ALEXANDER BISLEY warms to Laurie David, global warming activist with Hollywood pull, and the impetus behind Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. She talks about documentary filmmaking, saving the world, and reeling in husband Larry.

I CAN’T CURB my enthusiasm for Laurie David and the unmissable global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth she initiated and produced.

David, wife of Larry, the comedic tycoon behind Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld, is a formidable, feisty presence. I’m half awake and in the shower, when an American woman rings up. I can’t curb my nerves. Luckily, it’s only David’s assistant Claire (“So sorry to interrupt you before you’ve had your coffee”) wanting to reschedule the interview. David rings back soon to discuss her urgent work, smartly structured around a convincing lecture Al Gore has devoted much of his life to.

I tell her Prime Minister Helen Clark was taken with the documentary when she saw it at the Wellington Film Festival and has arranged a special screening for Parliament’s MPs and government officials. “I want to write about this,” David exclaims very excitedly. “Our President refuses to see it.” New Zealand Leader Embraces ‘Truth’, U.S. President Ignores, David then titled her blog on the popular progressive Huffington Post, concluding “There’s no better way for President Bush to commemorate the tragedy of [Hurricane] Katrina than to see this film now.”

Katrina was a “seminal moment for Americans”, David tells me. “Why were the oceans abnormally warm?... We have had Hurricane Katrina, record heatwaves, people are starting to ask, why is all this happening?”

Americans have flocked to An Inconvenient Truth, it’s the third most commercially successful documentary of all time. It’s rehabilitated Al Gore, made him cool, prompting hot support for him to run again for President. David fervently hopes the burgeoning groundswell will persuade him. He pretends his cellphone’s broken when she asks him about it. “I believe he has no plans to run at this stage.”

An Inconvenient Truth highlights how Tuvaluans have already had to flee to New Zealand due to rising water levels. “It affects all of us,” David says. Auckland’s Flux Animation Studio animated two scenes including one of David’s favourites, where a polar bear drowns searching for an ice flow.

David takes the media to task for their misrepresentation of global warming (“Out of 925 recent articles in peer-review scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement”) and Gore. “I blame the media. The ten second soundbite. This is the same Gore he’s always been.”

Conservatives used to believe in conserving the environment, but they’ve lost it. “They’ve really gone astray, we’re destroying our forests, wetlands, climate.” David’s approach to combating global warming is non-partisan. “It’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue.” With maverick Republican Senator John McCain (who describes Bush’s position as “disgraceful”) and Robert F Kennedy Jr, she’s formed Stop Global Warming, a virtual march on Washington (to conserve fossil fuels), which has half a million members.

“She can get any studio head on the telephone within a few minutes, and virtually any Hollywood celebrity,” Kennedy effused about David to Rolling Stone. “She’s opened up new corridors of power to the environmental movement.”

David, who produced HBO’s recent Too Hot Not to Handle and comedy special Earth to America, is coy about the surge in political documentary, endorsing “the right issues at the right time when done well.” Her favourites include Who Killed the Electric Car? and The Man From Flint’s oeuvre. “Michael Moore makes great documentaries.” (She’s forgiven him for campaigning for Ralph Nader and against Gore in 2000. “We all make mistakes.”)

Bold and beautiful, David’s passion is infectious. She’s even got the notoriously lazy Larry (“My toilet paper’s been changed. That’s been a hell of a struggle”) so enthusiastic he campaigns regularly for environmental causes and will stump for Gore if he runs in 2008. “Absolutely. We’ll be the first two to sign up to help him.” Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry pointedly drives a Toyota Prius Hybrid, is peppered with references to David’s environmentalism, such as her NRDC (National Resources Defence Council) role. There’s no greater present Larry can give her than a Curb mention, David says. “I’ve alleviated the stress of him coming up with the right present.” For his part, Larry, like Woody Allen, has given hope to feckless nerds that they can find a dynamite babe.

David urges people to progressively make steps to reduce their environmental impact, following the mantra of her book The Solution is You!, also due out this month. “Not to do everything. Everyone to do something. Tell people. Word of mouth’s what’s spreading it.” David definitively dismisses sanctimonious, destructive environmental-leftist purism. “It’s not all or nothing.”

See also:
» Death by Warming: An Inconvenient Truth