In an advance screening Monday night of director Rob Reiner’s new movie, ‘LBJ,’ attendees gained insight into former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s experience being catapulted into the presidency.
Oscar-nominated director Reiner and actor Woody Harrelson, who portrays Johnson, joined the audience in the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium. The film, which is set to open in theaters nationwide Nov. 3, follows the life of Johnson following the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.
Prior to the film, Reiner and Harrelson greeted the audience, drawing uproarious reactions.
“To present this here in Austin is a very exciting thing for us,” Harrelson said.
Reiner said the film would reveal “sides of LBJ that you may not be aware of.”
“When you look at his administration, it’s really one of two presidents,” Reiner said. “This is a very complex character, and I wanted to see what I could bring to this character.”
Harrelson said capturing Johnson’s character was difficult as it meant mastering an accent and taking on a new persona, but Reiner’s direction guided him in the right direction.
“It was really helpful because Rob is such a maestro filmmaker,” Harrelson said. “Rob Reiner for president — 2020.”
Also in attendance for the Q&A session following the screening was history professor H.W. Brands.
“I really didn’t understand LBJ until I saw this movie,” Brands said. “I teach history here, and as soon as this film is available on Netflix, it’s going to make my rotation.”
The film largely explores the battles Johnson faced during the 1960s with southern political leaders who challenged his mission to carry out Kennedy’s vision of passing the Civil Rights Act.
Reiner said on the current state of racial tension in the U.S., he feels President Donald Trump has mishandled race relations during his term as an elected official.
“It’s appalling that we are living in this time in this country,” Reiner said. “We have somebody now who does not understand (race relations), and has no desire to understand it.”
Reiner then said the movie was strictly about Johnson and was never intended to be characterized as “the ultimate movie about race relations.”
Members of the crowd stood up and cheers erupted for the Oscar-nominated director.
“Hopefully this film will be an inspiration for people,” Reiner said.