Think of director Amanda Milius’ 2020 movie The Plot Against the President as All the President’s Men for conservatives.
The President is Donald Trump and the plot is the Russia hoax. Safe to say Milius is one of the few directors who’d touch this stuff with a ten-foot pole.
No self-respecting Hollywood mogul would be caught dead making a movie that lionizes the likes of former Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who first became aware of a plot to tie former President Donald Trump to Russia and the hero of “The Plot.” No other director would have spotted Lee Smith’s book, the basis for the movie, as a hot property to option. And that is perfectly fine with Amanda Milius.
“If Hollywood is going to make an ideological business decision to not produce content that the majority of America wants to see, I don’t have any problem with that,” director Milius told The Hollywood Reporter, “because they’re leaving a giant pile of money on the table, and my company has no problem taking that.”
Milius declines to reveal what the movie, a documentary which cost only $700, 000 to make, earned, but the movie was reportedly quite lucrative. It generated enormous DVD sales and rated No. 1 on Amazon. It racked up big sales as a View on Demand choice for cable stations. It also won artistic acclaim.
“The Plot Against the President doesn’t end with triumph and victory like Costa-Gavras’s rousing Z. Neither does it end with vengeance like Red Dawn. Fact is, Milius has made a cliffhanger — but with an informative explanation,” wrote the respected critic Armond White of National Review. Christian Toto of Hollywood.In.Toto.com added, “Director Amanda Milius escapes father’s shadow in mesmerizing doc debut.”
Flush with success, Milius sees potential for a dissident movie industry, if the right lessons are learned.
Milius’ father is John Milius, the director and producer who wrote the brilliant and disturbing screenplay for the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now, in which Marlon Brando starred as Colonel Kurtz (yes, the movie was imbued with Joseph Conrad’s work). John Milius also wrote and directed Red Dawn, the 1984 movie about a Soviet invasion of the U.S. that starred Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. In addition to these credits, Milius wrote and created HBO’s Rome series, and writer and director for The Wind and the Lion, starring Sean Connery and Candice Bergen. Milius’ credits include several Dirty Harry movies and Conan the Barbarian.
Like his daughter, Milius is politically conservative. John Milius urged his daughter never to give in to the prevailing Hollywood mindset. His fatherly counsels were not cuddly. “He said, you need to learn to be the most hated person in the room,” Amanda tells IWF. “If you don’t learn to like that feeling, you’re never going to make it. That’s actual confidence. That’s actual confidence in yourself that you don’t get from appeasing other people. That’s the only way to have any kind of integrity, and to know that you will, when the time comes, stand up when it’s unpopular, and you won’t bend to the mob.”
The Plot Against the President features interviews with the panoply of Trump officials, journalists, and others who were in on what was happening and sought to defend the President. But this isn’t just talking points with video. Amanda, who earned an MFA in Film and Television Production/Directing from USC, knows better than that. “I think one of the reasons this film was successful,” Milius says, “is that I approached the documentary like a scripted feature, to give it all of that mood, so it feels like a drama.
“I focused on the drama of the people and did as little unpacking of complex things as possible. So, for example, if you’re trying to explain to a general public what a FISA Warrant is and what the FISA Court is, everybody’s going to fall asleep. So, the way that we did it, is we tried to explain some of these surveillance techniques: First off, we used entertaining people to explain it. We used a fellow who’s a political commentator named Mike Cernovich who’s absolutely brilliant and has a real eye for how to communicate in the modern age entertainingly. And so, he explains a lot of the denser items.
“And then we had graphics that literally explain how information was laundered from the FBI through to the Washington Post, back to the FBI, and show how the media creates what we call ‘information laundering,’ a process by which they can create a fake news story and give it the sort of stamp of approval of either the IC or the FBI.” Some of the “stars” of the movie: Ric Grenell, Michael Anton, Kash Patel, Raheem Kassam, Tom Fitton, Edward Luttwak, Jim Jordan, and Donald Trump, Jr.
Flush with success, Milius sees potential for a dissident movie industry, if the right lessons are learned. “We cannot just do one-off movies that are like, oh my God, I got the information out and like now I’ve saved America and that’s it,” she says. “If we can’t create a profitable right wing, or let’s call it a dissident production powerhouse of companies, if we can’t make that a real industry, we’re not going to survive. ”
Amanda Milius grew up in Los Angeles. “I have very mixed feelings about L.A.,” she admits. “Everyone is nostalgic for the city that they grew up in. So, I have this very weird kind of love-hate relationship with L.A. There’s a reason that I live in the most opposite city you can imagine from Los Angeles, which is Washington D.C.” Milius’ mother is actress Celia Kaye. Kaye and John Milius were divorced when Amanda was a child, but they are still good friends, who go shooting on weekends.
Amanda graduated from her father’s old L.A. prep school, whose name she refuses to give (she really, really hated it). “You don’t even like these people,” Amanda told her father. “You don’t like working with their parents. You think they’re all morons and leftist nutbags, why do I have to go deal with these neurotic insane people who are getting nose jobs at age 14 and everybody’s got an eating disorder and they’re all completely insane people? Why are you doing this to me?”
It was Amanda’s oft-verbalized dislike of her prep school that prompted John Milius to deliver his “most hated person in the room” speech to his daughter. Amanda grew up in her mother’s house.
“My dad wasn’t the greatest parent on the planet in terms of the traditional sense of showing up at your softball game,” Amanda says. “Like I don’t need him at the softball game. I’m quite fine with having absorbed bits of wisdom from him. I’m very appreciative of the fact that I happen to have been lucky enough to have a genius as a father. So, I’m fine with him not showing up to the soccer game, or whatever. At the end of the day, there is a lot to be said about some of his parenting decisions, like learning to enjoy being the most hated person in the room. I mean that’s a pretty awesome thing to learn.”
Amanda attended the New School in New York (the small private university in Greenwich Village that is associated with lefty politics), where she studied philosophy and film, and then went onto USC. She made a student film at USC titled The Lotus Gun. Milius describes the film as “a post-apocalyptic lesbian weed western sci fi movie. So, it’s unique. And it’s a very aesthetic movie. I think to this day it’s very, very beautiful and I’m very proud of it. It dealt with some of the themes that I would have likely developed had I progressed down the normal path of filmmaking. What I’m doing now, weirdly, which is focusing on the idea of having my ideas and philosophies appear in the movie, but not beating people over the head with it and sort of interlacing it with aesthetics and an actual attention to detail and a loyalty to the craft, it really started then. So, I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t sort of changed everything and run away and joined the circus as I did when I ran away and joined the Trump movement.”
Fed up with “trendy” Hollywood, Milius, who had been touring film festivals with her film, got in her car and drove five or six hours to Nevada, the nearest swing state, and volunteered to work in the Trump campaign. “So, I would take other volunteers out on the door knocking,” Milius says. “I would have all these hours and hours of walking around suburban Las Vegas with other volunteers. And it was the most interesting group of people. It was moms and dads and young people and old people and people who were working two jobs and they took their one day off to go volunteer to knock doors for Trump because that’s how much they believed in this message. Everybody was just so happy to find each other.”
Milius was happy to find them, too. “I felt so happy and kind of at peace, and also because I could be myself,” she recalls. “Like politics had gotten so heated by 2016 that I was pretending I wasn’t very interested in politics. Just because I didn’t want to get into any discussion or the argument at the time. But to be able to be around these people, who believed the same things that I did, was the most refreshing thing on the planet.”
After Trump won, Milius went to work in the State Department, where she served as a senior adviser. She oversaw the merger of two bureaus, making her, she jokes “arguably the only person who helped shrink the bureaucracy.” She wrote the plan for it on a napkin in the State Department cafeteria. Milius ultimately created her position which was, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Content. It was an exciting time, and Milius worked on important projects, such as the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. It was hard for her to resign, but after reading Lee Smith’s book, she felt she had to pursue that project.
Milius is preparing for her next act, too, a movie about John McAfee.
Like All the President’s Men, The Plot Against the President has heroes: but these are heroes who were willing to buck the liberal establishment culture that, partly as a result of Watergate, came to dominate the cultural establishment of Washington. One of Milius’ heroes is Devin Nunes, who was mocked mercilessly by the smug swamp establishment. Because Nunes’ family is in the dairy business, the Huffington Post snobbishly dubbed him “an udder failure.”
Milius sees Nunes as a man who could do the right thing, even if it meant braving insults. “That’s why I love Devin so much,” Milius says. “He saw something that was wrong. He was confident enough to know what the truth was, and he said it, and he stuck to it. And he didn’t get shaken by the political fallout. And there’s nothing politicians care about more than their place in the political world, right? This is why they become politicians. So, it’s so rare to see somebody willing to take them on.”
Nunes recently retired from Congress to join Trump Media & Technology Group, which, predictably, inspired more nasty comments from sophisticates.
Milius is preparing for her next act, too. She recently acquired the rights to Mark Eglinton’s book No Domain: The John McAfee Tapes, on which her next movie will be based. “Trump and McAfee are kind of similar characters,” Milius says. “I mean, they both did run for president. And McAfee embodies this sort of larger-than-life character who has led life on his own terms. I’ve grown to have an extreme appreciation for my dad and these characters.”
As for being the most hated person in the room, Amanda is actually quite pleasant. “The one joke I make to people, which is that I’m very outspoken about sort of traditional conservative values as far as family and marriage and the importance of these institutions. I think one of the most horrific wrongs that have been done to women in the last forty years is convincing them that they all should be CEOs. And I just think that’s ridiculous. And that they should all get married and start families as soon as possible. But the funny thing is, while I am very supportive of that point of view, I live the lifestyle of the liberal, which is I live in an apartment with two cats and a career.”
The cats are a Milo, a tortoiseshell, and Yoko, a ragdoll. “She is named, in a distant way for Yoko Ono, because the boyfriend, with whom I was living at the time, was in a band, and his bandmates sometimes called me Yoko.” Milius lives in D.C., but she is moving to Alexandria, near Old Town.
We’re glad that Milius learned to be the most hated person in the room, but nowadays, we figure that in some circles, she’d be the most popular person in the room, thanks to her courage and talent, which she uses to make movies that appeal to a market disdained by Hollywood.