Bill Murray plays FDR in new film

I’ve always loved FDR. He made it cool to be in a wheelchair (even though he didn’t want the world to know he was in one). Ok, maybe “cool” isn’t the operative term. “Badass”….yeah, that’s more like it. FDR essentially turned the word “invalid” upside down.

You know, “President” is such a high and mighty term, and then you attach it to “of the United States” and you have one of the most powerful people in the world. The President of United States is the epitome of the word “power,” yet powerful isn’t a word you would associate with a person who uses a wheelchair. FDR is certainly a force the world hasn’t seen since.

At 39 years old, FDR contracted polio while campaigning at a Boy Scout summer camp, and was unable to walk for the rest of his life. Yet, he led the United States successfully through World War II, he founded Social Security and he’s the longest serving president the US has had. FDR is considered one of the most admirable presidents our country has ever seen, all despite his wheelchair. As a wheelchair-user, this makes me pretty damn happy.

Not surprisingly a lot of movies have been made about FDR. Warm Springs starring Kenneth Braddock as FDR and Cynthia Nixon as Eleanor Roosevelt is a great film about FDR taking a trip to find a miracle cure in the backwoods of Georgia. It’s a feel-good movie, and Teal Sherer, an awesome actress with a spinal cord injury, is in it (she plays another polio-stricken patient at the hospital FDR sojourns).

You can imagine how excited I was then when I saw the preview for Hyde Park on the Hudson last night, a new movie profiling a snippet of FDR’s life in the summer of 1939, starring Bill Murray as FDR and Laura linney as Daisy Stuckley. Ever since Caddyshack, I’ve been a huge Bill Murray fan. Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Scrooged, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, yes, he’s my favorite actor of all time. And Bill Murray as a wheelchair-user is one of the coolest things I could imagine. After watching the preview, it seems as though he did a bang-up job (that’s mean good).

The film centers on a weekend FDR spends in upstate New York, in which the King and Queen of the United Kingdom visit his estate, Hyde Park. FDR sadly was notorious for having several affairs (as was his wife) and this film also highlights his possible romance with his 6th cousin Daisy, who he invites along for the weekend (his wife Eleanor was also his 6th cousin so don’t get too grossed out now). Apparently, the film gets a bit raunchy. Some reviewers have criticized the film for it, saying it’s too much or that it shed FDR in an unfavorable light. However in other reviews, they say Bill may be up for Oscar and that the film is fascinating (he’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance).

The film hasn’t been widely released yet, so unfortunately I can’t weigh in myself, but from the previews and featurettes (including this awesome 4 minute featurette of Bill prepararing for the role, including him practicing driving with custom hand controls in a 1936 Ford Phaeton, a car FDR would drive around his property for fun). He looks quite believable too, with getting lifted around by his assistant and having to use leg braces. As it turns out, Bill has some personal experience with this. His sister had polio and used the same type of braces.

So far, Hyde Park on the Hudson has been shown at a few film festivals and it had a limited release in the United States earlier this month. Eager to see it as much as me – look for a wide release coming up in January 2013. Hopefully Hyde Park on the Hudson looks as good as the preview. Fingers (virtually) crossed.

- Official site of the film

- Watch the preview: Hyde Park on the Hudson (HD)

- Featurette: Bill Murray preparing for his role

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