While we should have seen it coming that movies would become as divided politically as everything else has, it’s only made worse when politicians continue to think their presence in a movie will be something memorable. No matter what you already think of the “Atlas Shrugged” movie adaptations based on Ayn Rand’s novel, the idea that Senator Ron Paul will be acting in it (along with a couple other conservative notables) prolongs the mystery of why any politician would add anything to being in a movie. Other than Ronald Reagan who was a fairly adequate actor in comedies and dramas long before dabbling in politics, politicians with no solid acting experience have tried to intrude on movies with a prominent cameo.
If most of those appearances above were the politicians portraying themselves, what was the real purpose of doing such a thing? Is it just to give their constituents a different view of who they really are behind the political face, or is there real intention of thinking they could carve out an acting career after politics?
Analyzing Political Movie Cameos
It seems there’s been more Republican politicians appearing in films than there have been Democrats. Then again, when you consider Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has appeared in a prominent role (as himself) in all three of the “Dark Knight” movies, perhaps equal time isn’t a problem. You even have political strategist James Carville appearing in a couple of films in recent years, most notably in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” He may be one of the best people in politics with a colorful enough personality to become a viable character actor if he wanted.
While those two above might have had some rhyme or reason being in a film (Leahy is reportedly a huge Batman fan), cameos in movies by John McCain, Harry Reid and Rudy Giuliani all seemed far more calculated. McCain’s cameo in “Wedding Crashers” is hardly remembered now, though was cited when the film first came out. Since McCain may be the best comedian in politics next to Al Franken (who’s now overly serious for the time being), it was probably just another attempt to remind everyone that McCain loves to do comedy.
I’ve written recently on the debate about whether politicians doing comedy should be seen that way in long form or short form. The cameo always seems to be easier assimilated, though it works better on TV than in movies. Consider that McCain’s memorable sketches on “Saturday Night Live” are still remembered compared to his eye-blink cameo in “Wedding Crashers.”
When it comes to more extensive acting in a movie, after leaving office, names like Fred Thompson usually come up. Thompson was a fairly good character actor in the years prior to becoming a senator, even if he already worked as a legal counsel during the Watergate trial and as a lobbyist in the years prior to going into acting. His acting background might have also led to his failure running for President since a lot of people likely found his campaign full of B.S. in the end. It’s probably going to be tougher for actors to become politicians now because so many can see that they put on an acting veneer in order to get ahead politically.
Thompson hasn’t done much acting lately other than appearing in reverse mortgage commercials. However, at least he could act well, which is something not proven yet by Ron Paul who’s about to act (or something like it) in “Atlas Shrugged 3.” When you add Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist to the acting list, you have to wonder whether they’ll just act as themselves or have to put on an acting veneer in playing more prominent roles.
With most critics branding the indie “Atlas Shrugged” movies major failures, it doesn’t seem to matter whether anyone acts well or not since it’s a political philosophy put to film that independent conservatives will go see anyway. If that’s the future of politicians in film, then it’s going to be more of a contribution to a cinematic coterie rather than to the art of film.
Perhaps all politicians will realize this in the future and stay away from acting, unless Al Franken happens to become one of those comedians turned serious actor after leaving office.