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HBO to Debut Original Movie GAME CHANGE, 3/10

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Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris star in HBO Films' GAME CHANGE. Directed by Jay Roach and written by Danny Strong - the team behind the Emmy(R)-winning HBO Films drama "Recount" - GAME CHANGE offers a searing behind-the-scenes look at John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, from the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as McCain's vice presidential running mate to their defeat in the general election. Told through the eyes of McCain strategist Steve Schmidt, the man who most championed Palin for the ticket, the film revisits a defining moment in U.S. politics.

Debuting SATURDAY, MARCH 10 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO, the film was shot on location in Baltimore and Santa Fe. GAME CHANGE also stars Ron Livingston, Peter MacNicol, Sarah Paulson, Jamey Sheridan and Bruce Altman. An HBO Films presentation of a Playtone Production in Association with Everyman Pictures, GAME CHANGE, a Jay Roach film from a script by Danny Strong, is based on the bestselling book of the same name by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann; executive produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Jay Roach; Danny Strong and Steven Shareshian co-executive produce.

Other HBO playdates: March 10 (midnight), 11 (noon, 7:00 p.m.), 12 (noon, 9:00 p.m.), 16 (11:00 a.m., 8:00 p.m.), 18 (1:30 p.m., 1:00 a.m.), 20 (9:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m.), 22 (4:00 p.m., 11:45 p.m.), 24 (8:30 a.m, 3:30 p.m. ET only; 9:30 a.m., 2:45 p.m. PT only), 28 (noon, 8:00 p.m.) and 31 (10:00 a.m.)

HBO2 playdates: March 15 (10:00 a.m., 9:00 p.m.) and 25 (9:30 a.m., 9:00 p.m.)

GAME CHANGE pulls back the curtain on the intense human drama surrounding the 2008 election, revealing the uncertainty surrounding the decisions made behind closed doors. The film examines the chain of events that would determine the leadership of the country, offering a unique glimpse into the inner workings of an historic campaign.

Julianne Moore portrays Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Woody Harrelson plays Steve Schmidt, McCain's senior campaign strategist. Ed Harris portrays Arizona Senator John McCain. Ron Livingston plays Mark Wallace, a senior advisor to the McCain-Palin campaign, who also led Palin's debate preparation team. Peter MacNicol portrays Rick Davis, national campaign manager for McCain's campaign. Sarah Paulson plays Nicolle Wallace, a senior advisor for the McCain-Palin campaign. Jamey Sheridan portrays McCain speechwriter Mark Salter. Bruce Altman plays Fred Davis, McCain's chief media strategist.

ABOUT THE STORY

Having earned two Emmy(R) Awards for HBO Films' "Recount," which depicted the 2000 presidential election, director and executive producer Jay Roach was no stranger to politically-oriented films. On the heels of "Recount," Roach was captivated by the 2008 presidential campaign, especially the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as John McCain's vice presidential running mate. Continuing his fascination with how our country elects its leaders, Roach pitched the idea for a film to HBO in 2008.

Meanwhile, Playtone, a frequent HBO production partner, had optioned the New York Times bestseller "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime." Playtone was drawn to the authors' coverage of the election and how the writers handled the candidates within it. "The book was a character study on many levels," notes executive producer Gary Goetzman. "We like to get into people's heads and know what they're thinking about, know why they do things, know why they feel things, and 'Game Change' had several movies in it."

Written by two of the country's leading political journalists - Mark Halperin, editor-at-large and senior political analyst for TIME magazine, and John Heilemann, national political correspondent and columnist for New York Magazine - the book is considered to be the definitive account of the 2008 electoral campaigns, going beyond the headlines for an intimate portrait of the candidates. The authors' unprecedented access to The Players, their wide-ranging research and the subject matter itself gave the project a compelling veracity that has become a signature of HBO Films. Consequently, HBO, Playtone and Roach joined forces to bring "Game Change" to the screen.

Zeroing in on the human drama recounted in Halperin and Heilemann's comprehensive book, Roach was especially intrigued by the process through which Palin was chosen for the ticket and her dramatic emergence as the "game changer" for McCain's beleaguered campaign. He explains, "The story of how John McCain and his advisors chose Sarah Palin to be the vice presidential candidate is compelling, and was compelling for everyone who watched it. There were a tremendous number of people following that story, every single detail, because it was an unconventional choice. I remember seeing the rollout speech and wondering how she got there and, ultimately, what led to the decision to choose her."

Danny Strong was the unanimous choice to write the script following his collaboration with Jay Roach and HBO on "Recount." In addition to the book "Game Change," Strong, known for his extensive research on political subjects, conducted first-person interviews with The Players privy to the behind-the-scenes events and reviewed news, magazine articles, speeches, rallies and other events surrounding the campaign. Roach notes, "Danny and I share an interest in what makes good government work. We are fascinated by the notion that government is a fragile thing and people's faith in government is also particularly fragile."

Like Roach, writer and co-executive producer Strong was also intrigued by Sarah Palin's meteoric rise, from a relatively obscure campaign for governor to a spot on the presidential ticket of a major political party 18 months later. Strong observes, "We landed on Sarah Palin as the person to center this story on, because we wanted to explore why someone who was never on the national stage would want to run for office and be thrust into the national spotlight, literally overnight. Essentially, this is a 'Pygmalion' story with a really great arc, from where Palin starts to where she ends up."

At the heart of this story is the personal journey of Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who had previously fostered several successful election campaigns. Hired by McCain for his renowned winning approaches, Schmidt viewed the selection of the vice presidential running mate as McCain's last chance to catch Obama. After watching Obama's inspirational speech in Berlin in July 2008, Schmidt understood what was needed to secure the election win. The McCain campaign not only needed a dynamic moment to rival Obama's growing star power, but they needed to win back the independents, bolster the Republican base and significantly pick up the female vote.


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