IMDb > Wag the Dog (1997)
Wag the Dog
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Wag the Dog (1997) More at IMDbPro »

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Down 6% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Writers (WGA):
Larry Beinhart (book)
Hilary Henkin (screenplay) ...
View company contact information for Wag the Dog on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
9 January 1998 (USA) See more »
A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor. When they get together, they can make you believe anything. See more »
Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 15 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. See more (215 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Dustin Hoffman ... Stanley Motss

Robert De Niro ... Conrad Brean

Anne Heche ... Winifred Ames

Denis Leary ... Fad King

Willie Nelson ... Johnny Dean

Andrea Martin ... Liz Butsky

Kirsten Dunst ... Tracy Lime

William H. Macy ... CIA Agent Charles Young

John Michael Higgins ... John Levy

Suzie Plakson ... Grace

Woody Harrelson ... Sergeant William Schumann
Michael Belson ... President

Suzanne Cryer ... Amy Cain

Jason Cottle ... A.D.

David Koechner ... Director

Harland Williams ... Pet Wrangler

Sean Masterson ... Bob Richardson
Bernard Hocke ... Technician
Jenna Byrne ... Sharon
Maurice Woods ... Kid with Shoes (as Maurkice Woods)
Roebuck 'Pops' Staples ... Pops Staples (as Pops Staples)

Phil Morris ... Co-Pilot

Chris Ellis ... Officer

Ed Morgan ... Store Owner

J. Patrick McCormack ... Pilot
Jennifer Manley ... Teenage Girl
Edrie Warner ... Judge

Richard Lawson ... CIA Agent

Drena De Niro ... Gate Stewardess

Alberto Vazquez ... Combine Driver
Stephanie Kemp ... Aide #1
Jack Esformes ... Aide #2

John Cho ... Aide #3
Michael Reid Davis ... Aide #4
Brant Cotton ... Sharon's Boyfriend
Kenneth Kern ... Nashville Engineer
Michelle Levinson ... Faye

Ron McCoy ... Limo Driver

Derek Morgan ... CIA Agent (as Derrick Morgan)
Garry R. Roleder ... USAF Chaplain

Merle Haggard ... Merle Haggard

James Belushi ... Jim Belushi (as Jim Belushi)

George Gaynes ... Senator Cole

Rick Scarry ... White House Reporter
Cliff B. Howard ... Ranger
Furley Lumpkin ... Raking Dad #1

Sean Fenton ... Raking Dad #2

Nikki Crawford ... Mom

John Franklin ... Jockey #1
Kevin Furlong ... Jockey #2

Lu Elrod ... Southern Woman

Michael Villani ... Male Commentator

Shirley Prestia ... Crossfire Moderator
Warren Wilson ... Crossfire Interviewer

Terry Anzur ... Factory Reporter
Melissa Gardner ... Santa Fe Reporter

Giselle Fernandez ... Female Press Person

Christine Devine ... Chicago Newscaster

Richard Saxton ... Chicago Newscaster #2

Geoffrey Blake ... Media Guy #1 (as Geffrey Blake)

Jerry Levine ... Media Guy #2

Jack Shearer ... Sklansky
Emmett Miller ... News Break Reporter
Bill Handel ... Andrews AFB Reporter

Anais Afshan ... Albanian Girl (as Arlene Afshangol)
Hope Garber ... Albanian Grandmother
Gina Menza ... Press Room Reporter
Maggie Mellin ... Mrs. Rose
Tom Murray ... Aircraft Carrier Reporter
Ralph Tabakin ... Southern Man

Marguerite Moreau ... Teenage Girl in Audience

Jay Leno ... Jay Leno
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Nicole Avant ... American Dream Singer

Tom Bähler ... American Dream Singer (as Tom Bahler)
Allen Carter ... American Dream Singer

Carmen Carter ... American Dream Singer
Lance Eaton ... American Dream Singer

Karen Geraghty ... American Dream Singer
James Gilstrap ... American Dream Singer
Jennifer Gross ... American Dream Singer
Wendy Lou Halvorsen ... American Dream Singer

Anthony Holiday ... American Dream Singer
Brad Kalas ... American Dream Singer
Merle Haggard and the Strangers ... Performers
Billy Trudel ... American Dream Singer
Mark Vieha ... American Dream Singer
Maxine Waters Willard ... American Dream Singer (as Maxine Waters)
Julia Waters ... American Dream Singer
Oren Waters ... American Dream Singer
Phillip V. Caruso ... War Commercial Photographer (uncredited)
Sean Ireland ... Military Officer (uncredited)

Craig T. Nelson ... Senator John Neal (uncredited)

Glendon Rich ... Grieving Politician (uncredited)

Robert Richardson ... Man in TV Studio (uncredited)

Randy Springer ... Airline Passenger (uncredited)
Chelsea Talbott ... Crying Girl at Funeral Parade (uncredited)

Paul Webster ... Limo Driver (uncredited)

Directed by
Barry Levinson 
Writing credits
Larry Beinhart (book "American Hero")

Hilary Henkin (screenplay) and
David Mamet (screenplay)

Produced by
Michael De Luca .... executive producer
Robert De Niro .... producer
Barry Levinson .... producer
Eric McLeod .... co-producer
Claire Rudnick Polstein .... executive producer
Jane Rosenthal .... producer
Ezra Swerdlow .... executive producer
Original Music by
Mark Knopfler 
Cinematography by
Robert Richardson (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Stu Linder 
Casting by
Ellen Chenoweth 
Debra Zane 
Production Design by
Wynn Thomas 
Art Direction by
Mark Worthington 
Set Decoration by
Robert Greenfield 
Costume Design by
Rita Ryack 
Makeup Department
Hazel Catmull .... key hair stylist
Kathrine Gordon .... hair stylist
Ilona Herman .... hair stylist: Mr. De Niro
Ilona Herman .... makeup artist: Mr. De Niro
Mark Landon .... makeup artist
Peter Montagna .... key makeup artist
Elaine L. Offers .... makeup artist (as Elaine Offers)
Daniel C. Striepeke .... makeup artist: Mr. Hoffman
Michael White .... hair stylist: Mr. Hoffman
Melissa A. Yonkey .... hair stylist: Mr. Harrelson (as Melissa Yonkey)
Production Management
Blair Daily .... post-production supervisor
Joe Fineman .... executive in charge of post-production
Carla Fry .... executive in charge of production
Eric McLeod .... unit production manager
Bonnie Weis .... production supervisor: second unit
Laurie Kaye .... production manager: special war/news segments (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Ken Arlidge .... second unit director
Amy Sayres .... first assistant director
Amy Schmidt .... second second assistant director
Christopher Swartout .... second assistant director
Art Department
Jose M. Arreguin .... propmaker foreman
Peter Bankins .... property master
Tim Donelan .... lead man
Kirk Essiambre .... property assistant
John French .... paint foreman
Joe Louis Garcia .... construction grip
Ildefonso Goris .... greensman
Tammy High .... construction estimator
Bill 'Kauhane' Hoyt .... stand-by painter (as Bill 'Kahuane' Hoyt)
Steve Joyal .... art department coordinator
Diane Kramer .... art production assistant (as Diana Kramer)
Scott W. Leslie .... set dresser
Alberto Christiano Lombardo .... assistant property master (as Alberto Lombardo)
Jeff Markwith .... set designer
Jim McDermott .... set dresser
Robert McKelvey .... propmaker foreman
Kathy Meherin .... labor foreperson
Mark Pallatt .... set dresser
Stephen J. Readmond .... on-set dresser
Shana Sigmond .... assistant set decorator
Frank Simplico .... tool foreman
John Slatsky .... set dresser
Billy Spire .... general foreman
Christopher Tandon .... assistant art director
Duke Tomasick .... construction coordinator
Carl Catanese .... on-set dresser: Washington DC (uncredited)
Mary Locatell .... illustrator (uncredited)
Byron K. Lovelace .... props: New York (uncredited)
Brent Smith .... set dresser (uncredited)
Sound Department
Mike Boudry .... adr recordist
Lindakay Brown .... dialogue editor
Steve Cantamessa .... sound mixer
Tony Eckert .... foley mixer
Ben Gold .... supervising assistant sound editor
J.R. Grubbs .... sound effects editor
Lora Hirschberg .... sound re-recording mixer
Tim Holland .... supervising sound editor
Tom Johnson .... sound re-recording mixer
Doc Kane .... adr mixer
Scott La Rue .... cable puller (as Scott LaRue)
Mary Helen Leasman .... foley editor
Diane Linn .... adr recordist
Marilyn McCoppen .... adr editor
Frank 'Pepe' Merel .... foley re-recordist
Al Nelson .... sound re-recordist
Susan Popovic .... assistant sound editor
Charleen Richards .... adr mixer
Claire Sanfilippo .... dialogue editor
Michael Silvers .... dialogue supervisor
Greg Steele .... adr mixer
Gary Thomas .... boom operator
Dennie Thorpe .... foley artist
Tami Treadwell .... adr recordist
Jana Vance .... foley artist
Mary Works .... assistant sound editor
David Abrahamsen .... sound (uncredited)
Mark Burton .... production sound mixer: video unit (uncredited)
Sean England .... foley recordist (uncredited)
Steve Romanko .... sound (uncredited)
David E. Turner .... machine room operator (uncredited)
David E. Turner .... sound transferer (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Greg Dennison .... special effects assistant
Jim Hanson .... special effects foreman
Dennis King .... special effects coordinator
Edward T. Reiff Jr. .... special effects assistant (as Ed Reife Jr.)
Dale Riggs .... special effects assistant
Ray L. Wilkerson .... special effects assistant
Ronald W. Mathews .... special effects (uncredited)
Visual Effects by
Mike Sabga .... digital effects artist: video playback operator
Krystyna Demkowicz .... executive in charge of production: Matte World Digital (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Stephen B. Abrams .... dolly grip: "b" camera
Halo Amrani .... lamp operator (as Halo Amrani-Gor)
Ken Arlidge .... director of photography: second unit
Nick Arnds .... grip (as Nick Arnds IV)
Roger Awad .... lamp operator
Michael Brennan .... dolly grip: "b" camera
Phillip V. Caruso .... still photographer (as Phil Caruso)
Barry Clint .... grip
Rick Colosimo .... grip
John T. Connor .... first assistant camera: "b" camera (as John Connor)
Amy DeMarte .... second assistant camera: "b" camera
Joseph Dianda .... key grip
Shawn Ensign .... grip (as R. Shawn Ensign)
Jamie Franta .... grip
David Gamerman .... assistant chief lighting technician
Chris Leidholdt .... rigging key grip
Jim Leidholdt .... rigging grip
William Leslie .... dolly grip: "b" camera
Fredrick W. Marx III .... lamp operator
Roger Meilink .... rigging gaffer
Sean Mennie .... camera production assistant
Daniel P. Moore .... video assist operator (as Dan Moore)
Robert W. Morgenroth .... video supervisor (as Bob Morgenroth)
Scott Patten .... best boy grip
Reinhart 'Rayteam' Peschke .... chief lighting technician
Martin Schaer .... camera operator
Robert J. Studenny .... grip (as Robert Studenny)
Gregor Tavenner .... first assistant camera: "a" camera
David Terry .... dolly grip (as David 'D.T.' Terry)
Kelly Uchimura .... camera loader
Jeanne Vienne .... second assistant camera: "a" camera (as Jeanne Lipsey)
Kevin Barnes .... electrician (uncredited)
Renan Galindo .... lighting technician (uncredited)
Todd Higgins .... key grip: video unit (uncredited)
Jay Holben .... best boy electric: video unit (uncredited)
Laela Kilbourn .... additional second assistant camera (uncredited)
Ilya Lyudmirsky .... first assistant camera: video unit (uncredited)
Alexandre Naufel .... set lighting (uncredited)
Rob Nelson .... video operator (uncredited)
David Norris .... camera operator: Wescam camera (uncredited)
Peter Shultz .... electrician: video unit (uncredited)
Russell Steen .... gaffer: video unit (uncredited)
Daryl Studebaker .... director of photography: video unit (uncredited)
Casting Department
David Anthony .... extras casting
Brennan Dufresne .... casting assistant (as Brennan du Fresne)
Leigh French .... voice casting
Kimberly Rodgers .... extras casting
Terri Taylor .... casting assistant
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Nancy McArdle .... costume supervisor
Marjorie McCown .... assistant costume designer
Mary Jo McGrath .... assistant to costume designer
Jose Morales .... tailor
Maggie Morgan .... assistant costume designer
Marcie Olivi .... set costumer
Hugo Peña .... key costumer
Romeo Pompa .... set costumer
Kelly Porter .... costumer: Mr. Hoffman
Ellen Ryba .... assistant costume designer
Editorial Department
Gilbert Carreras .... color timer (as Gil Carreras)
Blair Daily .... additional editor
Mark Daily .... first assistant editor
Jason Joseph .... editorial production assistant
Ric Keeley .... post-production executive
Bob Shugrue Jr. .... assistant editor (as Robert F. Shugrue Jr.)
Mark W. Smith .... assistant editor
Jay Vinitsky .... post-production coordinator
Thomas M. Harrigan .... editorial apprentice (uncredited)
John F. Lyons .... assistant editor (uncredited)
Music Department
Chuck Ainlay .... music engineer
Chuck Ainlay .... music producer
Richard Bennett .... musician: guitar
Roger Blanc .... music arranger: band
Bob Bowen .... music coordinator
Paul Broucek .... music executive
Jim Cox .... musician: keyboard
Chad Cromwell .... musician: drums
Guy Fletcher .... musician: keyboard
Mark Kaufman .... music business affairs
Mark Knopfler .... music producer
Mark Knopfler .... musician: guitar
Mark Ralston .... assistant music engineer
Dana Sano .... music executive
Lori Silfen .... music business affairs
Joel Sill .... music consultant: Tribeca
Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz .... music editor
Glenn Worf .... musician: bass guitar
Transportation Department
Steve Boyd .... transportation coordinator
Jerry F. Johnson .... transportation captain (as Jerry Johnson)
Greg Bronner .... driver (uncredited)
Kenneth A. Owen .... mechanic (uncredited)
Burton L. Warner .... driver: Barry Levinson (uncredited)
Other crew
Rhonda Baer .... location manager
Shelley Barbour .... assistant: Mr. Hoffman
Alison Benson .... assistant: Ms. Rosenthal
Lee J. Bognar .... location assistant (as Lee Bognar)
Mauni P. Caves .... location assistant: second unit (as Mauni Caves)
Robin Chambers .... assistant: Mr. De Niro
Brett Cody .... video coordinator
Eric Damore .... caterer
Dennis Davidson .... International public relations
Brad Davis .... assistant production accountant
Ted Eccles .... producer: special war/news segments
Hedi El Kholti .... post-production accountant
Avy Eschenasy .... production attorney
J.J. Geary .... craft service
Emily Glatter .... production coordinator: in-house
Madeleine R. Gubbins .... production secretary
Gabriela Gutentag .... unit publicist
Holly Hagy .... production coordinator
Lana Hale .... rights clearances
Terry Ham .... set production assistant
Geoff Harding .... location assistant (as Geoffrey Harding)
Tim Hillman .... location manager: second unit
Erik Holmberg .... production executive
Patrick Jager .... rights clearances
Scott Keil .... medic
Carlos Kotkin .... assistant: Mr. Levinson
Gary Kurashige .... medic
Nancy Lefkowitz .... assistant: Ms. Rosenthal
Adam Leichtman .... assistant: Mr. De Niro
Dirk Q. Long .... caterer (as Dirk Long)
Kimberly Lynn .... location assistant
Cathy Marshall .... payroll accountant
Ginny Martino .... business affairs liaison
Scott Maziroff .... accounting clerk
Wild Bill McCrillis .... caterer
Barron Miller .... location assistant
Mindy Miller .... stand-in: Ms. Heche
Kevin Milligan .... set production assistant
Jaime Oria .... video conversions
Jeffrey Craig Owens .... office production assistant (as Craig Owens)
Romano Paoletti .... set production assistant
Tony Patterson .... assistant video coordinator
Steve Peterson .... caterer
Kait Pickering .... assistant production coordinator
Julie Pitkanen .... script supervisor
John Polce .... stand-in: Mr. De Niro (as John J. Polce)
Steven Pollock .... producer: special war/news segments
Paul Prokop .... production controller
Joshua Ravetch .... production resources
Robert E. Roddy .... medic
John Sanchez .... office production assistant
Kas Self .... stand-in: Mr. Hoffman
Maria Spaeth .... assistant: Mr. Swerdlow
Bryan Thomas .... caterer (as Brian Thomas)
Louise Tolan .... office production assistant
William Turchyn III .... craft service
Raymond Vigil .... office production assistant
Harriet Voyt .... assistant: Mr. Mamet
Steve Watson .... caterer
Bonnie Weis .... production accountant
Ryan Williams .... video shop engineer
Susan Ahulii .... craft service (uncredited)
Peter Albert .... 24 frame cable/utility: Washington D.C. (uncredited)
Chris Beal .... assistant coordinator: second unit (uncredited)
Kathleen Beall .... assistant location manager (uncredited)
Ronald C. Briggs Jr. .... inventory services (uncredited)
Dale Dye .... technical advisor (uncredited)
Freddie Joe Farnsworth .... technical advisor (uncredited)
Dave Freed .... assistant to cast (uncredited)
Georgette Hayden .... production coordinator (uncredited)
Keith McNulty .... teleprompter operator (uncredited)
Chris Miller .... technical services (uncredited)
Tom Sellitti .... assistant: Mr. Leary (uncredited)
Harland Williams .... animal wrangler (uncredited)
Johnny Rockets .... special thanks
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsSpecial EffectsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated R for language
97 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:13 | Australia:M | Belgium:KT | Brazil:14 | Canada:14A (Alberta) | Canada:PG (British Columbia/Ontario) | Canada:PA (Manitoba) | Canada:14 (Nova Scotia) | Canada:G (Quebec) | Chile:14 | Denmark:11 | Finland:S | France:U | Germany:12 (bw) | Iceland:L | Mexico:B | Netherlands:12 | New Zealand:M | Norway:7 | Peru:14 | Portugal:M/12 | Singapore:NC-16 | South Korea:15 | Spain:T | Sweden:7 | Switzerland:7 (canton of Geneva) | Switzerland:7 (canton of Vaud) | UK:15 | USA:R

Did You Know?

The talk show phone number, (800) 555-0199, is common to many films and television shows because this is the only number that has been reserved by the phone company as an allowable "fake" 800 number for media usage.See more »
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): In one scene Dustin Hoffman comments that "there is no Academy Award for producing." While there is no Academy Award titled "Best Producer", the Best Picture Oscar is the Oscar awarded to Producers.See more »
Stanley Motss:You take the fruit of forty years - hard lessons, mistakes - and you call it wisdom.See more »
Movie Connections:
References "I, Claudius" (1976)See more »


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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful.
A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow., 9 November 2008
Author: Andy (film-critic) from Bookseller of the Blue Ridge

Can a movie created in the late 90s still speak to a voting audience in the late 2000s? Prior to "Wag the Dog" my answer would be "no", but watching, and now re-watching it for a second time in the past week, this film could be watched today, watched next year, or even watched prior to the next four elections, and it would continue to feel current, real, and modern in today's political/cinematical world. The power of the dialogue, the intense chemistry of the characters, and the constant interruption of the television generation into the political world will continue to keep "Wag the Dog" out of the black hole of cinema – it will not be dated, never forgotten, and forever enjoyed. As we continue to allow CNN to give us our news, this film will remain as vivid as America's apple pie.

Act I: The Chemistry of the Characters

Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman could play chess for three hours, and it would capture my attention from beginning to end. DeNiro is a powerhouse of an actor, not just because he can play the tough gangster type, but also because he can take a character like Brean and give us simple, verbose, and intelligent. His range can be seen throughout this film. He commands each scene that he is in, focusing our attention on each of his words and lingering on his next move. In my eyes, it is more powerful than "Goodfellas" or "Casino" because of his subtle nature. The scene that stands out for me in "Wag the Dog" that requires viewing for DeNiro's talent is that between CIA Agent William H. Macy and DeNiro discussing the honesty of the war on Albania. To me, this shows the power of his talent.

Jumping onto the other side of this film, there is Dustin Hoffman. While DeNiro pulls his obvious strengths with this film, Hoffman makes "Wag the Dog" more than just a political film. Listening to the commentary, Hoffman discusses the fact that he nearly didn't make this film because he couldn't find Motss's character. Thankfully he did, due to his compelling portrayal; we are taken from political conspiracy cinema to this raw human drama. The final act was sublime due to both DeNiro and Hoffman's chemistry, but also because we believed Motss' words. As audience members, we wanted to see him tell his story (knowing that he never would). It was the human element, the Motss' true self, that we were drawn to, and Hoffman stayed true to those moments until the very end. This isn't your typical Hollywood happy film, this basis itself on – albeit conspiracies – but honest conspiracies. Could you survive the greatest hoax ever and promise not to tell a soul? Surrounding these characters, we had Willie Nelson, Denis Leary, Anne Heche, Kirsten Dunst, William H. Macy, John Michael Higgins, and – who could forget – Woody Harrelson. These are our players, and they take us from scene to scene with the greatest of ease.

Act II: The Writing & the Directing

David Mamet. Does anything else need to be said? Having been a full time follower of his work, I was not surprised to see that it was his quick-witted words coming from our characters' mouths. It is the fast-paced level of intellectual banter that transforms "Wag the Dog" into the powerhouse that it is. It works because you finish watching the characters actions and it is the words you find yourself quoting for weeks after. Mamet's political punch to this film was reminiscent of Kubrick's ideas behind "Dr. Strangelove". The two were films that were absurd, but it was also the ideals that they were satirizing that makes both viewable today; just as powerful as they were when they were released. Mamet's words with Barry Levinson's direction takes "Wag the Dog" into perfection. There are no heroes, there are no villains, and we know so little about the characters that it is simply the story, or the words, that pull us into this film. The beats are hit, the angles are crisp and tight, and our characters are perfection – possibly the best casting in years. With this in mind, we have only the third act remaining – cause, as everyone knows – there is always a third act!

Act III: The Final Thought

Overall, "Wag the Dog" is perfect. Very few films in my eyes fully carry the honor of being watchable at any time, any decade, or any political year – but "Wag the Dog" does. Watching with a group of friends, I was surprised as to how many had not seen this feature, remembering that it had been birthed nearly 11 years ago, it still seemed surprising. "Wag the Dog" overturns those political conspiracy theories and makes you laugh, think, and realize the impact of our commercial media. It was enjoyable to hear the current terms like "plumber" and "commercial president" in this 1997 film, boasting the truth that this film was made before its time. Looking back, there are those that could complain about our premise being too cliché, that the same conspiracy theories have been done again and again, but to me, this was fresh. This entire film was fast-paced, amazingly acted, and media driven. In the commentary, it is talked about how it is rumored that the media doesn't even check sources any further, and this is a glowing example of that regime.

Grade: ***** out of *****

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