Breitbart biopic slapped with ‘R’ rating, delaying theatrical release

David Martosko Executive Editor
Font Size:

Producers of the biographical documentary “Hating Breitbart” got news last week that their film received an “R” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. And with that move official Hollywood, long the preserve of liberal culture warriors, has had what appears to be the last laugh on the late Andrew Breitbart.

A converted conservative whose political apostasy pleased his admirers but rankled the power structure in his native Los Angeles, Breitbart was never at a loss for words. And some of those words were decidedly profane. Andrew Marcus, the director of “Hating Breitbart,” which was scheduled for release on Oct. 12, told The Daily Caller on Sunday that the film’s nationwide unveiling has been pushed back one week while he and his team approach the MPAA with a request for a re-hearing. That decision, he said, was made over the weekend.

Foul language, he told TheDC, was the only rationale the MPAA gave for reaching its rating decision.

“There’s no nudity, there’s no sex,” Marcus said. “Just the occasional f-word.”

“If anything the ‘R’ rating should be a result of the gutter behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus and their enablers in the progressive institutional left media,” Marcus added in a later email. “The hatred aimed at Andrew and the tea party was pornographic!”

But Breitbart is the one uttering a few choice adult words. During one sequence early in the film, he looks into the camera and inveighs against what he saw as a conspiracy among liberal media elites to cast conservative politicians and commentators as Neanderthal throwback villains.

“What the left has stood for with political correctness,” he says on screen, looking into the distance, “is to try and get those with whom they disagree to shut up. And the tea party movement, and Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann, and Allen West and all the people who have gone out there against the mainstream media and said, ‘You’re going to call us racists? You’re going to call us potential Timothy McVeighs? Fuck you!'”

Then Breitbart looks into the camera and takes a pregnant pause before half-whispering his conclusion.


Breitbart died unexpectedly on March 1. The film is a paean to the man whom conservative activists see as a standard-bearer cut down in the prime of his focused anger at the political left. (Breitbart’s 2011 book was titled “Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!”)

Marcus told TheDC that “Hating Breitbart” originally included nine curse words, a total he reduced while recutting the film to angle for a more lenient rating.

“I have gone as far as I can go cleaning up the language and keeping the film true to the character of Andrew Breitbart,” he said in a statement late Sunday. “It is reasonable to hope the MPAA will change our rating. We now have four uses of language, down from nine.”

Criticizing the MPAA is a dangerous game in Hollywood, and Marcus acknowledged that he is “in a difficult position as a filmmaker. I understand the MPAA’s process and believe that it is better to have a private entity assessing these decisions rather than having it decreed by a arm of the government. We have worked hard to address their concerns.”

“At the same time, however,” he continued, “I am being asked to censor the words of Andrew Breitbart who is no longer here to weigh in on that decision. The language in the film is not gratuitous; it is a part of the experiences and situations he found himself in during filming.”

“This film is not scripted. It captures real experiences, situations and conversations and occasional adult language is part of that reality.”

While an “R” rating can often enhance the commercial value of slasher films or road-trip buddy movies, classifying Breitbart’s political theatre as inappropriate for theatergoers under 17 could hurt its viability at the box office during a pre-election month when its impact was expected to be felt the most.

An R-rated motion picture, the MPAA says on its website, “may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously.”

A PG-13 rating, the next step down, “may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements,” according to the MPAA.

“A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context.”

One notable recent film given a PG-13 is “The Bourne Legacy,” a movie about a trained assassin. Another was the 2010 release “The Social Network,” which depicts sexual activity and cocaine use, and included, according to the IMDB parents guide, “Two and half ‘f-words,’ [m]ultiple ‘sh–‘s and ‘a–hole’s.'”

“It does seem strange that a film like The Social Network, which reportedly has more than one use of the ‘F’ word, and partial nudity with strong sexual suggestion, and depictions of drug use including bong hits, gets a PG-13 but hating Breitbart gets an ‘R’ for four uses of the F-word,” Marcus said in an email to TheDC. “After all, The Social Network was scripted and they chose to put in all those elements. … Our depictions are not scripted and simply reflect the reality of Andrew’s vernacular.”

“The Tourist,” “The Adjustment Bureau,” “Iron Man 2” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” also dropped more than one F-bomb and still secured recent PG-13 ratings.

Marcus told TheDC that a significant anticipated audience for his film, religious and social conservatives, would be turned off by an R-rated movie that would otherwise reinforce their core beliefs.

“They just won’t organize groups to go see it,” he said.

This article was updated to reflect additional comments in an email from Mr. Marcus that TheDC received shortly after publication.

Follow David on Twitter