Dave (film)

Last updated

Dave poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Gary Ross
Produced byIvan Reitman
Lauren Shuler Donner
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Edited by Sheldon Kahn
Music by James Newton Howard
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
May 7, 1993
Running time
110 minutes
Budget$28 million [1]
Box office$92 million [2]

Dave is a 1993 American political comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Gary Ross, and starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Laura Linney, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, and Ben Kingsley appear in supporting roles.



Dave Kovic runs a temporary employment agency in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and, as a side job, capitalizes on his remarkable resemblance to President Bill Mitchell by comically impersonating him at events. Secret Service agent Duane Stevenson recruits him to impersonate Mitchell after a speech, ostensibly as a security precaution, but actually to allow Mitchell to meet a White House staffer he's having an affair with.

Dave's appearance goes well, but Mitchell suffers a major stroke while having sex. His Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, is inspired to ask Dave to continue in his role. Bob's scheme is to force Vice President Gary Nance to resign by embroiling him in a savings and loan scandal; then Dave, acting as Mitchell, will appoint Bob vice president; they will reveal Mitchell's incapacity and Bob will become president. Communications Director Alan Reed is initially reluctant, but eventually acquiesces and tells the press corps the stroke was minor. Claiming that Nance is insane, Bob and Alan convince Dave he must continue impersonating Mitchell for the good of the country. Nance is sent on a goodwill tour of Africa.

Dave's charm and enthusiasm improves Mitchell's image and popularity. First Lady Ellen Mitchell, who has been estranged from her husband for years, initially suspects nothing and treats Dave with contempt on the few occasions they see each other. When she sees Dave's empathy towards a shy boy at a homeless shelter she is a staunch advocate for, she begins to soften towards him. Her fury returns, though, after Bob forges Mitchell's signature on the veto of a bill that included funding for the shelter. Dave, after consulting his accountant friend Murray Blum, works with the Cabinet to restore the funding. A furious Bob threatens to destroy Dave, but Alan vows to expose their scheme if he does.

Ellen, having witnessed Dave's considerable efforts to save the shelter, tricks him into admitting he's an impostor and asks to see her husband. Dave has Duane escort them to the secret hospital room beneath the White House, where Mitchell remains in a coma. They are told he won't recover. They both resolve to leave the White House, but after spending a night out alone together, they begin to fall in love. Ellen tells Dave she's gone along with the charade of a happy marriage because she thought that as First Lady she could help people. Dave tells her he wishes he could. They talk about doing just one more thing.

The next day, still as Mitchell, Dave calls a press conference, making Bob furious that Dave is no longer obeying him. Dave fires Bob, who in turn tries to fire him, but Dave dares Bob to tell the press that. At the press conference, Dave announces a monumental plan to provide a job to every American who wants one.

Nance returns from Africa and confronts Dave for trying to frame him for crimes that Bob and the real Mitchell are actually guilty of. In retaliation against Dave, Bob reveals evidence implicating Mitchell in the scandal, which Alan admits is true. Despite talk of impeachment, Dave refuses to back off his jobs plan, while Bob quietly begins to garner support for a presidential run.

During a joint session of Congress, Dave admits that Bob's allegations are true and takes responsibility for the scandal. He produces proof, furnished by Alan, that shows Nance is innocent but Bob was directly involved. As he continues his speech, he fakes another stroke; switching places with Mitchell, he resumes his previous life. The hospital pronounces the "second" stroke as major and Mitchell continues to lie in a coma for several more months before dying. As acting president and then president, Nance backs the jobs plan, which becomes law, while Bob and several administration officials are indicted.

Dave runs for city council with the help of Murray and his employment agency staff. Dave is surprised one day when Ellen visits. He escorts her into his office, where they share their first kiss. Dave closes the shades to give them privacy and Duane, wearing one of Dave's campaign buttons, steps in front of the door.



Media personalities

Senators Al D'Amato, Lloyd Bentsen, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were scheduled to make cameo appearances in the film but withdrew in protest of Warner Records's decision to release Body Count's song "Cop Killer." NBC also prohibited Andrea Mitchell from making a planned appearance in the film. [3]


Producer Lauren Shuler Donner and screenwriter Gary Ross had known each other since taking a Stella Adler class in the 1970s, and in 1988 Ross told Shuler Donner his idea for Dave. Ross wrote the script while working on the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign during the 1988 election, and he was inspired by the Iran-contra affair. Ross also received advice from First Lady Barbara Bush's press secretary Anna Perez. Shuler-Donner approved it, but her employer Walt Disney Productions refused to release it while a conservative such as Ronald Reagan or George H. W. Bush held the presidency. Warner Bros. bought the project with the intent to have it directed by Shuler-Donner's husband Richard Donner, but he decided against continuing with the project in 1990. Production was delayed by three years to wait for Shuler Donner to be released from her contract with Disney and for director Ivan Reitman to become available. [3]

According to Reitman, Warner Bros. wanted a box office star to portray the lead role and that one executive even suggested Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the part. [4] Michael Keaton was briefly cast in the role but had to drop out. Both Warren Beatty and Kevin Costner were also considered for the role. [3] In fact, it was Beatty who brought Dave to Reitman's attention. Kevin Kline almost turned down the role because he thought he would be playing the same character he played in A Fish Called Wanda . [5]

Nevertheless, Kline was hired to play the protagonist, as Reitman considered him to have a presidential look and be an actor "who was both dramatically strong and was light on his feet," as Kline would not only be playing a double role but the film was a comedy that dealt with very serious subject matter. Reitman then called Sigourney Weaver, with whom he had worked in Ghostbusters , for the First Lady role. [6] Ross was present for production, as he was interested in starting a directing career as well. [7]

Filming began on August 13, 1992, in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. White House interior sets were filmed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank while exterior scenes were filmed at the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia, California. The film's Oval Office set was constructed based on a replica at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and would be reused more than 25 times, for television shows and films like The Pelican Brief , In the Line of Fire , Hot Shots! Part Deux and Absolute Power . [3] [8]


Box office

Dave debuted at number 2 at the US box office, behind Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story . [9] [10] It reached number 1 in its second weekend. In total, Dave made $63.3 million in the United States and Canada and $28.5 million internationally for a worldwide total of $91.8 million. [11] [2]

Critical response

Dave was met with critical acclaim and has a 95% rating based on 55 reviews collected at Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus on the site states: "Ivan Reitman's refreshingly earnest political comedy benefits from an understated, charming script and a breezy performance by Kevin Kline." [12]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four. Ebert praised the film's acting and wrote, "Dave takes that old plot about an ordinary person who is suddenly thrust into a position of power, and finds a fresh way to tell it. [...] When I first heard this story line, I imagined that Dave would be completely predictable. I was wrong. The movie is more proof that it isn't what you do, it's how you do it: Ivan Reitman's direction and Gary Ross's screenplay use intelligence and warmhearted sentiment to make Dave into wonderful lighthearted entertainment. [...] Both Kline and Weaver are good at playing characters of considerable intelligence, and that's the case here. The movie may be built on subtle variations of the Idiot Plot (in which the characters skillfully avoid tripping over obvious conclusions), but they bring such particular qualities to their characters that we almost believe them." [13]

Then-President Bill Clinton approved of the film, and gave Ross a framed script, which Clinton had autographed, writing that it was a "funny, often accurate lampooning of politics." Clinton also gave Ross a picture of himself holding a Dave mug. [14]


Academy Awards Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Gary Ross Nominated [15]
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Kevin Kline Nominated
Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Charles Grodin Won
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top Box Office Films James Newton Howard Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated [16]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Kevin KlineNominated
Political Film Society Awards Democracy Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Gary RossNominated [17]

Year-end lists

American Film Institute recognition:

Other media


A musical based on the movie opened at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in July 2018. The book is written by Thomas Meehan and Nell Benjamin, with music by Tom Kitt. [19] [20] The production is directed by Tina Landau and stars Drew Gehling as Dave and Douglas Sills as Chief of Staff Bob Alexander. [21]

See also

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