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Published: Friday, 8/19/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

COMMENTARY

Iott making conservative inroads in Hollywood

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK

From his conservative ideology to his controversial historical battle re-enactments, there wasn't much we didn't learn about Rich Iott during his unsuccessful bid to unseat Democrat U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur last fall.

But did you know that the former chief executive officer of a grocery chain also is a movie producer with an oeuvre worthy of the Internet Movie Database? (Search for Richard Iott at imdb.com.)

Iott, who helped bring the first and so far only film festival to Toledo in 2009, has an online film resume that begins rather unimpressively with the schlocky made-for-Syfy Channel efforts Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon and Never Cry Werewolf in 2008, and quickly evolves into legitimate theatrical releases, InSight and Beautiful Boy, he co-produced this year through his production company Braeburn Entertainment, Ltd.

InSight is a twisty, low-budget thriller about an emergency room nurse psychically connected to a young murder victim. The film stars Sean Patrick Flanery of TV's The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones and the two Boondock Saints movies, and Christopher Lloyd in what could best be described as his first deliberately creepy role.

Beautiful Boy is a gut-punch that dissects the crippling heartbreak and emotional trauma of parents whose son goes on a college campus shooting spree. The film stars Maria Bello (so terrific as the wife in David Cronenberg's A History of Violence) as the mother and Michael Sheen (best known as David Frost in 2008's Frost/Nixon) as the father.

Rich Iott helped bring the first and only film festival to Toledo in 2009. Rich Iott helped bring the first and only film festival to Toledo in 2009.
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Beautiful Boy did well on the film-festival circuit and heavyweight critics such as Roger Ebert already have weighed in on the drama with mostly positive thoughts. It already has been picked up for theatrical release by Anchor Bay Films, though it most likely will never play in Toledo, Iott says.

Still, it is worth noting that Iott is attached to such a film, if for nothing other than this political statement: You no longer need to be liberal to work in Hollywood.

Iott, whose campaign was derailed when pictures emerged of him wearing a Nazi uniform as part of one of his re-enactments, is proof of that, as are members of the once-secretive group Friends of Abe. The group is a collection of conservative actors, writers, directors, and producers, many of whom kept their political viewpoints to themselves for years. Not anymore, as being right-minded politically has become more acceptable publicly in Hollywood.

"This organization has gotten big enough, you don't have to pretend you're on one side of the line or the other," Iott says. " ... There are a lot of very talented, very good conservatives in Hollywood. The industry as a whole bends the other way, but it's not as much the kiss of death as it used to be. It used to be that if word got out that you were conservative, you were out of business. But that's changing."

This wasn't always the case.

Iott recalls working on the set of Call of the Wild, the first feature-length family film to be shot in 3-D. The 2008 film starred recognizable names like Lloyd, Timothy Bottoms, and Wes Studi, along with Devon Iott, who has gone on to the business side of Hollywood like her dad.

But Iott's story involves a behind-the-scenes worker with a Barack Obama sticker. Iott says he used to joke with the woman about her choice in presidential candidates. Later, when no one was around, she called him over to her. Suspiciously looking around, the woman showed Iott a George Bush pin she had hidden.

"That's who I really support," she told him. "I have the other sticker so that I can work."

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734. Follow him on his blog, toledoblade.com/cultureshock, or on Twitter, @bladepopculture.



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