In his documentary, The Reagans — The Legacy Endures, writer-director Bob Kline tells the story of American president Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan during his presidency from 1980-1988. This release represents Kline’s second Reagan film. “Four years ago, I did a documentary on JFK for Warner Bros. theatrically and PBS,” said Kline. “I went to Image Entertainment and wanted to do a profile of Ronald Reagan and got the rights from the Reagan Library; they signed off. I had 300 hours of footage.”
The initial documentary, entitled Ronald Reagan — An American Journey was made with Kline’s total artistic freedom with no editorial control coming from widow Nancy Reagan. “It did so well, Image called me 18 months ago to do another one on Reagan,” Kline noted. “I wanted to focus on the relationship.”
Surely, even 26 years after he left office, Reagan remains a controversial figure, even for the filmmaker. “I’m a lifetime Kennedy democrat,” Kline explained. “The more I work on Reagan, the more I came to like and admire him – his ability to reach out to democrats and the Russians to find a consensus.”
One posthumous accusation against Reagan was that he was insensitive to the emerging AIDS crisis during his first term, but Kline’s film attempts to shed light on the truth of those early years. “When HBO did The Normal Heart, there were lot of accusations that Ronald Reagan was anti-gay,” Kline described. “I met him at the mail room at MCA. I never remember Ronald Reagan being prejudiced. There’s a moment in the [Legacy Endures] film when Elizabeth Taylor asks him to help raise money on AIDS research. They raised $25 million.”
With party lines currently as demarked as ever in U.S. government, there has been much speculation as to the nature of Reagan’s true politics during his tenure. “Democrats like me lionize JFK and Republicans Reagan,” Kline asserted. “The Kennedys went to Ronald Reagan because the Kennedy Library needed money — they raised $25 million for the Kennedy Library.”
Kline further denoted many inconsistencies in Reagan’s legacy. “History now places JFK and Ronald Reagan as the fifth and six best presidents,” said the filmmaker. “Reagan was lionized as a right-wing conservative, but he raised taxes, signed off on a Martin Luther King holiday, signed off on reparations for Japanese Americans.”
In 10 months of research, assisted by his being familiar with the story form the first film, Kline loaded footage given to him by an archivist into Final Cut Pro 7. “My editor Armando Diaz cut the JFK projects and now the Reagans with me,” Kline stated. “He’s very interactive and positive. We make joint decisions. The first thing I have to do is do an outline and give it to my editor with references to the existing material that we have. After I review the final cut, I do narration to image.”
After he premiered the first Reagan film at the Reagan Library, Kline witnessed firsthand reactions and brought the most successful methods with him to the new project. “I let Reagan’s words speak for themselves rather than try to sell people,” he said.
The Reagans: The Legacy Endures is available on DVD and as a digital download from RLJ Entertainment.