There aren’t many producers around these days whose name can help sell a movie or TV show, but Gale Anne Hurd is the rare exception. Probably best known as one of the co-creators of “The Terminator” franchise, Hurd has been an important player in numerous mega- or merely major productions, including both “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Abyss,” “Armageddon,” “The Punisher,” and the underrated 1999 comedy “Dick,” which starred Dan Hedaya as Richard Milhous Nixon and a young Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of teenagers who wind up bringing down a presidency.
Clearly one of the more hands-on producers around, Hurd is pleasant and businesslike when talking to a member of the show-biz press, but clearly has the gumption to deal with the biggest and most difficult of personalities, which is how I segue into the obligatory mention of the fact that she spent the part of the late eighties and early nineties being married to first James Cameron and then Brian De Palma. Moreover, she began her career working for one the most fascinating and effective producers in the history of the medium, Roger Corman, but more of that in the interview.
Still, nothing she’s done is quite like her current project, the zombie horror drama and comic book adaptation, “The Walking Dead.” The AMC television series, adapted from a series of acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman primarily by writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist”) is currently receiving maximum exposure on the web. The publicity train was only just getting started when I spoke to Ms. Hurd at a mammoth new San Diego hotel adjacent to the Comic-Con festivities last summer.
I had typed my questions on my laptop, which I was afraid might be a little off-putting. So, after a quick greeting, I tried to explain why.
Once upon a time, the third Monday in February was designated as a day to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. These days, however, although it varies from state to state, it tends to be known less specifically as Presidents Day, which means that we can ostensibly celebrate everyone who’s ever been the President of the United States. Here at Premium Hollywood, we’d also like to extend that to those who’ve served as our nation’s commander-in-chief on television and the silver screen.
Now, granted, that’s a lot of people…more, in fact, than we could possibly give shout-outs to in a single piece. As such, we decided to pare it down to the same number of individuals as have held the highest office in our land since its inception. Forty-four folks is still nothing to sneeze at, but we’re betting that we’ll still end up having left out someone’s favorite son (or daughter). To paraphrase one of our real presidents, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. With that said, however, we still think we did a pretty solid job of picking the best candidates for the piece.
1. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews), “Idiocracy”: Why are we leading off with President Camacho? Because, really, when you’ve got a fake President on your list who’s also a porn superstar and a five-time ultimate smackdown wrestling champion, why in God’s name would you wait any longer than necessary to trumpet his inclusion? Clearly, this man is the fake President to end all fake Presidents, and he’s #1 with a bullet. It’s all going to be downhill from here.
2. President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), “The American President”: President Shepherd is a widower who pursues a relationship with an attractive lobbyist — Sydney Ellen Wade, played by Annette Bening — while at the same time attempting to win passage of a crime control bill. Although the film was mostly ignored by the Oscars, it racked up several Golden Globe nominations and has since found its way into the #75 spot on the American Film Institute’s list of America’s Greatest Love Stories. Plus, its screenwriter managed to find a good use for the excess material that he didn’t have room to fit into the script…but we’ll get to that in our next entry.
3. President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), “The West Wing”: Yes, if you hadn’t figured it out already, “The American President” was written by Aaron Sorkin, which is why you may notice a resemblance between the mannerisms of Presidents Shepherd and Bartlet. Ironically, though, Sorkin had originally envisioned the series as revolving so much around the White House senior staff that viewers would rarely, if ever, see the president. Instead, what the nation got was an idealized leader, one who – in A Novel Approach to Politics, by Douglas A. Van Belle and Kenneth M. Mash – is referred to as the “most popular Democratic president in recent memory.” The book was written pre-Obama, mind you, but we’re pretty sure the title still stands.
4. President William Harrison Mitchell (Kevin Kline), “Dave”: Given the vaguely “The Prince and the Pauper”-esque premise of the film, which involes a guy who makes a few bucks on the side as a Presidential impersonator being asked to play the part for real when the actual President suffers an incapacitating stroke, there was every reason to believe that “Dave” would’ve been a trifle at best, but between Kline’s imminent likability and a fantastic supporting cast (Sigourney Weaver as the First Lady, Ben Kingsley as the Vice President, Frank Langella as Chief of Staff, and Charles Grodin as Dave’s accountant buddy, Murray), it often comes close to – even though it doesn’t quite reach – the heights of “The American President.”
5 – 8. President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), “Independence Day” / President Blake (Perry King) and President Becker (Kenneth Welsh), “The Day After Tomorrow” / President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), “2012”: As soon as you see the credit “directed by Roland Emmerich” on a disaster flick, you just know things are going to reach a point where the President of the United States is going to be brought into the discussion about whatever imminent danger may be about to thrust itself onto our planet.
There’s also a very good possibility that the ol’ rite of succession may come into play during the course of the film, such as it did in “The Day After Tomorrow,” when we lost President Blake after the blades of his helicopter froze. Say hello, President Becker! The same thing happened in “2012,” too, but we were so in awe of President Wilson’s selfless sacrifice – he stayed behind to help survivors in need, only to meet his death when the tidal wave struck the White House – that we’ve made an executive decision not to include Wilson’s successor, President Anheuser (Oliver Platt) in the list. Why? Because he’s a dick.
The definitive Emmerich-flick president, of course, is President Whitmore. During the course of “Independence Day,” he sees the White House blown up, loses his wife, fights off a psychic attack from an alien, and flies a goddamned jet fighter into battle to help save the day. Plus, he gives the most stirring speech this side of “Patton.” Hell, I’d vote for him.