Casting a Movie with Thirty Years of Presidential History

In 1952 an African-American man named Eugene Allen joined the White House staff as a “pantry man,” washing dishes, stocking cabinets, and shining silverware for $2400 a year. Thirty-four years later, he retired as the Head Butler of the most famous residence in the United States, having served under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, (LB) Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.

Thanks in part to this 2008 profile in the Washington Post (published two years before his death), Gene Allen’s story became a hot commodity in Hollywood, and a new film is currently shooting in New Orleans. It stars Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as a fictionalized version of Allen and Oprah Winfrey as his wife, Helene. (Update: according to the IMDB entry for The Butler, Whitaker’s character is named Cecil Gaines.)

See if you can match the actors playing the following presidents and first ladies:

1. John Cusack

a. Dwight Eisenhower

2. Jane Fonda

b. Mamie Eisenhower

3. Minka Kelly

c. Jackie Kennedy

4. Melissa Leo

d. John F. Kennedy

5. James Marsden

e. Lyndon Johnson

6. Alan Rickman

f. Richard Nixon

7. Liev Schreiber

g. Nancy Reagan

8. Robin Williams

h. Ronald Reagan

Scroll down below the picture to see how well you did at historical casting!

Aerial View of the White House
Aerial View of the White House – Library of Congress

Answers: 1f, 2g, 3c, 4b, 5d, 6h, 7e, 8a.

Yes, you read that correctly: Robin Williams is the recently-announced choice to play Dwight D. Eisenhower. Not sure if that’s more or less shocking to the Eisenhower family than the Frank Gehry design for the new Ike memorial in Washington…

Cross-posted at The Pietist Schoolman

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