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February 3, 2011

Who should play former President Richard Milhous Nixon?

My generation knows the 37th President of the USA through two sound bytes.

In the pro Nixon camp, Dr. Spock famously advised us that “Only Nixon could go to China.”  The Anti-Nixonites however, use Richard’s own words against him: “I am not a crook.”

I know what you’re going to say. Oliver Stone already made a movie about Nixon, and he chose Anthony Hopkins to play the lead role.

Now, you might have nothing against people playing characters that they look nothing like. John Travolta, like so many pantomime dames before him, seemed to do a decent job in the remake of Hairspray. Anthony Hopkins himself is no stranger to being cast outside of his nationality, with a little makeup he even once played Othello on the stage. (The photographs weren’t convincing, I wasn’t there at the performance.)

Film is different, however, and I like to have my actors at least vaguely resemble the characters they are meant to portray. I know that Hopkins is a versatile actor, but what’s next, will Rhys Jones play Obama? Come on!

So who actually resembles Nixon that can act? Easy, Quentin Tarantino.

Quentin, before you pick a fight with me, I know you’re not as old as Richie Nixon. Your chin doesn’t sag, and you don’t suffer from five o’clock shadow. But come on, movies are meant to be more glamorous than reality.  Politicians are too ugly to be played by people who look exactly like them. The camera needs a more photogenic version so the lens doesn’t break.

And the personality fits too. When Nixon considered all the trouble he got from the so-called counter culture movement, he suggested sending in undercover agents.  One source claimed he said “We need some of those hairy… really dirty looking bastards” to spy on the movement.  I wonder, who could deliver that line better than Tarantino? (Well, Samuel Jackson might do the job.  Or Maybe Al Pacino)

Most importantly, however, is Nixon’s general “hard boiled” attitude. If Tarantino doesn’t play Nixon himself, he should at least cast him.

Okay, so maybe you want a PG, politically correct, watered down portrayal of RM Nixon? Why not have Jackie Chan play him then? Jackie Chan is a hit with children, and Nixon did go to China. What’s that, Oliver Stone says Nixon looks nothing like Jackie Chan? Come on Ollie, you cast Anthony Hopkins! At least Chan has the right posture for the job.

Happy Chinese New Year to all those Nixon fans out there.

– Vasco de Sousa