Colorful casting required for Clinton-esque 'Primary'

August 29, 1996|By Jack Mathews | Jack Mathews,NEWSDAY

When Tom Hanks withdrew from the race for the Bill Clinton role in the film version of the satirical political novel "Primary Colors" a couple weeks ago, it was an act of singularly clearheaded thinking, for a movie star. However Hanks might have played the part, any time he affects a Southern accent, we will think of the innocent simpleton Forrest Gump. And, bubba, Bill Clinton is no Forrest Gump.

With Hanks out of the running, who will fill the role of the fictional Jack Stanton, a 40-something Southern governor pressing -- and occasionally fondling -- the flesh during the 1992 Democratic primaries? Andy Griffith, who has the right voice, is too old. Hugh Grant, who has the right character flaw, is too young. Michael Keaton, who's the right age, is too short. And Dan Aykroyd, who's both the right age and the right shape, can't act.

Filling the role is not going to be easy for producer-director Mike Nichols. When a studio guarantees a filmmaker more than $13 million, as Universal has Nichols, it expects a star bright enough to light up 3,000 marquees.

Nichols has to get the film cast and into production soon. If Clinton loses to Bob Dole, "Primary Colors" will be forgotten more quickly than a promised tax cut. And he has to stick with a young president. If he were to cast Jack Nicholson (age 59), Harrison Ford (54), Robert Redford (59), Warren Beatty (59), or one of the other senior Hollywood Democrats, he would snap the Baby Boom link to the Clinton phenomenon.

To help Nichols make his choice, we've compiled a short list of reasonable candidates, male stars in their 40s, along with a list of actresses with the right image to play Jack Stanton's hard-charging wife. Emma Thompson has been rumored to be first in line for the role, but her British pedigree and her high cuddle quotient could be a liability.

Choose a name from these lists and cast your own Bill (he's 6-foot-3 and recently turned 50) and Hillary.

Born to Bill?

1. John Travolta. Age: 42. Height: 6 feet, plus. Advantages: Has charisma and complexity, has played nice ("Phenomenon"), mean ("Broken Arrow"), and mean-nice ("Pulp Fiction"). Disadvantages: Booked into the next century.

2. Kevin Costner. Age: 41. Height: about 5-foot-11. Advantages: Good Southern accent ("A Perfect World"), has robbed from the rich and given to the poor ("Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"), plays golf ("Tin Cup"). Disadvantages: Likes to travel alone ("Waterworld").

3. Mel Gibson. Age: 40. Height: about 5-foot-9. Advantages: Charismatic, witty, tall hair. Disadvantage: Short, image of a hot head ("Lethal Weapon").

4. Jeff Bridges. Age: 46. Height: about 6-foot-3. Advantages: Tall, intelligent, amateur jazz musician (played his own piano in "The Fabulous Baker Boys"). Disadvantage: His characters are often nicotine-addicted.

5. Kevin Kline. Age: 48. Height: about 6 feet. Advantage: Boyish charm, populist political image ("Dave"). Disadvantage: Needs Big Mac Attack to bulk up.

6. Robin Williams. Age: 44. Height: Yes. Advantage: Can speak on any subject. Disadvantage: You never know what he'll say.

7. Richard Gere. Age: 44. Height: about 6 feet. Advantage: Winning smile, moral ambiguity, loves animals. Disadvantage: Buddhist presidential candidate might strain Democrats' message of inclusion.

Who could be Hillary?

1. Geena Davis. Good regional accent, take-charge image ("Thelma and Louise").

2. Holly Hunter. Pint-sized dynamo, brassy, career woman style ("Broadcast News").

3. Debra Winger. Tough, androgynously sexy, has played a lawyer ("Legal Eagles").

4. Sigourney Weaver. Has played both exec ("Working Girl") and passionate, social-minded first lady ("Dave"). Anti-aliens stance could be embarrassment.

5. Glenn Close. Legal experience ("Jagged Edge"), pursues her goals ("Fatal Attraction"), Disney's choice as Cruella DeVil in "101 Dalmatians."

6. Jessica Lange. Sympathetic to those outside the system ("King Kong"), has slept with tall men (Sam Shepherd; Liam Neeson, "Rob Roy"), once testified before Congress (on farm issues after starring in "Country").

7. Susan Sarandon. Certified real-life liberal, intelligent, articulate, longer exposes breasts.

Pub Date: 8/29/96

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