Dave: Ten Things To Know About The Movie

Dave Starring Kevin Kline

Here are 10 trivia facts about Dave from 1993, which originally appeared as our Mystery Movie Quiz on our Facebook page. There are hundreds of pieces of behind-the-scenes information about this movie. Please feel free to comment and add more trivia we might have missed.

1. This movie revolves around political intrigue.

In a movie role reminiscent of Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe or Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dave, played by Kevin Kline, is an affable, honest guy pitted against unscrupulous leaders controlling well-oiled political machines. Dave Kovic is the owner of a temp agency and seems to truly enjoy helping people get a foothold in the workplace. He earns extra cash by impersonating U.S. President Bill Mitchell for private parties, thanks to his amazing resemblance to the real Mitchell.

However, at 16 minutes into the movie, the story completely changes course. Because he is the president’s look-alike, Kovic’s hired by the prez’s henchmen to appear at a fundraiser while the chief exec has a liaison with one of his White House aides. When the president has a stroke during a very intimate moment, lapsing into a coma, Dave is thrust into a plot requiring him to keep up the charade and is coerced into taking a silent role, while the politically dirty Chief of Staff (Frank Langella) tries to use Dave as a stepping stone to his own bid for the presidency.

2. Money troubles play a role in the film.

At one point, wanting to help the first lady (Sigourney Weaver) find funds for an important social program involving a homeless shelter for kids, Dave sits down with his accountant friend Murray Blum, brilliantly played by Charles Grodin in an understated performance, to find a way to trim the fat from the congressional budget. The following day, feeling confident he will overcome the financial problems, the pseudo-prez meets with his advisors and starts to whittle away at the waste, to the tune of  650 million dollars. When he finds out that the Secretary of Commerce spends government money every year to bolster consumer confidence in a car they’ve previously purchased, Dave says, “I don’t want to tell some eight-year-old kid he’s gotta sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their car. Do you want to tell them that?” Obviously embarrassed by his own words, the secretary quietly replies, “No sir, I sure don’t.” By making sensible decisions, Dave is able to meet his goal of cutting the $650 million, which puts dishonest Langella on the warpath.

3. This was one of the first movies for the star of a current TV series.

The Big C is Showtime’s original black comedy series starring Laura Linney, who played a White House staffer in Dave. Linney has never been better as suburban school teacher, wife and mother Cathy Jamison, who–when diagnosed with melanoma–decides to make some changes in her life as she searches for hope and a lot of humor in a dark situation, including trying to manage her well-intentioned but very immature husband. Paul (Oliver Platt).

Linney, twice-nominated for Best Actress Oscars, is no stranger to TV. She starred opposite Paul Giamatti in the TV miniseries John Adams in 2008 and earlier had great success in all three of Armistead Maupin’s PBS adaptations of his “Tales of the City” series. She was among the leads in Tales of the City (1993), More Tales of the City (1998) and Further Tales of the City in 2001.

4. The star’s feature film debut was in a movie that won a Best Actress Oscar for his co-star.

Kevin Kline had appeared in five TV vehicles before being cast in Sophie’s Choice, starring opposite Meryl Streep, who was 1982’s Best Actress Oscar-winner for her performance as a tortured concentration camp survivor, forced by the Nazis to make an unthinkable choice. Not knowing about his lover’s experience, Kline is perfect as Streep’s Jewish Mr. Nice Guy, although his obsession about the Holocaust coupled with her terrible secret puts them both on a collision course.

Interestingly enough, Kevin Kline was not director Ivan Reitman‘s first choice for the dual role of Kovic/Mitchell. Kline was awarded the part only after screen legends Warren Beatty and Kevin Costner both passed on it. One thing that can be said of Kline for sure — he never gives a bad performance. He can be very funny as in his Oscar winning role in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) or poignant as a cancer patient trying to connect with his son in Life as a House (2001)… and he sings, too. However, Kline himself doesn’t share the public’s enthusiasm for his work. He once said, “I’ve never felt completely satisfied with what I’ve done. I tend to see things too critically. I’m trying to get over that. I’ve got the Jewish guilt and the Irish shame and it’s a hell of a job distinguishing which is which.”

More Kline trivia: Dave is not the only movie in which he played a U.S. president and his double; in 1999, he was in Wild Wild West, where he was both Artemus Gordon and President Ulysses S. Grant.

5. Deception forms the basis of the plot.

Taking a tip from the story line of The Prisoner of Zenda, likeable employment agency owner Dave Kovic’s amazing resemblance to President Mitchell allows him to be hired as an impersonator so that the unfaithful chief executive can carry on an affair with a White House employee. When the President has a stroke and collapses into a coma during one of his liaisons, Dave is prodded into continuing the deception.

6. Many real-life individuals played themselves in the movie.

Appearances by real-life characters is one of the ploys used to lend authenticity to this entertaining movie’s D.C. settings. There are Senators Christopher Dodd, Tom Harkin, Howard Metzenbaum and Paul Simon and House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neil, each playing themselves, as well as news personalities Sander Vanokur, Helen Thomas and NPR’s Nina Totenberg. Filmmaker Oliver Stone’s cameo is perfect, as he pokes fun of his JFK film by suggesting to the press that the president is not who he seems to be.

7. A popular radio personality was offered a cameo in the film but turned it down.

Although Ivan Reitman and Howard Stern are friends, Stern turned Reitman down when he was asked to play himself in Dave. Apparently neither of them lost much sleep over it as five years later, Reitman produced Stern’s Private Parts at Paramount.

8. The bad guy in the film portrayed a President in another movie.

Portraying Richard Nixon in the 2008 film Frost/Nixon was probably child’s play for veteran actor Frank Langella. His long line of theatrical and TV successes also includes another presidential film, although in that one, he didn’t play the title role: in 1992’s TV documentary Lincoln, he supplied the voice of John Wilkes Booth.

On the subject of playing the role of chief executive, it probably comes as no surprise that real life President Bill Clinton was a big fan of Dave. Clinton was the U.S. president at that time.

9. One of the characters in the film dies after a lengthy illness.

President Bill Mitchell (Kline) finally dies after months of remaining comatose. Reitman’s script actually calls for Kline to act out two stroke scenes, one for each of his characters. The full name created by Reitman for the presidential role of William Harrison Mitchell bears some resemblance to a real-life commander-in-chief. William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840, died after less than 40 days in office, the first U.S. president to do so.

10. The director of the film is well known for directing many hit comedies.

Ivan Reitman, producer of more than 50 films and TV shows including 1978’s Animal House, is probably better known as a director for his hit movies, Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981), Ghostbusters (1984), Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and so many more.

Reitman built just the right balance of comedy and drama into Dave. In addition, he is a wizard at making the audience think the scenes were shot on location. The on-location shooting is correct but the actual locations are not. The story basically shifts between two locations: Dave’s temp agency is supposed to be located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The principal photography for the locale was actually shot in the nearby suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, which on film passes for Georgetown (if you don’t look too closely).

The White House scenes and those surrounding the area form Dave’s “second home,” but believe it or not, those scenes weren’t actually shot there. Production designer J. Michael Riva recreated the White House on a sound stage. Director Reitman felt that the trick was to maintain the look of the White House but to allow for the drama of the movie to unfold, an element which wouldn’t have been possible in the real presidential mansion. Also, the interior shots of what looks like the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington were actually filmed in Richmond, Virginia, in that state’s House of Delegates Chamber inside the State Capitol building. Fittingly, some members of the Virginia House of Delegates served as extras in the film.

And now, sit back and enjoy the 1993 theatrical trailer for Dave:

  • Trainman

    Dave is one of my most favorite movies, along with Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Isn’t it amazing though, the things that happened in the movie, when it was filmed in some ways happened to the reining Commander Chief at that time Bill Clinton. Although he doesn’t recall the incident. Besides the point, it is a very enjoyable movie every time I watch it. So If your tired of the Goons in Washington sit back and watch the movie Dave, you will enjoy it. Its true anybody can be elected President, just look at who we have there now, Bonzo really did go to Washington.

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatever41 Cynthia LaRochelle

    Great movie, funny but also brought to light the stuff that goes on with the powers that be. But I think the “Bonzo” comment was in bad taste.

  • JUanita Curtis

    I always enjoy Kevin Klines performances. Its interesting that he doesn’t think he is good – a bit of a perfectionist! Must watch Dave again soon.

  • Joe Glaeser

    One of my favorite movies. Think I’ll watch it now. Trainman, kindly keep your political views to yourself. I, and most others, read the comments for insights on movies, not what you think of our President.

  • Allen Hefner

    I read that the Oval Office set was later used for The American President (1995), another movie about a president and a love affair, and then for the TV show “The West Wing.”

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Jerry Frebowitz

    Allen – Being a strong proponent of recycling, hearing about the additional shoots on that set warms my heart. Thanks.

  • Bruce

    The entire plot was “lifted” from Robert Heinlein’s excellent science fiction novel, Double Star, written in 1956. While it is largely forgotten today, it won the Hugo Award (the science fiction equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize) for Best Novel of the year. At least they stole from a great writer!

  • Stan

    Hated the movie but love Kevin Kline’s work. Very few times has Hollywood gotten it right so not a big surprise.

  • Tommy T

    This genre of movie is always great fun. I think because so many people have that fantasy, being a “common” person elevated to positions of authority to do the “right things”. I like “Dave” and would recommend to others who like it, the movies “Moon Over Parador”, “Gabriel Over the White House” and “King Ralph”.

  • Linda Schiffer

    Mr. Langella portrayed the Chief of Staff in “Dave” and not the press secretary. No matter what Mr. Langella does, he raises the bar for any film he is in.
    The scene where Dave and the President’s wife leave the White House is one of the funniest in the film. Kevin Kline is another superb actor who can portray any character, real or fictional.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Jerry Frebowitz

    Linda…I stand corrected — Chief of Staff it is. Thank you.

  • Charles

    “Dave” is an excellent movie. And Kevin Klein and Charles Grodin are two of the best actors around. Unfortunately, I think both are sorely underrated and overlooked actors. Both performances in this movie are so well done, that, at times, you forget they’re acting. Frank Langella plays a terrific bad guy. He’s another great actor that, I think, is overlooked and underrated.

  • Lois

    “DAVE” is a great, great movie. So well done. Kevin Kline is at his very best. I’ve watched it several times and never tire of any of it. I loved the comment made by Trainman. Right on target! NOT in bsd taste at all; just telling it like it is!!

  • Magnon

    Damn good slecetion. The only one I’ll probably avoid is Centurion as it looks a bit too cliche IMO. Before this post, the only one I’d heard of was Tron, so my sincere thanks!

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  • Imaad Shahrukh

    The movie shares some similarities to Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.