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Bill Murray in 'Hyde Park': A very different FDR on film

Being an election year, it’s appropriate that 2012 has been a presidential year in Hollywood, too. The season would be remarkable for Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln alone, but this weekend, Bill Murray tackled an equally iconic American president, playing Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. Roosevelt took office in the midst of the Great Depression, was re-elected an unprecedented three times, and prepared the nation for World War II and successfully waged it — all the while being crippled by polio and anchored to a wheelchair.

Although FDR was famously charming, he was equally manipulative, a trait that Hyde Park director Roger Michell knew required the perfect actor to properly tell his story. “I needed someone with his sense of mischief and charm and sort of humanity, [in order to] forgive some of the things that he does in the film and some of the things that FDR did in real life,” Michell told EW in September. “I don’t think the film would’ve worked without Bill.”

Murray’s version of the president is extremely magnetic, but he’s hardly a saint. He disarms the visiting King of England with precision flattery, and his relationship with distant cousin and close confidante, Daisy Suckley (Laura Linney), reveals not only his vulnerability but his selfishness, his narcissism, and his outright deceitfulness. “Can you imagine being asked to play FDR?” said Linney. “I just couldn’t get over how brave Bill was. What an intimidating thing to take on. Because he’s playing an icon.”

An icon that Hollywood has often portrayed in more glowing superficial terms, focusing on Roosevelt’s optimism, determination, and charisma and relying heavily on caricature — the pince-nez glasses and cigarette holder, the clipped Transatlantic accent — to capture his essence. Click below to see some examples, from Ralph Bellamy to Kenneth Branagh. READ FULL STORY

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