Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts
Release: January 2012 (UK)
Compared to the other two films in this article, J. Edgar Hoover is arguably the least important and, dare I say, the least interesting. However, that is putting him up against two of the most recognisable faces of American history. Hoover’s place in history is fascinating and hotly contested, having been the face of the FBI during Prohibition and the Red scare, two eras in which the relationship between right and wrong became confused; criminals like John Dillinger, who was killed during Hoover’s tenure, was a hero to many, and from a contemporary point of view, the issues with the time of HUAC and the John Birch Society are plentiful.
Unlike many actors, Leonardo DiCaprio has never shied away from a challenge; after Titanic, he could have quite easily settled into taking roles in romantic dramas and raked it in. Instead, and to his credit, he’s consistently taken difficult, varying roles, most notably those from his partnership with Martin Scorsese, portraying an up-and-coming gangster with ulterior motives in the nineteenth century (Gangs of New York), the neurotic Howard Hughes (The Aviator), and a US Marshall (Shutter Island). It’ll be very interesting to see him try to tackle such a complex character.
Eastwood’s output has been somewhat erratic of late, but he is always able to make the audience think about what they’re watching and make an emotional impact, so a complex character portrait may well be a good match.
Anticipation rating: 6/10
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones
Release: December 2012
I’ve never been much of a Spielberg fan if I’m being totally honest – aside from his first few films, he seems to direct three or four average films to every good one. However, this biopic of America’s best known president Abraham Lincoln has all sorts of potential for one reason alone; Daniel Day-Lewis. Notoriously selective with his roles (he’s starred in just three films since 2005, including his Academy Award winning performance in There Will be Blood), Day-Lewis can stake a serious claim to be the greatest actor of his generation. Admittedly, for all his selectivity and his scarce appearances, the number of truly great films he has appeared in is disappointingly few, but this doesn’t take away from his ability. As much as my anticipation for Lincoln is fuelled by the wishful belief that he’ll simply carry his Daniel Plainview (his character from There Will be Blood) persona over into his portrayal of Honest Abe, complete with scene-dominating intensity and vein-popping anger.
I... drink... your... slaves... I DRINK THEM UP
As with all historical films, there’s the problem of accuracy and revisionism (as I mentioned in my review of The Help), and with Spielberg directing there’s always the risk that things could take a turn for the saccharine, but hope springs eternal.
Anticipation rating: 8/10
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio
The final film of this piece, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is yet another historical biopic, this time directed by the inimitable Martin Scorsese. Very little is known about the project so far, but Scorsese’s new favourite leading man Leonardo DiCaprio is widely believed to be lined up to play the former president in the film, which focuses on his formative years and his role in the Spanish- American war.
Whilst I’m no fan of Spielberg, and I do like Eastwood, Scorsese has a similar affect on me than Day-Lewis does; anything he does, I want to see. If those two teamed up again, I’d look forward to it no matter what it was, a Will.i.am biopic, a Plan 9 for Outer Space remake, literally anything.
Teddy, clearly thrilled that his love for Mean Streets has paid off in the best way possible
Another reason for looking forward to Roosevelt is that I like seeing people get their dues. To the young generations of today, they most likely associate Teddy with the eponymous bears named for him, Robin Williams in Night at the Museum, or his various Chuck Norris-esque achievements, such as being shot before giving a speech, and opting to give the speech before going to hospital. Whilst this is all well and good, and helps keeps the legacy of the man alive, it also sells him short. Read any book on Roosevelt and it will tell you how undeniably vital a role he played in the creation of the nation of America we know today. Lincoln ended secession and brought the North and South, but Roosevelt was critical in developing national pride and united the people under a national identity. He has a place on Mt. Rushmore for a reason beyond his feats of bad-assery.
Whilst there has been some dissent towards the casting of DiCaprio as Roosevelt, I suspect much of it is fuelled by people growing tired of Scorsese’s repeated use of him (just be thankful it’s not Burton and Depp), particularly as the film focuses on Roosevelt before he becomes president.
Anticipation rating: 9/10