I don’t interview a lot of celebrities. And I get a lot of offers. I consider this column a weekly conversation among Southwest Florida TV lovers. But sometimes an interview comes along that is, for lack of a better word, irresistible.
That’s the case this week. Former Senator Fred Thompson is coming to Naples for the local premiere of his new film “Unlimited.”
I thought a number of my readers would find him interesting. Not because he’s a well-known conservation politician, or a perfect Southern gentlemen, or even his numerous TV and movie roles — including “Die Hard 2,” “Law & Order” and “The Good Wife.” Nope. He’s just a plain spoken guy; doesn’t mince words. And that’s earned him quite the fan base.
On “Law & Order,” Thompson, played conservative District Attorney Arthur Branch, a guy with Southern roots; the yang to Jack McCoy’s (Sam Waterston) liberal learning prosecuting yin. The fact he is an attorney, was born in Alabama and is conservative probably didn’t hurt his chances for the role. And it wasn’t like he auditioned. Dick Wolf, series creator, called him up and offered him the part.
While that give and take, liberal versus conservative, was just a small part of the show for a time; Thompson admits it was an intentional element.
“It was designed that way,” says Thompson. “We had a writer that liked to bring up George Bush and the Iraq War,” he recalls, which provider some fodder for the exchange of ideas and viewpoints between Branch and McCoy.
Back to the real world. Thompson was a senator from 1994 to 2003, representing my home state of Tennessee. He ran among a field of Republican contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination.
So what does he think about the present state of affairs?
“I don’t think it’s as dysfunctional as a lot of people make it out to be,” says Thompson. “Just because agreement is not reached doesn’t make it so.”
Checks and balances, he points out, means that our government was designed to move slow. And when there’s substantial disagreement, sometimes not move at all.
“And then there’s the lobbyists,” says Thompson. “These little centers of power. It makes things more acrimonious. It adds more tension.”
Thompsons also points to other possible instruments fueling discourse. “Technology. Everybody is in everyone’s face.
“There’s a great division in our country day after day watching the demise of your country. That creates even more tension and acrimony.”
He also puts a good bit of responsibility on media’s doorstep; fanning the flames of division for the sake of a good headline or better ratings.
While all this talk may make you think he’s ready to jump back into the fray, not so, says Thompson. He won’t be seeking elected office again.
But that didn’t stop Thompson from weighing in on another debate that’s full of tension and acrimony guns.
“I’m a strong advocate of the Second Amendment. It’s used by the left as a crime control issue. There’s nothing being proposed that has an impact on crime in a measurable way.
“Obama and some Democrats mistakenly believe that some people have changed their minds about guns. They haven’t.”
Thompson said if the President insists on going down this path it will be a political mistake and could cost the Democrats who support him.
A fortunate few will get to see Thompson’s new film before the rest of the country, or world for that matter.
The film, “Unlimited,” tells the story of Simon Orwell, a brilliant student whose life has taken some wrong turns. Just as he’s about to give up on his dreams, he gets a call from an old professor “who has discovered a breakthrough in a device that would create unlimited energy, and he needs Simon’s help.”
Once Simon crosses the border into Mexico, nothing goes as planned. He is assaulted and nearly killed by members of a powerful drug cartel. He takes refuge in the only place he can — a local orphanage.
“It’s a good wholesome movie that delivers a good message,” says Thompson, who plays Dr. Harold Finch, the aforementioned professor, who, in real life devoted his time to helping the poorest of the poor.
The movie was shot in El Paso, Texas.
The advance film screening for “Unlimited” is April 5. This event is sponsored by the Spirit of Naples (SON) and will be held at the Waldorf Astoria Naples.
Thompson joins Oxford University writer-in-residence Davis Bunn, executive producer Dr. Harold Finch and producer Chad Gundersen, of Gundersen Entertainment.
Premium ticket holders will gain entrance to a cocktail reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Naples at 6 p.m. with all VIP guests and media. At 7 p.m., screening ticket holders will join them to view the film.
After the screening, all audience members are invited to ask the VIP guests questions about the film. An autograph session will follow.
Sorry we didn’t have time for reader questions this week. I promise I’ll address them next week. If you have a TV or media-related question, send it to email@example.com.
Until next time, Stay Tuned.
Bill Green is a Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com journalist and a professional couch potato. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him at facebook.com/billdgreen.