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When Dennis Quaid became Bill Clinton

May 26, 2010 15:03 IST

When filmmaker Peter Morgan approached veteran actor Dennis Quaid to play Bill Clinton in upcoming HBO special The Special Relationship, the third and final film of Morgan's Tony Blair trilogy, Quaid nearly dismissed the idea without second thought.

The problem? Quaid looks almost nothing like the former US President.

'I almost said no,' Quaid recently told The Daily Beast. 'I don't look anything like him. My mannerisms are completely different than his. I didn't really see myself in him at all.'

But Quaid, moved by the offer, thought back to his personal relationship with Clinton, and how he once spent a 'guys weekend' at the Clinton White House in 1999. He remembered how kind-hearted, humourous and intelligent Clinton was. But, most of all, he admired Clinton's tremendous resolve, for steadying his administration following the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.  

So, setting aside his doubts, Quaid agreed to the part, and promptly began his immersion in the mind and body of William Jefferson Clinton. He began downing McDonald's fries and burgers at a breakneck, Clinton-esque speed. He studied hours of Clinton on the campaign trail and read Clinton's autobiography, My Life, through which he learned the master's every tactic: voice modulation, pausing for effect, wagging his finger and nodding the head.

Four months later, he emerged 35 pounds heavier, looking and sounding like Clinton. The transformation was remarkable.

Yet doubts still dogged Quaid.

Was his version of Clinton's hallmark hoarse, syrupy voice too much like a bad Saturday Night Live impression?

Despite his filled out face, wig, trimmed eyebrows and plump body, did he really look like Clinton?

Breathe easy, Dennis. Earlier reports say that you, Hollywood's Mr Dependable, have done it again.

The Special Relationships charts the at times tepid, at times tumultuous interactions of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Clinton. The film, which takes place during Clinton's controversial Lewinsky trial days, shows the former US Commander in Chief in his many masks: hand-shaking stump-speaker and master campaigner; well-informed, pragmatic and nuanced statesman and executive; spoiled, vulgar man-child; and a deficient husband.

But, ultimately, it was Clinton's tenacity that won over Quaid.

'We're all flawed in one way or another,' Quaid told the Daily Beast. 'What I thought was incredibly amazing was that he was able to get through that and still go on to really have a viable presidency. That's a huge accomplishment really. I remember when the Lewinsky scandal first came up, pundits on television were saying he was going to be resigning in 36 hours.'