“I certainly have a profound respect for the historical nature of her candidacy,” Julianne Moore told TV critics about playing former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in HBO’s movie “Game Change,” which debuts March 10.
The movie follows Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign from his selection of the then-Alaska governor as his running mate, through their ultimate defeat in the general election. Ed Harris plays McCain, and Woody Harrelson plays Steve Schmidt, McCain’s senior campaign strategist.
Moore said she hired a vocal coach because Palin “has an incredibly idiosyncratic way of speaking.” She read books written by Palin, her staff and the book “Game Change,” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, on which the movie is based.
But Moore also watched “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” — the TLC docu-soap reality series about Palin and her family — to learn more about the family.
“The family dynamic,” Moore said, is “very frankly is adorable. She is a very caring parent.”
“It’s a daunting task to play somebody who is not only a living figure, but hugely well known,” Moore acknowledged.
“The most important thing is accuracy. We are all very familiar with her and those iconic moments. It was just four years ago.”
She called Palin’s situation “a pretty extraordinary one,” having been “suddenly thrust into international politics” without preparation.
“We have her displaying moments of sheer brilliance,” including her unveiling at that GOP convention, when “the country collectively gasped.”
“She was so charismatic, so able to communicate” and so different from the “highly educated white men” who usually dominate presidential campaigns, Moore said.
“But of course, upon further in inspection, she didn’t necessarily have the experience necessary [to become the] potential president of the United States,” Moore said.
At a screening of the movie the previous night, critics seemed surprised to see Palin depicted as someone who, when she was named McCain’s running mate, was unclear why there was a North and South Korea, and had to be brought up to speed as to Germany’s role in World War II. They also seemed taken aback by the degree to which Palin is shown melting down during the intense campaigning that occurred between accepting the nomination and election night.
During the Q&A session, one critic said that the movie was much more “Manchurian Candidate” than he’d expected, and wondered how much license the creators had taken.
“Game Change” writer Danny Strong and director/exec producer Jay Roach said those scenes are based on material in the book and on interviews they’d done with most of the characters in the book (Strong did not interview Palin or McCain), as well as interviews Strong conducted with people involved in the GOP campaign who are not featured in the book.
Roach said he wrote a long letter to Palin explaining the project and asking to interview her. “I got a quick email from her attorney: ‘I checked, and she declined,’ ” Roach said.
In this age of 24/7 news channels, politics has “become entertainment,” Strong said, calling the movie a look at the blurring of celebrity and politics.
“This was . . . almost Shakespearean or a Greek tragedy,” Roach added.