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Here's Some Reel Presidents

He's not a U.S. president, but he plays one in the movies.

Quite a few actors, including James Brolin and his son, Josh, can lay claim to that honor. Contributor Jess Cagle, executive editor of People magazine, reviews a few Tuesday on The Early Show.


Oliver Stone's "W" is a comedy about President George W. Bush set to open Oct. 17. It features an all-star cast playing the White House's highest-profile figures: Josh Brolin as the president; Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush; Richard Dreyfuss as Vice President Dick Cheney; Jeffrey Wright as Secretary of State Colin Powell; Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice; and James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush.

"I think this is maybe the first time a sitting president has been depicted in a fictional movie," Cagle says, adding that he will reserve judgment until he has seen the whole film.

"Apparently, this is a even-handed, surprisingly so, film," he says. "It promises to be very, very interesting."

Still in the works is a Steven Spielberg movie about President Lincoln. Scheduled for release in 2010, it stars Irish actor Liam Neeson as Lincoln.


At the top of Cagle's list is HBO's "John Adams," which won a record 13 Emmy Awards in September. Paul Giamatti plays the president and Laura Linney has the role of his wife, Abigail.

The $100 million-plus, seven-part miniseries is based on a book by David McCullough. It chronicles the career of America's second president, highlights the bond between Adams and his wife and shows the founding of the country. All seven hours are filled, Cagle says, with talk in historically accurate English accents.


Another HBO offering based on a book by McCullough, 1995's "Truman" won an Emmy for best made-for-TV movie and its star, Gary Sinise won a Golden Globe for best actor.

"A lot is crammed into a couple of hours," Cagle says, explaining that the movie shows how Truman was broke and without a career when he hit middle age. Then, says Cagle, "he was sort of picked up by the political bosses in Kansas City and ends up, of course, in the White House and had some incredibly difficult decisions to make as president, obviously."


This 2003 Showtime movie stars James Brolin as the president and Judy Davis as his wife, Nancy. It follows the couple from their days in Hollywood in the late 1940s to his last days as president.

About a month before it was scheduled to air on CBS, drafts of the script appeared in the press, enraging Conservatives who claimed it was not a balanced portrait of the president. CBS withdrew the movie from network broadcast and later aired it on the premium cable TV channel.


A 2005 HBO movie, it stars Kenneth Branagh as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Cynthia Nixon as Eleanor.

The movie shows an ambitious, privileged young man whose life was hobbled by a bout with polio that left him paralyzed from the waist down. As he comes to grips with his disability, he learns empathy for those crippled, not by illness, but by poverty, illiteracy and racism, and brings those qualities to the White House, which FDR occupied for an unprecedented four terms. The title comes from a spa in rural Georgia where he sought a miracle cure.