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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Americans Save Russia, Hollywood Style

What do you get if you put Jeff Goldblum, Boris Yeltsin and Arnold Schwarzenegger's spin doctors together?

Some very annoyed Russians, to judge by the reaction to a new made-for-TV film, "Spinning Boris," which has just been released on video in Europe.

The film tells the story of three American political consultants -- George Gorton, Richard Dresner and Joe Shumate -- who came to Russia to advise then-President Yeltsin on his reelection campaign in January 1996 and left six months later with the president victorious over Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.

The consultants -- who in real life are currently advising Schwarzenegger on his gubernatorial ambitions -- are led in "Spinning Boris" by Jeff Goldblum as Gorton.

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, the man behind the Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies" and Schwarzenegger's "The Sixth Day," the film is a political farce that has the consultants arriving bemused, ignorant and somewhat lost but still managing to save the day by bringing U.S. political shenanigans to Russia.

That, some people are saying, is chush, or nonsense.

"I never saw them. They were not needed at all. But since they had been paid, we decided to let them sit quietly in the President Hotel and not interfere," Sergei Filatov, Yeltsin's former chief of staff and the one-time head of the reelection campaign, said after watching the film with a Komsomolskaya Pravda journalist.

"This film is just gibberish," Alexander Korzhakov, Yeltsin's former bodyguard who made a failed attempt to spearhead the re-election campaign, told Komsomolskaya Pravda. "The American consultants had nothing to do with Yeltsin's victory."

The story about the consultants was first broken in July 1996 by Time magazine, which like the film claims the consultants changed the Russian president's image through the use of sophisticated Western campaign tools and thus played a major part in his victory.

In the film, the three never actually meet Yeltsin himself, dealing instead with his daughter Tatyana Dyachenko, played as a chain-smoking political naif by Svetlana Yefremenko.

"Tatyana doesn't smoke," Filatov said.

In the film, the consultants also introduce the use of a perception analyzer to judge Yeltsin's public appearances and ads. A perception analyzer is a hall wired with dials that a focus group can move to show their degree of interest or approval.

Public Opinion Foundation director Alexander Olson, who worked with the consultants, said they brought virtually nothing to the campaign.

"It's all a myth," said Olsen, who was part of the Chubais group that took over the campaign in March 1996. "They are masters of PR, PR of themselves."

He said his foundation first used the perception analyzer in 1995, before the Americans arrived.

"Spinning Yeltsin's" director and producers said they were not surprised about the critical Russian reaction.

"I would expect them to say that," Spottiswoode said in a telephone interview from London. "Why bring people all that way and do nothing?"

"It is not surprising that they say they were irrelevant," executive producer John Morris said. "Only Tatyana knows the whole story."

Months of research went into making the movie, and the consultants, who provided documents and e-mails from their Moscow stint, seemed pleased with the end product, Spottiswoode said. "I think anyone would appreciate being played by Jeff Goldblum," he said.

Most of the critics, however, do not appear to have grasped the basic point of the film, which is not to glorify the Americans for saving Russia but about the export of spin.

"What they're offering is close to the American political system, if that's your idea of a good thing," Spottiswoode said.

In the film, the spin doctors bring the U.S. political game to the election by advising Yeltsin not to promise what he can do but to promise everything, to hit back at the Communists with negative campaigning and to drop his usual frown for a smile.

The consultants often come across as confused and incompetent, rarely venturing outside their hotel and ignorant of what was going on around them.

"I think they would be the first to admit they were bumbling," Spottiswoode said.

The consultants, for example, make a killing on LUKoil shares when they see the re-election bid going their way but lose it all when they dump the stock over fears the vote is going to be canceled.

One of the more interesting parts in the film is the flirting that goes on between Goldblum's Gorton and Yefremenko's Dyachenko.

"I think George [Gorton] can't help himself coming onto people," Spottiswoode said, adding that Gorton caused some tension on the set. "They kept telling him to back off. I have no idea or suggestion that it was anything else."

There are some silly moments for those with more experience in Russia, such as an odd moment when Goldblum's character goes into a post office and asks to phone America. He is told no, so he reaches for the handy dollar bribe.

The sponsor of the consultants is a cliched mafia figure in a leather jacket with a fondness for caviar and prostitutes in the banya. (Filatov wondered whether he was based on Boris Berezovsky.)

The film will be shown in the United States on the Showtime cable channel early next year. International rights for the film have been sold, allowing it to be released in Russia ahead of its U.S. debut.

The film, however, is unlikely to be shown on Russian television, and there will be no presentation by filmmakers here.

Choosing his words carefully, Spottiswoode said the production crew would not be making the trip as they had been advised by people who know Russia that the film would "put noses out of joint and [people would] not [be] friendly, if you know what I mean ..."