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April 26, 2011 (REVISED May 2, 2011)

James Reston Jr. to Discuss “History and the Movies: An Historian Writes a Screenplay,” May 11

The process of compressing history into drama often generates sharp tensions between the historian and the dramatist. As James Reston Jr. will testify, the historian usually feels a sinking disappointment as the dramatist explains what it will take to capture and hold the attention of an audience. Of Reston’s 15 books, three have become plays and three screenplays, but not always to his satisfaction.

When Reston was asked to write a screenplay based on his own 2005 book, "Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors," he leapt at the chance to resolve and to control the historian/dramatist tension.

Reston will discuss this experience in a lecture, "History and the Movies: An Historian Writes a Screenplay," at the Library of Congress at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, in Room 119 on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The lecture is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.

As a distinguished visiting scholar at the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, Reston has been writing the "Dogs of God" screenplay, which is tentatively titled "The Last Sultan of Granada." The screenplay tells the story of Boabdil or Muhammad XII, the last member of the Nasid Dynasty to rule the emirate of Granada in Spain. Boabdil surrendered the fortress Alhambra to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in January 1492.

In his lecture, Reston will also touch on the problem of copyright protection for creative nonfiction, including his legal action in 2005 against Ridley Scott for alleged plagiarism in the script of Scott’s film "Kingdom of Heaven."

In addition to "Dogs of God," Reston’s historical works include "Defenders of the Faith: Christianity and Islam Battle for the Soul of Europe 1520-1536" (2010): "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade" (2002); "Galileo: A Life" (2000); and "The Last Apocalypse: Europe at the Year 1000 A.D." (1999).

In 1976-1977, Reston was David Frost’s Watergate adviser for the famous Frost/Nixon interviews, televised and seen by 57 million people worldwide. His memoir of that experience, "The Conviction of Richard Nixon: The Untold Story of the Frost/Nixon Interviews" (2007), served as the main inspiration for the London play "Frost/Nixon," in which Reston is a major character. In the Hollywood adaptation of the play, directed by Ron Howard, Reston is played by the actor Sam Rockwell.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For further information on the Kluge Center, visit

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PR 11-089
ISSN 0731-3527

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