The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
We probably should have seen this coming at some point, but it was a surprise last week when, shortly after the presidential election wrapped up, a rumor starting floating that actress Ashley Judd might take on Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator, Mitch McConnell, in 2014.
Of course, there were the knee-jerk reactions from people who don’t like the idea of celebrities running for office, those whose business is mocking everything (we saw you, Gawker), and those who disagree with Judd’s liberal viewpoints, particularly on coal.
But we should have seen this coming. In the past decade, Judd, 44, has devoted as much, if not more, time to politics and activism as she has to acting. She notably went back to school to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard in 2010. Let’s check that chatter about her not being a serious commenter on issues right now.
People who complain about entertainers getting into politics are really complaining about entertainers who disagree with their viewpoints getting into politics. Talk to those opposed to Hollywood’s typically leftist politics and you’ll probably find many who count Bedtime for Bonzo star Ronald Reagan as their favorite president.
Judd is an entertainer with a serious interest in politics, a liberal with deep roots, although not current residence, in what is an increasingly conservative state.
Should she run?
Here are some things to consider.
She would be taking on one of the most powerful men in the country, and arguably the most powerful politician in Kentucky. Stepping into a U.S. Senate race against McConnell could be a akin to stepping into the boxing ring for the first time against another Kentuckian, Muhammad Ali.
But maybe not Ali in his prime.
In 2008, the most recent time McConnell, 70, was up for re-election, Bruce Lunsford gave him something of a race, losing by little more than 100,000 votes. After last week’s election, McConnell looks weaker: Republicans lost Senate seats, and he did not achieve his stated goal of Republicans of making Barack Obama a one-term president. As a big-name opponent with a lot of friends around the country, Judd might give McConnell a stiff challenge.
But so could some other Democrats. Despite the redness in the commonwealth on a federal level, there are a few Kentucky Democrats who probably are considering runs against McConnell. Judd could risk alienating some of those in the party if she is perceived to be stepping ahead in line.
Then there are the voters. Judd is one of the chief cheerleaders for one of the great uniters in the Bluegrass State: the University of Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team. But she is a controversial person, particularly in her homeland, Eastern Kentucky, where she is perceived to be anti-coal, after her participation in a number of rallies against moutaintop-removal coal mining. She might want to call up outgoing U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Versailles) for some tips on what being perceived as anti-coal can do to your prospects in a Kentucky election.
That and her international activism have earned her a reputation as being more concerned with issues overseas and international political compatriots such as Bono than with the struggles of her fellow Eastern Kentuckians.
If Judd is to have a prayer of winning, she would have a lot of work to do to convince Eastern Kentucky, particularly coal miners and her families, that she is concerned about them and will represent their concerns, and that her issues are with the mining executives, not the men and women who go underground every day to support their families. Judd would need to come up with concrete ideas on how Eastern Kentucky can prosper in a post-coal era.
She would also have to re-establish Kentucky residency to run; where she chooses to live could make a big statement.
And yes, Judd will have to convince skeptics that she is a serious candidate, even with that Harvard degree. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, but there are precedents. If she is considering a run, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) ought to be one of the first phone calls she makes. He made the journey from comedian to legislator fairly well.
She might also call her screen buddy Morgan Freeman to voice over some ads for her. It seemed to work for Obama.
If Judd does run, it would be the Senate race of the year in 2014, particularly if the next two years are rocky for Republicans and McConnell. Regardless, the contest could make her wish she was pursuing Oscars instead of public office. Political opponents and the media make movie critics and celebrity tabloid writers look downright congenial.
It’s all up to Judd, if she wants to throw her Derby hat into the ring.
Well the NCAA presented the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team’s No. 1 fan, Ashley Judd, with a bit of a quandary Thursday night: Watch her new show, Missing, at 8 p.m. on ABC or her beloved Cats in their first game in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky is supposed to tip off at 6:50 p.m. against the winner of Tuesday night’s game between Western Kentucky University and Mississippi Valley State. So, the choice is the Cats or watch Judd kick some butt as an ex-CIA agent on a desperate search for her son.
“What a pickle,” Judd replied. “Are you kidding? I’m going to watch Kentucky Wildcats.”
Bambury pointed out that Judd has already seen the show.
Before the Cat quandary came up, Judd talked about the physical task of filming the action drama, which has her doing stunts such as jumping into the Seine River for a swim and running a lot.
Judd said her husband, Indy race car driver Dario Franchitti, teased her about the running, which she apparently does not do much.
“My husband, when he saw the show, said, ‘Look doll, evidence. You were filmed running. It has happened before,’” Judd recalled.
Correction: The original version of this post misstated the time of the Missing premiere.
“When they were talking to me, they were surprised at how much I did know,” Judd says, referring to her and her family’s long-held interest in their genealogy. “A key element of the program is the surprise factor in revealing to the star information that they did not know. They were like, ‘OK, you’re going to be a challenge. How are we going to find family data that you don’t know yet?’
“Then they said, ‘What would you like to know?’ and I said, ‘Where does my passion for social justice come from?’ I have such an inexorable drive for positive reform, for equality, for justice. Is there a precedent in the family for these kinds of values and civic participation?
“And there is. There most certainly is. They found the big one.”
What the big one is you can find out on the show at 8 p.m. ET tonight (April 8, 2011) on NBC, but let’s just say it goes back 12 generations and crosses the Atlantic Ocean.
And that’s part of what makes this show cool.
Who Do You Think You Are? had not shown up on my radar before Ms. Judd’s episode because on the surface it felt like just another celebrity-based reality show.
But watching tonight’s episode it struck me that this is prime time network television where history and culture are being discussed in detail and in a pretty fascinating way, and the network is not PBS. Yes, the show has its gimmicks and somewhat manufactured drama. But it is also touching and enlightening, two things you really can’t say about most TV today, particularly reality TV.
For Kentuckians, with Judd’s episode, we see some familiar landscapes and places, including a visit to Frankfort.
“I loved going to the state archives,” Judd said in an interview Friday for a story that will be in Sunday’s Herald-Leader and on LexGo.com about her new memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet. “They were wonderful people and I loved getting on that microfiche and looking at property records and … it’s enthralling.”
A little over a month ago, Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence and Union’s Josh Hutcherson were enjoying the revelry of the Oscars and awards season. Now, they make up some of the most Kentucky-centered movie casting since Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon paired up in 2006′s Bug.
Lawrence and Hutcherson will star in the big screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, the first film based on the hit trilogy that includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The series is set in a future country where the United States used to be in which selected teenagers must compete in a deadly game. But the casting is somewhat appropriate as Lawrence and Hutcherson’s characters, Katniss and Peeta, hail from the District of Appalachia.
Joining them will be two-time former Miley Cyrus beau Liam Hemsworth as Gale completing a love triangle that is frequently compared to Twilight’s Bella, Jacob and Edward.
Directing The Hunger Games, and adding to its Oscar pedigree, will be Gary Ross, director of 2003′s Seabiscuit, which was partially filmed in the Lexington area and nominated for the Academy Award for best picture.
Lawrence was an Oscar nominee for her performance as another mountain girl fighting for survival in Winter’s Bone. Hutcherson was part of the ensemble cast of multiple nominee The Kids are All Right.
The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team has had a great season, dare we say cinematic?
Seriously, think of the storylines that could play out on the big screen:
- John Calipari in Memphis, deciding whether to take the job.
- The comeback story of the Cats, after having to settle for an NIT bid in 2009-2010.
- Recruiting John Wall and Demarcus Cousins to join the team.
- Wall’s meteoric rise to superstar.
- Calipari struggling to tame Cousins’ temper, and combating the refs who’ve made up their minds about him.
- All the high points: The visits by LeBron, Magic and, of course, Ashley. ESPN Gameday and a march to the … the … Well, we don’t know where the story ends yet. But, at Weekender Central, we’ve been kicking around some ideas of how to cast a movie about UK’s magnificent season.
Alec Baldwin as Calipari? We’re kind of liking it, but there have to be other ideas. How about Wall and Cousins – who could step into their Nikes? And Ms. Judd – does she play herself? We’re thinking maybe newly ordained best actress Sandra Bullock. After all, sports movies have been very, very good to her, lately.
Well we want your ideas for the UK movie cast. Here are the roles we want to fill:
Are there other characters we should include? Either comment here or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and have fun with it.
Before performing on the “CBS Early Show” Saturday morning, Wynonna Judd announced it is “take your mother to work year,” and that she would be touring with her mom, Naomi Judd.
It will be The Judds first tour since 2000, when the chart-topping mother-daughter duo stopped by Rupp Arena for a performance that included a cameo by sister Ashley. That concert was taped for a CBS special, later that year.
According to Wynonna Judd’s Nashville-based publicist, the tour will kick off as Christmas shows at the end of this year and then move out to arenas in 2011.The Judds, whose roots are in Eastern and Central Kentucky, was one of the most successful country music duos in history, churning out a catalog of chart-topping hits such as “Mama He’s Crazy” in the 1980s. The act disbanded in 1991, when Naomi announced she had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C.
Naomi and Wynonna have teamed up since 2000 for a few one-night concerts, and Naomi sang on Wynonna’s 2003 single, “Flies on Butter.” But this will be the duo’s first tour in a decade.
Tour dates for The Judds have not been announced yet.
Here’s Wy, making the announcement:
Forgive us for self-indulgent acts like sleeping, but while we were looking at the insides of our eyelids Monday night, Ms. Ashley Judd was on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” talking about — what else — the Wildcats. In the clip above, Judd details some of her basketball watching rituals to a fascinated Fallon. She also talked about grad school life at Harvard, where she claims to eat a lot of pizza, and kicked Fallon and NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson’s posteriors in a bumper car race (a little coaching from Dario?). Click here for the full episode.
In a related story, UK Coach John Calipari’s Hoops for Haiti auction finished, and dinner with Judd and Calipari at the coach’s house went for almost six-figures.
Feb21Filed under: Ashley Judd, Central Kentucky Arts News, Film, Oscars; Tagged as: Academy Awards, Actors Guild of Lexington, Ashley Judd, best supporting actor, Heath Ledger, Henry Clay High School, Josh Brolin, Leslie Beatty, Michael Shannon, Oscars, Patrick Donohew, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Revolutionary Road, Robert Downey Jr., Tates Creek Middle School, Tracy Letts
Click the play button to hear our interview with Michael Shannon talking about his career and his Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
- Click here for our story and interview with Shannon about Revolutionary Road and his upcoming projects.
Check the LexGo version of the story for more photos and Shannon’s filmography.
Michael Shannon’s journey to the Academy Awards started at Tates Creek Junior High School in Lexington.
“I was in eighth grade, and I was not athletic at all,” Shannon says, recalling the years at Tates Creek. “But I wanted some sort of after-school activity.”
He tried the speech team.
“They gave me a little monologue to work on,” Shannon, 34, says. “It just captivated me. It wasn’t anything I fantasized about. When I was a little boy, I wanted to be an architect. So, it kind of surprised me.”
That surprise has translated into a serious stage and film career that has resulted in Shannon’s Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his performance in Revolutionary Road.
He will learn whether he won Sunday night, when the Academy Awards are handed out in Los Angeles.
Revolutionary Road, about a couple who try to flee 1950s suburbia, is loaded with Oscar-caliber talent, including stars and previous nominees Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes. But, on Jan. 22, when the nominations were announced, Shannon’s best supporting actor nod was one of only three for the film, in which he plays a mentally disturbed man who makes powerful observations.
The movie’s other two nods are for art direction and costume design.
Shannon slept through the nominations.
He was at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where two of his films were premiering: The Missing Person, in which he plays a noir detective, and The Greatest, in which he plays another brief-but-memorable role as the driver who killed Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon’s son.
“I had gone to see a midnight movie the night before … so, unfortunately, I didn’t get to sleep until 3 a.m.,” Shannon says.
The nominations were announced at 6:30 a.m. Utah time. That’s when his phone started ringing.
“I was pretty shell-shocked,” he says. “It just kept ringing all day long.
“That’s the special thing about it is realizing how many people are rooting for you.”
Including people back home.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich