The presumptive Republican presidential nominee talks to EW about his picks in movies (''Viva Zapata!,'' Indiana Jones), TV shows (''Seinfeld,'' ''The Wire''), singers (Roy Orbison, Usher), and a fictional president he admires
Spider-Man or Batman? Jeff Bridges or Dennis Haysbert? ABBA or Javanese flute music? Candidates Barack Obama and John McCain square off on these and other world-shaking pop cultural issues in exclusive interviews with Entertainment Weekly. Whose finger do you want on the button? (Of the remote control, we mean.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This might sound like a sleazy rumor out of one of those 527 ads, but we’ve heard you’re a huge ABBA fan. Can this possibly be true? Honestly?
JOHN McCAIN: Yes, I have to give a straight-talk answer. I’m also a Roy Orbison fan and a Linda Ronstadt fan — all the ones whose place in the spotlight ended some years ago. But I like Usher, too. I was on Saturday Night Live with him, got to see him perform, and I was very impressed with him.
Yeah, but back to ABBA. Is it true ”Take a Chance on Me” is your campaign theme song?
”Take a Chance on Me” was one of them. ”Sweet Caroline” is another favorite of mine. Lately, with the media, though, we’ve been using songs like ”My Eyes Adored You” and ”Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
What’s the best movie about the Vietnam War you’ve ever seen?
We Were Soldiers. That’s a very good film. Let’s see, what else? You know, it’s been so long since I’ve seen one. I know there was Full Metal Jacket and Coming Home and Born on the Fourth of July, Apocalypse Now — but honestly, one of them doesn’t really stand out as the best.
What’s the last movie you saw in a theater?
A couple of weeks ago we went to see the new ?Indiana Jones movie. I enjoyed that so much. The old guy wins.
We read somewhere that Viva Zapata! is your favorite movie of all time…
Elia Kazan made three movies with Marlon Brando. One was A Streetcar Named Desire, one was On the Waterfront, and the third was Viva Zapata! Many people think Brando’s performances in Streetcar and Waterfront were his best. I think Zapata! was his best. I’m in the minority about this. But go back and watch the scene of his wedding night, with [Brando] and Jean Peters — the actress who later married Howard Hughes, who made her give up acting — when she teaches him to read by taking out the Bible and reading it with him. That’s a poignant scene.
What’s the first movie you remember seeing as a kid?
Believe it or not, Bambi.
Did you cry?
Oh, yeah. When his mother was killed. Oh, yeah, I cried.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Batman. He does justice sometimes against insurmountable odds. And he doesn’t make his good works known to a lot of people, so a lot of people think he’s just a rich playboy.
Who controls the remote at home, you or Cindy?
Sometimes I win the arm wrestling contest, but foolishly she continues to try to assert her control over the remote. This is a battle that will continue for a long time. But there are shows we agree on. We like the reruns of Seinfeld. I really like Curb Your Enthusiasm. I kind of like Dexter, too, although it certainly has a macabre side to it. I’ll tell you that Cindy likes Big Love—I haven’t watched it much, but she enjoys that. And I like The Wire a lot, too. That’s a great show.
You seem to really know your cable TV. What about the Internet? Do you ever look at the campaign spoofs on YouTube?
I’ve seen some of them. Some of them are too painful for me to watch. One of my favorites is “It’s Raining McCain.” But I also like that early one they did for Obama [in which celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson recite lines from a speech as if it were a song]. That was really excellent.
Have you or any member of your family ever voted for an American Idol?
No. [Asking his wife] Cindy, have you ever voted for an American Idol? [Pause] She says she has. She says she voted for Jordin Sparks from Glendale, Arizona. That’s news to me.
Who is your favorite TV or movie president?
President David Palmer [Dennis Haysbert] on 24. He’s fabulous. He’s a guy who makes tough decisions, he takes charge, he’s ready to sacrifice his interest on behalf of the interest of the country. My least favorite is the one that got stabbed by his ex-wife but who, according to your magazine, may come back to life, along with Jack Bauer’s daughter, Kim…
Um, not to put you on the spot—but on 24, Palmer was the first African-American president…
You know, I hope that I and all Americans can be color-blind about any president.