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: