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I’m Not a President, I Just Play One on TV: The Realism of In the Line of Fire


Movie presidents usually fall into one of two categories: Star turns for say, Harrison Ford , or bland authority figures meant to suggest a real administration without causing offense. (Or, in the case of Morgan Freeman , some combination of the two.)

In the Line of Fire offers up a standard, place-holding sort of president and in his turn as leader of the free world, Jim Curley exudes the requisite silver-haired, no-nonsense charm. What’s not so standard is the degree to which the film mixes cinematic fantasy and political reality.

As Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan, Clint Eastwood is the only
remaining active-duty agent who had been guarding JFK in Dallas during
the assassination. Thanks to a Forrest Gump-worthy effect, we get to
see a photo of a young Eastwood (he would have been 33 at the time)
standing behind JFK’s convertible in the motorcade. And as movie logic
dictates, he’s still haunted by his inability to have saved the
president that day.

Psycho-killer Mitch Leary, a former CIA
operative played with creepy aplomb by John Malkovich, taunts Eastwood during
the president’s re-election campaign. Director Wolfgang Petersen used
footage from Bill Clinton’s 1992 run to set the tone
in those scenes, so there’s real election footage married to a
fictional re-election bid. The film gains a certain realism from this
set-up, but it seems strange that a sitting president would allow his
campaign to be associated with a movie in which a crazy dude with a
plastic gun tries to kill the president.

And who plays
the White House Chief of Staff who dismisses Eastwood’s concerns about
Malkovich? Who else but Fred Thompson, the politician-turned-actor-turned-politician who had a
real, albeit unsuccessful, run for the White House earlier this year.

Parse political fiction from fact when In the Line of Fire plays March 2 at 7:30PM | 6:30C. For a complete schedule, click here.

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