The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

September 26, 2011
Ag Sec Tom Vilsack pitches high concept to Robert Redford

20110926_ha_AGSEC0125.JPGU.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in California to talk jobs, innovation, and exports, veered off script in a meeting with The Bee's editorial board today and told about his big Hollywood idea.

A fan of author Timothy Egan's book, "The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America," Vilsack told about using what influence he has to try to get a movie made about it.

Thumbnail image for REDFORD 2006.jpgVilsack, the former governor of Iowa, said the book "has everything," from towering figures Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot to civil rights and racial issues, not to mention a really big fire.

As ag secretary, Vilsack oversees U.S. Forest Service land. The book tells the story of a massive wildfire during President Roosevelt's administration, the heroic effort to control it, and how that helped lead to the U.S. Forest Service.

First, he called documentary maker Ken Burns, who said he was booked with 10 years worth of projects. Then he thought of Robert Redford, and asked an aide to see if he could track down a number.

Soon after, the aide came back. "I panicked. What do you call him? Bob? Robert? I got him on the phone and I decided it was Mr. Redford."

He proceeded to recall how he urged Redford to read the book and consider turning it into a movie. Next, Vilsack though of who might star in it, and came up with the name, Jeff Bridges, and sent him an email.

No word on whether the Dude abides, or on whether Redford does, either. If it comes to pass, the movie could only help the forest service's standing.

Many things have changed since TR's day. But resistance remains intense to government involvement in forests, as Rep. Tom McClintock made clear in this rally, er, hearing held last week at the Capitol to blast forest service stewardship of public lands.

If they film it in California, perhaps the movie company could get movie tax credits, and employ a few Hollywood workers.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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