We’re making this film for two reasons: it’s a story that’s never been told and it’s a lens with which to look at Ukraine today.
With hundreds of films about Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Cold War, how can we say that our approach is unique? Because too often, historians and filmmakers have focused on the crises that dominated those years – the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. But a crisis narrative treats the two men as props, figureheads acting out their ideological roles. If character analyses are done, they are often superficial: Was Kennedy ambushed at Vienna (he wasn’t); Was Khrushchev bluffing over Berlin? (he was) – but they beg the question of what prompted those actions in the first place.
We are starting from a different vantage point: Who were these two characters? What drove them to make the decisions and the blunders they made? What defects within themselves did they need to overcome to finally break from their destructive interactions? Much is made of the two men’s differences – the Prince versus the Peasant – but it was their similarities that turned them from politicians into statesmen.
Jack and Nikita both felt they were living on borrowed time, both felt they had little to lose, both felt like imposters, and both were gamblers. Those traits fueled their meteoric rise to power but failed them after they reached the top. Both showed great physical courage in wartime, a war that made them question their deepest beliefs. And both, for all their ambition, felt a higher calling, a shared moral dimension to their politics and a mutual fear and hatred of war that gave them the courage to transcend the systems that shaped them.
Artistically, this dictates a radically new approach: to let each man tell his own story. Khrushchev’s memoirs, Kennedy’s White House tapes, contemporaneous accounts, and letters – together with AI’s voice-cloning ability and high-quality realistic animation – allow us to be flies on the wall, witnesses not just to historic turning points, but to the little-known, personal moments of humor and pathos that change history into story.
Khrushchev and Kennedy left a legacy of peace, the first nuclear test ban treaty. But Vladmir Putin intends to pull out of the last remaining Cold War nuclear agreement, shredding 60 years of diplomacy. Like Khrushchev, Putin is playing from a weak hand, forced to rely on bullying, bluster, and nuclear blackmail. His threats, his policy of global destabilization and his sense of victimization by the West all echo Khrushchev’s insecurities. But unlike Putin, Khrushchev – who was born just miles from the Donbas, lost his childhood there, and spent years in Kiev as Stalin’s viceroy – changed his attitude toward Ukraine, the result of a growing sense of kinship.
For the last twenty years, the West has been wrestling with the consequences and shame of appeasement, a specter that haunted Kennedy throughout his life. History may not be repeating itself, but its echoes are too strong to ignore.
– Michael Chandler