j_edgar_xlgThere are certain individuals who have had an out-sized impact on history. Most often these individuals are presidents or other rulers or someone who contributes some meaningful piece of artistic work to society. They are the outstanding ones, the ones who make the big decisions and make a big impression on the world around them. Occasionally, though, one of these outstanding individuals aren’t real leaders and aren’t great creators. They’re just people who have managed to amass an extraordinary amount of power.

One of those individuals would definitely be J. Edgar Hoover, the man who basically founded the FBI and certainly built it into a full organization. Hoover’s story is being told in the new movie J. Edgar, directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood. Playing the title character is Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrays Hoover through all portions of his life from his young days through his old age. The movie deals with not only Hoover’s professional accomplishments and amassing of political power but also with his personal life, which has been much discussed since his death. Specifically what’s examined is his relationship with his right hand man Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and what exactly what that might have been.

The Posters

The first two posters were really just one with the other being a variation on that theme. In the primary one-sheet we see DiCaprio’s face leaning forward, presumably over a desk or table and clearly not in the best of moods with the person on the other side from him. We get DiCaprio’s name as well as Eastwood’s along with a gorgeous title treatment in the form of Hoover’s signature.

The other one is the same image, only manipulated so the photo looks sort of black and white while the background has been changed from a standard room to the American flag. The first one is better simply because it’s simpler and more stark but I get what they were going for with the second.

The Trailers

The first trailer plays, quite frankly, like gangbusters. We start out with some scene setting with archive shots of peace demonstrations and photos from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and so on like that. Eventually we see DiCaprio as Hoover first as a younger man then as an older one. After some setup about his relationship with his mother we see him rising to power in the FBI, encouraging men to lead uncorrupted lives and working to build files on important people, including the President. He sees himself as the strongest of heroes compared to the bad men out there.

It’s clear there are a number of strong performances from DiCaprio and everyone else. There’s more than a little innuendo in the trailer about Hoover’s personal life and his sexual orientation, something that is purposely placed in stark contrast to the heroic, upright image he insists those under his command maintain and the way he doggedly pursues anyone who he might have the slightest bit of dirt on. It’s a solid trailer that shows (unsurprisingly) what seems to be a solid film from Eastwood and his cast.


The movie’s official website opens by playing the trailer. You can skip that, though and go straight to the site’s content.

The first section there is “About the Film” which has a very good Synopsis complete with cast list as well as Production Notes that are downloadable as a PDF.

“Videos” just has the one trailer and so is incorrectly plural and “Photos” has several dozen – over 60 by my count – stills both from the movie itself and some behind-the-scenes shots.

The Facebook page has plenty of updates about the marketing and publicity as well as photos and videos.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Shortly after the first trailer debuted TV spots started running that played basically like a shortened version of that trailer, showing Hoover as someone with ambition that stretches into collecting dirt on other people’s lives even as his own becomes filthier and filthier.

Media and Publicity

The first major publicity for the movie came when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 9/7/11) it would open AFI Fest 2011, a pretty prestigious slot for a movie that had some serious awards buzz before a single frame was seen.

That news was soon followed by a big profile (GQ, Oct, 2011) of DiCaprio that talked about the actor’s career to date and why he was anxious to work with Eastwood. Further profiles of the actor would focus on how he was attracted to complex, hard to define characters (New York Times, 11/6/11) and more on working with Eastwood (Hollywood Reporter, 11/2/11).


It’s not a bad campaign but I’m wondering what the target audience is here. While everything comes together to make the movie seem very attractive, the people that it seems are most likely to feel that way are award voters. To the general public this is likely to seem cold and slow and almost homework like. The trailer does what it can to make the drama fast and compelling but it’s impossible to not feel like it’s going to be a long 2+ hours in the theater. For some people that’s not a problem but for others it’s going to turn them off immediately.