Right this second, a seasoned Hollywood writer is videoconferencing with studio bigwigs about a movie in which a disgruntled scientist escapes both the lockdown and the authorities, and develops a vaccine that cures the coronavirus (while also winning back the respect of his teenage kids, who haven’t talked to him since he walked out on mom).
Yet we don’t need Tinseltown to bring this drama to life, as there have been plenty of star turns (and major flops) from politicians during the crisis.
Here are some of our leaders recast as characters from famous films.
Donald Trump is the conspiracy theorist in “Contagion.” Like Alan Krumwiede, played by Jude Law, Trump’s spent the pandemic hawking unproven medical treatments. The difference? Krumwiede was merely an (albeit influential) conspiracy theorist; Trump is president of the United States.
Boris Johnson is the mayor in “Jaws.” In the 1975 aquatic horror, Murray Hamilton plays hapless small-town mayor Larry Vaughn, who demands his beaches be kept open for the summer despite a huge shark mutilating unsuspecting swimmers. The mayor finally relents, but only after a series of gruesome deaths; much like Johnson belatedly abandoning his widely panned “herd immunity” plan. Remember, Vaughn is still mayor in “Jaws 2,” which shows you how important it is to vote in local elections.
Ursula von der Leyen is Alice in Wonderland. The European Commission president’s tumbled down a rabbit hole and into a fantasy world of grinning felines, mad hatters, talking flowers, unbirthdays … and a coronavirus vaccine by the fall.
Viktor Orbán is Al Pacino in “The Godfather.” Orbán’s not blessed with young Pacino’s smouldering good looks, but he’s been accused of using the coronavirus pandemic to ruthlessly tighten his grip on power in Hungary, in a (more bloodless) echo of Michael Corleone’s coup at the climax of the first “Godfather” movie.
Xi Jinping is the Austrian SS officer in “Inglourious Basterds.” Colonel Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, did some truly terrible things but he’s really, really sorry (honest). The Chinese president may have presided over a cover-up that led to the coronavirus marching across the globe, but now he’s benevolently dishing out medical supplies in the hope of forgiveness.
Nicola Sturgeon is M from the “James Bond” series. Both Judi Dench’s M and Sturgeon favor a straight-talking, common-sense approach to leadership. Their work can sometimes be overshadowed by the private lives of male colleagues.
Vladimir Putin is the NASA pilot in “Interstellar.” In recent days, the Russian president has started dressing like he’s on an intergalactic mission, just like Matthew McConaughey as Joseph Cooper. The only black hole here, though, is Russia’s reporting on its number of cases and death toll.
Mark Rutte is dimwitted Harry Dunne in “Dumb and Dumber.” In the most surreal pronouncement of the pandemic, Dutch leader Rutte said the Netherlands had enough toilet roll “to poop for 10 years.” A 10-year supply sadly wouldn’t have been enough to sustain the loose-boweled Dunne, played by Jeff Daniels, in his moment of crisis.
Rishi Sunak is the wild trader in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” U.K. Chancellor Sunak, like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort, has been splashing the cash like it’s going out of fashion — £30 billion here, £330 billion there. We assume there are fewer drugs, dwarves and debauchery at No. 11 Downing Street.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are the Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network.” The twins, both played by Armie Hammer, are extremely miffed by Mark Zuckerberg allegedly stealing their idea for “the Facebook.” Likewise, Labour’s hard-left duo have been forced to watch from the sidelines as Sunak and the British government pilfered their plans for massive state spending and nationalizing the railways.
Jacinda Ardern is Mary Poppins. The thinking person’s liberal leader of choice, Ardern has spent the pandemic dispensing useful, informative advice to Kiwis on social media. She even held a press conference especially for children.
Mike Pompeo is the Korean War veteran in “Gran Torino.” Not quite as politically incorrect as Clint Eastwood’s character, Walt Kowalski, Pompeo still demanded that his G7 peers adopt “Wuhan virus” as the official name for the coronavirus.
Angela Merkel is the bank robber in “Heat.” Like Robert De Niro’s suave criminal Neil McCauley, Merkel has been suckered in by the promise of one last big job that will secure her legacy before heading for the exit. One difference: While McCauley was tempted by a heist, Merkel is trying to prevent a run on so-called corona bonds.
Jean-Claude Juncker is the directionless electronics salesman in “Shaun of the Dead.” The former European Commission head honcho hasn’t been spotted in months. Just like Simon Pegg’s Shaun, he’s probably in the pub waiting for all this to blow over.
Ali Walker is POLITICO‘s deputy production editor.