Election Over, But Differences Linger in Hollywood

With the election over and done with – at last! – it’s time to put aside political animosities and get back to business.  Right?  Well, not so much for many in Hollywood, where bitterness continues despite the fact that the vast majority of Tinsel Town inhabitants were celebrating four more years of the Obama administration as the returns came in.

Will film and TV honchos of a liberal bent hold their support of Mitt Romney against the likes of Meat Loaf, Kid Rock, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Adam Sandler, James Caan, Stephen Baldwin, Stacey Dash and Scott Baio?  Has creative titan Clint Eastwood’s star lost some of its luster in these parts (and everywhere else) due to his weird performance opposite an empty chair at the Republican convention?

It hasn’t been easy to be Republican red in this bastion of Democrat blue.  In the 2004 AMC documentary, “Rated ‘R’: Republicans n Hollywood,” Patricia Heaton tells of having dinner and conversation with a few Hollywood friends when the subject of politics came up. When the “The Middle” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” star said she was voting for George W. Bush, the chatter turned to awkward silence.

“You’d think I’d crapped in the middle of the table,” the Emmy-winning actress recalled.

Jesse Moss, the filmmaker behind “Rated R,” had trouble getting stars to appear on camera. A disclaimer in his film stated that Mel Gibson, Chuck Norris, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bruce Willis and Heather Locklear — all known Republicans — refused to be interviewed.

Recently Fox News aired a story claiming that times had changed and that election 2012 saw many more stars opening up about their conservative leanings – but really, we’re pretty much seeing the same cast we’ve been seeing in the Republican ranks for a decade, such as Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer.

While differences may be vast, there are plenty of major names working with fellow actors who might be considered from the enemy camp, politically speaking, and doing just fine.  Obama supporter Sanaa Lathan and Romney man Kelsey Grammer act brilliantly together in Starz’ dark drama, “Boss.”  Taraji Henson, who also campaigned for Obama’s re-election, is in “Person of Interest” with religious conservative Jim Caviezel.  And of course, President Obama’s friend and former Harvard classmate, Hill Harper, is on the “CSI:NY” set all the time with “one of the finest actors I’ve ever met” Gary Sinise.  Sinise is among the unofficial leaders of the industry’s conservatives,  though he often keeps his views off the record in deference to his vast, nonpartisan charity work.

The high bar for Hollywood types of different political stripes getting along had to have been set by the five-decade friendship between Golden Era movie stars Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda.  Stewart was a staunch Republican and Fonda a devout Democrat.  The story goes that they got into a fistfight over politics once in the 1930s and decided never to have another heated political argument.  They even did a send-up of their political differences in their “Cheyenne Social Club” Western.

There was, however, nothing funny about the monumental pressures that the Stewart and Fonda friendship withstood – first during the Hollywood blacklisting period, and later during the Vietnam War.  Fonda’s daughter, Jane, was the most controversial of anti-war activists.  Stewart’s son and his nephew were military men who were killed in Vietnam.  Stewart, a decorated WWII bomber pilot and brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve, made it clear that as far as he was concerned, his son “was called upon by his country…When he got on the field of battle, he conducted himself in a gallant manner, and to me that’s not a tragedy.”  Fonda (who himself had been a decorated WWII Navy man), agreed with Jane about Vietnam, and once publicly admonished her critics to “shut up” because “she’s perfect.”  

Fonda and Stewart did not discuss the war.  As Jimmy explained in a TV interview, “I – we – just realized that if we started yelling at each other about this, the thing would go out the window, and both of us valued this friendship too much.”