Several weeks ago I presented a list of actors who had played President Nixon, and other historical figures whom they had portrayed, and invited readers to match the actor to the person from history. Below is a list of the answers.
1-j. Beau Bridges, who played RN in the TV movie Kissinger And Nixon (alongside Ron Silver as Dr. Henry Kissinger), also played Elvis Presley’s manager Tom Parker in another film for TV, Elvis And The Colonel (with Rob Youngblood as the King).
2-b. Bob Gunton, who portrayed the President in the TV film Elvis Meets Nixon, played Hugh “Hughdie” Auchincloss, successively married to the mothers of Jacqueline Onassis and Gore Vidal, in the miniseries A Woman Named Jackie (which featured Roma Downey, not long before she attained stardom in Touched By An Angel, in the title role).
3-i. Philip Baker Hall, who made his initial impact as a thespian portraying Nixon off-Broadway in Donald Freed’s play Silent Honor (and in its film adaptation directed by Robert Altman), later portrayed Aristotle Onassis in the TV movie Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, which starred Joanne Whalley as Jackie.
4-c. It is probable that only one actor could portray both RN and Lenny Bruce, and that man has done so – Dan Hedaya. He played the President in the 1999 film Dick, and the ill-fated comedian in a very obscure 1991 feature, Doubles.
5-k. Besides his work as RN in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, Sir Anthony Hopkins played St. Paul in the 1981 TV movie Peter and Paul, opposite Robert Foxworth as St. Peter.
6-h. In the 1989 musical Senator Joe (as in McCarthy, a show which closed after three previews on Broadway), Jeff Johnson played both Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong, as well as Edward R. Murrow and Joseph Welch. Talk about versatility.
7-e. Rich Little has often impersonated RN and Johnny Carson in his nightclub and TV appearances, and has played them in feature films as well: RN in the now-forgotten 1972 feature Another Fine Mess (written and directed by Bob Einstein, nowadays better known as Super Dave Osborne) and Carson in the 1996 HBO film The Late Shift.
8-a. In a 1983 essay for Esquire Gore Vidal acknowledged that Nixon was the model for the character Joe Cantwell in his play The Best Man, and in its film version, released just a year after Cliff Robertson played JFK in PT-109, the actor played the role in such a way as to accentuate the resemblance to RN. Years later, Robertson played Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin in the TV movie Return to Earth.
9-d. Jason Robards played President Richard Monckton, transparently based on Nixon, in the TV miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors, adapted from John Ehrlichman’s novel The Whole Truth (with Cliff Robertson as William Martin, an alias for Ehrlichman). He also played gang boss Al Capone in the 1968 film The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
10-f. The little-known stage actor Derek Smith topped Jeff Johnson in versatility when, in the play Jackie (which ran on Broadway for several months in 1997-1998), he played Nixon and Oleg Cassini – as well as Frank Sinatra, Abraham Zapruder and Jean Kennedy Smith!
11-m. Lane Smith, who played Nixon in the miniseries The Final Days, also portrayed sportswriter Grantland Rice in the 2000 Will Smith film The Legend Of Bagger Vance.
12-n. Rip Torn, who took the role of the President in the miniseries Blind Ambition based on John Dean’s book, also played Walt Whitman in the film Beautiful Dreamers.
13-o. A few years before his premature death in 1998, noted character actor J.T. Walsh read the audiobook of the novelization of Oliver Stone’s film Nixon (and played John Ehrlichman in the film itself, opposite James Woods as H.R. Haldeman). He also portrayed journalist Bob Woodward in the 1989 box-office disaster Wired, opposite future Shield and Fantastic Four star Michael Chiklis as John Belushi. (Putting Walsh in this quiz, I admit, is stretching things a little, but I’m still treating his audiobook reading as a portrayal of RN.)
14-g. Veteran voice actor Billy West, who counts among his hundreds of characters the disembodied head of Nixon on the cartoon series Futurama, also impersonated Roger Ebert on an episode of Pinky and the Brain.
And finally, as I said, one real-life figure in the quiz didn’t really belong in there. In an episode of SCTV, a few seconds of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” was played, while an announcer solemnly informed viewers that the voice on the record was actually Rich LIttle, “sounding so much like Robert Plant that it’s scary.” But it was Plant after all. We do not yet live in a universe in which someone has played both Richard Nixon and the pre-eminent 1970s hard-rock vocalist.