All the presidents' man

By Nick Romano
September 23, 2017 at 11:00 AM EDT
Everett Collection; Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic; Everett Collection

Bruce Greenwood has a lot more experience playing POTUS than most actors. While he doesn’t get prominent billing for Kingsman: The Golden Circle — like Taron Egerton, Channing Tatum, Colin Firth, and even the extended cameo of the true “Rocket Man,” Sir Elton John — Greenwood pops in as the sitting President of the United States, a job he’s had to fulfill two other times in the past with Thirteen Days and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

The actor is also credited on IMDb as voicing the character of President Greenwood in a short film called “Others Will Follow,” but Greenwood clarified to EW that he had no involvement in that project. He hasn’t yet broken the record for playing the most presidents, but just wait.

Greenwood doesn’t appear in any of the trailers or TV spots for the latest chapter in the Kingsman saga, but his small part has a large impact on the plot of the film. (In other words, that’s the spoiler warning for those who haven’t seen The Golden Circle.) So, here’s to you, Mr. President. May he have a long reign as the leader of the free world on screen.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Greenwood’s POTUS character is kicked out of office for essentially sentencing millions of Americans to death. Julianne Moore’s kingpin Poppy tainted her supply of drugs so any users — recreational or otherwise — would suffer a slow and painful death unless the president met her demands and transformed the drug trade into a legitimate industry. This POTUS wasn’t playing ball. Instead, he was overjoyed to singlehandedly “win the war on drugs” by watching as all these drug users die.

Thirteen Days

A career highlight for Greenwood was portraying John F. Kennedy in 2000’s Thirteen Days, directed by Roger Donaldson. The actor poured over hours of footage, had his speeches logged on a cassette tape, and listened to other audio of the 35th president to perfect the role.

“You try to avoid the cliche,” he told The Washington Post. “I watched hours and hours of film, but at some point, I gave in to my instincts. Some mannerisms, however, just had to be there. He tapped his teeth with his fingernails. So I did that a lot, but it didn’t make it into the movie.”

Backed by Kevin Costner as Kenny O’Donnell, Steven Culp as Robert F. Kennedy, and Stephanie Romanov as Jackie O., Greenwood played JFK in this dramatization about the administration’s struggles during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In one of his more affecting monologues, shown above, he famously proclaimed, “They fire their missiles… and we fire ours.”

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

For better or worse, Greenwood may be best known to mainstream audiences for the National Treasure movies. Nicolas Cage was happy to land such a “Kennedy-esque” gent to play POTUS. “When they cast Bruce Greenwood, I realized that there would be a level of believability ‘cause he looks Kennedy-esque,” Cage told Collider. (This was after Greenwood already played JFK.) “And, at the same time, he has a terrific gift for comedy, and he would be able to embrace that Commedia dell’arte, if you will.”

Greenwood’s character helped set up events for a theoretical third film that never happened. (Depending on who you ask, it hasn’t happened… yet!) He gave up the location of the presidential Book of Secrets to Ben but asked him to look up something as “a favor.” Cage told EW in 2016 that he hasn’t “really heard anything about” National Treasure 3, but hope springs eternal.

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