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President and Dave
Kevin Kline plays President Mitchell (left) and look-alike Dave Kovic. See more scenes...


By Matt Slovick
WashingtonPost.com Staff

Wouldn't it be neat to have a president who rolls around the White House lawn with his dogs, visits homeless shelters, sings "Louie Louie" while strapped to huge robotic arms, tosses a strike when he throws out the first ball on Opening Day and cuts the budget by $656 million in one afternoon? Only in Hollywood.

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline), an average Joe who runs a temporary employment agency, has an uncanny likeness to President Bill Mitchell. On the side, Kovic makes promotional appearances as the chief executive. When the president has a severe stroke while having a tryst with a young White House aide, Kovic is called.

But instead of just going through the motions, Dave starts being presidential. He doesn't have to worry about elections or politics. Heck, even the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver), who hates her husband, falls in love with this post-stroke prez. Kovic also dares to fire the scheming chief of staff, Bob Alexander (Frank Langella).

Alexander is ruined, Mitchell dies, the good-guy vice president gets a promotion and Kovic decides to run for city council, with the former First Lady in his corner. But Dave is no saint. When he leaves the White House, he pilfers some souvenirs.

Post Stories: Reviews from the Style and Weekend sections. Other Post features: a reporter's small role in the movie; filming on location here; reflection on the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or nice guy myth; an interview with Kevin Kline.

Washington Sites: The White House; Washington Monument; Lincoln Memorial; Jefferson Memorial; Capitol; Key Bridge; Arlington National Cemetery; 1737 Kenyon St. NW, Mount Pleasant (Dave Kovic's house); 1442 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Georgetown (Dave's temp employment agency); 2431 18th St. NW, Adams-Morgan (where Dave and the First Lady are pulled over by the police); N Street, Georgetown (Bob Alexander's house); Cafe Lautrec; Argentine Grill; Post Office Building, 12th St. and Constitution Ave. NW (entrance made to look like the steps of the Capitol).

Not the White House: Director Ivan Reitman and his crew were denied permission to take photographs or measurements in the White House. The director wanted to accurately produce sections of the president's home. Daily Variety reported that production designer J. Michael Riva went undercover as a tourist and carried a compact video camera. He was allowed to measure the reproduction of the Oval Office at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Warner Bros. built a set and planned to rent it to other productions. More than a million people take the White House tour each year.

In the Area: Dave asks his friend Murray if he wants to go to Camp David (Md.); a van for the Washington PBS station WETA and a van for the Baltimore station WBAL are seen in background; a photo appears in the Washington Times; a TV report appears on C-SPAN; the president throws out the first pitch before a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (this took place at an actual game with the Detroit Tigers. The actors and film crew were allowed only a few minutes to get their shot).

They Played Themselves: The film has celebrities and famous Washingtonians throughout. Those who played themselves: Frederic W. Barnes; Ronald Brownstein; Eleanor Clift; Sen. Christopher J. Dodd; Sen. Tom Harkin; Bernard Kalb; Larry King; Michael Kinsley; Morton Kondracke; Jay Leno; Frank Mankiewicz; Christopher Matthews; John McLaughlin; Sen. Howard Metzenbaum; Justice Abner J. Mikva; Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill; Richard Reeves; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Sen. Paul Simon; Sen. Alan Simpson; Ben Stein; Oliver Stone; Kathleen Sullivan; Jeff Tackett; Helen Thomas; Nina Totenberg; Sander Vanocur; John Yang.

It Wasn't Quite Right: Dave and the First Lady use a secret corridor to leave the White House grounds. Dave tells Mrs. Mitchell that LBJ used it all the time. They come out at a park. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a tunnel was built from the East Wing to the Treasury Building, and a temporary bomb shelter was built. Later, a permanent bomb shelter was built under the East Wing. A tunnel also connects the Treasury Building with Riggs Bank across the street. LBJ apparently did use these to avoid Vietnam War protestors. But they don't come out at a park.

Memorable Scenes:

  • As president, Dave Kovic visits a blue-collar company. Wearing a hardhat, he takes control of two large robotic arms and while opening the arms as wide as he can says, "I once caught a fish, this big." He proceeds to sing and dance to "Louie, Louie" while moving the arms.
  • After the chief of staff kills funding that would keep homeless shelters open, the First Lady confronts who she thinks is her husband in the shower. She tells him to turn around while she is talking to him. He does ... reluctantly.
  • Alexander tells Kovic that if he cuts $650 million from the budget, he can keep the shelters open. Kovic calls his friend Murray Blum, who is an accountant, to the White House. He asks him to look at the federal budget and suggest some cuts. Kovic then takes his suggestions to the table, and in front of the press and TV cameras, trims $656 million.
  • After Alexander ties President Mitchell to a scandal, Kovic calls a news conference. Alexander's supporters come to his home. They expect Kovic to resign, paving the way for Alexander's presidency. But Mithcell implicates Alexander in the scandal and reveals documentation. Alexander is then seen sitting in a chair, alone, a beaten man.

    Memorable Lines:

  • President Mitchell meets look-alike Dave Kovic for the first time.
    Mitchell: "You're a very handsome man."
    Kovic: "Thank you Mr. President."
    Mitchell: "Just get rid of the grin. You look like a schmuck."
  • "This is mine, Al. It's all mine. I made him. I built him. And no Boy Scout is going to come in here and take it away from me just because he happens to be Vice President of the United States": Chief of Staff Bob Alexander to Press Secretary Alan Reed when he begins to put his devious plan to become president in motion.
  • Reed and Alexander must convice Kovic to continue his impersonation:
    Reed: "Dave, the entire country is ill."
    Alexander: "And you are going to get it to the hospital."
  • Movie director Oliver Stone appears on "Larry King Live."
    Stone: "If you look at a photograph of Bill Mitchell taken before the stroke and one right after, you will see a distinct difference."
    King: "Are you saying this is a conspiracy?"
    Stone: "Yes, I am saying this is a conspiracy."

    Rating: PG-13 for some bad words and a sex scene (no nudity).
    Release Date: 1993 (by Warner Bros.).
    Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
    Director: Ivan Reitman.
    Cast: Kevin Kline (Dave Kovic/President Bill Mitchell); Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Mitchell); Frank Langella (Bob Alexander); Kevin Dunn (Alan Reed); Ving Rhames (Duane Stevenson); Ben Kingsley (Vice President Nance); Charles Grodin (Murray Blum); Anna Deavere Smith (Mrs. Travis); Laura Linney (Randi); Faith Prince (Alice); Bonnie Hunt (White House tour guide).
    Oscar Nomination: Gary Ross, best original screenplay.

  • © 1997 The Washington Post Company

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