The Front Runner full cast announcement
In director Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, Hugh Jackman will star as ’80s presidential candidate Sen. Gary Hart, in what the filmmaker describes as “a political comedy about the moment in our history when tabloid journalism and political journalism drove into the same lane.” Today, EW reveals the full cast, including familiar faces from Girls, Silicon Valley, and Halt and Catch Fire.
The aim is for a film in the tradition of wry ’70s-era political movies like The Candidate. Hart was hailed as a compassionate, dynamic candidate who predicted the rising threat of Mideast terrorism and the diminishing of the Cold War, but his campaign was thrown into disarray when reports surfaced that he may have had an extramarital affair. Before this, political journalists mostly overlooked the private lives of politicians. The Front Runner is being produced independently by Aaron Gilbert (Fences), Helen Estabrook (Whiplash), and Reitman through Gilbert’s production company Bron Studios.
Vera Farmiga as Lee Hart
Lee Hart, who has been married to Gary since 1958, will be portrayed by Vera Farmiga, who costarred in Reitman’s 2009 comedy Up in the Air. In interviews, Lee always said their marriage was a case of opposites attracting — he was brash and charming, she was introverted and intellectual. The story of The Front Runner will show that relationship strained, but — as we now see three decades later — enduring.
J.K. Simmons as Bill Dixon
The Whiplash Oscar-winner will play Bill Dixon, the campaign manager for Hart ‘88, a longtime friend who knew the candidate from their days opposing the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He was one of the campaign’s only officials from Hart’s generation, overseeing a staff of young political idealists who considered Hart the JFK of their time. Simmons has had a role in every one of Reitman’s films, starting with 2007’s Thank You For Smoking.
Mamoudou Athie as A.J. Parker
In the film, Parker is a political reporter for The Washington Post who covers the Hart campaign and must grapple with whether to push further into tabloid reports about the candidate’s private life. He’ll be played by Mamoudou Athie, from the new film Patti Cake$ and the Jason Jones TBS series The Detour.
Josh Brener as Doug Wilson
You know him as Big Head on HBO’s Silicon Valley, and in The Front Runner Josh Brener will be playing Doug Wilson, a key foreign policy advisor for Hart ‘88. The real Wilson would go on to become assistant secretary of defense for public affairs from 2010 until this year, making him the highest ranking openly gay official in the Pentagon.
Kaitlyn Dever as Andrea Hart
The daughter of Gary and Lee Hart provides a moral compass to her parents as they navigate the boundaries betwen public and private life. She’ll be played by Kaitlyn Dever from TV’s Justified, the film Detroit, and Reitman’s 2014 film Men, Women and Children.
Tommy Dewey as John Emerson
Best known for Hulu’s Casual, which Reitman executive produces, Dewey will be playing John Emerson, deputy campaign manager for Hart. Emerson was another true believer who fought to keep policy the focus of the campaign. He would go on to be a governor’s liason under President Clinton and was appointed ambassador to Germany under President Obama.
Molly Ephraim as Irene Kelly
Irene Kelly (another composite character) is the scheduler for Hart ‘88, the person who coordinates the candidate’s every moment. She’ll be played by Molly Ephraim from ABC’s Last Man Standing.
Spencer Garrett as Bob Woodward
Along with his Watergate investigative partner Carl Bernstein, Woodward helped unravel a presidency in the 1970s as one of The Washington Post‘s political reporters. By the time of Hart’s campaign, he was both a friend of the candidate and one of the deans of D.C. journalism. Woodward will be played by Spencer Garrett, from Air Force One, Yes Man, and Reitman’s own Thank You For Smoking.
Ari Graynor as Ann Devroy
Devroy was a White House correspondent for 15 years and as deputy political editor at The Washington Post in 1987, she was responsible for overseeing coverage of the upcoming presidential race. She’ll be played by Ari Graynor, from Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here and 2012’s For a Good Time, Call … When Devroy died from cancer in 1997, then-president Bill Clinton said: “No journalist dominated and defined the White House beat with the kind of skill, shrewd analysis and gruff grace that Ann brought to her reporting.”
Toby Huss as Billy Broadhurst
Broadhurst, who died in May, was the Louisiana lobbyist and political power broker who invited Hart to a party on a yacht — fatefully christened “Monkey Business.” It was there that Hart met and was photographed with Donna Rice, which would lead to trouble for his campaign. Broadhurt will be played by Toby Huss, who costars on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and also played Frank Sinatra on FX’s Feud. (Fans of the animated series King of the Hill know him as the voice of Hank Hill’s beligerent father Cotton and testy neighbor Kahn.)
Mike Judge as Jim Savage
Speaking of King of the Hill, the creator and voice of Hank, Mike Judge (also known for Beavis & Butthead and Silicon Valley), will play Jim Savage, investigations editor of the Miami Herald, which first broke the story of the Hart/Rice scandal.
Alex Karpovsky as Mike Stratton
Stratton was the lead advance man for Hart ‘88, arriving before major events and appearances to coordinate logistics. He’ll be played Alex Karpovsky, best known as coffee shop manager Ray on HBO’s Girls. The real life Stratton went on to advise Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Michael Dukakis, among many other senators and governors.
Mark O'Brien as Billy Shore
Billy Shore was an aide-de-camp, or as some call it “the body man” for Hart. The real-life Shore went on to become chief of staff for Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey and now runs the national anti-hunger charity No Kid Hungry. He’ll be played by Mark O’Brien, another alumn of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and 2016’s Arrival.
Sara Paxton as Donna Rice
Rice was the actress and model who unwittingly became the catalyst for a scandal that would engulf the Hart campaign after the senator formed a relationship with her after a flirtatious night at a yacht party. She’ll be played by Sara Paxton, who’s known for the TNT series Murder in the First and movies such as 2004’s Sleepover and 2006’s Aquamarine.
Kevin Pollak as Bob Martindale
Martindale is another composite character. He’s the publisher of the Miami Herald, and is a key figure in the story that would break open the Hart-Rice scandal. Pollak has starred in Avalon, The Usual Suspects, and A Few Good Men, among scores of other films.
Steve Zissis as Tom Fiedler
It was a phone call to Tom Fiedler’s desk at the Miami Herald that ultimately upended the presidential race. Fiedler was a political reporter who decided to follow up on the tip about Hart’s affair, leading the national media to delve into territory they previously considered out of bounds. He’ll be played by Steve Zissis, a veteran of Duplass brothers projects such as HBO’s Togetherness and the films Baghead, The Do-Deca-Pentathalon, and Jeff, Who Lives At Home.