Ben Stiller is one of comedy’s hottest names, so when news breaks that he is working on a new project, any kind of project, the internet tends to buzz with fan speculation. Now, we are catching wind of a new project from Stiller and Rachel Maddow, one that will undoubtedly excite fans of both personalities.
The Hollywood Reporter brings word (via GeekTyrant) that Ben Stiller will direct and co-write a film adaptation of Rachel Maddow’s podcast-turned-book Bag Man. The book’s co-writer, Michael Yarvitz, will serve as a producer alongside Stiller and Adam Perlman. Focus Features will develop the adaptation, which Maddow is currently set to executive produce.
Bag Man centers on the rise and fall of Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon’s Vice President in the years leading up to the Watergate scandal. Following the discovery that he was running a bribery and extortion ring, Agnew was the focus of a political scandal and, subsequently, a federal prosecution that highlighted glaring problems with United States politics. Compare and contrast that to Donald Trump’s in-progress second impeachment trial. Here we have a system that both does and doesn’t want to hold the former president accountable for allegedly inciting the deadly Capitol riots on January 6. There are some unsettling similarities between Spiro Agnew’s case and Trump’s current predicament, and Ben Stiller wants to show the world just how messed up all of this is.
The book was released in December 2020 to mostly positive reviews, with The Washington Post saying: “In Bag Man, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and journalist Michael Yarvitz have written a case study in how the democratic ideal of equal justice under the law collides with the squalid realities of America’s political system. Their book, which is based on their podcast of the same name, gives a brisk and engaging account of the effort to hold Vice President Spiro Agnew criminally accountable, and it sheds light on the challenges–legal, moral, political–of treating presidents and vice presidents like every other citizen.” Ben Stiller’s review was also prominently featured in the book’s marketing campaign. It garnered tons of media attention and sat on the bestseller list for weeks.
Maddow isn’t exactly a small-timer, so any project she is involved in is highly likely to get lots of attention. Hopefully, the movie will keep the spirit of her storytelling alive and keep the film on track when communicating its themes and ideas.
The Bag Man podcast debuted in October 2018 and was an instant hit, eventually winning a Peabody Award. If you are interested in giving it a listen, it is still available across all podcasting platforms.
Ben Stiller has been in countless films, including comedy classics such as Dodgeball, Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, Night at the Museum, the Madagascar movies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and many, many others. On the television side of things, Stiller has also been in a 2002 episode of The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The King of Queens, Freaks and Geeks, and others. He has also won an Emmy for his work on The Ben Stiller Show. Given his background and his impressive range as an actor and director, it will be interesting to see just how closely he sticks to the tone of the podcast and the book.
Rachel Maddow boasts an energy and an intelligence that is next to impossible to replicate, so maybe Stiller will be able to bring his own spin to the way Agnew’s story is told. It is the only way I can see the movie working, but with Maddow in an executive producer role, chances are pretty good that the film will be fun, insightful, and informative. Only time will tell, though. Regardless, I am definitely adding this to my “to watch” list. The release date is obviously still a long way away, but we will likely be getting more word about the production sooner rather than later.
In terms of his more recent projects, Ben Stiller appeared in Netflix’s Hubie Halloween and Have A Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics last year. This year, he is set to appear in Locked Down as well as produce Queenpins. (which currently does not have a release date).
If you are looking to dive even deeper into the absurdity of all this, take a look at Donald Trump’s Screen Actors Guild resignation letter.