Wag the Dog

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Wag the Dog is a 1997 film about a Washington spin doctor who distracts the electorate from a presidential sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood producer to create a fake war.

Directed by Barry Levinson. Written by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet.
A comedy about truth, justice, and other special effects.

Conrad 'Connie' Brean

  • A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
  • All combat takes place at night, in the rain, and at the junction of four map segments.
  • 54, 40 or fight. What does that mean?...Remember the Maine...Tippecanoe and Tyler, too...They're war slogans Mr. Motss. We remember the slogans, we can't even remember the fucking wars. Y'know why? Cause its show business. That's why I'm here. Naked girl, covered in Napalm. Five marines Raising the Flag, Mount Suribachi. V for Victory, Y'remember the picture, fifty years from now, they'll have forgotten the war. Gulf War? Smart bomb, falling down a chimney. Twenty five hundred missions a day, 100 days, one video of one bomb Mr. Motss. The American people bought that war.
  • This is a shitty business, and it needs no ghosts coming from the grave to tell us so. But Lord willing and Jesus tarries, in eight days I will be taking you into the second term.
  • Can't have a war without an enemy...You could have one, but it would be a very dull war...

Stanley Motss

  • You take the fruit of 40 years - hard lessons, mistakes - and you call it wisdom.
  • This is nothing. D'you ever shoot in Italy? Try three Italian starlets wacked out on Benzedrine and grappa, this is a walk in the park...
  • Y'know, producing is being a Samurai warrior. They pay you, day in, day out, for years, so that, ONE DAY, when called upon, you can respond, your training at Its peak, and save the day.
  • The war ain't over til I say it's over. This is my picture. You think you're in a spot? You think this is a tight spot? Try making the Hunchback of Notre Dame when your three lead actors die, two weeks from the end of principal photography.
  • Look at that! That is a complete fucking fraud, and it looks 100% real. This is the best work I've ever done in my life - because it's so honest.
  • That's right. During the filming of 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,' three of the horsemen died two weeks before the ending of principle photography. This is nothing, this is nothing. This is... this is... this is act one- The War.
  • Johnny, I got a lot of people here who are a little depressed because the war just ended, please give me a new song.
  • King, King, I got a thing here, a product placement, gonna have a bigger back-end than Hattie McDaniel.
  • Corny? He says it's corny? Of course it's corny. We wouldn't be doing the flippin' thing if it wasn't corny.

Winifred Ames

  • Oh, God. What do we do now? Huh? Huh? What do we do now, huh, boy producer? Huh? Mister win-an-Emmy, social-conscience, whale-shit, save-the-rain-forest, peacenik-commie, fuckin'-hire-a-convict-shithead? Huh? What do we do now, liberal, affirmative action, shithead, peacenik commie fuck? What do you want to do now?

CIA Agent Charlie Young

  • There are two things I know to be true. There's no difference between good flan and bad flan, and there is no war.
  • When the fit hits the shan somebody's going to have to stay after school.

Johnny Dean

  • Albania's hard to rhyme.
  • I was just on my way to get drunk.


Amy Cain: But there isn't a B-3 bomber.
Conrad Brean: Where'd you go to school, kid? Wellesly?
Cain: Dartmouth.
Brean: Then show a little spunk. There Is no B-3 Bomber. General Scott, the best of your knowledge, is not in Seattle to talk with Boeing...
Winifred Ames: It won't hold, Connie, it won't prove out.
Brean: We don't need it to prove out. We've got less than two weeks till the election, so we just need to distract them.
Ames: What on Earth would do that?
Brean: Well, I'm working on that.

Ames: Why Albania?
Brean: Why not?
Ames: What have they done to us?
Brean: What have they done FOR us? What do you know about them?
Ames: Nothing.
Brean: See? They keep to themselves. Shifty. Untrustable.

Brean: What's the thing people remember about the Gulf War? A bomb falling down a chimney. The truth: I was in the building where we shot that shot, with a one-tenth scale model made out of Legos.
Stanley Motss: Is that true?
Brean: How the fuck should we know? Take my point?

Brean: You can't tell anyone about this.
Tracy Lime: It's, like, a union thing? [pause] What would they do if I did tell someone about this?
Brean: [smiling] They could come to your house in the middle of the night and kill you.

Brean: Let me ask you a simple question: Why do people go to war?
CIA Agent Charlie Young: I'll play your silly game.
Brean: Okay. Why do people go to war?
Young: To ensure their way of life.
Brean: Would you go to war to do that?
Young: I have.
Brean: And if you went to war again, who would it be against? Your ability to fight a two-ocean war against who? Who? Sweden and Togo? That time is passed. It's over. The war of the future is nuclear terrorism, and it'll be against a small group of dissidents who, unbeknownst perhaps to their own government, have... blah blah blah. To go to that war, you have to be prepared, you gotta be alert, the public has gotta be alert. Because that is the war of the future, and if you're not gearing up to fight that war, then eventually the axe will fall, and you're gonna be out on the street. You can call this a drill, you can call this job security, you can call it anything you like. But I got one for you: You said go to war to preserve your way of life? Well, Chuck, this is your way of life. And if your spy satellites don't see nothin', if there ain't no war, then you can go home and prematurely take up golf, my friend. 'Cause there ain't no war but ours.

Motss: It's all, you know, thinking ahead, thinking ahead. That's what producing is.
Brean: It's like being a plumber.
Motss: Yeah, it's like a plumber: do your job right and nobody should notice. But when you fuck it up, everything gets full of shit.

Motss: As long as he gets his medications, he's fine.
Ames: What if he doesn't get them?
Motss: He's not fine.

Motss: What do you think about lining the President up for the Peace Prize?
Brean: Our job's over come election day.
Motss: Yeah, but c'mon...
Brean: What, just for the symmetry of the thing? [Motss nods] Well, if Kissinger can win the Peace Prize, I wouldn't be surprised if I woke up and found I'd won the Preakness.
Motss: Yeah, but our guy did bring peace.
Brean: There was never a war.
Motss: All the greater accomplishment.


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