Who's Who: Casting 'Election 2008: The Movie'

Who'd be the best Barack? Could there possibly be a better Palin than Tina Fey?

Nov. 13, 2008 — -- There was so much drama, it's hard to believe the main characters were competing for an office, not an Oscar.

Which is why it only seems natural for Election '08 to be immortalized onscreen. If the tale of a rat-sized dog from Beverly Hills can rule the box office for two weeks in a row, surely, the saga of one of America's most emotional presidential races can draw audiences to theaters.

Provided, of course, the proper Hollywood people are put in the roles of the prominent political players. Below, see who movie industry insiders say should play whom in "Election 2008: The Movie."

Barack Obama

Avy Kaufman, casting director, Avy Kaufman Casting (casted "Baby Mama," "What Happens in Vegas," "Syriana"; currently working on "The Lovely Bones"): He's got such heart. For [Barack] Obama, I'd say Will Smith. He's a bit obvious, but he's got the chops. And he doesn't look like him, but Jeffrey Wright, who's in the new James Bond movie, is a good bet. He'd be a break-out. Then, of course, there's Denzel [Washington]. That's almost too perfect.

Sarah Finn, casting director, Sarah Finn Co. (casted "W.," "Iron Man," "Crash"; currently working on "Iron Man 2"): For Obama, the first person that comes to mind is Don Cheadle. He has the gravitas, the elegance, the warmth. Always cast the best possible actor you can. For Obama, Don is it. Now could you play a Don Cheadle off a Tina Fey as Palin? Maybe not. But Don would be perfect.

Emil Wilbekin, editor in chief, Giant magazine: Chiwetel Ejiofor -- he was in "Kinky Boots" and "Talk to Me," he's a British actor. He has great poise and confidence, I think he could really portray Barack and all of his swagger, his leadership role. Chiwetel is a very charismatic actor. He could really capture that part of Barack's personality. And he's calm. I get Will Smith because of the ears but I just think, "What about a change?"

Michelle Obama

Wilbekin: Kerry Washington, hands down. She is beautiful, she's smart, she actually helped campaign for Barack. She, like Michelle, has an inner strength. Her personality seems in keeping with Michelle's -- very strong, very confident.

Kit Bowen, managing editor, Hollywood.com: Kerry Washington, one of those up and coming actresses, I think she could handle playing someone very stately. Michelle's a tough nut, in a good way, and I think Kerry could play her that way, she could take charge.

Finn: There's this actress named Sanaa Lathan, she's stunning, smart, composed. She'd be a perfect glamorous, elegant Michelle. But also, the stage actress Audra McDonald could be a perfect regal, forthright, fearless Michelle.

Joe Biden

Finn: Sam Shepherd. Biden's got this very verbal, articulate thing going on, and Sam can do that effortlessly.

Bowen: Harrison Ford as Joe Biden, next to Will Smith as Obama, wouldn't that be great? He can embody that career politician persona.

Wilbekin: James Cromwell. He played George Bush Sr. in "W." I think he's very smart, very calming, and I think he could walk the line of being this great orator while running away at the mouth. He's got the poise that Biden has, he's got the look and he's also warm.

Sarah Palin

Finn: Let's face it, Tina Fey would be hard to beat. But if you want a more straight-laced Palin, I can see Reese Witherspoon pulling it off. She's got that spunk. But also, a dark-haired Nicole Kidman circa "To Die For." She's be a strong Palin.

Kaufman: Julia Roberts. You could make her look like Palin -- there's that big, smiley thing about them. Palin's so homey, she's almost Southern. Julia can really carry that. And Tina Fey really nailed it. We'd all go see that movie if Tina was Palin. If neither of those names were available, I'd pick Catherine Keener.

Wilbekin: I mean come on, Tina Fey. No one else need play her. She's perfect. From the mannerisms to the physicality. ... Tina Fey did a great job of capturing all of her idiosyncrasies and also all of her moose-shooting weirdness.

Bowen: Tina Fey, there's no one else who could play Sarah Palin. Just no one else.

John McCain

Bowen: Ed Harris -- he's played general and military guys before. He has an austereness that McCain has. I'm sure he can be made to look older.

Wilbekin: Ed Harris is charming, he's intense, he's smart, but he kind of has this very hard edge to him. He has a certain endearing quality that we saw in McCain the night of his concession speech. Ed Harris can walk that line of being very strong and gracious at the same time.

Finn: I keep gravitating toward Robert Duvall. McCain's physicality is really part of who he is. He's a man with a life of service and experience, so you'd want that weightiness in an actor. But he's also got a twinkle in his eye, a real decency to him. Robert Duvall has that.

Cindy McCain

Finn: She's hard. But Stockard Channing as a blonde could be great, or take the opposite tack and go with a Morgan Fairchild, the cool glam. But Felicity Huffman could also pull it off, all polished and put together.

Bowen: Michelle Pfeiffer -- she's a cool blonde, someone who's slightly younger.

Wilbekin: Michelle Pfeiffer's kind of brilliant. She would be great as Cindy; I think Michelle could play this political wife who stands behind her man, comes from a lot of wealth, but tries to underplay it. It's very Stepford. And that said, I almost wonder if Nicole Kidman might be a good Cindy McCain, because she nailed it in "The Stepford Wives."

Hillary Clinton

Finn: Laura Linney would be fantastic. Incredibly smart and strong, she has the right tenacity. But she's open, and as the campaign wore on, Hilary let down that guard a bit. I think that would be a good fit.

Bowen: Felicity Huffman. It's a tough one. I originally said Amy Poehler because of ["Saturday Night Live"], but [Huffman's] tough and smart and a bit of a spitfire like Hillary.

Wilbekin: Emma Thompson. She kind of played a version of Hilary in "Primary Colors." I think Emma could embody this very empowered, strong woman. She's proven herself as an actress, as a fighter, and as a survivor. Hillary has a lot of those same characteristics.

Bill Clinton

Finn: Age him up and Robert Downy Jr. could play it flawlessly. He's got the charm and charisma, but also the intelligence and the depth.

Bowen: Colin Firth -- it may sound really out of the box, but I think he could pull it off. He has that suave allure to him. And Brits play Americans all the time.

Wilbekin: Jeff Bridges has got a great sense of humor, he's a people person, he can really relate to being "the first black president." He has a certain kind of swagger and a tongue-in-cheek sensibility: wise cracking but wise at the same time. That's what you need to play Bill Clinton.

George Bush

Finn: I may be biased, since I did the casting for "W.," but I think Josh Brolin is still perfect. That charisma is there.

Bowen: Bill Paxton has that kind of Southern, good 'ol boy feel of George Bush. I think he could portray that side of Bush.

Wilbekin: Josh Brolin -- he's not the obvious choice, but in the Oliver Stone movie, he really embodied W. He'd be perfect, let's rerun him again.

Oprah Winfrey

Wilbekin: Oprah's tough. I think Viola Davis, she's a great thespian, a real stage actress, but she has the stature and confidence of Oprah. She would be very smart. You've got to be larger than life to play Oprah, and that's a dream role.

Bowen: Maybe "Grey's Anatomy" actress Chandra Wilson. But really, I think Oprah has to play Oprah.

Finn: Let's not even go there. Only Oprah can play Oprah. She's an actress when the project is right. And she could produce it, too.