Bombastic, buffoonish, stentorian. Syndicated political commentator John McLaughlin is hard enough to tolerate on the small screen. So why does he keep popping up on the big screen? The McLaughlin Group had its theatrical debut in the 1993 presidential comedy Dave. More recently, Mission: Impossible rolls tape of the hucksterish TV host interviewing a senator (Tom Cruise in disguise), and Independence Day gives McLaughlin and cronies the pivotal job of assessing the nerve of President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) — and working in that the Prez was an ace Gulf War fighter pilot.
Filmmakers are ”drawn to us because they like what they see,” says McLaughlin of his panel of pundits. ”So we’ve taken scripts and customized them to our own TV personae.” Most permissive was Dave director Ivan Reitman, who encouraged ad-libs; MI‘s Brian DePalma tried to get McLaughlin to stick to the script. For the two-day shoot that yielded a fleeting scene with Cruise, the host shunned the TelePrompTer — ”Too constrained” — for his first turn with a star and praised DePalma’s direction: ”He got both of us to totally relax.”