Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Who Would You Cast as Ronald Reagan?

Carrie Rickey: Either Ronald Reagan was good enough an actor to get the majority of Americans to cast their ballots for him or so great an actor that he did not appear to be acting at all. Who would you cast as the 40th president?

Who Would You Cast as Ronald Reagan?

Ronald Reagan in a publicity photograph for "The Winning Team."
Ronald Reagan in a publicity photograph for "The Winning Team."

Prior to his political career, Ronald Reagan, Hollywood actor, starred in any number of biopics, most famously as Notre Dame halfback George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), Phillies pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in The Winning Team (1950) and Gen. George Custer in Santa Fe Trail (1940). The Hollywood Reporter announces that the 40th U.S. president himself is the subject of a biopic based on Paul Kengor's biographies The Crusader and God and Ronald Reagan. Given the source material, the planned movie would paint a glowing portrait of Reagan, unlike the controversial 2003 miniseries The Reagans. Already casting directors are scrambling to compile a list of actors who could play Reagan from youth to Oval Office.

According to the Reporter's own poll, Chris Pine, Kirk in the recent Star Trek reboot, is the readers' favorite to play The Great Communicator, whose unassuming humor, pompadour and Pepsodent smile charmed his supporters and disarmed many of his political critics. The Reporter's other suggestions: Andrew Garfield, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zac Efron and James Franco. Individually, great actors. Collectively, a menu of boys. My nominations would be Ben Affleck or Jon Hamm, men who contain multitudes.

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I remember reading in the Los Angeles Times that when Reagan's former studio boss was shown highlights of the 1966 California gubernatorial campaign on TV, an assistant asked, "What do you think of Reagan for president?" "No, no," said movie mogul Jack Warner, known for his crack casting decisions: "Jimmy Stewart for president; Ronald Reagan for best friend." During Reagan's political campaigns, his political opponents would frequently dismiss him as a "bad actor."

You could call Reagan many things (and I have), but bad actor isn't one of them.The skills he learned in Hollywood were enormously helpful when he left the soundstage for the political stage. He knew how to deliver a prepared speech so it sounded off-the-cuff. He knew how to punch his sentences -- and punchlines. His more than 25 years before the camera taught him how to hold his head for the most flattering angle. His time as a television host taught him how to look into the lens and connect with the viewer, how best to project sincerity and urgency.

I would argue that either he was good enough an actor to get the majority of Americans to cast their ballots for him or so great an actor that he did not appear to be acting at all.

Who would you cast as the 40th president?

Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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