Daniel Day-Lewis is currently earning raves for his performance as a conflicted Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, an Oscar contender that opens in limited release today (November 9th) before expanding nationwide on November 16th. But while DDL’s performance is noteworthy, the fact that he’s playing our nation’s 16th president on screen isn’t as unique as one might have thought.
A comprehensive infographic posted over on Slate tracks the number of times the U.S. presidents have been portrayed in movies (including direct-to-video releases, animated films and shorts). Wow. And according to their research, DDL’s Lincoln portrayal is one of 130 total turns, making him the most-portrayed president in Hollywood history. Here’s the data. We’ll analyze it below:
Time to star penning my big-screen biopics on John Tyler, James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding, as those poor leaders of our great nation never have been portrayed on film … and that seems unreasonable. Let’s get a Harding trilogy in the works, pronto.
Not too surprisingly, George Washington comes second to “Honest” Abe with 70 appearances, and Slate believes that he might hold the title for “first” president captured on film, portrayed in two 1909 short films. But I expected far more references to on-screen appearances for John F. Kennedy (30) and Richard Nixon (36) – two presidents who seem to be worked into multiple narratives. Also of interest: Our recently re-elected leader, Barack Obama, already has appeared in 21 films, putting him ahead of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
Now, tell us, whom do you think played the best version of Lincoln? Weigh in below.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.