Long before President-elect Barack Obama had even made up his mind to run for the highest office in the land, Edward Norton and his Class 5 Films production company were already documenting the Senator’s life. The 39-year-old actor said that he became inspired by Obama’s 2004 speech at the National Democratic Convention and felt inspired to capture someone from his generation — and not his parent’s — inspiring so many and rising in leadership.
“At the time, he was the new senator from Illinois,” Norton told Variety earlier this year. “None of us had voted for him or contributed to his campaigns. None of us was saying, ‘I want to back this guy for president.’ It was more this generational experience, of seeing someone we felt represented us in a very unique and fresh way, and the desire to explore what would happen to the first person our age who staked a claim to national leadership.”
Since 2006 — starting with Obama’s trip to Africa — Norton and his team have had the cameras rolling every step of the way. The whole project was kept fairly secret — since neither the campaign nor Norton wanted it to fuel any criticism of Obama’s ‘celebrity’. Last month, Norton spoke briefly about the project to the Vancouver Sun saying, “We’re making a historical record, not something to play a role in the election. So we have an agreement with [the campaign] that we won’t talk about this, or publicize it until the election is over. I can’t talk about access [but] it’s a fascinating thing to document.”
What an amazing hunch to run with documenting Obama — from before he declared his candidacy to last night’s acceptance of the Presidency! Such a historical record of those behind-the-scenes events is certainly priceless.
Of course, you can bet this footage to carry some kind of price. Back in August, it was reported that HBO was highly interested in snagging the rights to the footage. Their initial plans were to air the series within the first ‘100 days of the Obama Presidency'; provided he win. Mission accomplished.
So — stay tuned. We may have witnessed history last night, but we’ll also be privy to the behind-the-scenes two years of effort and drama it took to get there. Thanks to Edward Norton for having the foresight to document the ride.