Lisa Addario’s “Dear Dictator”

More than a dozen years ago, Lisa Addario and her husband/screenwriting partner Joe Syracuse had an idea. Saddam Hussein was in hiding. What if the Iraqi president showed up in suburbia?

The script became a Hollywood favorite. It made the “black list”: top executives’ favorite un-produced scripts.

For more than a decade, it remained unmade.

Meanwhile, Lisa — a 1986 Staples graduate — and Joe had plenty of success. They wrote “Parental Guidance,” starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler; “Surf’s Up,” an animated penguin film, and “Amateur Night,” based on Joe’s real-life adventures driving hookers around Los Angeles, while Lisa was pregnant with their daughter.

Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario.

A financier who loved “Amateur Night” wondered what happened to that Hussein script (at that point, called “Coup d’état”). When he heard “nothing,” he agreed to raise funds for it.

Which took another couple of years.

Finally, shooting was about to begin. But Anthony Hopkins’ schedule no longer worked. When he pulled out, so did a major financial backer.

Michael Caine replaced Hopkins. Then — at the very last minute — Maisie Williams dropped out too.

At last, the cast — including Katie Holmes and Odeya Rush — was ready. They and the crew assembled in Savannah.

It was a “brutal, grueling” shoot, Lisa says. But, she notes, “most indie movies have a back story.”

The Hollywood Reporter called it “fiercely funny social satire,” adding:

There’s not much humor to be found in contemporary world affairs. Clearly what’s needed is a pointed satire highlighting the inherent absurdity governing global politics today, and “Coup d’Etat” may just fit the bill.

At last, the film — now called “Dear Dictator” — is ready for release. It will play in 10 cities, beginning Friday, March 16. The New York venue is the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue, at West Third Street).

Lisa says the long wait was well worth it. “Nothing ever turns out the way you expected,” she says. “But I think we have a great movie.”

She and Joe are now shopping “Scissor Happy.” It’s her take on growing up in the 1980s, with 3 sisters and a gay hairdresser father.

“People love that script too!” she says happily.

Hopefully, audiences won’t have to wait until 2030 to see it.

(Besides its theatrical release, “Dear Dictator” will be available for purchase on cable VOD, iTunes and Amazon beginning March 16.)

One response to “Lisa Addario’s “Dear Dictator”

  1. Audrey Doniger

    Can’t wait to see it!

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