Georgia’s booming film industry may be a plus for the state’s economy, but blasting celebrities for their political stances is proving to be a tempting plotline as Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp prepare for the July 24 runoff.
Cagle on Tuesday urged a boycott of Judd Apatow’s work after the filmmaker posted a tweet condemning President Donald Trump as a racist “Nazi” who “wants no judicial process,” “kidnaps children” and “admires violent dictators.”
Cagle pounced in a response tweet. “Conservatives: join me in forever boycotting Judd Apatow’s work. Hardly have to ask as his movies are terrible.”
Apatow’s projects, and those of his wife, actress Leslie Mann, include big-budget movies filmed in Atlanta. Apatow served as a producer for the 2013 comedy “Anchorman 2” and Mann appeared in locally filmed “Blockers,” released earlier this year, as well as the 2015 “Vacation” reboot and the 2011 “The Change-Up.”
With a box office haul exceeding $127 million, “Anchorman 2” is one of the highest grossing films shot here since the Legislature enacted film-friendly tax incentives in 2008.
Kemp called Apatow’s comments “beyond vile,” but aimed most of his social media ammunition at Cagle in tweets showing the lieutenant governor posing with Atlanta R&B star Usher and actor/rapper Ludacris. Kemp noted that Usher wore a “Don’t Trump America” jacket to Sunday’s BET Awards and Ludacris tore the head off a cardboard Trump figure at a 2016 performance.
“For years, Casey Cagle has partied with some of Obama’s biggest bundlers and Donald Trump’s most famous critics,” Kemp tweeted. “Now, just weeks until the runoff, he’s upset that left-wingers are attacking his second choice for president. That’s not loyalty to (the president) - that’s opportunism.”
Cagle was among the political, civic and business leaders who in 2015 attended a preview party and luncheon for the 16th anniversary of Usher’s New Look Foundation, which operates leadership mentoring programs for youths. The photos of Cagle with Usher and Ludacris were taken at those events.
Local, state and national political leaders regularly make appearances at local film premieres or other industry gatherings. Cagle and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., were among the hundreds of guests in 2013 when Tyler Perry hosted a private party to celebrate his movie “The Marriage Counselor,” for example. Kim Kardashian, who appeared in the film, attended with Kanye West.
Georgia is a top destination globally for movie, television and video filming, and a state analysis found that filmmaking’s economic impact in Georgia hovers around $9.5 billion each year. The state has for years offered free tech school tuition for students in movie-production courses.
Gov. Nathan Deal, who also has appeared at red-carpet events as a show of his strong support the film industry, said it is now inextricably linked with Georgia’s economy. He urged caution on both sides.
“The film industry should be very cautious of trying to tell Georgia what its social policies should be. They will get reactions if they go too far,” Deal said. “And likewise, the state of Georgia should be very cautious telling them what their social policies should be. There’s a happy middle ground, and so far we’ve found it.”
Apatow’s busy Twitter feed hadn’t mentioned Cagle or Kemp as of press time Tuesday evening, but he enjoyed his time in Atlanta while “Anchorman 2” was filming.
“You guys have good food,” director Adam McKay said in an interview with the AJC at the time. “We liked Flying Biscuit. We liked Ecco and The Optimist. South City Kitchen, whoo! Judd Apatow came back a couple of times and half-admitted that he was coming back for the fried chicken at South City Kitchen.”
The movie was set in New York and San Diego but filmed almost entirely here due to the state tax credits. Because of the savings, the movie starring Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Dave Koechner, Kristen Wiig and Christina Applegate was able to stuff its roster with a slew of cameo cast members.
In an epic scene filmed at Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, rival television crews battle each other, Harrison Ford turns into a werewolf and Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, John C. Reilly, Jim Carrey, Kanye West, Sacha Baron Cohen, Liam Neeson and Kirsten Dunst show up for the action.
“The tax credit’s huge,” McKay said. “We basically shot a $100 million movie for half the price. We had a great time in Atlanta.”
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