The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
Edward Norton: Alan Isaacman
[Isaacman on the phone with Flynt]
Alan Isaacman : Listen, I'm sitting here with the eminently reasonable District Attorney of the state of Georgia.
[Larry makes an off screen comment on the other end of the line]
Alan Isaacman : Right. He's very impressed by your conversion, he wants to cut us a plea bargain.
Larry Flynt : A plea bargain? Because I've found God?
Isaacman : Larry, listen to me for a second: Don't argue with me on this, ok. Just say yes because I've pulled a lot of strings to make this happen.
Larry Flynt : Is he sitting there with you?
Isaacman : Yes, he is.
Larry Flynt : Would you do me a favor? Just tell that miserable old gray-haired bastard to go fuck himself, we're going to trial.
Isaacman : Ok, right.
Larry Flynt : Oh, and praise the lord.
Alan Isaacman : Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have heard a lot today, and I'm not gonna go back over it, but you have to go into that room and make some decisions. But before you do, there's something you need to know. I am not trying to suggest that you should like what Larry Flynt does. I don't like what Larry Flynt does, but what I do like is the fact that I live in a country where you and I can make that decision for ourselves. I like the fact that I live in a country where I can pick up Hustler magazine and read it, or throw it in the garbage can if that's where I think it belongs.
Isaacman : [Addressing the Supreme Court] Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court one of the cherished ideas is that we hold in this country is that there should be uninhibited public debate and freedom of speech the question you have before you today is whether a public' figure's right to protection from emotional distress should outweigh the public interest in allowing every citizen of this country to freely express their views
Justice Scalia : What was the view discussed in exhibit A?
Isaacman : To begin with this a parody of a known Campari ad
Justice Scalia : I understand
Isaacman : Also it was a satire of a public figure of Jerry Fallwell who in this case who really a prime candidate for such a satire because his such an unlikely person to appear in a liquor ad this is a person we're used to seeing at the pulpit The Bible in hand preaching with a famously beatific smile on his face
Justice Scalia : But what's the public interest you're describing? There's some interest in making him look ludicrous?
Isaacman : Yes there is public interest in making Jerry Fallwell look Ludacris in so far there is public interest in having Hustler Magazine express the point of view that Jerry Fallwell is full of BS and Hustler Magazine has every right to express this view they have the right to say to somebody who has actively campaigned against our magazine who has told people not to buy it who has publicly said it poisons the minds of Americans who in addition told people sex out of wedlock is immoral that they shouldn't drink Hustler Magazine has a first amendment right to respond to these comments by saying "Jerry Fallwell is full of BS", it says lets deflate this "stuffed shirt" and bring him down to "our level", "our level" in this case admittedly a lower level than most people would like to be brought to
Chief Justice William Rehnquist : The first amendment is not everything, it's a very important value but it's not the only value in our society what about another value that says good people should enter public life and public service? The rule you give us if you stand for public office or become a public figure in any way you cannot protect your or indeed you mother in a parody of committing incest with her in an outhouse, do you think George Washington would have stood for public office if that was the consequence?
Isaacman : It's interesting you mentioned George Washington because very recently I saw a political cartoon that's over two hundred years old it depicts George Washington riding on a donkey being led by a man and the caption suggests "this man is leading an ass to Washington"
Chief Justice William Rehnquist : I can handle that, I think George can handle that but that's a far cry from committing incest with your mother in an outhouse there's no line in-between the two?
Isaacman : No I would say there is no line between the two but what you're really talking about is taste and not law as you yourself said in Pope vs. Illinois, "it useless to argue about taste even more useless to litigate it" and that is the case here, the jury has already determined for us that this is a matter of taste and not law because they've said there's no libelous speech nobody could reasonably believe that Hustler Magazine was suggesting that Jerry Fallwell had sex with his mother
Justice Thurgood Marshall : So why did hustler him and his mother together?
Isaacman : Hustler puts him and his mother together as an example of "literary travesty"
Justice Thurgood Marshall : What public service does this serve?
Isaacman : It serves the same public service in having Gary Trudeau say "Regan has no brain or that "George Bush is a wimp" it lets us look at public figures a little differently we have a long tradition in this country of satiric comedy if Jerry Fallwell can sue when there's no libelous speech purely on the grounds on emotional distress then so can other public figures imagine lawsuits against Gary Trudeau and Johnny Carson for what he says on The Tonight Show every night obviously when people criticize public figures their going to experience emotional distress we all know that it's the easiest thing in the world to claim and impossible to refute and that's what makes it a "meaningless standard", really all it does it allows us to punish unpopular speech and this country is founded at least in part firm belief that unpopular speech is absolutely vital to the health of our nation
Isaacman : Unpopular speech is absolutely vital to the health of our nation.
Isaacman : Larry, thousands of people petition the Supreme Court, OK? Thousands.
Larry Flynt : Yeah, and our case is as good as any.
Isaacman : Our case is better than most, you're missing my point, and that is they will never pick you. Because you're a nightmare. They're afraid if they let you in there, you're gonna wear a diaper, or throw oranges at the justices, and they should be, Larry, because in all the times you've gone to the court asking for help, you've never once demonstrated any respect for its institutions and procedures.
Isaacman : I have giving you my best since back when people were laughing at you, and every time we come in there now, you fuck me with this bullshit circus act.
Isaacman : At the heart of the First Amendment is the recognition of the fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas, freedom to speak one's mind is not only an aspect of an individual liberty but is essential to the quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole, in the world of debate about public affairs many things done with motives that are less than admirable are none of the less protected by the first amendment.
Alan Isaacman : I'm not trying to convince you to like what Larry Flynt does. I don't like what Larry Flynt does.
Isaacman : [Closing statement in the Cincinnati Court] I can exercise my right and not buy Hustler Magazine I like that I have that right I care about it and you should care about it too because we live in a free country we say that a lot but sometimes I think we forget what that really means so listen to it again " we live in a free country" and that is a powerful idea that is a magnificent way to live but there is a price for that freedom which is sometimes we have to tolerate things we don't necessarily like, so go back into that room where you are free to think whatever you want to think about Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine but then ask yourselves if you want to make that decision for the rest of us because the freedom that everyone in this room enjoys is in a very real way in your hands and if we start throwing up walls against where some of us think is obscene we may very well wake up one morning and realize that walls have been thrown up in all kinds of places we never expected and we can't see anything or do anything and that's not freedom, that is not freedom so be careful, thank you.
Larry Flynt : I wanna appeal the Falwell case.
Alan Isaacman : This is over. Over!
Larry Flynt : No, it's not over. We can go higher.
Alan Isaacman : Higher?
Larry Flynt : The Supreme Court. Yeah, give them a call.
Alan Isaacman : It's not that simple, Larry, thousands of people petition the Supreme Court, okay? Thousands.
Larry Flynt : Yeah, and our case is as good as any.
Alan Isaacman : Our case is better than most. But you're missing my point, and my point is: they will never pick you. Because you're a nightmare. They're afraid if they let you in there, you're gonna wear a diaper, or throw oranges at the justices. And they should be, Larry. Because in all the times you've gone to the court asking for help, you've never once demonstrated any respect for its institutions and procedures. So as far as they're concerned, you're just a pig.
Larry Flynt : Yeah, well you always said, and it's the principle: "A pig has the same rights as a president."
Alan Isaacman : yeah, yeah, yeah... You know, people get tired of a pig.
Larry Flynt : Bullshit! You're scared, Alan! You're scared! You're letting these guys steamroll all over us!
Alan Isaacman : Look, it's not just them, Larry, okay? It's me! It's me! I am not taking you! Lawyers dream about a case like this in front of the Supreme Court, they dream of it. And they would probably hear us, if you want the truth. But I am not going with you! I have been giving you my best since back when people were laughing at you. And every time I come in there now, you fuck me with this bullshit circus act! I won't do it again. I can't. I'm not gonna do it in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Your sentimental speeches and your cornball patriotism, they don't work on me anymore, Larry, because I don't believe you. I don't believe you.
Larry Flynt : You're my friend, Alan. We're friends. You know, I would love to be remembered for something meaningful.
Isaacman : [after leaving jail] I've gotten the bail all taken care of so you don't have to worry about that, we should talk about the case after you have a little rest.
Larry Flynt : Wait, who hired you?
Isaacman : Your wife hired me.
Larry Flynt : My wife? Are you "doing" her?
Isaacman : [confused] Wait a minute, am I what?
Larry Flynt : I'm just kidding, I like you, give me a call after you graduate from law school.
Isaacman : I'm out of law school.
Larry Flynt : How old are you? Twenty two?
Isaacman : Twenty seven, Harvard law school, three years in the public defender's office obviously you can get whoever you want to represent you in this case let me say this: your pretty far out there even for the guys that do a lot of this stuff. I am interested in your case, the problem you've got is definitely what I know best and I am good at what I do.
Larry Flynt : You specialize in porn?
Isaacman : No, I don't specialize in porn, I'll be perfectly honest I don't particularly like what you do, I specialize in civil liberties.
Larry Flynt : [In Alan's office] I don't understand why they singled me out
Isaacman : This case is bigger than just you and your magazine in your case what's a little more troubling is this "organized crime" charge
Althea : Organized crime? Larry's not in the mob
Isaacman : I've got to ask you this one time: do you have any connection to organized crime?
Larry Flynt : Absolutely not
Isaacman : Then this is a completely bullshit charge but we have to take this seriously because you can conceivably looking at seven to twenty five years in prison.
Althea : My cousin Bobby shot a preacher in the back, he got six months for it
Isaacman : Can we discuss the fate of Cousin Bobby later? I think we should take this very seriously
Larry Flynt : I am serious, I'm taking notes
Roy Grutman : Would please state your full name for the record?
Larry Flynt : [while on the witness stand, intentionally making a mockery of the court by responding disrespectfully and jokingly] Christopher Columbus Cornwallis, IPQ, Harvey, APU
Roy Grutman : That's very interesting but aren't you also known as Larry Flynt?
Larry Flynt : AKA Jesus H. Flynt Esquire
Roy Grutman : Are you the publisher and Editor in Chief of Hustler Magazine?
Larry Flynt : I am the publisher of the most tasteless, sleaziest, most disgusting, greatest porn magazine on the face of the earth
Roy Grutman : Thank you, do you have a version of organized religion?
Larry Flynt : [intentionally misunderstanding his question] A virgin?
Roy Grutman : No a "version" you heard me correctly, a "version"
Larry Flynt : You bet your sweet ass I do
Roy Grutman : Do you think that gives you the license to mock the leaders of great religious movements?
Larry Flynt : God damn right
Roy Grutman : I hold in my hand exhibit B which is a typed written script of a Campari ad. When you approved this ad, did you have any specific knowledge that the Reverend Falwell had ever engaged in sexual intercourse with his mother in an outhouse?
Larry Flynt : No, but I have a photograph of Falwell having fellatio with a sheep
Alan Isaacman : [to the judge] your honor, my client is in a heavily medicated and mentally agitated state, we will stipulate that no such document exists
Larry Flynt : [intentionally mispronouncing his name] I have it and that Mr. "Fartwell" is a liar
Roy Grutman : My client's name is Jerry Falwell, "Jerry Falwell"
Larry Flynt : [jokingly] That's what I said Jerry "Fartwell"