By focusing on her career as an Alaska politician, Bannon presents a sharply different image than the one Palin created for herself in the national arena. The candidate known for her "Drill, Baby, drill" mantra comes off in the movie as an environmentally-minded populist who fought successfully to impose a significant corporate tax hike on oil companies. One of President Obama's sharpest-tongued critics is depicted, in Alaska, as a non-partisan reformer who convinced Democrats as well as Republicans to back her reform measures.
Nothing about the film's rollout, which includes early screenings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina before a commercial opening nationwide next month, will dampen the presidential speculation that Palin stoked last week with a high-profile bus tour that included a stop in New Hampshire, home of next year's first presidential primary.
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Bannon told reporters who screened a rough cut of the film in Washington last week that Palin had no editorial control over the movie. But she cooperated in its making, giving Bannon extensive access to friends and family. The movie includes never-before-seen family photos and home movies of Palin as a youngster, obtained, Bannon said, from her parents. Also featured extensive commentary by Palin's normally tight-lipped aides and former associates.
The story of the movie's genesis reveals a longstanding effort by the Palin camp to find ways to burnish her image. Palin aides Tim Crawford and Rebecca Mansour initially approached him last fall about creating a series of YouTube videos on the former governor, Bannon said. He countered with a proposal to make a feature-length film. Bannon said he sought no participation from Palin but did ask her to give associates the green light to speak with him.
The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee was "blown away" when she screened the results two weeks ago in Phoenix, said Bannon. He said the screening took place at about the same time Palin, in an May 19 interview with Fox News, said "I do have that fire in my belly" for a presidential race. But the former Alaska governor said she has not yet decided whether family considerations might override political ambition.
"I certainly hope she considers it," said Bannon, whose last movie, "Fire in the Heartland," featured one of Palin's potential rivals, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., along with other women tea-party activists.
Using Palin's own voice -- from the audio version of her best-selling memoir "Going Rogue" -- interspersed with those of friends and aides, the movie describes Palin as having been inspired to enter politics by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which fouled Alaska's coastline and disrupted its fisheries with 11 million gallons of crude oil.