Monday, September 26, 2016

Casting the 2016 Election

Once in a while I like to entertain myself by playing a mental casting game for biographical movies that will certainly never make it to the silver screen in any way, shape, or form. Prior to the announcement of the ill-fated Freddie Mercury biopic, I had actually become obsessed with imagining which actor could convincingly portray such a larger than life personality like the legendary Queen frontman. One day it hit me out of the blue that the ideal, and honestly, only candidate was comedic genius Sacha Baron Cohen. In a rare instance of one of my delusions becoming a (near) reality, it was eventually announced that Baron Cohen was set to play the legendary singer in a big budget movie to be produced by Queen guitarist Brian May. Sadly, SBC left the project due to those pesky creative differences and (sing it with me) another one bit the dust.
Which brings us to tonight's first national debate between Hillary "Pantsuits Magee" Clinton and Donald "D-Bag" Trump that, thanks to one of the candidate's class and well-honed expertise in such matters, was far from being the full-on shitshow many had anticipated but still had plenty of, shall we say, unpresidential behavior from the opposition. The controversies and scandals plaguing both campaigns have made the 2016 election the ugliest political contest of the modern era which, naturally, makes it prime fodder for a feature-length theatrical film or an HBO original movie. After all, truth is stranger than fiction, but regarding this election, strange is an understatement.
As cinema history can attest, casting an iconic president, senator, or first lady is a tricky balancing act. Typically casting directors don't hire lookalikes per se but rather a performer (generally an already recognizable one) whose own features are somewhat similar to that of the historic figure they are portraying. If we look solely at recent casting choices for biopics or movies that detailed or satirized real-life political figures, John Travolta seemed a bizarre choice to play good ol' boy turned President and (hopefully) future First Dude Bill Clinton in Mike Nichols' PRIMARY COLORS, yet with a touch of gray in his hair and a southern accent replacing his characteristic Brooklyn dialect, he was actually pretty convincing. Same with Josh Brolin in Oliver Stone's overtly biased but still hilarious W. who nailed George W. Bush's awkward mannerisms and no-quite-presidential demeanor. Ditto Kevin Spacey who, in ELVIS MEETS NIXON, the film festival hit now streaming on Amazon, proves that the man can not only play the murderous President Underwood in Netflix's superb series "House of Cards" but can also deliver a solid and surprisingly subtle turn as Richard M. Nixon.
This year's presidential candidates have both been given the full-on "Saturday Night Live" treatment as hysterically accurate caricatures by gifted comedians such as Amy Poehler, Kate McKinnon, and Darrell Hammond, surprise cameo appearances, or in the case of Trump, actual hosts. Both contenders have been funny and likable when given good material to work with. On their own, not so much. When it came to casting Hillary opposite Travolta in PRIMARY COLORS, no one would have ever thought British actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson, who is also very funny herself, could play the First Lady much less look like her, she was a great match for Travolta's confident, cocksure, Clinton. The events featured in Nichols' adaptation of the infamous book detailing Slick Willy's rocky but successful bid for the presidency seem like a medley of GREASE numbers compared that of Ms. Clinton's second attempt at becoming the U.S.'s first ever woman president, a potential milestone that continually gets lost amidst all the fingerpointing and hate speech.
Here are my choices for who should play the two candidates. Ladies first.
Annette Bening would make a great Hillary. She exudes class, intelligence, maternal strength, inner fortitude, and she has stolen the spotlight from many of her male co-stars. Name one movie she was bad in. Exactly. Note to the Academy: give her an Oscar already. Like Mrs. Clinton herself, she is long overdue.
Trump is a much more difficult role to cast in that he is such a cartoon-like character that is one part egomaniacal real estate tycoon and the other an Archie Bunker-esque brute with a hairpiece that defies the immutable laws of gravity as well as a shade of orange that has never once been associated with an upright mammal capable of walking without dragging its knuckles.
Like Trump, Alec Baldwin is also a New Yorker, he has a bit of Zoolander's Blue Steel pout that has served him quite well through his eclectic career, and his multiple Emmy wins for his performance as Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock" proved he can be powerful, self-aggrandizing, and an all-around doofus at the same time. Plus his iconic monologue from his single scene in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS could be dubbed over any of Trump's bombastic speeches and have the same ruthless, bullying, effect. So start mainlining Trump steaks and break out the orange hairspray, Mr. Baldwin. Your performance would be huuuuuuge.

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