Anthony Hopkins in NIXON. Probably the best-known cinematic Nixon, and certainly a very well-acted one, but on the whole he's a little miscast and the movie's a touch bloated, I'd say.
Philip Baker Hall in SECRET HONOR. Probably the most intense Nixon of the bunch, and in a one-man show, to boot. There's a real intimate, terrifying artistry to his work.
Dan Hedaya in DICK. My personal favorite. I would go so far as to say that DICK is a severely underrated movie and one of the smartest comedies of the 90s. People had been saying for years that Hedaya would make a great Nixon, and of course he did. I mean, his eyebrows alone are better than Cusack.
And who could forget Frank Langella in FROST/NIXON? Oops! That's the wrong picture. That's Langella as "Skeletor" in MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Here's the right one:
Another great performance that plays up the more condescending elements of Nixon's persona, the parts of him who always believed he was the smartest man in the room– invulnerable, even when the cold, hard truths were speaking otherwise.
You know what? I'm prepared to revise my initial statement: yes, this is the worst Nixon performance in film history, even worse than Buck McDancer in HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX.
The best thing we can take away from this is the new understanding that Cusack must have thought THE PAPERBOY BASED ON THE NOVEL "THE PAPERBOY" BY PETE DEXTER was actually a brilliant movie, hence his decision to work with Lee Daniels a second time. (Or maybe it was just the money.)
There's plenty of other strange casting, too–
Why they cast Robin Williams as Eisenhower in a world where J.K. Simmons exists is sort of a head-scratcher:
Alan Rickman always brings some wonderful dickery to his roles, but he's still not quite right for Ronald Reagan:
And Mariah Carey gets her airbrushed face smudged with a little dirt for her role as a poor, 1920s sharecropper (though Lee Daniels employs a similar technique as Susan Seidelman did with Madonna in DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN– he keeps the part brief, and mostly non-speaking):
Whew. Okay. Three more observations:
#1. Love the matching figure skater/SOUL TRAIN costumes on Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey in this authentic 1970s tableau:
#2. It's sort of amusing that Oprah has become so accustomed to award shows, state dinners, and the VIP treatment that she can no longer muster the excitement of attending one for the first time, even when her role demands it:
Unremitting ennui: the price of success
Though I still like him best when he's terrifying and teamed with John Glover.
In closing, LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER BASED ON THE ARTICLE "A BUTLER WELL SERVED BY THIS ELECTION" BY WIL HAYGOOD is no THE PAPERBOY BASED ON THE NOVEL "THE PAPERBOY" BY PETE DEXTER; it's not a hotbed of unintentional comedy or a purveyor of Southern Fried Sleaze-o-Rama, it doesn't induce any spit-takes, grand guffaws, or jellyfish-related urination. No, it's just a mediocre Oscar grubber that's not too great, but not too bad, either. It's about as deep as NBC's THE SIXTIES or FORREST GUMP or ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and for some, hell, that's deep enough.