The new film Ides of March, directed by George Clooney, chronicles the thrilling rise of Gov. Mike Morris, a fictional Pennsylvania governor with his eyes set on the White House. But when the road gets rocky for the golden boy Democratic candidate, his press secretary (played by Ryan Gosling) finds himself unwillingly entrenched in a shady game of backroom politics. Clooney not only directs the film, but stars as Morris — a character who many critics liken to real-life politicians. But, if the film was inspired by an actual politico, which one is it? Here, five theories:
1. Howard Dean
The play Farragut North, from which Ides of March was adapted by Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, was based largely on playwright Willimon's experience working for presidential candidate Howard Dean during the Iowa caucuses in 2004, says David Edelstein at NPR. In Ides, Clooney's Gov. Morris is an enigmatic, seemingly perfect candidate who soon finds himself in a "virtual dead heat" going into one of the most crucial primaries. Certainly, it's easy to see how Dean's political trajectory inspired Clooney's character, says Edelstein.
2. John Edwards
It's John Edwards whom Clooney's character most resembles, says Ethan Alter at Television Without Pity. Morris, much like Edwards, is a candidate who "views himself as being outside the system, thus allowing him to speak as the voice of the common man," but whose own hubris gets him in trouble. A twist involving a potentially career-ending scandal should also remind audiences of the perfectly-coiffed former senator, says Steven Rea at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Agrees Rex Reed at The New York Observer, Clooney's "popularity, charm, matinee-idol looks, and easy self-assurance" make him the perfect amalgamation of Julius Caesar and John Edwards.
3. Barack Obama
"Soulful and articulate," Clooney's Gov. Morris actually more closely resembles an "Obama-in-2008-esque candidate who is promising a new kind of politics," says Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. And the allusions aren't subtle, says Asawin Suebsaeng at Mother Jones. Morris is a candidate running on "hope and change," appealing to an electorate with "plenty of liberal angst." That's not to mention the obvious similarities between Morris' "Believe" campaign placard in the film and Obama's real-life iconic "Hope" poster. As the film takes a dark turn towards the end, audiences also get a glimpse of an "all-too-compelling fiction," says Gleiberman: "An Obama with a sinister side."
4. Bill Clinton
Hints that Morris conducted a scandalous relationship with a campaign intern suggest another inspiration, says Alter: Bill Clinton. Ides of March has much in common with Mike Nichols' 1998 film Primary Colors, about a presidential candidate not-so-loosely based on Clinton, says Eric Kohn at Indie Wire. "Leaner" and "more outwardly aggressive" than that film, Ides does a skillful job exploring "the dichotomy between Bill Clinton's charm and his abuse of power."
5. He's a Frankenstein's monster of politicians
Co-scripter Willimon has gone on record saying that the film fictionalizes and blends aspects of many different real-life people and politicians to create its characters, says Barbara Vancheri at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In Gov. Morris, it's easy to see John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and John Edwards as possible inspirations for the character's "charisma, compromises, and weaknesses." For my money, says Christopher Orr at The Atlantic, as a war hero turned antiwar politician, Morris is more like "Wesley Clarke crossed with Dennis Kucinich crossed with Robert Redford in The Candidate." But in the end, counters Jonathan W. Hickman at Paste Magazine, Gov. Morris most strongly evokes someone who's not even a politician. There's just no separating "Clooney the fictitious candidate from Clooney the real-life movie star."