In the new film "The Ides of March," George Clooney plays a presidential candidate who gives his young aide Ryan Gosling a lesson in underhanded politics. Clooney undoubtedly has the screen presence necessary to make him believable as an influential politician. Once upon a time, Peter Sellers toned down his established presence in order to play the meek President Merkin Muffley in Stanley Kubrick's riotous black comedy "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."
Regardless of the approach, some actors are more capable of being convincing as a politician than others. Here are several performances that fall well short of "convincing."
Bill Pullman as President Thomas Whitmore in "Independence Day"
One can hardly expect a realistic political figure in a film involving hostile aliens, but Pullman's turn as the leader of the free world has him ignoring his advisers and boldly jumping into a fighter jet to relive the glory days of his past. The character also gets into a strange argument with cable company troubleshooter Jeff Goldblum over the affections of a woman. It really makes you wonder how many presidents have ongoing feuds with TV repairmen.
Chris Rock as Mays Gilliam in "Head of State"
Even though it tries to be a political satire, "Head of State" pushes its message of politicians being out of touch with America too hard. The film also tries to be irreverent and daring, but fails more often than it succeeds. The biggest problem is that the usually funny Chris Rock just isn't very good as the long-shot presidential nominee.
Dennis Hopper as Don Greenleaf in "Swing Vote"
Hopper claimed that upon seeing the final cut of "Swing Vote," he felt he was hardly in the movie at all. In a way, he was right; the character he plays seems criminally underdeveloped. The movie itself isn't terrible, but Hopper's contribution to it is minimal at best.
Ben Affleck as Congressman Stephen Collins in "State of Play"
Based on his first two films -- "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town" -- it's undeniable that Ben Affleck is a gifted director. It's also true that he is improving as an actor and has come a long way from his work in "Paycheck" and "Surviving Christmas." Still, casting him as a congressman tangled in a conspiracy was probably a bad idea. Simply put: He's much better when he's faking a thick Boston accent.
Tom Lister Jr. as President Lindberg in "The Fifth Element"
Much like "Independence Day," it's tempting to give "The Fifth Element" a sci-fi pass for its odd presidential casting, but having Lister play the commander in chief of the year 2263 is bizarre and hard to explain. The actor is usually billed as "Tiny" Lister and is best known for his roles as a bully in the "Friday" series and as Hulk Hogan's wrestling nemesis in 1989's "No Holds Barred." Not exactly the best résumé for a president, regardless of what century he or she lives in.
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- George Clooney
- President Merkin Muffley