August 31, 2011
Paul Dano as Karl Rove, conniving nerd
Richard Linklater has chosen his star for the upcoming College Republicans, his movie about young Karl Rove when he was campaigning for Nixon and running for chairman of the national College Republicans. Rove's political talent emerged early: he worked on many local and national campaigns, and toured the country training campus conservatives in tactics he'd engaged in, like going through his opponent's garbage to look for dirt. At age 19 while campaigning for the Republican candidate for Treasurer of Illinois, he stole his Democratic opponent's letterhead and made fake rally flyers advertising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing." A corrupt little strategic genius.
He was also, in his own words, a complete nerd. In an interview with a youthful Dan Rather on CBS News in 1972, he already wore his full head of hair in a comb over [video]. You can see 21 year-old Karl Rove talking to Dan Rather starting at 4:00--it's so freaking creepy to hear that familiar voice coming out of such a skinny little kid.
Anyway, Paul Dano is going to play college-age Rove in the Linklater movie. I'm not the biggest Paul Dano fan, but he was convincingly earnest and self-righteous in There Will Be Blood and believably lily-livered in Meek's Cutoff, so he'll probably do OK. Plus, he often wears his hair in a 70's Rovian sweep. Add the sideburns and those hipster glasses, and he'll either look like young Karl Rove or a member of Animal Collective.
A couple things I just learned about Karl Rove: he was student council president his junior and senior years of high school, he never finished college, his mother committed suicide when he was 31, and his stepfather was gay.
I'm sure Linklater will do a good job with Rove and his Republican activist friends, but I wonder if he'll be able to resist filling up the supporting roles with dozens of bohemian stoner types who dominated campuses in the early 70's. And oh, please God, let Matthew McConaughey play an acidhead adjunct sociology professor and part-time bassist for Iron Butterfly.
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