Toby Jones

Playing a public enemy

Toby Jones, Karl Rove in the film W, explains his character’s relationship with President Bush

Toby Jones, Karl Rove in the film W, explains his character’s relationship with President Bush

Condoleezza Rice’s teeth lie discarded beside her bottle of water. Colin Powell’s wig needs adjustment. Across the table, Scott Glenn removes Donald Rumsfeld’s steel-rimmed spectacles and continues his description of the seven months he spent in the Philippines shooting Apocalypse Now. Behind him a video monitor tees up background footage for the next take: weapons inspectors trudging through the desert, zooming backwards and forwards until they are paused flickering at a trench.

We are shooting the longest scene in Oliver Stone’s film, W (released in the UK on 7 November), perhaps the longest scene I have ever read in a script. The hours wear on and the debate ricochets across the long oak table occasionally coming to a stand still as we turn towards the President. The truth is that I shouldn’t even be here. In between takes, the diminutive ex-admiral, advising Oliver on government protocol (she it was who escorted Bush from the kindergarten to the control bunker on 9/11), strolls over to me and asks, ‘I’m not sure what Rove is  doing in here?’

‘Just keeping an eye on things,’ I joke.

Later in the scene itself, Colin Powell repeats the question and I merely grin the answer. Rove is there in his capacity as Bush’s long-time counsellor, the unelected architect of his election, re-election and general popularity. In the heady, long-ago days of Bush’s highest approval ratings, Rove was rewarded with unprecedented access to and influence on both the President and his executive. Much of the anger and venom heaped on Karl Rove stems from his use and abuse of this privilege. After all, no one voted for Rove.

So whether Karl Rove actually did sit in the situation room as the real decision to invade Iraq was taken is not really the point of the scene.

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