Rob Lowe Reincarnates JFK! Five Other Stellar Presidential Portrayals

Many Hollywood actors have taken on the role of commander-in-chief -- but could this be the best one yet?

The National Geographic Channel has released its first photos of Rob Lowe portraying John F. Kennedy in the upcoming docudrama, Killing Kennedy. The film, which is due to air in November, also stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie. Lowe won't be the first actor to startle TV audiences with an uncanny Presidential portrayal. Here are five others who transformed before our eyes.


David Morse as George Washington in HBO's John Adams, 2010

Washington

Courtesy of HBO

Critics swooned over Morse's channeling of our first president. "As George Washington, David Morse's resemblance is uncanny," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker. "While at first I thought the actor was doing a lot of unnecessary jaw wiggling, it finally occurred to silly me: 'Of course, he's having trouble with his 18th-century teeth!' And then I wondered, 'When did he get those fabled wooden choppers installed?'" Morse faced an obvious challenge: He was preparing to impersonate someone who's been dead for over three centuries. "I was looking at every single portrait I could find just to get some feeling of how people saw him and how he held himself," the actor told TV Guide. "When I looked at portraits, one of the things that kept striking me was his nose. I kept thinking, "If I don't have that nose I just don't think it's going to work." He was a commander and there was just something about that feature that said to me something about the strength of his face. When I walked onto the set everybody gasped and said, 'It's George Washington!'"

Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy in ReelzChannel's The Kennedys, 2011

JFK

Courtesy of Reelz Channel

In this controversial take on America's most famous political clan, Kinnear delivered a warts-and-all version of JFK. "I had a bit of anxiousness taking on the role," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I have always had…this incredible awe of him as both a mythical figure and an incredible president." But at the same time, he said, "one of the good things about the script is that the characters are not played like cardboard cutouts. They are flawed, three-dimensional people." While many critics didn't care for Katie Holmes' depiction of Jackie, Kinnear won praise from Slate for capturing "his character's non-rhotal speech persuasively."

Billy Campbell as Abraham Lincoln in the National Geographic Channel's Killing Lincoln, 2013

Lincoln

Courtesy of National Geographic Channel

“I don’t walk around thinking of myself as Lincolnesque,” Campbell told The Washington Post. And of course, his timing was monumentally off: Just a week after this docudrama aired, Daniel Day Lewis scooped up a Best Actor Oscar for his own, big screen Lincoln portrayal. Nonetheless, Campbell's TV depiction was well received. (And the motion picture Lincoln probably helped Campbell's version, since Killing Lincoln garnered the highest total viewership in the network's history.) "Billy Campbell gives us a solid Lincoln, determined and steadfast, if a bit weary from his burdens," declared the New York Daily News.

James Brolin as Ronald Reagan on Showtime's The Reagans, 2003

Reagan

Courtesy of Showtime

Long before his son Josh portrayed George W. Bush in the big screen hit, W, James played Reagan (opposite Judy Davis's Nancy) in this TV movie. Though originally slated to air on CBS, controversy erupted—conservatives suspected a liberal bias—and the special moved to Showtime. But the hoopla didn't dampen the warm reception Brolin got from critics. According to the New York Times: "James Brolin's portrayal of Ronald Reagan is uncannily convincing and respectful."

Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton in HBO's The Special Relationship, 2010 

Clinton

Courtesy of HBO

“I almost said no," said Quaid, who eventually agreed to play Clinton opposite Hope Davis's Hillary. “Because I knew [Clinton] back when he was in the White House. I don’t look anything like him. My mannerisms are completely different than his. I didn’t really see myself in him at all.” But once he'd committed to the part, he gained 35 pounds, shaved his eyebrows and wore a wig to resemble Clinton. He also read Clinton's autobiography for details. The research paid off, with one reviewer calling Quaid and Davis "both absolutely perfect as the Clintons."

Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.

 

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