In the summer of 1968 television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist.
Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult – their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling.
Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed, and a new era in public discourse was born.
“Adapting for the screen, whether it be a novel, a stage play, a biography, a historical event or a newspaper article, presents its own particular problems, perhaps more technical, but in no way less intricate than writing an original screenplay. I’ve spent decades ruminating on these issues, without necessarily having reached any firm conclusions, though I do by now, I suppose, have a few tentative suggestions. I’m delighted at the opportunity to visit Bridport to be able to kick some of these suggestions around.”