By Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star/Getty Images.
For years, Rob Ford’s name was synonymous with scandal. The politician, who died in 2016, was the mayor of Toronto from 2010 to 2014, and was regularly embroiled in controversy, from public intoxication, to once being recorded smoking crack cocaine. Now, true to form, an upcoming movie that will revolve around his mayoral years is quickly generating controversy of its own.
On Tuesday, it was reported that British star Damian Lewis will portray Ford in the upcoming drama Run This Town, undergoing prosthetic treatment that will transform him into the Toronto figure. While cinephiles out there might feel compelled to litigate or vigorously defend this casting decision, that’s not even the controversy at hand. The plot revolves around a reporter, played by Ben Platt, who follows the ups and downs of Ford’s political reign, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Reporter Robyn Doolittle has stirred up a debate about Platt’s role, however, accusing the film of erasing her from the narrative. Doolittle was a key journalist during Ford’s term in office, and one of three reporters who saw firsthand and reported on the video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine (the other two reporters were Gawker‘s John Cook and Doolittle’s colleague, Kevin Donovan).
“I’m glad they’re rewriting the fact that it was a female reporter who investigated Rob Ford,” Doolittle tweeted on Tuesday. “Why have a woman be a lead character when a man could do it? Ammaright?”
Her tweet quickly went viral. She followed it up with another tweet, adding that she wasn’t placing the blame on Platt: “Not begrudging @BenSPLATT (!) – just about the move in general: obviously I’m biased, but man, I’ve seen a lot of stories by male reporters celebrated in movies…”
Platt responded with a lengthy statement about the film, saying his role is a fictional reporter at a fictional publication and is in no way based on Doolittle. “That in and of itself is an incredibly worthy and fascinating story,” he said of Doolittle’s reporting, “but it’s not the one we are telling, nor would I ever agree to be a part of a film that would attribute the accomplishments of a remarkable woman to a fictional man.”
Doolittle did not respond to Platt’s statement, noting in a later tweet that she was not responding to reporters’s requests for comment because she “is on maternity leave and gotta put down the electronics.” However, she later responded to a tweet from talk-show host Iain Grant, who asked “in all fairness, didn’t both you and @_kevindonovan
Doolittle responded by saying she never suggested she was the only reporter working on the story, and she “went to great lengths in Crazy Town to give credit to colleagues at my own paper and competitors.” However, her reporting on Ford’s substance-abuse issues “began more than 1.5 yrs before the crack story.”
Writer-director Ricky Tollman told the Toronto Star that Ford will ultimately be a smaller part in the film, which is more about Platt’s character. The plot will also revolve around two aides (played by Nina Dobrev and Mena Massoud), who try to keep Ford’s scandals out of the spotlight.
Though Ford’s controversies were larger than life and certainly dominated his political narrative, Tollman says he’s aiming to paint a “sympathetic portrait” of the late politician. “Rob isn’t just a caricature, he’s a person and he’s a human,” Tollman said. “He cared very deeply about the city he was the mayor of. And this was a guy with demons.”
He also reiterated Platt’s statement, saying Run This Town isn’t based on any of the reporters who covered Ford in real life. “It was a surprise to me (that) people took three words out of the description of the film and spun it into something that it’s not, without having read the script,” he said in an interview with the Globe and Mail.
Ford died in 2016 after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 46 years old. Run This Town, which will be Tollman’s feature directorial debut, is currently filming in Toronto and does not yet have a set release date.