‘El Presidente’ Is the Comedy That Tom Cruise Needs and America Probably Deserves Somehow

By  · Published on November 20th, 2013

Gather round, children, for the story of one international superstar attempting to guilt another into making a slapstick comedy for old time’s sake. It’s got intrigue, suspense and an open ending – everything you’d ever want in a Hollywood tale.

Back in 2010, Tom Cruise was attached to a comedy called El Presidente, directed by Jay Roach and potentially co-starring either Jack Nicholson or maybe even Robert Downey Jr. That clearly never panned out. Now in the beautiful light of 2013, Cruise and new director Doug Liman (who worked with Cruise on the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow) are attempting to make the presidential movie a reality once more – and they want Nicholson back on board.

El Presidente centers on a straight-laced secret service agent (that would be Cruise) who is assigned to protect America’s least favorite former president, a gross, womanizing boozehound who only ever got the job because he got booted up from Veep when the actual president died. When bad guys threaten the politician’s life, the duo must escape together, setting up a buddy comedy/action thriller hopefully involving a lot of patriotic motifs.

Nicholson would play the boorish commander-in-chief, if only because he’s gotten really good at playing these types of roles in his later years. Cruise and Liman are so invested in getting him back in the fold that they reportedly marched down to his house to convince him to take the role, with Cruise telling Nicholson that he won’t make the movie without him; perhaps he is a fan of his previous presidential work in Mars Attacks!?

Nicholson agreed at this point to at least read the script and get back to him.

Here’s the thing: Cruise should be making this movie, with or without Nicholson (who may likely not take the role – he hasn’t made a film since 2010’s How Do You Know, and has expressed his pickiness time and again when it comes to taking on new films). While undoubtedly still one of the biggest names in Hollywood and one of the most recognizable action stars around, Cruise is in need of a career boost after a string of mediocre films have done little for his resume. Starring in a fresh comedy will revitalize his image, much like his beloved turn as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder did in 2008.

With Tropic Thunder, Cruise proved that he had the chops to pull off comedy with ease, turning that sweaty, dancing network exectutive into a culture phenomenon. He got to go to the MTV Movie Awards – when was the last time you remember Tom Cruise being that relevant with the kids? Since then, it’s been a string of action films with varying success; save for Rock of Ages, which nobody chooses to remember anyway.

Cruise will continue making action movies, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But with a less-than stellar public persona hanging over him as well (and frankly overshadowing his career), he needs to do something different to revamp a repertoire that’s starting to get a little stale. El Presidente seems like smart, solid material, penned by former Daily Show writer Dan Goor and In The Loop writer Jesse Armstrong, with a rewrite by Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show, Donnie Brasco). While the inclusion of a former president Nicholson would be ideal (Mars Attacks! was great, okay?), there are plenty of talented, semi-retired and not retired at all actors who could fill the boozy, lady-loving politician role if he decides to pass it up. Hopefully Cruise can recognize that.