Typically, powerhouse writer/director Jay Roach is exploring such questions as "Do I make you horny, baby?" and "I have nipples, Greg; could you milk me?" These days, however, the "Austin Powers" and "Meet the Parents" filmmaker has his mind on a far more important, political question.
Could it happen again?
"It definitely could, unfortunately," explained Roach, whose HBO film "Recount" will debut on the network Sunday night and detail the chaos surrounding Florida's role in the 2000 Presidential election. "Despite how traumatic that experience was. I think of it like a disaster film: When's the boat gonna turn right-side up? Despite what we went through, not a huge amount of reform has occurred. There have been efforts, but there's a certain resistance to reform…Why we made the film is to say ‘Hey, don't forget this; take it seriously. It's worth working on'!"
For his rare departure into drama, Roach lined up the sort of star-powered cast you'd normally pay ten bucks to see (Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, Denis Leary, Laura Dern), but there are a few famous names he chose to depict only peripherally in "Recount": Bush, Cheney, Gore and Lieberman.
"It was different in both camps," he said of the Republican and Democratic responses to those crazy days of hanging chads, lawsuits and frenzied media. "Bush let [Former Reagan Chief of Staff] James Baker run the recount process, and I think Gore was more involved with his guys. The real choice was to ground it more in the everyman character of [Democratic insider] Ron Klain, so that the audience wouldn't see it as a typical battle. Because of the strategies of the candidates to let these guys fight it out down in Florida, that allowed us to use archival footage of the real [candidates], so that we didn't have to do some sort of special effects makeup to match them."
Which might be for the best, since some of the portrayals in "Recount" (most noticeably Dern as former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris) could be considered less-than-flattering. "We tried to reach her before the film and she, understandably, was skeptical about how she may be portrayed," Roach said of Dern's performance, depicting Harris as a frustratingly optimistic, over-her-head, religion-driven puppet of the Bush administration. "I think we definitely researched that in depth, and we read the book she wrote about the experience in Florida. We also studied a ton of tape, and Laura Dern did an incredible job of not perfectly matching her in some ways, but evoking the public persona that we came to know from the process."
Long story short: Harris might not be watching HBO this Sunday night, but Roach hopes that you will. "The script was a page turner," he insisted. "And I hope that the film will hold your attention too."