Beltway folly goes Hollywood

He’s portrayed two presidents and made an appearance on “The West Wing,” but now actor David Rasche takes on a Donald Rumsfeld-type role in the new political satire “In the Loop,” which opens Friday.

“I’ve been preparing for this role for eight years, five hours a day, watching MSNBC, CNN and Fox News,” Rasche told Shenan this week.

In this fast-paced mockery of politics, Rasche plays an icy, cool, Cheshire-cat character who has created a secret war committee. And he loved playing the Rummy role because it was a chance to reveal how politicians deal with showing weakness in public, and it was “such a treat to be able to skewer these guys who I had been so upset with all those years.”

The Bush administration, he said, “acted like frightened little boys” who were “arrogant” and “insufferable.” Obviously, Rasche is a Democrat.

As for “In the Loop,” its director is Armando Iannucci, who Rasche says “was always so fascinated by the deer-in-headlights look on politicians’ faces when microphones were thrust in their face.”

The film captures the silliness of politics, and the plot centers on political advisers to a British government minister whose career happens to intertwine with some U.S. administration officials. In addition to a clear Rumsfeld character, there is a Rahm Emanuel type (transposed onto the British side and played by Peter Capaldi) and a lieutenant general played by James Gandolfini, minus the “Sopranos” accent. (“He was so nice, so gracious,” Rasche cooed.)

In one of the best scenes, Gandolfini and a female U.S. State Department official sneak away from a cocktail party and wind up in a child’s bedroom. The action appears to be headed for a romp, but instead, he explains future war plans to her using a Barbie Dream House and a musical toy calculator to tally up a war-planning figure.

The film kicks off with the British minister flubbing an interview and wading into foreign policy by saying, “War is unforeseeable.” The Rahm character reacts while watching it on TV — “No! You don’t think that!” — and stealthily materializes in the office of the minister, who is less than prepared and says: “We can do without the ritual humiliation.”

Some good lines come when a British staffer says: “You know they’re all kids in Washington, D.C. It’s like Bugsy Malone.”

In D.C., a U.S. staffer takes one of the British underlings to a bar and explains about the dancing crowd: “See this mosh pit? Tonight they rage hard, but tomorrow they go back to the Hill and argue noise reduction legislation.”

But back to Rasche: Which pol would he most love to play?

“Mark Sanford. I wanted to play [Sen. David] Vitter for a while. … He’s just a little too … unlikeable. But Mark! I want a bossa nova song, ‘I love your tan line.’”

Leave a Reply