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Print Resources

Crile, George. Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. New York: Atlantic Monthly P, 2003.
Crile's book sets out to detail the entire story surrounding "Charlie Wilson's War." Crile's research is far-reaching and thorough, as the author explains the history surrounding each key player and the events. Crile takes the reader from the beginning of Wilson's career through the end. He explains how each key player came to be involved in "Charlie's War" and what impact each character had on the situation at home and abroad. Crile begins his book with Wilson's early career and the story of Caesar's Palace. He subsequently reviews the history of Herring and Avrakotos and takes the reader through each move, nearly minute by minute. The entire plight of Wilson and his colleagues is outlined by Crile, right through to the end. Crile's book is crucial for any scholar who seeks to learn the true story of Charlie Wilson and the war in Afghanistan. Crile creates a masterful blend of characterization and history, so that the reader can understand each player and the implications of his or her involvement. It seems that nothing is left out of Crile's account. Crile's book is the primary source for the film Charlie Wilson's War. The film's opening credits indicate that the script is based on the book, and many lines from the book can be found in the film verbatim. Crile's book includes a section of photographs that are re-created in the film with the actors. These photos come to life on-screen with the costumes and backgrounds copying the photographs exactly. It is important to note that the book is dense and packed with information, and obviously some parts have been left out of the film. However, the book reads like an extended script of the film and is a crucial read for any scholar of Charlie Wilson's War.
Grant, Meg. "The Secret Deal -- Before there was a war on terror, there was Charlie Wilson's War. A conversation between Tom Hanks and the Congressman he plays." Reader's Digest (January 2008): 74-79. wilsons-war/article50630-1.html
Grant gives a brief overview of the historical context of the film before beginning the interview with Hanks and Wilson. The overview is detailed but generic, as it states the facts but does not take any particular angle on the situation in Afghanistan or its aftermath. The overview explains Wilson's history and a brief history of the Soviet invasion and subsequent American involvement. In the interview, Grant asks Hanks and Wilson questions about the "real" Charlie Wilson, the "good vs. bad" in the film, and current U.S. politics. The questions are even handed and friendly, not tough or probing. The questions, for the most part, leave the reader with a favorable view of both Hanks and Wilson. The interview is helpful because Hanks and Wilson work together to answer questions, typically other interviews involve Hanks and Wilson independently. Though the article is not useful in a historical context, the interview is original and Hanks and Wilson answer questions not asked in other interviews about the film.
McGuigan, Cathleen. "War, Peace, and Mike Nichols." Newsweek 17 December 2007.
Nichols is not a politically motivated director, but a director interested in the unraveling of his characters onscreen. The article includes descriptions and analyses of his prior movies, including The Graduate. Interestingly, Nichols reveals that he resisted Charlie Wilson's War at first. He says, "I don't like reality movies. You can't make anything up." The interview continues and questions Nichols' motivation in making the film, his other films, and films in general. Nichols indicates that he has no interest in awards or becoming immortal -- he chooses films based on the characters. The interview is a raw look at the inner-workings of the film's director.
Sklar, Robert. "Charlie Wilson's War." Cineaste 33 (2008): 48-51.
Sklar describes director Mike Nichols and writer Aaron Sorkin as "masters of political satire, the kind that has a little fun with the clichés of recent American history but ultimately offers comfort and congratulation rather than seriously challenge them." His opinion of both Nichols and Sorkin serves as the basis for his review, as Sklar points out that Charlie Wilson's War is a "blowback" film that illustrates the consequences of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Sklar insists that viewers who are not "alert" will miss the idea that the waning U.S. interest in Afghanistan at the conclusion of the film contributes to the situation we see in the Middle East today. As such, Sklar criticizes the film for not pushing this theme harder. Sklar also criticizes the characterization in the film. He says, "Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts supply their star power and little else to their lead roles, which in any case are scripted without depth and with no more than brittle, surface subtlety." Overall, Sklar contends that the film is not worth viewing, as it shies away from asking tough questions and taking a real stance. He claims the film attempts to end history in 1989 and does not follow the coming events in Afghanistan. This is perhaps the most unfavorable review of the film, and is important for those who study the movie. Sklar invites readers to question the depth and meaning, or lack thereof, in the film.
Smith, Clay. "Journalist George Crile on his ‘Charlie Wilson's War.'" Austin Chronicle 27 June 2003.
Smith provides an interview with Crile, the author of the book that serves as the blueprint for the film. Smith gives a brief background of the conflict and the CIA's involvement, adding quotes and thoughts by Crile along the way. Crile reveals that he spent about fourteen years compiling information for his book. Crile also addresses the ties to September 11th. He explains Americans may have misunderstood the September 11th attacks because "the lack of knowledge about the size or scope or significance of the CIA's Afghan war." The interview with Crile is valuable because there is limited information from the author, in his own words, about the importance of his scholarship.
"Socialite Joanne Herring Wins ‘War.'" NY Daily News 27 December 2007.
The article details an interview with Herring about the film, thus only represents Herring's point of view. Herring explains that she did not spend time on the set but did fly to Morocco to meet Hanks and Roberts. She says that, at first, the script made her angry and she actually hired counsel to represent her. Herring admits that she was uncomfortable with the blatant sex and foul language in the film. The interview does not explicitly state what about the original script, if anything, was changed on account of Herring. However, she says that she was extremely pleased with the film in the end and that the content presented is accurate. The interview is helpful because there is not much published on Herring's opinions.

See Also

"Charlie Wilson's War: George Crile." Ex Libris Book Reviews. 5 March 2005.

Oppenheimer, Jean. "A Rogue Politician -- Stephen Goldblatt, ASC, BSC balances drama and satire in Charlie Wilson's War." American Cinematographer 89.1 (2008): 70-81.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Sklar, Robert. "Charlie Wilson's War." Cineaste 33.2 (2008): 48-49.

Video/Audio Resources

Charlie Wilson's War -- Trailer
The trailer from the movie.
"Charlie Wilson's War: Aaron Sorkin Interview." March 2008.
Film writer Sorkin explains Charlie's background, his district, and his party-goer reputation. He calls Charlie's ordeal "one of the great turning points of the 20th century." Sorkin also details Herring's background and illustrates the struggle of different nations coming together to help the Afghans. Sorkin does not detail his personal experience while writing the screenplay or his own attachment to the story; he just tells why the story is interesting and why the history makes for such an interesting film. The interview is worth watching despite its lack of personal content.
Cinema Judge Interview #1
Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson, Mike Nichols, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks (clips from the film included).
Cinema Judge Interview #2
Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson, Mike Nichols, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks (clips from the film included).
Tom Hanks Interview
Golden Globe Nomination.
The True Story of Charlie Wilson. A&E Home Video, 2008.
Like Crile's account, The History Channel's The True Story of Charlie Wilson covers the entirety of the tale. The DVD touches on the background of the war but is not as thorough in doing so as Crile's book. The DVD focuses mainly on Wilson's history and his role in shaping the conflict in Afghanistan. The DVD tells the story of Wilson's dog, Teddy, and the hot tub incident in great detail. All of the quotes in the historical context section come from the DVD, which features one-on-one interviews with Wilson and Herring. The DVD does not take a position or provide a thesis on the subject but simply serves to deliver the facts as they happened. The DVD takes the viewer right through the conflict and even puts the conflict into perspective with regard to the current situation in the Middle East. The DVD, like Crile's book, would be helpful to any scholar looking for the full story of Charlie Wilson, since it covers the entire situation in great detail. Perhaps most important, in terms of the filmic context, is the interview with script writer Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin provides extensive commentary about writing the screenplay, researching the history, and his own opinions about what happened in the 1980's. Sorkin's interview is crucial to the understanding of the development of the film and helps scholars to understand the mind of those who created the script and the film.

Online Resources

Charlie Wilson's War
News, photos, and a blog about Charlie Wilson and the movie from Charlie Wilson's hometown newspaper.
Estrin, Mark W. (updated by H. Wayne Schuth, further updated by Robyn Karney). "Mike Nichols." Film Reference.
Facts and brief analysis of Nichols' career.
Hill, Lee. "Mike Nichols." Senses of Cinema.
Overview essay and filmography.
"Interview: Mike Nichols." The
This is a candid interview with director Mike Nichols. Nichols argues that Wilson would be a successful politician even today because "he is the first to attack himself, Charlie has always done that." He goes on to justify any anti-Soviet undertones in the film by saying, "I'm against any leader who kills." About the film, Nichols explains, "I think the more extreme the circumstances, the more possible for a great work of art about those circumstances." The interview with Nichols provides insight into the making of the film and is crucial to understanding Charlie Wilson's War.
Johns, Michael. "Charlie Wilson's War Was Really America's War." Michael Johns blog. 19 January 2008.
"But it is the thesis of this film--that there exists an undeniable correlation between the ultimate victory of the United States-supported resistance in Afghanistan, known as the mujahideen, in their war against the Soviet Union's invasion and occupation of Afghanistan--that makes this film a hugely important leap in greater understanding of the truth behind the late 20th century American-led effort, under Ronald Reagan's Presidency, to win the Cold War, liberate millions, and usher in the great hope of peace and freedom that exists in our current post-Cold War world."
Leopold, Todd. "The Real Charlie Wilson: ‘War' Got it Right." CNN.
Leopold's article addresses the heart transplant underwent by Wilson around the release of the film in theaters. The article is brief and does not express an opinion about the history or the film; it simply provides information and outlines an interview with Wilson. The article describes Wilson's health problems and a brief, vague overview of Wilson's involvement in the war in Afghanistan. The article then provides an interview with Wilson about the film. Wilson explains that he spent time on the set, though had no authority over the script or production. Wilson insists that the film is in keeping with the book. He addresses the idea of "blowback" with regards to the conflict and the current situation in the Middle East, but Wilson argues that the blowback is not too significant to the film. Wilson adds that he thinks the movie provides sufficient history and is enough for viewers hoping to get an accurate idea of what actually happened. The article itself is not too helpful but the interview provides insight from Wilson unavailable in other sources.