by Hans ten Cate
Wednesday, 9 June 1999

Hollywood's Variety news service reported June 9 that John Cleese would be starring in a Revolutionary War comedy titled The Making of the President, 1789, about the life of US President George Washington.

Director/actor Ben Stiller will be both Executive Producer and Director, and Steve Martin is said to be interested in the project as well. Martin and Cleese recently appeared together in a remake of the 1970 film "The Out-of-Towners." (Cleese link #1)

Book of the film Author/Scriptwriter Marvin Kitman

The new film, which is said to be based on fact, is about George Washington and how he continually failed upward. Using comic touches, the picture focuses on how he went from being an obscure Virginia landowner to leading the Revolutionary War forces, ultimately becoming the country's first president.

The film is based on a 1989 book The Making of the President, 1789: The Unofficial Campaign Biography, written by television critic and newspaper columnist Marvin Kitman. The book looks at the private lifestyle of George Washington, naming, for example, a list of the "Founding Girlfriends". Kitman took this controversial approach "because historians have made. . . Washington more remote. I want to make Washington relevant today." John Cleese also happened to have written the foreword to the original Kitman book. (Cleese link #2)

The film is being scripted by Kitman and Larry Arnstein (who has written for "Saturday Night Live"), based on Kitman's 1989 work as well as his first book, George Washington's Expense Account, which deals with the notebook Washington kept during the Revolutionary War. The script will focus on such down-to-Earth facts as Washington's $440,000 payday (in 1789 dollars) for eight years of expenses on the Revolutionary War.

Producing the film will be Ed Solomon, who happens to be married to Cynthia Cleese, daughter of John Cleese and first wife Connie Booth (Cleese link #3, see Daily Llama No. 62). Solomon will be producing the film for New Line Cinema along with partner Teddy Lynn through their Santa Monica-based company "Infinite Monkeys."

"We're telling a true story, but a true story that nobody knows,'' said Ed Solomon about The Making of the President, 1789. "It's about Washington and the slaves he brought with him, his girlfriends, his heavy drinking and his gambling."