HBO's Dick Cheney miniseries: I nominate J.K. Simmons to play the former VP

Dick-Cheney

Image Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Say what you want about Dick Cheney, but no one ever made a movie about Walter Mondale or Hubert Humphrey. The polarizing former vice president who became the bete noire of the political Left, will be the subject of an HBO miniseries, according to CNN, based on Barton Gellman’s biography, Angler, The Cheney Vice Presidency, and Frontline’s 2006 documentary, The Dark Side.

From a storytelling point of view, Cheney is much more fascinating than previous VPs — and even his boss, former President George W. Bush, for that matter. Cheney earned his bones during the Nixon and Ford administrations, became a successful Wyoming congressman, and then presided over the Defense Department during the first Gulf War. By the time he selected himself to be Bush’s VP in 2000, he simply oozed competence. I was always amazed by his ability to absorb a verbal attack on shows like Meet the Press without batting an eyelash, and then calmly launch his response with these simple words, “Well, the fact of the matter is… ” That was the magic phrase for Cheney. He always sounded so credible, no matter how dubious his arguments.

Comics later turned him into a cartoon — Jon Stewart made him sound like Batman’s enemy Penguin — or a Star Wars villain, but he remains the most dramatic figure of the period, in the purely Shakespearean sense. There’s his personal and political reaction to 9/11, his break with the Right on gay rights, the Valerie Plame Affair and Scooter Libby, and let’s not forget, his shooting his hunting pal in the face. From an acting point of view, he’s a great part, and it should be interesting to see who HBO recruits. Richard Dreyfuss looked the part in Oliver Stone’s W, but he was a little too overtly Machiavellian. HBO’s Cheney shouldn’t be villainous. Can’t he be a tragic hero? The Washington Post has proposed five actors to play Cheney, including the outside-the-box idea of Jeff Bridges.

My first choice would be J.K. Simmons, who only seems to be in every movie but is most famous for HBO’s Oz and Juno. He’s stolen scenes from Tom Hanks and George Clooney, so I think he has what it takes to master Cheney’s gravitas. I could also envision Tommy Lee Jones in the role, especially in scenes where Cheney forces that tight “be careful” smile at some pesky journalist.

Do you agree that Cheney will make a fascinating character study, no matter your politics? Who do you think would play him best?

Comments (33 total) Add your comment
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  • Kat

    I do think that, however I might personally feel about Cheney as a politician, he would indeed make for a fascinating character study. I like the idea of Tommy Lee Jones. JK Simmons always looks too affable to me to really come across as a hard-ass. Maybe I just haven’t seen him in enough roles.

    • orville

      Rent the HBO series “Oz.” It’ll be difficult to see him as anything other than evil.

      • Mr. Holloway

        No kidding!

        For the longest time, I had a long time reconciling that evil Vern Schillinger was Juno’s cuddly dad, or Spider Man’s wacky motormouthed boss.

        In other words, Simmons is fantastic.

      • Jackie

        He was also very good as the shrink on ‘Law & Order’.

    • dom

      No actor can really capture him, he needs to be CGI, like the Hulk. (No living actor anyway, if Lionel Barrymore, circa It’s a Wonderful Life, could be brought back to life, he would be perfect)

  • ColonelFatheart

    Not bad, but I think Tom Wilkinson would do a better job. Although Jeff Bridges would be inspired.

    • AltDave

      Good choice! Right look, and he has already proven that he can do a fine American accent.

  • orville

    I don’t think the Jeff Bridges idea is so far outside the box. His villain in “Iron Man” sure fits the role–and with the shaved head from that role, he kind of resembles Cheney.

  • tracy bluth

    JK Simmons, Tom Wilkinson and Jeff Bridges would all work, though I wouldn’t mind if Richard Dreyfuss played him again.

  • Sarah

    Richard Dreyfuss’s character in “The American President” was a total Cheney clone. It’s seriously freaky how much they look alike, even though that movie is more than a decade old.

    I know he’s not a big name, but how about Jude Ciccolella who played Mike Novick on 24? He resembles Cheney as well.

  • jeremy

    I thought it was Frank Caliendo that made Cheney sound like the Penguin.

  • Kate

    I cast my vote for Simmons, although Dreyfuss would be good–he just would have to get the voice right. Simmons would be good as the Prince of Darkness.

  • Steve

    I vote for Chevy Chase.

  • vin

    Richard Dretfuss or maybe Frank Caliendo since he did a good job on mad tv.

  • Lorie

    I instantly thought of Richard Dreyfuss.

  • alan

    wow J.K. simmons will wreck his image
    if he plays that c–k s—-r

  • Rebecca

    Dreyfuss

  • matt

    You’d have to pick someone who oozes competence, sincerity, and the seriousness that fits the office. Cheney was one of the few, and certainly the last great VP. If something had happened to GW Bush, the country was in great shape. Thanks, GW, for an intelligent and inspired pick.

  • codybill78

    Am from Wyoming. Used to be proud of Cheney, but alas no more..He is just a joke laughing all the way to the bank with his oil monies.. He should play himself for nothing..

  • Cate

    OMG I would love to see JK Simmons as Cheney!! I am a huge fan of him! On Oz, which was a show packed with amazing characters and actors, Simmons was always the one that blew me away. Ever since watching Oz my skin crawls when JK comes on screen – and I knew him from his likeable roles first!!! (Side note – the same thing happens when Ryan O’Reilley shows up on 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s boyfriend … although Dennis is a skin crawler too)

    But if for some reason Simmons didn’t take the part, I do have to say that Richard Dreyfuss was phenomenal in W.

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