The Hugo Chavez Biopic: Meet the Cast of Oliver Stone's (and Maybe Our) Dreams
Oliver Stone took the occasion of a trip to Venezuela to announce that he is officially working on a biographical film on the life of Hugo Chavez. With Stone working on such a project to praise such a "magnanimous, warm, warm man," we decided to get a head start on casting his sure to be slobbering homage of a film for him.
Breitbart News has compiled a list of ideal actors to play the lead roles in Chavez's life story, as told by longtime friend and ally Oliver Stone. Some are shoo-ins, some are risky newcomers, and some demand a surrealist screenplay set in a world of international politics that seems to only exist in Oliver Stone's mind. Godspeed to the director in fulfilling this task.
Hugo Chavez: Steven Michael Quezada
The casting of the lead for an epic as grandiose as the life
of variety show host and erstwhile Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez is quite a
challenge. For one, Oliver Stone either has to find himself a Latino actor or
go the full Ben Affleck in Argo and just play one himself. No big-name Latino
or Spanish actors can quite capture the leisurely braggadocio of Chavez without
losing some of his severity (Wilmer Valderrama) or vice versa (Javier Bardem).
It’s time to think outside the box, to someone who has played a comic relief
figure that evolved into an unlikely moral titan. It’s time to bring in SAG
Award-nominated Breaking Bad star
Steven Michael Quezada.
Quezada, Hank Schrader’s partner Officer Steven “Gomie”
Gomez on Breaking Bad, played the only morally redeemable character on the most
expertly acted show on television. Stone is one of the only people who thinks
Hugo Chavez is morally redeemable. It’s a match made in Heaven! And aside from
being a very accomplished actor, Quezada is a stand-up comedian and variety show host on Albuquerque local television—both things Chavez routinely
embarrassed himself trying to be.
Detractors will argue that, aside from playing Gomie,
Quezada’s acting experience includes “Bearded Man,” “First Drunk,” and
“Mexican.” Stone has cast incompetent and inexperienced actors to play
legendary figures before (Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great, anyone?), so
why not give someone that has proven so formidable as to turn the most tertiary
of characters into a fan favorite a shot at the lead? Sure, he’ll have to mask
his Chicano accent and learn a Venezuelan one (something like going from Cajun
to Minnesotan), but he’s earned the shot.
The only way we can see this casting not working is if
Quezada has moral qualms about lionizing Hugo Chavez. If that’s the case, it’s
be a massive PR victory for the actor and guarantee support of a conservative
audience that values such loyalties, which would mean more Gomie in Hollywood
to go around, and that’s a win-win for everyone.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Sean Penn
Sean Penn was second only to Oliver Stone on the list of Hollywood stars enthralled with the late Venezuelan dictator, so it would be no surprise that he will have a significant role to play in this film. However, Sean Penn is not the ideal actor to play Sean Penn—too many emotions, too many reasons to save face, and too many reasons play down the character. Instead, Penn should play Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a character somewhere between his leads in Dead Man Walking and Mystic River. Ahmadinejad was renowned for managing to bring a Western-friendly low-key air to his absolutely crazy world views (most prominently his Holocaust denial), something Penn could likely bring to the screen masterfully.
Making Ahmadinejad a central character of the film despite the geographical distance of the leaders also makes great sense outside of giving Penn the most difficult, multidimensional character (besides Sean Penn himself, but we'll get to that). Ahmadinejad was such a great friend to Chavez that he proclaimed he would be resurrected as Christ from the dead someday. He risked derision at home for hugging Chavez's mother, an unseemly interaction with a female in Iran. The unlikely bromance would make a great centerpiece to a film about people Oliver Stone really wants you to believe aren't brutal murderers.
Sean Penn: Nicolas Cage
Just because Sean Penn is playing someone who is not him in the Chavez biopic doesn't mean that Penn, who spent plenty of time in Venezuela during Chavez's tenure, will not be a central character in the film. The question is finding someone with the Oscar-winning acting chops known for realistically capturing delirious-sounding incoherent rambling and political fervor seemingly based on absolutely no facts.
Nobody does outbursts, confusion, and delirium quite like Nicolas Cage. But what Cage rarely gets credit for is that no one does calm-before-the-storm brooding quite like him, either—a disposition that seems constant in Penn's public appearances in Venezuela. Cage can bring the silent tidal wave of a character like his lead in Leaving Las Vegas while saving the Wicker Man act for behind-the-scenes monologues against imperialism. In any case, the audience can hope he leaves whatever was going on in the Stone-directed World Trade Center at home.
George W. Bush: Alec Baldwin
Oliver Stone needs to find a boisterous, deeply unlikable
middle-aged man to play the caricature of the 43rd president that lives in his head—a Gordon Gekko with a bad Texan accent. Josh Brolin would be too
predictable to use a second time, and he succeeded in capturing some of Dubya’s
charm and grace in W., which is absolutely out of the question in this film. Ideally,
the person playing George W. Bush would think of the president with the same
hysterical, mid-aughts Code Pink narrowness as Stone himself does—but be
unable to come off as rational or kind even if he tried to.
And it's great timing, because Alec Baldwin needs a job.
Dick Cheney: Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner might seem an odd fit for the Cheney role, particularly since Stone cast him as the well-meaning lead in JFK. But Costner has already played the Stone proxy character in a Stone film; why not make him the devious arch-nemesis? If W. is any indication, Stone will once again portray Cheney as a shadowy puppetmaster atop the White House tower, one whose acting will require something of a Severus Snape attitude without being so obviously evil as to lose the audience. He must be a worthy, barely-there rival for a Chavez that will be larger than life throughout the movie. Costner is no Alan Rickman—an asset for the role—and could likely pull off a realistic villain if offset sufficiently by Alec Baldwin's loudness on the screen.
King Juan Carlos I: Sean Connery
A cameo appearance for the legendary actor, as the King of Spain's major (only?) interaction with Hugo Chavez occurred when, at the 2007 Ibero-American Summit, Chavez insisted on talking over Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his predecessor Jose Maria Aznar until the King leaned over and shouted, "Why don't you just shut up?" Connery's accent will do well to replace in English the King's in Spanish, and can any voice bring a deeper gravitas to such a moment in our acting world?
This role is all about delivering that line, recreating the hand gesture, and triggering a 20-minute monologue by Sean Penn (Nicolas Cage) about imperialist arrogance in the face of the noble Bolivarian Socialist New World.
Fidel Castro: Danny Trejo
"Danny Trejo" must be what Oliver Stone sees in his head when he thinks "Fidel Castro," yes? How else to explain the interview homage Comandante, where Castro slurs words together for 99 minutes in front of a completely rapt Oliver Stone, wearing the pixie-ish expression of a boy who was just told GI Joe was real and about to give him a ride on his tank? Castro will likely not appear too often in this version of Chavez's life story, for fear of overshadowing his successor in the Americas, but when he does, you bet Stone wants it to be big. Huge. A character larger than life, looming with his socialism over the Americas. The Che Guevara that Che Guevara died too soon to be. Danny Trejo with a machine gun.
Yes, Danny Trejo is not feeble or mild-voiced like the older Castro is during the majority of Chavez's tenure. And yes, it is absolutely dissonant to the Spanish-speaking ear to imagine Trejo, with his lush Mexican accent, attempting to have an accent that resembles Castro's (for English speakers, imagine James Carville trying to speak like Sarah Palin). But something tells me that viewers willing to pay to hear Oliver Stone's version of the Hugo Chavez story probably doesn't know enough about Latin America to distinguish such accents and are paying to hear what they want to hear. And what they want to hear is that socialism—the cancer eating away at the Venezuelan state infrastructure to the tune of 50% inflation and leaving citizens without access to toilet paper—is as robust and indestructible as Danny Trejo.