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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Presidential Roles

In celebration of President Elect Obama, Celluloitering presents this list of actors who have filled the role of President of the United States. Many different actors and actresses have filled the role over the years. In my opinion, having a versatile group of actors portraying fictional U.S. Presidents helped pave the way in American minds for more diversity in politics. Rather than cementing the image of the 50-something white man as our President, some modern films and television programs chose to cast someone different in the role and, in their own small way, plant a seed of tolerance in audience's minds.

Deep Impact (1998)
Let's face it--Morgan Freeman is an obvious choice to play the President. He has gravitas, intelligence, warmth, dignity--it's a pity all that good stuff was wasted in the terminally silly Deep Impact.

The Man (1972)
James Earl Jones plays President Douglass Dilman, the first African American President who ends up in office when the President dies and VP declines office. It takes an accident to get Jones into office and by the end of The Man's thoughtful and often painful analysis we see that the U.S. in 1972 is far from willingly electing an African American President.

Air Force One (1997)
Glenn Close plays the Vice President who fills in as Acting President in this action thriller. Personally, I think McCain would have garnered more votes with Close as his running mate.

Fail Safe (2000)
Richard Dreyfuss plays the President in the Cold War drama Fail Safe in which the President and his advisors debate a full-scale nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. We've never had a Jewish President and, after doing a little research, I found that there haven't been many Jewish actors playing the President either. Dreyfuss is one, and not a surprising choice--he has certainly filled his share of blowhard politician roles (e.g. The American President, W.).

For all of it's pro-torture, anti-civil liberties messages, 24 is pretty awesome for casting Dennis Haysbert as President David Palmer. Palmer was calm, cool, full of integrity and willing to listen--all things we sorely needed from our real President for the past eight years. President Palmer helped people get used to the idea of a Black president.

The West Wing
The West Wing scores double points, first for casting a latino actor (Martin Sheen, AKA Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez) as President Josiah Bartlet, and then for casting Jimmy Smits (who is half Puerto Rican, half Surinamese, all Brooklyn) as Mexican American (and Catholic) President Matt Santos. According to West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie, Santos is based on Barack Obama.