Are Hollywood's Best Actresses Afraid to Play Hillary?

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Getting cast as the young Hillary Clinton in the pre-Election Day 2016 biopic Rodham should be the role of a lifetime for Hollywood's young A-listers, but portraying any version of a likely presidential candidate might just be too daunting a task. The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit reported last night that Carey Mulligan, the Brit thought to be the frontrunner for the role, has passed on it. She is not alone.

The filmmakers are attempting to do something rather ballsy with this movie. According to The Wrap's Jeff Sneider the idea is to "mobile" the film ready to ahead of a 2016 presidential run. (You know, assuming Clinton runs.) That would put Rodham in the interesting position of possibly having a very direct effect on a political race, while also trying to accomplish something creatively. This isn't The Queen, which documented an in-power monarch, who wasn't going to go anywhere anyway. It's not quite Primary Colors, which unlike its source material debuted well after an election year, with Emma Thompson as the last leading lady to portray Hillary Clinton on the big screen. Nor is it even Zero Dark Thirty, which stayed away from portraying the president directly in an election year, even though the release date was pushed back beyond Election Day. An actress in the lead role as Hillary now could potentially be blamed for her choices by either side of the aisle, and by Hollywood for an Oscar grab turned instant controversy. 

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Though it's been reported that actresses were clamoring for the role, there now seems to be something of a backlash. Jessica Chastain denied that she was going to take on the part, while Sneider explained that Jennifer Lawrence's schedule was too full. In fact, some of the buzz about all those actresses could perhaps be traced backed the director of the project, James Ponsoldt. In a Sunday Times interview he said of Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon, and Scarlett Johansson: "They're all wonderful actresses...We're very fortunate that a lot of really great actors are interested in playing these roles. We're in an enviable position." 

So perhaps there might be some posturing going on. Katie Roberts at Moviefone cast doubt on whether any of these actresses were exactly eager for the role. Sure, the Clinton on display in Rodham sounds like a juicy part: She curses and has sexy time with Bill—indeed, he "buries his head into her cleavage," according to a version of the Black List-approved script leaked to The Daily Beast. But taking it on is almost like giving yourself a role in a political campaign. Something an actress may not want if her performance is going to be at all appreciated on its own merits. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.