It has already been 27 years since screenwriter Gary Ross and Ghostbuster's Ivan Reitman teamed up to tell one of the most charming and hilarious political comedies of all time: Dave. Starring Kevin Kline, the 1993 classic follows Dave Kovic, the owner of an employment agency who is hired to stand in for the President Of The United States Bill Mitchell (also Kline) at a Washington D.C. function while the Commander in Chief tends to some unsavory business... only to become his full-time replacement when Mitchell suffers a near-fatal stroke.
The movie has remained a favorite of fans and critics alike in the nearly 30 years since its initial release, but there are some things about the political comedy that you might not know. Like, did you know that the movie was in the works for years before it was picked up, Kevin Kline wasn't the first choice, or that the Dave was loved by a certain saxophone-playing world leader from a place called Hope?
Screenwriter Gary Ross Originally Pitched The Idea In The 1980s But No One Wanted To Make It
It wouldn't be out of the realm of imagination to think that Dave was inspired by the political climate of the early 1990s, but screenwriter Gary Ross (who received an Oscar nominated for his efforts) came up with the idea nearly a decade earlier after observing various White House Chiefs of Staff during the Iran-Contra Affair, according to Drama-Logue (via AFI). This totally makes sense when you consider the actions and scheming of Frank Langella's Bob Alexander throughout the movie. But it still took some time for Ross to get the project going.
At one point, Gary Ross turned to one of his friends, Lauren Shuler-Donner, who had a production deal at Disney, to see if they could get the ball rolling, but the studio passed on the project, according to the Los Angeles Times, because no one wanted to take the risk of making a satire of the presidency during the Reagan Administration. Once Shuler-Donner moved to Warner Bros., the studio wanted to proceed, but Ross was busy with Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential bid.
Warren Beatty Was The Frontrunner For The Lead Role, And Even Suggested Ivan Reitman Before Backing Out
Trying to picture Dave with anyone but Kevin Kline in the lead role(s) is pretty hard to imagine, but the Academy Award-winning actor wasn't the first choice. In fact, it was Warren Beatty, hot of Dick Tracy and Bugsy, who was originally attached to the role (and actually got Ivan Reitman to come on as director). But Warner Bros. wasn't having it. In 2019, The Ringer published an extensive piece on the impact of the 1993 political satire where it was revealed that Reitman initially walked away from the project when the studio refused to hire Beatty, but eventually came back to direct. By that point, however, Beatty didn't like the offer and stopped talks.
The Scene Where Dave And The First Lady Get Pulled Over Wasn't Added Until Late In Production
There are a ton of great scenes in Dave, but one of the most charming is the one in which Dave Kovic and First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver) sneak out of the White House, end up bonding, and decide to go back to continue the charade. Originally, the scene didn't call for Dave and Ellen to get pulled over and act like celebrity impersonators by singing "Tomorrow" to get out of trouble with a D.C. police officer. In the 25th anniversary piece featured in Variety in 2018, director Ivan Reitman said it didn't feel like the original version made it seem like the two had bonded, stating:
The decision came late in the production (the editing had already gotten underway) an Ivan Reitman decided to add in the scene when the film crew was out getting location shooting around the nation's capital. Once Reitman secured the rights to use the song from the 1982 version of Annie, he said they were able to move forward and add the finishing touches to the scene and the rest is history.
The Oval Office Set Was Later Used In Numerous Film And Television Productions
Warner Bros. went all out on the sets used throughout Dave, but none got as much love (or use) as the one used for all of the film's Oval Office scenes. In 1997, the New York Times ran an article on Oval Offices featured in various film and television productions, with the one from Dave being front and center throughout the piece. From the time the set was constructed ahead of the 1993 comedy through April 1997 when the article was published, the Oval Office set had been used no fewer than 25 times in movies like The Pelican Brief, Clear and Present Danger, Absolute Power, and a number of different television programs.
Gary Ross Went To The White House Correspondents' Dinner To Get All Those Political Cameos
There are an insane number of cameos littered throughout Dave, from the worlds of both both show business and politics, that give the movie a larger than life yet realistic depiction of Washington, D.C. The story of how United States Senators like Chris Dodd, Paul Simon, and several others, as well as Judge Abner J. Mikva and former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill came to be featured in the 1993 comedy is a pretty great story. In Variety's 25th anniversary story on the movie, Gary Ross revealed that director Ivan Reitman sent him on an expedition of sorts, stating:
And the cameos did in fact have the desired effect as Dave comes off like a more truthful and realistic view of the epicenter of American politics. Oh, and the cameos from the likes of Oliver Stone, Jay Leno, and Larry King didn't hurt either.
Former President Bill Clinton Loved The Movie And Sent Gary Ross An Autographed Copy Of The Script
Everyone from Roger Ebert to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were fond of Dave, but one of the movie's biggest fans was none other than then-President of the United States Bill Clinton, who thoroughly enjoyed the movie lampooning the American political climate just months into his first term as the nation's leader. The 42nd president enjoyed the film so much that he sent screenwriter Gary Ross an autographed copy of the script, which according to a 2000 piece in Los Angeles Magazine, hung in a frame on the wall of Ross' Studio City residence. But that's not all, as the article revealed that next to the framed script is a picture of Clinton holding a Dave mug with a note congratulating Ross on his Oscar nomination in 1994.
Now that you have all of this information about the conception, filming, and impact of Dave, there's never been a better time to go back and watch the 1993 comedy classic. It's currently streaming on Hulu through the end of August, but will shift over to HBO Max in September, where it joins a list of great movies worth watching for the first or 1,000th time.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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