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May. 1 2010 - 10:15 am | 423 views | 3 recommendations | 4 comments

The first spouses of cinema

I can’t say I’m surprised that French First Lady Carla Bruni is teaming up with Woody Allen for his next film. The professional homewrecker sophisticated chanteuse and the pseudo-incestuous pedophile prestigious auteur have no shortage of things in common to talk about. They’re both Francophiles in their own way, they both love to name drop Dostoevsky, and they both know the awkwardness of shacking up with someone for years and then sleeping with that person’s child. Good times and lively conversation are practically guaranteed between two souls this simpatico.

But why should former supermodels get all the moviemaking fun? Here are five spouses of world leaders that would cut interesting onscreen figures, even if they’re not quite the publicity magnet that Bruni manages to be.

Sarah Brown (Wife of British PM Gordon Brown)

Given the fact that Gordon Brown could very well not be M.P. in a week, the family is probably going to want to look for hobbies and alternative income streams. And what better hobby than being a movie star? I’ve knocked around the idea a bit myself, but I can never seem to find the time.

When not running to her husband’s defense after he inadvertently insults little old ladies, Sarah Brown splits her time playing the charity-circuit wife role to the hilt and being the “high priestess of Twitter” (I guess that’s a thing?) – a far cry from her days as co-founder of high-powered P.R. firm Hobsbawm* Macaulay. So, she’s reserved to the point of being chilly, tech-savvy and super-ambitious, and attractive in an angular and slightly unnerving way. Sounds like a Tilda Swinton type if I ever saw one. Team her up with Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), make her the C.E.O. of some ethically challenged bio-tech company, and the script practically writes itself. And no bad films have ever been made after saying those last five words, right?

*Apparently an actual person’s name and not a Harry Potter character.

Princess Letizia (Wife of Felipe, Prince of Asturias)

As we all know – or discovered on Wikipedia thirty seconds ago – Prince of Asturias is the official title for the heir apparent to the Spanish throne. Not a bad snag for a commoner*. I’m not surprised given how easy she is on the eyes, if you know what I mean. (I mean she’s physically attractive.)

So, she’s hot, Spanish royalty, and has a sister who resents being thrown in the tabloid spotlight just because her sibling snagged a prince? It’s probably illegal somehow for anyone but Pedro Almodóvar to tackle this kind of readymade melodrama. My Sister, My Secret or something like that.

* Maybe it’s my American lack of familiarity with vestigial figureheads, but can we come up with a less insulting term for non-royalty? Given the shoddy track record of monarchical morality, I think they should be the ones stuck with the pejorative shorthand.

Kim Ok (Alleged current wife of Kim Jong il, Batsh*t Leader of North Korea)

Don’t make the mistake I did and get her confused with Kim Ok-bin, the super-smoking South Korean actress. You will waste an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure that one out. Nope, this is just the old secretary turned consort deal. We’ve all been there.

Now, I’ll grant being married to the dictator of the most paranoid and isolated regime on Earth is a bit of stumbling block, sure. But let’s not let a little thing like life in a forced labor camp stop us from an inspired casting choice. Hear me out here: I’m thinking Oliver Stone. He’s already an old hand at brutally unsubtle propaganda and shameless hagiography. Sure, he may not see ideologically eye to eye with Dear Leader now, but give him a few months in a NK filmmaking education camp, and I’m sure he’ll come around. Kim and Kim: A Match Made in Worker Paradise, or somesuch. I’m not a marketing guy, gimme a break.

Chantal Biya (First Lady of Cameroon)

Let me just point out up front that this lady has an entire tumblr blog dedicated to her multiple mega-ridiculous hairstyles. That alone gets her at least one movie. And the flamboyance doesn’t end at the forehead. Biya is well known for her glamorous ways – glamour meaning the same thing in Cameroon as it does here: wearing shiny, comically overpriced things that a spouse was able to purchase by exploiting the less fortunate.

The Chantal Biya Story is a Baz Luhrmann biopic. That much is obvious. But twos of minutes of interweb research hasn’t told me a thing about her singing chops, so whether it can reach the full unwatchable ridiculousness of a Luhrmann musical is still unclear.  And for no good reason, here’s a random picture of Chantal Biya seemingly giving Carla Bruni the stink-eye at the UN.

Joachim Sauer (Husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel)

The German media’s nickname for the quantum chemist is “The Phantom of the Opera”. But don’t let that fool you into false excitement. It’s only because he’s camera-shy and loathes attending public events with his wife. So, he’s boring, normal, and has a perfectly understandable distrust of the media spotlight. GUH. Well-adjusted people are so lame, drama-wise.

But we can work with this. Anybody see the critically acclaimed indie sci-fi drama Primer, directed by former engineer Shane Caruth? I didn’t think so. When even fans describe the film in terms like “hopelessly confusing” and “deliberately paced”, it’s no surprise that your little time-travel flick is relegated to cult status. But that’s exactly why they’d be perfect for each other. Caruth and Sauer could have a ball banging out another head-scratcher science-fiction flick that’s heavier on the science than it is on the fiction. And “The Phantom” could rest easy, knowing that appearing in a Shane Caruth film wouldn’t danger his beloved anonymity in the slightest. Done and done.


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  1. collapse expand

    What a wonderful bit of research, Joseph–thank you so much. How did Chantal previously escape my attention? Please keep us updated!

  2. collapse expand

    Great article, Joseph. I think I’ll be visiting that Chantal Biya hairdo blog! The most oft-used terms instead of commoner is, at least on “The Tudors,” “person of low birth.” Kind of a mouthful. Which makes royalty, “persons of high birth,” or, perhaps, High Birthers.

  3. collapse expand

    Mr. Childers,

    While commenting on another posting about Betty White, I came upon an idea that is prefect for your project. The musical comedy used to be a Hollywood staple but it is largely left to Bollywood to make them now. Hollywood is also swooning for yet more remakes of hit movies of the past (e.g. “Nightmare on Elm Street”).

    So the logical project is for a musical comedy adaption “Psycho”, the 1960 Hitchcock classic. There are parts for each of your potential stars. The story is already written (no need to hire writers!), all that is needed are catchy songs, a bit of choreography, and voilà, a guaranteed hit. Woody Allen could direct.

    http://trueslant.com/saralibby/2010/04/30/the-case-against-betty-white-mania/#comment-1335

  4. collapse expand

    this is great. I’ve never used the Recommend button more heartily…

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