Who will play Obama in the movie biopic?

by Eric Melin on November 5, 2008

in Blogs

barack obama nov.4 2008 electionIt is way to early to think about this (or maybe not, since Oliver Stone’s “W” dramatized the life of a sitting president), but I keep hearing the word “history” used over and over again today in the media. Barack Obama getting elected the 44th President of the United States is certainly historic. I even heard a caller on a talk show this morning talk about how tears were streaming down his face while he watched the TV last night.

“It was like the ending of ‘Ben-Hur’!” he said.

History being compared to movies. I think that’s a signal that now it’s time to think about who will play Obama in the eventual biopic of his life.

“Too soon!” you may say. And, technically, I might agree. But isn’t it fun to play the game?

united 93 movie flightIt’s crazy how quickly current events are turned around into historical films these days. HBO’s recent “Recount” was about the fight over the 2000 election. Paul Greengrass’ amazing “United 93″ conveyed the immediacy and urgency of Sept. 11. On the less serious side of things, the usual turnaround of TV movies about sensational news stories like the Texas cheerleader scandal, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident, or the baby caught in a well has been traditionally very fast. (And how many Amy Fisher/Joey Buttafuco movies were rushed into production?)

Especially in this lightning-fast communications age, we are also able to see history as it happens. What’s bizarre is how quickly an event can be registered as “history.” No doubt, yesterday was one of those days. And movies and TV played a huge part in the making of yesterday’s election results. Don’t think that they didn’t. Besides the fact that Americans had two full years to observe the way Obama carried himself as a public figure, we also had two years to get used to the idea of a black president. It wasn’t that hard; it’s something that has been out there in the culture for quite awhile.

It’s often said the Hollywood is extremely liberal, so black actors portraying the President in movies like “Deep Impact” (Morgan Freeman) or “Head of State” (Chris Rock) are no surprises. (Not to mention “The Fifth Element,” “Idiocracy,” “The Man,” although those weren’t necessarily game-changers). Probably the role with biggest cultural effect, however, was from Fox’s “24,” a TV show created, ironically, by a conservative writer/producer.

david palmer presidentDavid Palmer (played by Dennis Haysbert, the reassuring presence from those Allstate commercials) was one of those tough presidents who tackled problems with an equal amount of smarts and morality. He was the kind of president you’d wish we could have in the White House one day, and his run on that popular TV show did a lot to get the country used to the idea of a black president, I believe. He was assassinated after he was out of office, and his brother Wayne Palmer (D.B. Woodside) was elected not long after that. Two black presidents. One show. Plus lots of sketchy, scheming white men swirling around them…

Now that the moment is upon us, let’s get hypothetical. What current actor has the range, gravity, and physical characteristics to play President-elect Barack Obama in a movie?

jeffrey wright barack obamaMy top choice would be Jeffrey Wright, who was so good as the moral compass in “W.” He played Colin Powell as a character, not an impersonation. His conflict and conscience were guiding lights in a movie where virtually everyone else had their own agendas. He’s proven in tons of great supporting roles (Bill Murray’s loquacious best friend in “Broken Flowers” and the uber-confident villain in “Shaft” leap to mind) that he’s got the chops and I think he could portray Obama’s tenacity in all the key moments in his life.

Will Smith would obviously be any movie producer’s first choice due to his box office clout, and I think he could handle it. He made me forget he was Will Smith in Michael Mann’s flawed-but-interesting “Ali,” and would have the same uphill battle portraying another very famous face were he to tackle Obama.

terrence howard barack obama Terrence Howard, recently let go as Jim Rhodes in the “Iron Man” series, might be a good choice. He was totally convincing in his Oscar-nominated role as the pimp-turned-rapper in “Hustle and Flow,” and that same year played a successful yuppie TV producer in “Crash.” (Though I hated the movie, his performance was quite good.)

chiwetel ejiofor barack obamaLastly, I think British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor is a true chameleon. Having appeared in everything from “Children of Men” down to “Love Actually,” he is probably the most versatile actor on this list. Plus, he is not a household name or a bankable actor yet, so his personality won’t get in the way of Obama. Right now, especially with his hard-to-pronounce name, he is still “that guy who’s always good in everything he does.” He also has a history of choosing really risky roles with great directors over more commercial work,

Now it’s time to hear from you all. It’s probably too early, but we all know it’s a great story, and Hollywood loves great stories, especially the against-all-odds “only in America” kind.

Who do you think should play President-elect Barack Obama in the inevitable movie biopic?

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aaron November 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm

give it to Haysbert! :)

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an EXCELLENT choice! That would be my number one, I think.

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2 Aaron November 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm

give it to Haysbert! :)

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an EXCELLENT choice! That would be my number one, I think.

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3 Hai November 5, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Robert Downey Jr

Hands down, no discussion. Why?

He’s played:
a black man (Tropic Thunder),
a brilliant elitest/superhero (Ironman),
and an icon (Chaplin).

Plus: he appeals to gays (Elton John Music video),
he appeals to dogs (Shaggy Dog),
and he appeals to domestic terrorists (Zodiac).

If you disagree, i will fight you.

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4 Hai November 5, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Robert Downey Jr

Hands down, no discussion. Why?

He’s played:
a black man (Tropic Thunder),
a brilliant elitest/superhero (Ironman),
and an icon (Chaplin).

Plus: he appeals to gays (Elton John Music video),
he appeals to dogs (Shaggy Dog),
and he appeals to domestic terrorists (Zodiac).

If you disagree, i will fight you.

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5 Matt Brown November 5, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Jeffrey Wright has really impressed me. From Basquiat to Angels in America or Syriana, the dude has some range. Plus he already played MLK.

And as Rev Wright, John Witherspoon. Hello Oscar.

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6 Matt Brown November 5, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Jeffrey Wright has really impressed me. From Basquiat to Angels in America or Syriana, the dude has some range. Plus he already played MLK.

And as Rev Wright, John Witherspoon. Hello Oscar.

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7 Zombangie November 5, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Gary Oldman.

What?

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8 Zombangie November 5, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Gary Oldman.

What?

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9 Phil November 5, 2008 at 7:59 pm

How has no one suggested Don Cheadle?

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10 Phil November 5, 2008 at 7:59 pm

How has no one suggested Don Cheadle?

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11 Phil November 5, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Is there a reason my comments don’t get posted anymore?

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12 Phil November 5, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Is there a reason my comments don’t get posted anymore?

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13 Phil November 5, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Why don’t my comments get posted anymore?

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14 Phil November 5, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Why don’t my comments get posted anymore?

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15 Ashly November 6, 2008 at 11:13 am

haha.. you just listed every ‘not cuba’ actor there is!!

on that note, you know it will probably be will smith. they have a likeness to one another i think, and it may give him a chance to get back to films that have some depth that arent comedy or action.. im not saying hes the best choice, but it would be interesting to see. Chiwetel Ejiofor would probably be the best choice though..

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16 Ashly November 6, 2008 at 11:13 am

haha.. you just listed every ‘not cuba’ actor there is!!

on that note, you know it will probably be will smith. they have a likeness to one another i think, and it may give him a chance to get back to films that have some depth that arent comedy or action.. im not saying hes the best choice, but it would be interesting to see. Chiwetel Ejiofor would probably be the best choice though..

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17 Clark November 6, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I agree with Hai: Robert Downey Jr is the best choice!

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18 Clark November 6, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I agree with Hai: Robert Downey Jr is the best choice!

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19 The Dude November 6, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Why not Obama himself? He has been acting like he isn’t a terrorist, and that he knows what he’s doing so well, let’s make him an actor.

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20 The Dude November 6, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Why not Obama himself? He has been acting like he isn’t a terrorist, and that he knows what he’s doing so well, let’s make him an actor.

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21 akila November 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm

i say jeffrey wright. he played MLK already, and obama’s speech made me think of MLK’s i have a dream speech.

chiwetel needs some serious recognition tho, and terrence has the same coolness that obama does.

in this debate, i’m undecided…

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22 akila November 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm

i say jeffrey wright. he played MLK already, and obama’s speech made me think of MLK’s i have a dream speech.

chiwetel needs some serious recognition tho, and terrence has the same coolness that obama does.

in this debate, i’m undecided…

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23 Eric Melin November 6, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Phil-
your comments were going automatically into the junk queue, although i’m not sure why. i’ve changed it up, so you’re all good!

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24 Eric Melin November 6, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Phil-
your comments were going automatically into the junk queue, although i’m not sure why. i’ve changed it up, so you’re all good!

Reply

25 Phil November 6, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Now I just look like an idiot that posted the same thing over and over.

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26 Phil November 6, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Now I just look like an idiot that posted the same thing over and over.

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27 David Bruce Murray November 6, 2008 at 7:31 pm

I don’t see the irony in a conservative TV writer casting a black man as the President of the United States at all.

Yes, some conservatives are very racist and very vocal about it, but the vast majority of conservatives don’t think that way.

(A fascinating aside to ponder: do you think some liberals are closet racists?)

As for which black actor should play Obama in a movie, I’m thinking more along the lines of a career shifting role for someone who hasn’t played serious characters that much in the past.

I’m thinking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He already has the grin down pat.

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28 David Bruce Murray November 6, 2008 at 7:31 pm

I don’t see the irony in a conservative TV writer casting a black man as the President of the United States at all.

Yes, some conservatives are very racist and very vocal about it, but the vast majority of conservatives don’t think that way.

(A fascinating aside to ponder: do you think some liberals are closet racists?)

As for which black actor should play Obama in a movie, I’m thinking more along the lines of a career shifting role for someone who hasn’t played serious characters that much in the past.

I’m thinking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He already has the grin down pat.

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29 Phil November 7, 2008 at 9:20 am

Oh, please, David Bruce Murray, I’m blacker than the Rock!

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30 Phil November 7, 2008 at 9:20 am

Oh, please, David Bruce Murray, I’m blacker than the Rock!

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31 akila November 7, 2008 at 9:23 am

the rock? that’s the best funny i’ve heard in a WHILE! he’s too huge to play obama…he’s not “cool” enough anyway…way too intense.

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32 akila November 7, 2008 at 9:23 am

the rock? that’s the best funny i’ve heard in a WHILE! he’s too huge to play obama…he’s not “cool” enough anyway…way too intense.

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33 Ashly November 7, 2008 at 12:32 pm

intense.. have you seen Be Cool?!

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34 Ashly November 7, 2008 at 12:32 pm

intense.. have you seen Be Cool?!

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35 Nathan November 7, 2008 at 1:24 pm

The Rock? What about Vin Diesel? Hell Yeah!
My favorite Eric listed is Chiwetel Ejiofor. I loved him in Dirty Pretty Things.
I like Don Cheadle, but he would have to be real convincing after Talk To Me. (Think every DiCaprio flic after What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I’m always waiting to hear “Say it! Wherz Arney?”) Actually, Chiwetel played a constipated wannabe role in Talk To Me that could be tweaked a little into Pres. Obama. He’s practically a shoe-in.

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36 Nathan November 7, 2008 at 1:24 pm

The Rock? What about Vin Diesel? Hell Yeah!
My favorite Eric listed is Chiwetel Ejiofor. I loved him in Dirty Pretty Things.
I like Don Cheadle, but he would have to be real convincing after Talk To Me. (Think every DiCaprio flic after What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I’m always waiting to hear “Say it! Wherz Arney?”) Actually, Chiwetel played a constipated wannabe role in Talk To Me that could be tweaked a little into Pres. Obama. He’s practically a shoe-in.

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37 Ashly November 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm
38 Ashly November 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm
39 Eric Melin November 7, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Nice scoop, Ashly– looks like HBO’s got the rights to an Obama doc.
David– You’re right, “ironic” is not the right word for that. I guess in my mind, I would think that the typical Hollywood liberal would be more likely to breach that color boundary first, and 24 creator Joel Surnow is anything but that.

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40 Eric Melin November 7, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Nice scoop, Ashly– looks like HBO’s got the rights to an Obama doc.
David– You’re right, “ironic” is not the right word for that. I guess in my mind, I would think that the typical Hollywood liberal would be more likely to breach that color boundary first, and 24 creator Joel Surnow is anything but that.

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41 CTY November 7, 2008 at 2:47 pm

…despite The Dude’s insinuation of Obama being a terrorist, I wonder…
Why not?

“Barack Obama as Himself”

Why not? I mean, according to Ashly’s link, it’s already happening in a documentary film…
I mean, who wouldn’t want to play a souped-up, cheesed-up, dramatized, Hollywood-ified version of themselves in a movie?

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42 CTY November 7, 2008 at 2:47 pm

…despite The Dude’s insinuation of Obama being a terrorist, I wonder…
Why not?

“Barack Obama as Himself”

Why not? I mean, according to Ashly’s link, it’s already happening in a documentary film…
I mean, who wouldn’t want to play a souped-up, cheesed-up, dramatized, Hollywood-ified version of themselves in a movie?

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43 hales yeah November 7, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Will Smith is the perfect choice because he and Obama both have lovable, goofy ears. :)

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44 hales yeah November 7, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Will Smith is the perfect choice because he and Obama both have lovable, goofy ears. :)

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45 Hai November 7, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Here’s my cast:

Barack Obama = Robert Downey Jr
Michelle Obama = Omarosa
John McCain = Digitally animated i.e. Jar Jar Binks
Sarah Palin = Tina Fey
George Bush = a chimpanzee
Dick Cheney = Hunchbank of Notre Dame
Joe Biden = Digitally animated with the image of Phil Hartman (kind of like what they did with Brando in Superman Returns)
Colin Powell = Mufasa aka James Earl Jones or Carl Winslow from Family Matters
Nancy Pelosi = Rosie Perez
Kathleen Sebelius = Jessica Alba

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by George Lucas

Soundtrack by Fall Out Boy

Greenlit this shit!

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46 Hai November 7, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Here’s my cast:

Barack Obama = Robert Downey Jr
Michelle Obama = Omarosa
John McCain = Digitally animated i.e. Jar Jar Binks
Sarah Palin = Tina Fey
George Bush = a chimpanzee
Dick Cheney = Hunchbank of Notre Dame
Joe Biden = Digitally animated with the image of Phil Hartman (kind of like what they did with Brando in Superman Returns)
Colin Powell = Mufasa aka James Earl Jones or Carl Winslow from Family Matters
Nancy Pelosi = Rosie Perez
Kathleen Sebelius = Jessica Alba

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by George Lucas

Soundtrack by Fall Out Boy

Greenlit this shit!

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47 tyson November 11, 2008 at 2:20 am

What? No votes for denzel? Don chedle would be cool to (or as me and the wife like to say “don chilito” – cause damn that place is good!)

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48 tyson November 11, 2008 at 2:20 am

What? No votes for denzel? Don chedle would be cool to (or as me and the wife like to say “don chilito” – cause damn that place is good!)

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49 belle November 13, 2008 at 1:02 pm

I always thought Hary Lennix was a good choice (Ray,Matrix Reloaded) but your the suggestion for Chiwetel Ejiofor is really good too. Someone too famous would overshadow the character……

belle

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50 belle November 13, 2008 at 1:02 pm

I always thought Hary Lennix was a good choice (Ray,Matrix Reloaded) but your the suggestion for Chiwetel Ejiofor is really good too. Someone too famous would overshadow the character……

belle

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51 mega November 14, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I give nods to Kristoff St.John. Hes a great actor

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52 mega November 14, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I give nods to Kristoff St.John. Hes a great actor

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53 David Bruce Murray November 27, 2008 at 1:34 am

I just watched _24: Redemption_. It looks like they’re setting up for an entire season with a female US president this time.

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54 David Bruce Murray November 27, 2008 at 1:34 am

I just watched _24: Redemption_. It looks like they’re setting up for an entire season with a female US president this time.

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55 Eric Melin November 28, 2008 at 1:15 am

Yeah, I just saw that too. They’ve already had two black presidents, so what kind of Nostradomus shit is that?

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56 Eric Melin November 28, 2008 at 1:15 am

Yeah, I just saw that too. They’ve already had two black presidents, so what kind of Nostradomus shit is that?

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57 denzel washington December 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

hi would be the right one for it

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58 denzel washington December 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

hi would be the right one for it

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59 Mike December 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I think that Harry Lennix is the best fit. the best voice, demeanor, physical attributes and stong confidence during his acting ventures.

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60 Mike December 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I think that Harry Lennix is the best fit. the best voice, demeanor, physical attributes and stong confidence during his acting ventures.

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61 Ana January 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

I think that harry lennix is perfect for the role.

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62 Ana January 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

I think that harry lennix is perfect for the role.

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63 HGHComplex January 15, 2009 at 3:01 pm

David Palmer could be the best. Nice Blog, good topics!

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64 HGHComplex January 15, 2009 at 3:01 pm

David Palmer could be the best. Nice Blog, good topics!

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65 jamiya August 8, 2009 at 11:32 pm

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66 jamiya August 8, 2009 at 11:32 pm

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67 KDJ January 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I really think everyone shouuld consider Peter Francis James!! He played Rosa Parks husband in “The Rosa Parks Story”…HE LOOKS JUST LIKE BARACK OBAMA!!! I promise you!

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68 KDJ January 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I really think everyone shouuld consider Peter Francis James!! He played Rosa Parks husband in “The Rosa Parks Story”…HE LOOKS JUST LIKE BARACK OBAMA!!! I promise you!

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69 Mars April 2, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Leith Burke would be a PERFECT Obama – not only does he look like him – he has his exact voice, inflection – and the same lips – color, shape. also, it should not be a well known actor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiC_SzGwAlU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuUk8rn87NE&feature=related

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70 cynthia l.stewart January 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm

1/15/12 8:25pm EST Peter Francis James should portray President Barack Hussein Obama…He really looks as if he could or is the President’s brother.

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