How they met

Ge­orge Bush’s mem­oirs re­veal that the film Meet­The Par­ents broke the ice be­tween the two world lead­ers.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - by PETER bRAd­SHAW

FOR an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to bond with a Bri­tish prime min­is­ter over a Hollywood movie is noth­ing new. Franklin Roo­sevelt and Win­ston Churchill shared a deep love of the stiff-up­per-lip wartime film Mrs Miniver.

But there is some­thing just so hor­ri­bly per­fect about the movie with which Ge­orge W. Bush is said to have bro­ken the ice with Tony Blair when they first met in Fe­bru­ary 2001.

Ac­cord­ing to the pres­i­dent’s new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy De­ci­sion Points, the Bushes and Blairs set­tled down to a view­ing of the wacky com­edy Meet The Par­ents. This stars Ben Stiller as a young lib­eral guy with the un­for­tu­nate name of Gay­lord Focker, com­ing to meet his fi­ancée’s mom and dad.

The man he must im­press is his fu­ture fa­ther-in-law, a fe­ro­cious for­mer CIA op­er­a­tive played by Robert De Niro, who dis­con­cert­ingly com­bines machismo with a bizarre streak of folksy sen­ti­men­tal­ity. Nervy and overea­ger, Stiller en­ters a world of in­gra­ti­a­tion and hu­mil­i­a­tion.

Tony Blair in those days had a full head of dark hair, not look­ing so very dif­fer­ent from Ben Stiller, while Bush had a shorter, grey­ing cut, like De Niro. Blair must have felt ev­ery bit the prospec­tive sonin-law on trial in the Bush house­hold, look­ing to make an ad­van­ta­geous mar­riage with Amer­i­can power.

Their back­grounds were very dif­fer­ent. Bush was once mem­ber of the ex­clu­sive Skull and Bones club at Yale; Blair was a mem­ber of the rock band Ugly Ru­mours at Ox­ford, and, like Stiller’s char­ac­ter, was prob­a­bly un­easily aware of say­ing the wrong thing.

In the movie De Niro re­veals how he loves the song Puff The Magic Dragon, and Stiller makes a mis­judged at­tempt at jokey lib­eral irony – telling him about the song’s ru­moured drug ref­er­ence. De Niro re­acts with hos­tile dis­gust and dis­be­lief – just the sort of night­mare cul­ture-clash sce­nario that a grin­ning Blair must have striven at all times to avoid.

Like Bush, De Niro’s char­ac­ter adores an­i­mals, in this case his pet cat Jinxie, which he em­bar­rass­ingly fawns over, ac­tu­ally croon­ing to it, to the tune of What’s New Pussy­cat?: “Jinxie-cat, jinxie-cat, where are you­u­uuu?”

Bush was de­voted to his dog Spot, pho­tographed with the two men when they went for a walk at Camp David, and was fa­mously pic­tured mak­ing a goofy at­tempt to salute while cud­dling his other favourite pooch, Bar­ney.

In the film, the em­bar­rass­ment reaches its nadir when Focker’s girl­friend’s par­ents cheer­fully in­sist on a pool party, and Stiller has to bor­row a re­veal­ing pair of Speedos.

Poor Blair – thence­forth com­mit­ted to a for­eign pol­icy of some­one else’s mak­ing – was to be stripped all-but-bare him­self. – Guardian News & Me­dia 2010

Male bond­ing: Blair meet­ing Bush for the first time was like a scene out of the movie

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