Two planned films about Hillary Clinton were scrapped within hours of each other Monday, amid claims from one director that interview subjects had been intimidated by Clinton aides who didn't want to see the project move forward.
CNN Films canceled a planned documentary about Clinton Monday morning after Charles Ferguson, the project’s director, abruptly dropped out of the project and said the Clinton camp had pressured people not to talk to him.
Hours later, NBC followed suit, announcing it would scrap a planned fictional miniseries about the former first lady and secretary of state that had been set to star actress Diane Lane. In a statement to Deadline, NBC said it had nixed its Clinton miniseries "after reviewing and prioritizing our slate of movie/mini-series development" — but offered no further explanation.
Ferguson, who had been tapped earlier this year to direct the CNN film, wrote in a piece published on The Huffington Post that he had decided to cancel the documentary because potential interview subjects refused to be interviewed.
He blamed pressure from Clinton aides and supporters as well as the Republican National Committee, which, because of CNN's plan to air the documentary next year, had barred the cable network from hosting any party-sanctioned 2016 presidential primary debates. The RNC had also voted to block NBC from hosting such debates over its plan to air the Clinton miniseries.
"When I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film," Ferguson wrote. "Not Democrats, not Republicans — and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration. Not even journalists who want access, which can easily be taken away."
Ferguson said he had received a phone call from Nick Merrill, Clinton’s press secretary, even before the film was formally announced. Merrill “interrogated” him, Ferguson said. Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton adviser, also called CNN officials and complained about the film, Ferguson said.
Merrill and Reines did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (UPDATE: In an email five hours later, Merrill replied, "Lights, camera, no reaction.")
Ferguson said he had requested interviews with more than 100 people — both Democrats and Republicans — and in the end, only two people who had “ever dealt” with Clinton agreed to talk to him.
“And I suspected that even they would back out,” Ferguson wrote.
He added, “Neither political party wanted the film made. After painful reflection, I decided that I couldn't make a film of which I would be proud. And so I'm cancelling.”
He called the decision to can the project “a victory for the Clintons and for the money machines that both political parties have become.”