Election 2016: The Movie – We Cast the Major Roles
Other editorial outlets have tackled the idea of an 2016 election movie and no disrespect to those imaginative casting directors but we’ve decided to tackle our suggestions a bit differently.
Most importantly, we’re giving you first, second and third choices for each role because you can probably count the number of studio movies that locked the initial picks for each role on two hands. There are also a number of tertiary players while fun to cast in a Saturday Night Live skit aren’t necessarily needed beyond a scene or two for a larger film or miniseries. That’s one reason why you won’t see Jeb Bush, Eric Trump or Donald Trump, Jr. on this list. There are also people who became public figures with varying degrees of impact on the campaign such as Khizr and Ghazala Khan or Ken Bone that are likely better served in archival footage (the same can be said for a number of newscasters as well).
Keeping that in mind, here is our dream cast for the inevitable movie or mini-series about the 2016 Presidential Election. And no matter what your party affiliation there’s one thing we can all agree on: let’s hope someone other than Oliver Stone directs this baby.
Donald Trump, Republican Candidate for President
First Choice: Alec Baldwin
Second Choice: James Spader
Third Choice: John Goodman
Why: Yes, Baldwin has been playing Trump for maximum comedic effect on SNL these past few weeks, but we truly believe he would deliver a toned down, nuance performance outside of a skit setting. That being said, some studio or network execs may bristle that audiences may not accept Baldwin as Trump in a more dramatic endeavor. That’s why our second choice, James Spader, could be the best choice. The 56-year-old actor would need some aging makeup to pull off the look of a character 14 years older, but he has a quirky demeanor that might be perfect for the role. The safe pick, however, is Goodman who few in a casting meeting would argue against.
Hillary Clinton, Democratic Candidate for President
First Choice: Meryl Streep
Second Choice: Diane Keaton
Third Choice: Jodie Foster
Why: The first and only choice might be the three-time Oscar winner. Streep, who has campaigned for Clinton, and is Bill Clinton’s first choice for the role, has arguably been reading herself for this role for years. Her character in the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate was thought to be influenced by the public perception of the then New York Senator and she’s recently made women pioneers something of a calling card playing both Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette. If Streep declines either Keaton or Foster would be unexpected but intriguing choices.
Melania Trump, Wife of Donald Trump
First Choice: Angelina Jolie
Second Choice: Emily Blunt
Third Choice: Laura Benanti
Why: Both Blunt and Benanti have played Melania for comic effect, but are talented enough actresses to make her a three-dimensional character in a serious movie. The dream casting, however, would be Jolie. The Academy Award-winner could bring a nuanced sympathy to a woman clearly not comfortable with the public spectacle of her husband’s campaign. You’d need a top tier director to convince Jolie to even consider tackling it though.
Bill Clinton, Husband of Hillary Clinton
First Choice: John Travolta
Second Choice: Dennis Quaid
Third Choice: Billy Bob Thornton
Why: Travolta more than effectively played Clinton in Mike Nichols’ Primary Colors and to this day its still one of his most underrated performances. There is something very intriguing about Travolta revisiting the character almost 20 years later with both the actor and former president are in such different points in their lives. If not Travolta than Quaid or Thornton could at least pull off the dramatic weight loss look Clinton’s vegetarian diet has given him over the past five years or so.
Robby Mook, Campaign Manager, Hillary Clinton Campaign
First Choice: Jake Gyllenhaal
Second Choice: Aaron Paul
Third Choice: Finn Wittrock
Why: Mook hasn’t been a television mouthpiece as much as Trump’s campaign managers so that means matching his mannerisms or style might not be as important as other historical figures. Gyllenhaal would likely only take the part of it had a significant arc, but would make studio or network heads breathe slightly easier regarding the box office or ratings. Paul or Wittrock are talented actors that resemble Mook a bit more than Gyllenhaal (especially Wittrock).
John Podesta, Chairman, Hillary Clinton Campaign
First Choice: Mark Rylance
Second Choice: David Strathairn
Third Choice: Campbell Scott
Why: Currently the object of ire for Clinton detractors upset about conversations revealed in E-mails acquired by Wikileaks, it would be hard to go wrong with either recent Academy Award-winner Rylance, Strahairn or, perhaps the most economical choice, Scott.
Tim Kaine, Vice Presidential Nominee
First Choice: Tom Hanks
Second Choice: Jack Black
Third Choice: John Carroll Lynch
Why: Hanks could duplicate Kaine’s folksy style and sort of (and that’s a big sort of) resembles him. The problem is it would likely be too smart a part for Hanks to consider taking unless he really loved the director. With the right hairpiece Black would really resemble Kaine and it would be the kind of dramatic role he rarely gets offered but could totally knock out of the park. Lynch would be the best backup as he looks very much like him and has a similar demeanor to boot.
Mike Pence, Vice Presidential Nominee
First Choice: John Slattery
Second Choice: Woody Harrelson
Third Choice: Viggo Mortensen
Why: Casting Trump’s VP pick was one of the hardest endeavors of this exercise. Sure, Slattery has the white hair down, but does he truly embody Pence’s quite cadence and almost bland, straightforward speaking style? In theory, Mortensen does that best, but he’s almost too chiseled for the part. We think Harrelson could be good, but would the white wig just look too fake? In all honesty, the best actor to portray Pence would probably be Clint Eastwood…when he was in his 50’s thirty years ago.
Kellyanne Conway, Campaign Manager, Donald Trump Campaign
First Choice: Sarah Paulson
Second Choice: Sandra Bullock
Third Choice: Julia Roberts
Why: One of our favorite characters to cast it seems inconceivable that you wouldn’t immediately offer this to Paulson. It just makes too much sense. If she was unavailable, however, Bullock or even Roberts have the right mix of dramatic and sly sarcastic wit to really bring her to life.
Paul Manafort, Former Campaign Manager, Donald Trump Campaign
First Choice: Michael McKean
Second Choice: Nathan Lane
Third Choice: Sam Neill
Why: McKean might seem like a stretch here, but there is something about his acting style we think would play with the one-time exasperated campaign manager who couldn’t get his client to stay on message. Lane might be too short, but he resembles him the most facially. Neill might also be a slight stretch, but he seems like he’d easily be able to recreate Manafort’s quiet conservatism.
Corey Lewandowski, Former Campaign Manager, Donald Trump Campaign
First Choice: Hank Azaria
Second Choice: Michael Keaton
Why: This was another tough one. Lewandowski has a look you don’t really find in most top tier actors. Keaton feels slightly too old for the role (he’s over 20 years Lewandowski’s senior), but could probably still find a way to pull it off. Azaria would be a safe choice that might resemble him just enough to make you believe.
Steve Bannon, Chief Executive, Donald Trump Campaign
First Choice: Dan Lauria
Second Choice: Darryl Hammond
Third Choice: Louie Anderson
Why: Bannon came on to the Trump team late, but he’s arguably the third act catalyst for the all out “scorched earth” campaign that’s currently shaking people’s heads. Veteran actor Lauria (currently on the critically acclaimed Pitch) could almost double for him with the right hair. If he was unavailable Hammond or Anderson would be smart picks.
Bernie Sanders, Former Presidential Candidate
First Choice: Dustin Hoffman
Second Choice: Robert De Niro
Third Choice: Larry David
Why: Why is David the third choice? Probably because we’re not convinced he can really show a deeper side of Sanders than he did on SNL. Either Hoffman or De Niro might not look like the progressive favorite as much as David, but no one should doubt their ability to convince you they are ready to take on that corrupt campaign system Sanders supporters myopically think cost them the primary.
Ted Cruz, Former Presidential Candidate
First Choice: Steve Carell
Second Choice: Kevin Spacey
Third Choice: Sean Penn
Why: It would be so juicy for Penn to play Cruz, but Carell (and or Spacey) just seem like better fits. The Foxcatcher and Little Miss Sunshine star resembles Cruz the most, but Spacey arguably could channel the conservative icon’s anger and rhetoric the best.
Chris Christie, Former Presidential Candidate
First Choice: Kevin James
Second Choice: Jon Favreau
Third Choice: Oliver Platt
Why: You may scoff at the idea of James playing the embattled and ethically dubious New Jersey governor, but the King of Queens star has shown signs he can bring more to the table than wisecracks and physical humor (although the former might help him with Christie). If James turned down the role (and it wouldn’t surprise us if he did), Favreau would be the next logical choice.
Ben Carson, Former Presidential Candidate
First Choice: Wendell Pierce
Second Choice: Courtney B. Vance
Third Choice: Dennis Haysbert
Why: Frankly, from a pure acting perspective this may be the toughest role of all. How do you portray the impressive intelligence the South Carolina surgeon no doubt has, but is often at odds with his deer in headlights public personal? Pierce may be the best overall choice from a pure talent and appearance combination, but we wouldn’t be upset if recent Emmy winner Vance came on board either.
Marco Rubio, Former Presidential Candidate
First Choice: Mark Consuelos
Second Choice: Freddy Rodriguez
Third Choice: Oscar Isaac
Why: Oh, Marco. There may be nothing more appropriate for Rubio than having an actor who already played a character based on you play you for real (Consuelos played a Republican FL senator on Amazon’s Alpha House). If that’s too on the nose than Rodriguez would be an interesting and height appropriate casting choice. Isaac would no doubt be great, but the resemblance is just a bit too off to put him at the top of our list.
Rudy Gulianni, Trump Campaign Adviser
First Choice: Richard Jenkins
Second Choice: J.K. Simmons
Third Choice: Christoph Waltz
Why: Not only does he resemble him remarkably well, but have you ever seen Jenkins get angry before? Let’s just say we’re convinced he’d incredibly fun to watch in this role. Simmons or Waltz would be prestige picks that could either surprise or stumble playing the former mayor who simply adores any spotlight he can find.
Chelsea Clinton, Daughter of Hillary Clinton
First Choice: Rachel McAdams
Second Choice: Vanessa Bayer
Third Choice: Elisabeth Olsen
Why: It might seem like McAdams is a stretch, but when you compare pictures they actually have a very similar smile and Chelsea is almost always smiling. If McAdams was unavailable Bayer or Olsen would be solid choices (even if we’re slightly worried the latter might not have the range to pull it off).
Ivanka Trump, Daughter of Donald Trump
First Choice: Blake Lively
Second Choice: Emily Blunt
Third Choice: Jessica Alba
Why: Lively is a very underrated actress (you cannot pull off what she did in The Shallows without real talent) and could bring a smart take to a character who is no doubt wants to support her father’s campaign, but also sees how it has been extremely damaging to the business interests she has to manage on a daily basis.
Billy Bush, Former Access Hollywood and Today Show Host
First Choice: Bradley Cooper
Second Choice: Billy Magnussen
Third Choice: Ryan Seacrest
Why: This was actually slightly hard. Bush is such a living caricature of a entertainment news “personality” you wonder if it just makes more sense to have him play himself. Chances are slim Bush would ever agree to that so our first choice is Cooper even if he’s probably way too tall for the role.
Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Party
First And Only Choice: Will Arnett
Why: There is only one actor in our opinion who can pull off playing the embattled RNC chair and that is Arnett. The Arrested Development star has a knack for conveying characters that are borderline slimy, but have an underling nervous energy you just can’t pinpoint. Considering Priebus has endured a bizarre and comical balancing act of appeasing a faction filled Republican party that is close to splintering we can’t imagine a better actor to embody that unique and stress filled desperation.
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House
First Choice: Ed Norton
Second Choice: Matthew Morrison
Third Choice: James Marsden
Why: Any of these three actors could pull off Ryan (assuming they hit the gym beforehand), but we’d be most intrigued by Norton’s interpretation of the role. And, yes, out of this trio Morrison does resemble the Speaker the most.
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America
First Choice: Will Smith
Second Choice: Don Cheadle
Third Choice: Andre Holland
Why: People have been casting Obama for over eight years and he’s already been played on the big screen in Southside by You and the upcoming Barry (although not as President). Audiences have been waiting for years for Will Smith to play the President on screen and he’s probably one of the few that could truly channel his charismatic personality. We are curious, however, what Cheadle or Holland would bring to the table.
Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America
First Choice: Kerry Washington
Second Choice: Viola Davis
Third Choice: Sanaa Lathan
Why: While Davis would be the emotional and pedigree pick for many we actually think Washington is the best choice overall. And don’t discount the under the radar but immensely talented Lathan either if Washington or Davis turned down the role.
Agree? Disagree? Share your picks in the comments section and make sure you vote on Nov. 8.