BY HOW WEIRD IRELAND WOULD BE ABOUT THEM VISITING
Folks, we love a US President visiting don’t we? From Ryan Tubridy’s unsettling JFK fixation to the unwaking fever dream of Barack Obama Plaza, Ireland has a long and proud history of not being normal when it comes to previous POTUSes. President of the United States of America Joe Biden is in town, visiting to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, taking Belfast, Dublin, Mayo and, God love him, Louth during his stay. Mentions of his ancestry and a series of useless state gifts are sure to be in abundance this week. We’re a nation with a strong connection to our friends across the Atlantic, so when their President comes over for a visit, we like to keep our smiles wide, our best feet forward, our homeless people moved on, our airports open and our debates in the Dáil closed. Attention from the States tends to tap into the deferential inferiority complex at the centre of the Irish political psyche, we must look good when the leader of a Real Country comes to visit. But we here at Film In Dublin don’t concern ourselves with ‘real news’, you could say we prefer…reel news.
Reel like a movie reel.
From cute cameos to feature length fun, there’s a long tradition of fictional US Presidents as characters in Hollywood films, at least until the mid 2010s when thinking about the office at all became a permanently exhausting affair. US Presidents in the movies can be any kind of blockbuster protagonist, from badass action heroes, bumbling comedy buffoons to caring romcom cuties, and thinking about their history on film got us wondering, which movie presidents would drive our country the most feral if they were to come over for a state visit? While you’re stuck in the traffic caused by the road closures and diversions put in place for Ol’ Joe’s big day out in Dublin, check out our list of which film leaders of the free world would have our island most in freefall.
5. Dave, Dave
When Dave Kovic assumed the US presidency in 1993, he launched a bold programme of reforms, including a ground-breaking plan to provide a job to every American citizen who wanted one. His approval rating rose dramatically and he won the affections of First Lady Sigourney Weaver. Of course, Dave wasn’t technically an elected official, he was an impersonator who stepped in secretly when the actual President had a stroke, but the dashingly ditsy comedic stylings of Kevin Kline are just too hard to resist.
As a personable, empathetic and eager leader, Dave would be higher up this list, but we do have to somewhat try and ground this in reality, and the imposter POTUS’ hypothetical trip to Ireland would likely court controversy. Dave’s efforts to fight homelessness would quickly have him labelled as a dangerous populist by our current government, and the very slight differences in appearance between Dave and President William Harrison Mitchell (Kline Prime) would invite protests from Ireland’s current rent-a-crank far right crowd convinced that the switcheroo was part of a socialist conspiracy (it was in fact a Frank Langhella-ist conspiracy).
4. John MacKenzie, First Daughter
The final directorial effort to date of actor Forest Whittaker was, for some reason, a romantic comedy about the President’s daughter. No not that one. Being released a few months after a movie with the exact same premise was a blow to Whittaker’s take on a young woman seeking freedom while surrounded by security, but his version did have a little something special to spice it up; President Batman.
Michael Keaton plays John MacKenzie, the hopeless dorky dad of Katie Holmes and also leader of the USA. If the First Daughter came along for the trip the news coverage would get embarrassing fast, as they would invade her privacy and seize on every act of tabloid-friendly tourism – look she’s shopping in Arnott’s! Look she’s drinking a pint! Look her and the boring lad from Buffy are sharing a romantic walk through Phoenix Park! Ah jaysus she’s after getting mouldy in Coppers, etc. Our island’s voracious hunger for gossip would throw the MacKenzie re-election campaign into jeopardy. No matter how protective a dad he may be, it’s not worth the risk, Keaton will have to go it alone and let his daughter go on a romantic trip through Europe instead, just like in the movie (CORRECTION – this didn’t happen in First Daughter, it was in Chasing Liberty the Mandy Moore movie, which did not qualify on the basis its President Dad wasn’t famous enough)
3. Thomas J. Whitmore, Independence Day
Bill Pullman’s turn as the alien fighting, styling and profiling, speech giving, independent living president would make for a delightful state visitor. Powerful yet personable, he’s the perfect candidate for giving a rousing speech both in the Dáil and in the Dáil bar.
Also, unfortunately, he would bring many of the island’s most irritating public figures crawling out of the woodwork. Imagine the newspaper columns crying for Ireland to join NATO in the wake of the alien invasion that Pullman and co fended off in Independence Day. Imagine the tweets from human damp John McGuirk criticising Whitmore for failing to debate the invaders in the marketplace of ideas. Imagine the political mudslinging from our MEPS; Clare Daly and Mick Wallace accusing him of warmongering while trying to avoid drawing attention to the alien tendrils curled around their throats, while Frances Fitzgerald and Maria Walsh cosy up to him while trying to avoid drawing attention to them voting to halt rescue efforts to migrants from UFO attacked cities. His visit would be fun and explosive, but very stupid and ultimately headache inducing, much like Independence Day.
2. John Harker, Escape from New York
In Ireland, a political figure’s involvement with the Northern Ireland peace process is a handy dandy way to escape criticism for your record on anything else, a nifty loophole that may well end up deciding our own next President. In John Carpenter’s action classic Escape from New York, the US President played by Donald Pleasance is en route to a peace conference when he’s attacked and becomes trapped in the city-wide prison of Manhattan. His intentions and efforts in ending the all-out war in Escape‘s dystopian future may be noble, but that doesn’t stop Harker from being the callous and compromised leader of an imperialist police state.
However, Harker would probably go down well over here, provided there’s anything left of Ireland in the dark future of 1997. Recounting his story of being rescued from the lawless, godless streets of New York on The Late Late Show would likely draw the Pres plenty of praise; its middle-aged middle-class demographic already seeing Dublin City as a perilous prison of poverty beyond redemption. The fake laughter from Ryan Tubridy as Harker recounts the anecdote of his peacekeeping cassette of nuclear secrets being swapped out for a recording of Bandstand Boogie would be loud and lasting enough for everyone on the island to hear it, even those of us sensible enough to never under any circumstances watch the Late Late. That’s before even getting into the extra security for his visit; 50 ft walls around the city, mines sweeping every road out, snipers manned on every crane in the city skyline and every guard on the island sent into his vicinity for overtime; you’d need the help of badass Snake Plissken just to escape from the traffic home before midnight.
1. James Marshall, Air Force One
Never mind the speeches, appearances and addresses. Forget about the clunky cúpla focal or the pandering promise to the press about how he’s going to enjoy a pint…of Guinness! President James Marshall would only have to say four simple words to, justifiably, send everyone in Ireland into the rapturous cheers usually seen in Bart Simpson’s classroom: “Get off my plane”.
Marshall is a committed diplomat, his plane on its way to Moscow when it’s abducted by neo-Soviet knaves. He’s also a total badass, a former veteran well able to take on the terrorists with his own bare hands, making for the perfect leader for a complicated political climate/viewing choice for a hungover Sunday afternoon. We would treat his arrival to Ireland like the return of a hero, because James Marshall is a hero, dammit, he’s an action movie hero. Marshall is also the one on this list most likely to have the classic Irish ancestry to prolong his visit. Look at that man and tell me he doesn’t have a grandfather from Cork.
And also as well, he looks like Harrison Ford. Your dad would respect him, your mam would fancy him, you’d remember him as rogueishly charming even though he’s actually a standoffish crank – such is the power of this President’s charisma. There would be plenty of protests about the ongoing use of Shannon Airport by the US military and its continued contradiction of Ireland’s neutrality a full twenty years after the unlawful war in Iraq, but then Marshall would do a speech there and he’d be all like “Get off my airport!” and the crowd would go wild and all would be forgotten. We’d probably name the airport after him.
A state visit from Marshall would also need some very heavy-handed security of course, lest we find ourselves in some sort of Oireachtas Has Fallen type situation, but there would be a welcome flip side to any inconveniences accrued when he came over – the Ryanair sales would be an absolute steal. It would be a national holiday, we wouldn’t even be here to be bothered by his arrival, the moment that GET ON MY PLANE! email arrived in our inbox we’d all be off to Amsterdam for €5 for the week.