CNN Films has acquired the exclusive U.S. broadcast rights for EVOCATEUR: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie. The television premiere of the film is set for Thursday, Aug. 13 at 9:00pm Eastern on CNN/U.S., the network announced today. The CNN Films broadcast will be exclusively presented by Volkswagen.
“We are thrilled that CNN, television’s gold standard of political discourse, is taking a moment to reflect on one of the medium’s first and not-so-golden practitioners. Morton Downey, Jr. knew confrontation made good TV. His story, more relevant than ever, is of how far that can be taken,” said Daniel A. Miller, co-founder, Ironbound Films.
Produced and directed by Seth Kramer, Miller, and Jeremy Newberger of Ironbound Films, the riveting story traces the populist rise and rollercoaster career of the shock host who upended the previously polite and predictable talk show format forever. Before there was Glenn Beck or Geraldo Rivera or Rush Limbaugh, there was Morton Downey, Jr., who ignited the dawn of ‘mad-as-hell and not going to take it anymore’ television with conservative, provocative talk that made him a late night TV folk hero during the late 1980s.
“EVOCATEUR is a wonderful portrait of an influential, controversial, larger-than-life man. Morton Downey, Jr., left his mark on American television and set the tone – for better or worse – for much of the modern-day debates we see play out on television now,” said Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide.
Television innovator Bob Pittman found himself looking for a new challenge after launching the revolutionary, format-busting cable phenomenon, the MTV network. Pittman backed the enigmatic, bombastic Downey for a talk show that viewers found uniquely candid, oftentimes frustrating, ultimately addictive television. Archival highlights included in the film feature legendary Downey show segments with defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, attorney/activist Gloria Allred, and Rev. Al Sharpton, in excruciating, extended deconstruction of the infamous, controversial Tawana Brawley case. In a rare exclusive interview, Steven Pagones, the white district attorney among those accused of raping Brawley, discusses how the infamy associated with that case – and amplified by the on-air debates between Downey and Sharpton – irrevocably altered his life.
Deconstructing Downey’s rise to fame are contemporary interviews with Downey friend and conservative icon Pat Buchanan, broadcaster Larry King, former talk show hosts Richard Bey and Sally Jessy Raphael, syndicated columnist Stanley Crouch, comedian Chris Elliott, and the team behind the talk show. They explore Downey’s appeal, as well as the personal demons that fueled his on-camera persona and behind-the-scenes battles with production executives and sponsors that ultimately led to Downey’s career immolation.
Along the way, the filmmakers reveal new insights into a persistent mystery about an incident that effectively ended Downey’s television career: did Downey actually stage a brutal attack on himself, allegedly by skinheads, in a misguided attempt to regain some of his notoriety?
“It’s a free market. ‘The people’ obviously want what they’re gettin’,” Buchanan says succinctly in summation of Downey’s legacy in the film, “or they’d be gettin’ something else.”
The film first premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. The acquisition deal for EVOCATEUR: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie for CNN was negotiated by Dori Begley, senior vice president of acquisitions on behalf of Magnolia Pictures; and Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions, and Stacey Wolf, vice president of business affairs, on behalf of CNN. Josh Braun and colleagues David Koh and Dan Braun of Submarine negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers for the acquisition.
EVOCATEUR will be available in simulcast via CNN’s iPad app or www.CNN.com/go. The film will encore on CNN on Aug. 13 at 11:00pm, and on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 8:00pm and 10:00pm. All times Eastern.
About CNN Films
CNN Films produces and acquires documentary feature and short films for theatrical and festival exhibition and distribution across CNN’s multiple platforms. Amy Entelis, evp of talent and content development, Vinnie Malhotra, svp of development and acquisitions, and Courtney Sexton, senior director for program development, oversee the strategy for CNN Films. For more information about CNN Films, please visit www.CNN.com/CNNFilms, www.CNN.com/shortfilms, and follow @CNNFilms via Twitter.