Major new volumes filling out library of presidential films

Spielberg's Lincoln latest in long history of White House movies

The World's Greatest Actor is to play History's Greatest US President. Photo / Supplied
The World's Greatest Actor is to play History's Greatest US President. Photo / Supplied

The World's Greatest Actor is to play History's Greatest US President. The trailer for Steven Spielberg's historical epic, Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, was released online last week.

It's the second screen portrayal of Lincoln this year, following the less factual Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, starring Benjamin Walker.

It comes days after a picture emerged from the set of The Butler, of Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as an uncannily accurate Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

Director Lee Daniels' forthcoming film stars Forest Whitaker as White House butler Cecil Gaines, based on the real Eugene Allen, who served under eight presidents including Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and Richard Nixon (John Cusack).

The US President is the most commonly recurring office in cinema. Lincoln has been portrayed many times, in films as diverse as the Henry Fonda-starring Young Mr Lincoln (1939) and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989).

Perhaps the least popular president is nonetheless one of the most revisited, from Frost/Nixon (2008) to Dick (1999). Anthony Hopkins portrayed him in Oliver Stone's Nixon (1995), and John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, in Spielberg's Amistad (1997).

Stone, meanwhile, filmed two more presidents in W. (2008): George W Bush (Josh Brolin), and his father George H W (James Cromwell).

Kennedy has been embodied admirably by the likes of Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days) and Greg Kinnear (mini-series The Kennedys).

Franklin D. Roosevelt also boasts the performances of Jon Voight in the otherwise unfortunate Pearl Harbor (2001), and Bill Murray in the upcoming Hyde Park on Hudson.

Some presidents are enlisted for fictional purposes, such as Ulysses S Grant (Kevin Kline) in Wild Wild West (1999) and Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams) in Night at the Museum (2006).

Others are wholly fictionalised, such as Jack Stanton (John Travolta) in Primary Colors (1998): a thinly veiled Clinton.

And the power of the fictional president should not be underestimated. The likes of Morgan Freeman's President Beck (Deep Impact) and Dennis Haysbert's President Palmer (24) are said to have prepared Americans for the idea of a black president before the rise of Barack Obama.

- Independent

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