Julianne Moore vs. Tina Fey: Battle of the Sarah Palin impressions
"Game Change," HBO's upcoming movie about the 2008 presidential campaign, which focuses on Sarah Palin, the controversial running mate of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, has one scene that viewers may find a bit surreal: Julianne Moore, who portrays Palin in the film, watching Tina Fey doing her drop-dead impression of Palin on "Saturday Night Live."
Jay Roach, who directed the movie based on the bestseller by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, knew it would be "very interesting" for the two Sarahs to be featured in the same scene. But his real preference would have been for the real deal to be involved in the project, feeling her input would bring more authenticity to the film.
"I wrote her a really long letter," Roach said at HBO's session promoting the film during the Television Critics Assn. press tour, saying he wanted a better chance at getting the story right. He received a "quick e-mail from her attorney, which said, "I checked. She declined."
"Game Change," which also stars Ed Harris as McCain and Woody Harrelson as senior campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, premieres March 10.
But even without her impression, "Game Change" is almost certain to put the spotlight again on Palin, largely due to Moore's close resemblance to the then-Alaska governor in the film. The Oscar nominee said she did a "tremendous amount" of research on Palin, studied her Alaska-based reality show and hired a vocal coach to capture Palin's accent.
Playing a real living person "is a daunting task, and the most important thing is accuracy."
But while Moore said she had a "profound respect for the historical significance" of Palin's candidacy, she subtly dodged questions about what she felt about Pain as a person. Fey has said in past interviews that she was not exactly a fan of Palin's.
Moore did say Palin was "incredibly charismatic and a true populist" who was not prepared for her role in the campaign and didn't have the experience to be vice president, or potentially, the commander-in-chief.
The movie shows the behind-the-scenes drama of the McCain campaign when they celebrated the popularity that Palin brought to McCain's run, followed by panic when they realized she didn't know basic political facts or history.
But Danny Strong, who wrote the script, said he did not feel "Game Change" would change viewers' minds about Palin one way or the other. "It's not intended to change people's minds. There's no agenda. The purpose of the movie is to tell the truth."
Photo: Ed Harris in HBO's "Game Change." Credit: HBO