In my screenplay, a character ends up in Baghdad. I called [AmeriCares] and asked, can I bring my cameraman? They said I was the first American private citizen [let] into Iraq at that time . They made us sit on the tarmac in Jordan for an entire day. It was Saddam’s birthday; we thought they were going to make us be in some sort of strange parade. After 72 hours, they let us go; we filmed everywhere, interviewed everybody. I was moved by the grace, a little surprised at how welcomed I was because I’d been in South Africa, and I’d been in Russia before Gorbachev, where the officialness of domination was always felt. In other places, I heard people being obliged to speak the party line. In Baghdad, no one did. I gave gifts, things I’d collected. They would hold the gift like this [holding out his hand and feeling an imaginary object], and look at me, and hold it and feel it, this way of being regarded. I was in an ancient culture. I’d kind of forgotten.
So as recently as last year, having been in Baghdad, you’re reading the Bible, which our government is constantly invoking . . .
I’m not surprised by our government, which had a dubious beginning, starting with whether or not he was really elected president . . . Not to be self-serving, I think why The Ten Commandmentsis so valuable is that everyone knows, deep in their heart, knows that we need to obey the law, and the law is protection, and all these geniuses [the Founding Fathers] designed laws to apply reason and conscience to protect us from ourselves — those guys were rich too, they owned 70 percent of the country, but they devised this set of laws . . . And now there’s a responsibility we have, because of our power, we should be more cautious . . . I kind of feel sorry for George. He really just wants to be commissioner of baseball, poor guy, and they keep asking him all these difficult questions. I get this very strong sense that it’s a very tight ship and that the president is the spokesperson for the few people who are running the thing. That’s no secret.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS| A musical by PATRICK LEONARD and MARIBETH DERRY Presented by BCBGMAXAZRIA ENTERTAINMENT at the KODAK THEATER, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood | In previews, opens Mon., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; through Oct. 31. Call (213) 480-3232.