to Barry Diller's USA Network for a "relatively
modest sum," a source told Salon News.

Last night, upon hearing about the sale of the option, McCain said,
"Well, maybe they can get Danny DeVito to play me," according to McCain
spokesman Dan Schnur.

"But we're thinking more like Sean Connery," said Schnur.

The Hollywood backstory is interesting. Barry Diller is a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bill Bradley, and several USA Network executives have made contributions to Bradley's campaign. But McCain is also that rarity -- a GOP figure who is respected in Hollywood.

The book, published by Random House and co-written by McCain's Senate
chief of staff Mark Salter, tells the story of McCain's grandfather,
Adm. John "Slew" McCain, and father, Adm. John McCain, as well
as the senator's own harrowing five-and-a-half-year experience as a POW at the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War.

Salter and McCain have split profits from the book 50-50, with
McCain's share going to charity. McCain, a longtime advocate of
campaign finance reform, is said to think the money is not worth the
accusations of hypocrisy he would no doubt suffer were he to profit
from sales of the book or movie rights.
Besides, as the son of Navy
royalty, he has some money tucked away. (In addition, his wife is an executive of an extremely lucrative family-owned Anheiser-Busch distributor.)

Representatives from USA Network did not return calls to comment on
the deal. In addition to manufacturing such cheese as "Baywatch," World
Wrestling Federation's "RAW" and "Xena, Warrior Princess" -- as well
as more respectable, middlebrow fare like "Law and Order: Special
Victims Unit," "Wings" and "JAG" -- USA Network has been trying to produce more big-budget epics, like "Moby Dick," starring Patrick Stewart, and "Journey to the Center of the Earth," with Treat Williams. The last biopic USA brought to the small screen was "Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story."

Meanwhile, McCain tries to break the surface of the GOP voting
public. A recent poll of New Hampshire voters shows McCain closing
the gap -- a tad -- between himself and GOP front-runner Gov. George
W. Bush. A Franklin Pierce College/WNDS-TV poll conducted between
Oct. 3 and 6 had McCain registering as the first choice among 23
percent of likely Republican primary voters in that state, while Bush
held fairly steady with 43 percent.

The poll was great news for McCain, who received only 10 percent in a
similar poll in early September. It was so-so news for Bush, who sank
5 points from 48 percent, and even worse news for Elizabeth Dole, down from 10 percent to 7 percent.

Though he is spending the weekend off the campaign trail with his
family in Arizona, McCain's TV campaign continues; he is
scheduled to be interviewed on both "Fox News Sunday" and CBS's "Face
the Nation" this Sunday, and "Dateline NBC" is scheduled to
air a feature on McCain and his wife, Cindy, on Sunday evening.

By Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

MORE FROM Jake Tapper

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John Mccain R-ariz.