While preparing for the film, Tom met with the real Charlie Wilson many times. He might be in his 70s and wear cowboy boots with slacks, but Tom says this notorious ladies' man is still a charmer.
"[Charlie] came into the office just to meet everybody and say hello," Tom says. "I was impressed with his gravitas. He has a great deep voice and he's tall—he's like 6'4''. When he left, I asked the women who work in the office, 'What do you think of him?' All of them said, 'Oh, he's got something.'"
During production, Tom says Charlie was around a lot to help maintain a degree of authenticity. "He didn't care about his individual character," Tom says. "[He said], 'You can display my character, my behavior any way you want to. But what really happened is important, and I want to make sure that people realize that.'"
As a filmmaker, Tom says his philosophy is, "If it really happened, why make anything up?"
"What really happens, by and large, is much more fascinating than any piece of fiction," he says. "Charlie did this. He said this. He went through this. So let's find out what happened first, and then, [we'll] make stuff up if we have to."
Charlie may not make it into history books, but Tom says he's a fascinating example of how average citizens can accomplish incredible feats. "You [might] adhere to a stereotype about a no-good, do-nothing guy from a little section of Texas that doesn't mean anything," he says. "And, in fact, a guy like that can change the world, which is an example to all of us, quite frankly."