Robert Gottlieb In ‘Shirley’ Film: Where Is Gottlieb Now?


The character of Robert Gottlieb is played by Lucas Hedges in Netflix’s latest biopic, Shirley. We saw in the film that a young Robert was hired by Shirley to be a part of her team as she was going to run for president. It was probably Robert’s earnestness that moved Shirley, as the latter knew one thing for sure: if she wanted to have any chance in the upcoming race, then she would need people who not only believed in her but who were sincere in their approach. So, let’s find out who the real Robert Gottlieb is and how many creative liberties have been taken by the makers in his representation in Shirley film.

Who was Robert Gottlieb? 

The character of Robert Gottlieb is based on a real-life person who was a part of Shirley Chisholm’s campaign back in the day. Robert Gottlieb had interned under Shirley earlier, and he was happy about the fact that she was running for president. He really admired that woman, and he believed that if she could hold any such important position, then she would do a lot of good work for the upliftment of the downtrodden. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Robert undervalued himself, and he actually believed that he wouldn’t be able to make a difference in the scheme of things. But Shirley recognized his potential, and she knew that he would be a great addition to the team. Shirley knew that the odds were not in her favor and that she would have to resort to some other tactics to pull the voters. The 26th Amendment had reduced the voting age from 21 to 18, as it was argued that if an eighteen-year-old individual was old enough to be sent to war, then they were prudent enough to decide their leader.

Shirley knew that she could persuade the young minds because their ideologies weren’t driven by stereotypical perspectives. Shirley knew that she would have to show them that society was prejudiced towards women, even more so if she was a woman of color. She wanted to show the youth of the nation that leadership was not the birthright of white men. She wanted to prove that politicians only served their own vested interests and didn’t care if others lived or died. Shirley wanted to break the pattern, and she wanted to set a precedent for generations to come. She knew that it was not about winning or losing the presidential election; it was about putting up a fight. Shirley told Gottlieb that he would be the National Student Coordinator and that he would help her get the votes of the youth. Gottlieb didn’t know if he was ready for such a big responsibility, but he knew that because his mentor had such faith in him, he couldn’t disappoint her. He started contacting the universities, and Shirley Chisholm moved the audience with her fiery speeches. Shirley knew that Robert was the kind of person whom she could blindly trust. 

Did Gottlieb win the case against the big three networks? 

Shirley’s entire team was very unhappy with the way the big three networks, NBC, ABC, and CBC, applied their discretion and did not give Shirley an equal opportunity to go on air and speak to the people of her nation. There were congressional mandates in place, but before that, nobody had raised an objection that the equal time requirements had not been followed. Shirley was sick and tired of dealing with all the biases and prejudices. Firstly, she was sidelined for being a woman of color, and when, after a lot of effort, she was able to get people to listen to her, she was treated in a condescending manner because of her gender. Shirley asked her team to hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the networks. Her team members, for a moment, thought that she was just saying things in the heat of the moment and didn’t actually mean it. But Shirley was serious. She wanted to sue the network and ask why they were discriminating against her. She was a presidential candidate, and she just didn’t want to put up with such disrespect. Wesley McDonald didn’t know from where they would allocate funds to hire a lawyer when they barely had money to run their campaign. That’s when it suddenly struck Mac that Robert was also a lawyer. He asked him to take matters into his own hands and file a complaint. Robert was a law student, but he hadn’t fought any cases up until that time. He had no experience, and he was yet to finish his studies. Robert was unsure if he could do justice to the cause, but since giving up was not an option, he went and contacted some peers and finally filed a case in the court of law. To everybody’s surprise, the big three accepted their mistake and decided to give Shirley a slot to speak to the nation. Robert Gottlieb couldn’t believe what had happened, and the victory humbled him. He told Shirley that he had not achieved the feat on his own, and there were a lot of people who assisted and guided him. But Shirley wanted him to take the credit and she wanted him to know that it wouldn’t have been possible without his earnestness and sincerity. 

Where is Robert Gottlieb now? 

Robert Gottlieb went back to Cornell University, and he graduated from there in 1972. He went on to establish his own law firm called Robert C. Gottlieb and Associates, which went on to become one of the most highly valued law firms in the country. They represent people who are charged with white-collar crimes, among other things. Robert saw the trailer for the film, and he was in awe of Lucas Hedges, the actor who portrays him onscreen. He said that for a moment, he thought that it was him on screen and that the makers had done a marvelous job recreating that entire era. Robert always believed that Shirley was a catalyst for change, and even though she might not have been able to win the elections, she ushered in a new era where women of color fought for their rights, raised their voices against discrimination, and made sure that they got equal representation in each and every sphere of society.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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