Bill Murray plays FDR in new filmDec 29 07:40
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 U.S. 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 Branagh 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 survivor at the hospital FDR sojourns).
You can imagine how excited I was then when I saw the preview for Hyde Park on the Hudson, 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.
The film centers on a weekend FDR spends in upstate New York, in which the King and Queen of England 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, whom 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 this, saying it's too much or that it painted FDR in an unfavorable light. However in other reviews, critics say Murray may be up for Oscar and that the film is fascinating (he's already been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance).
Hyde Park on the Hudson hasn't been widely released yet, so unfortunately I can't weigh in myself, but it looks great from the previews and interviews (including this awesome four-minute featurette of Bill preparing 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, getting lifted around by his assistant and using leg braces. As it turns out, Murray 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. Are you as eager to see it as I am? Look for a wider release this month. Hopefully Hyde Park on the Hudson is as good as the preview. Fingers crossed.
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.