After being bombarded with TV ads touting Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, you might think people would go to the cinema to escape from presidential politics. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth as a trio of American presidents feature in films up for awards this season.
No film about a Commander-in-Chief has ever won Best Picture. 1994 champ “Forrest Gump” used archival footage to show the title character meeting Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Three films featuring Amercia's chief executive contend for Best Picture this year.
Steven Spielberg's “Lincoln” showcases Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president who works with his cabinet to pass the 13th amendment and emancipate slavery. Our Experts expect Day-Lewis to become the first actor to win an Oscar for playing a US president. Our odds also favor the film to win Director, Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay.
Kathryn Bigelow's “Zero Dark Thirty” documents the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Much has been reported about the film's depiction of torture. Included is footage of Obama discussing his views of torture. And he gives the final order that resulted in the killing of Bin Laden, a watershed of his first term in office.
Ben Affleck's “Argo” is about the CIA operation to extract US diplomats from Iran during the 1979/80 hostage crisis. In the film the operation ultimately needs to be greenlit by the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Not only is archival footage of Carter used throughout the film but he recorded narration that plays over the end credits. Carter lost the Presidency to Ronald Regan in 1980. Perhaps this year, he may achieve what Reagan, a one-time actor never did -- appearing in a Best Picture Oscar winner. "Argo" has the edge over "Lincoln" among our Experts.
Though the Oscars have awarded portrayals of English monarchs, Prime Ministers and other world leaders no one has ever won an Oscar for playing a US president. Five fellows have been nominated: Raymond Massey for playing Lincoln in “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” (1940); Alexander Knox for playing Woodrow Wilson in “Wilson” (1944); James Whitmore for playing Harry S Truman in “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” (1975); Anthony Hopkins in “Nixon” (1995) and Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (2008) both for playing Nixon; and Hopkins in “Amistad” (1997) for playing John Adams.