hillarysaturday1

by Jason Koenigsberg

From looking at the recent national polls there is a very realistic chance the United States will have their first female President with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton making history. Since politics always influence art and vice versa we are going to see a lot more thinly guises or blatant interpretations of Hillary Clinton in motion pictures. 

Her opponent, Republican candidate Donald Trump does not need any loose interpretations of him on screen. He already has quite a filmography on imdb.com with The Apprentice, various appearances on WWE programs and acting in films such as Ghosts Can’t Do It (1989), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) and The Little Rascals (1994). He basically has been a good sport at self parody for decades. 

Hillary Clinton is different, not one to take time off to have TV shows or cameo in movies since 1992 when she became the first lady she has had a strong presence in Washington and that has carried over into Hollywood. Sure they have made several documentaries about Hillary, some painting her in a negative light, but we have seen a number of fictitious characters in film that bear a striking resemblance to Hillary Clinton’s looks, demeanor and reputation. A lot of strong female characters in television and film have taken their inspiration from the former first lady, some on a more subliminal level and others so obvious where it seems like the actors are basically trying to portray Mrs. Clinton with their character. Here are the top 5 most noticeable portrayals of Hillary Clinton on film. All of the following are from Academy Award winning or nominated actresses. 

5. Glen Close in Air Force One directed by Wolfgang Peterson (1997)

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Back in the summer of 1997 Harrison Ford was still one of the biggest movie stars on the planet and him playing the President of the United States seemed like a perfect fit. Glen Close as his Vice President was a more unusual choice. With her cold business-like demeanor and blonde hair this was clearly casting based on the first lady. At the time there was no other woman in the world that Americans could have imagined being in the hot seat other than Hillary Clinton. The performance by Glen Close was very cold and emotionless and they gave the biggest and most prestigious actress in the film the role of Vice President instead of playing his wife who was also a character in the film that Harrison Ford had to save from the terrorists who took over the presidents plane. Does anyone even remember the first lady from Air Force One? Not really, but if Hillary was not living in the White House at the time this was made audiences would not have seen a woman trying to save the President’s plane after it was taken over. 

4. Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton directed by Tony Gilroy (2007)

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This interpretation is a little more thinly guised. A performance in a role not having directly to do with Washington DC or US politics, but for everyone out there that thinks Hillary Clinton is an unscrupulous and image-conscious woman who is cold and calculating and will do literally anything to get what she wants and stay in power, well then Tilda Swinton’s performance here is probably what a lot of Hillary Clinton’s detractors think that she is like as a person. Swinton would win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Michael Clayton as she works for a law firm protecting a chemical company that has done some seedy acts to stay rich. A smart sophisticated adult drama that holds up very well and deserved the Oscar nominations and wins it received. It is possible that Tilda Swinton never thought of Hillary while making this film, but this role probably encapsulates how right wing conservatives feel about Mrs. Clinton. 

3. Meryl Street in The Manchurian Candidate directed by Jonathan Demme (2004)

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Now this is where the interpretations in the performances become much more obvious. Meryl Streep, no doubt one of the best actresses of her generation, looked to Hillary Clinton for inspiration in Jonathan Demme’s remake of the classic political thriller The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Rather than model or imitate the enigmatic performance of Angela Lansbury from the original, Streep played the mother as a cold, heartless and driven woman striving for power and willing to achieve it through the most unsavory means. At the time that this was made it was impossible to see Streep as cruel and determined and not think that she was somewhat inspired by media portrayals of Hillary Clinton. The film itself was a good thriller although it lacked the subversive edge of the original despite having arguably a more talented cast of actors. Even though Meryl Streep is a huge liberal and will no doubt be voting democrat in the upcoming election, one would find it very hard to believe she was not channeling Hillary Clinton for this performance of a female politician controlling all of the men around her. 

2. Jodie Foster in Elysium directed by Neill Blomkamp (2013)

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These are getting more and more blatant as possible inspirations from Hillary Clinton, to obvious to the point where writer/director Neill Blomkamp could have just named Jodie Foster’s character in this movie Hillary Clinton and it would have taken any metaphor right out of the equation. Just look at the haircut, you do not even need to see the movie to see what they were going for. Which is interesting because the theme of the movie is about universal healthcare and giving all people the medicine and treatment they need to live regardless of their social class. Healthcare was an issue Hillary fought for as the first lady and helped pass as Secretary of State under President Obama. Yet here, Jodie Foster is ever so cold and villainous as she tries to prevent those that cannot afford to have the proper healthcare from having it by literally shooting them before they land their ship. 

1. Emma Thompson in Primary Colors directed by Mike Nichols (1998)

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This is the only one on the list where there is no searching for interpretation. Emma Thompson is meant to portray Hillary Clinton opposite John Travolta as Bill Clinton and Billy Bob Thornton as James Carville in Mike Nichols’ fictitious account of what went down on the way to the top as Clinton won the presidency from dramatic come from behind fashion in 1992. It shows the dark and dirty side of politics while simultaneously painting Travolta and Thompson as Bill and Hillary in a positive light where they are trying to fight for the working class and really care about helping people, yet are corrupted by the system and their desire to win at any cost. Kathy Bates would be the lone performance to garner an Oscar nomination but the acting across the board and superb direction by Mike Nichols who had a real career renaissance in the late 90’s and early 2000’s make this political film a modern classic and a dramedy that has aged very nicely almost twenty years later as Hillary Clinton is on the verge of living in the White House again, this time with the desk in the Oval Office belonging to her and not her husband. 

Did I miss any other noticeable Hillary Clinton portrayals from movies? If she ends up winning the presidency this November, were are no doubt going to see many more interpretations and parodies of Hillary on screen for many years to come. 

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1 Comment »

  1. Hi, Jason,

    It’s Dad and I really enjoyed reading your reviews for Gene Wilder and Hillary Clinton. I especially like your Clinton list of films and the corresponding reflection of her influences in cinema. Very well written articles and they both show great depth of thought.
    Keep up the good work!

    Richard K/

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