Peter Morgan’s The Special Relationship movie on Tony Blair and Bill Clinton on HBO

A film about former U.S. President Bill Clinton called The Special Relationship? No, Monica Lewinsky doesn’t figure – not in the way you thought.The Special Relationship, the third installment in writer Peter Morgan’s trilogy on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, focuses on the relationship between Tony Blair (played by Martin Sheen) and Bill Clinton (portrayed by Dennis Quaid) from 1996 to 2000.

In The Special Relationship, which premiered on May 29, 2010, on HBO, Peter Morgan’s Tony Blair is an intelligent and decent executive with the ability to learn and apply lessons of political strategy. Tony Blair reportedly saw parallels between himself and Bill Clinton, who turned the tide for the Democratic Party with his charisma and a message that was fashioned to resonate with voters.

Bill Clinton had a hand in boosting Blair’s candidacy – the former US president hosted him at the White House before elections were held in the United Kingdom. Tony Blair was a loyal friend, too – he stood by Bill Clinton when the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted.

The two leaders may have differed on strategies and world policies (they disagreed on what NATO should do in former Yugoslavia, where slaughter and brutality rose), but The Special Relationship isn’t about that.

The film subtly focuses on the fragile but always-there “special relationship,” – a phrase invented by Winston Churchill for the connection between the United States and Britain, – which is seen through a British eye.

The special relationship has often been there between leaders of the two countries – there were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and then there were Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. The two leaders have shared a unique, at times tumultuous, political equation – this is what The Special Relationship is all about.

The Special Relationship is Peter Morgan’s third film based on Tony Blair. The first film was 2003’s The Deal, which chronicled the former prime minister’s rise to power. The Oscar –nominated second part The Queen (2006) focused on the protocol conflicts in the wake of the death of Princess Diana. The Queen won Helen Mirren (who played the titular role) an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award.

The Special Relationship’s Tony Blair is inexplicably drawn to the Bill Clinton way of thinking. Cherie Blair (played convincingly by Helen McCrory) jokes about her husband’s submissive meekness in Clinton’s presence. “Clinton hair, Clinton tie, everything except the tarty girlfriend,” she says, even as her husband wonders about what to wear and how to look.

The Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal also has its moment in the spotlight in The Special Relationship.

A scene shows beleaguered Bill Clinton readying to tell his wife, Hillary, (played by Hope Davis), the truth about Monica Lewinsky.

“It’s much more serious than I let on,” Bill Clinton says in The Special Relationship.

Later, on the way to a formal event after publicly acknowledging his misconduct, Bill Clinton asks Hillary how she wants to handle the appearance. “You first? Me a few steps behind? Together?”

Hillary’s reply? “I have to find my way through this on my own time. By myself, OK?”

The Special Relationship also reveals the impact the Lewinsky scandal had on the wives of the two leaders and their friendship.


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