1:45pm PT by Michael O'Connell
Brie & Aniston, Gomez & Dern: Dreamcasting Ryan Murphy's Monica Lewinsky Mini
One of the most enduring controversies of the last century finally may get a TV treatment. And as Ryan Murphy looks to tackle the sex sandal that almost crippled a presidency in an upcoming American Crime Story season, the most pressing question is a matter of casting. Who could possibly play Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp?
That these women have never been the subject of a thorough scripted examination is kind of a shock, especially in the age of instant biopics, and it makes their shoes much harder to fill. But there's an even more formidable challenge, one Murphy previously was able to skirt with The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Everybody in the late '90s looked older than they actually were.
Monica was 24 when the scandal broke. She arguably looked a tad older. And that's no slight against her — that was the style and how all 24-year-olds looked in 1998. Tripp didn't have it much better. On top of the fact that her bangs seemed to be in a long-running argument with her face, Tripp was newly 48 when she hit the national stage. And I don't think I need to remind you that your 40s were not the new 30s back in the '90s.
The actresses who play these women may end up being slightly-to-significantly older. Especially Monica. The shortlist of prominent, 20-something talent who could feasibly pass for the doe-eyed, beret-loving cherub who engaged in an "inappropriate relationship" with Bill Clinton is, well, short.
Call me crazy, as they're both about a decade too old, but either Alison Brie or Allison Tolman could be particularly enticing choices for the part. They're both incredibly skilled actresses, pack the star luster that a project of this nature demands, and share Lewinsky's porcelain complexion and sympathetic peepers. British import Jenna Coleman, currently appearing in PBS period piece Victoria, could possibly make it work. Another possibility is True Detective and Baywatch actress Alexandra Daddario. She seems like a believable Monica, and she is technically part of Murphy's repertory theater — playing a Golden Era Hollywood vampire in American Horror Story: Hotel.
Still, if they want to be age appropriate, producers could benefit from poking around the Taylor Swift squad. Singer-actress Selena Gomez would be an inspired choice, but she would also be a gamble. With the exception of a part in Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers — never forget! — her IMDb credits are almost exclusively comedic roles.
Attempting Tripp is even trickier. Not unlike O.J. focal point Marcia Clark, the civil servant was ridiculed for her appearance in a way that would not fly today. But American Crime Story was Clark's redemption story. It's hard to imagine Tripp will be portrayed in a favorable light, as she was an actual schemer and opportunist — who forced Lewinsky into a spotlight that derailed her life. And her subsequent reappearances, in contrast to Lewinsky's, have been kind of cuckoo.
Her most enduring pop culture moment remains a recurring Saturday Night Live parody from John Goodman. (Truly, it was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin of the '90s.) American Crime Story probably will take a more serious route, though few male actors today are as skilled in the art of female impersonation as Fred Armisen. Just saying.
The only physical prerequisite here is a strong jawline. But anything is possible with prosthetics. I popped Linda's picture into a celebrity lookalike generator, but the top result (Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft) left me a tad uninspired. Laura Dern has a proven affection for physically transforming political roles — see her Golden Globe-winning turn as loathed Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in Jay Roach's Recount — so I'd put her on the top of the list. Catherine Keener is also of an appropriate age. And, glamorous as she might be, she recently proved she could go dowdy in David Simon's Show Me a Hero.
But Tripp is a real opportunity for some left-field stunt casting — a la John Travolta's Robert Shapiro. So how about Heather Locklear? The woman who gave us Amanda Woodward is a '90s icon in her own right, has a well-documented relationship with bangs and (working actress that she may be) could really use a comeback. Or, if A-list is what they're after ... Jennifer Anniston would be sublime, has experience with a prosthetic schnoz and seems very on-brand for Ryan Murphy.
Two other installments of American Crime Story, centered on Hurricane Katrina and the murder of Gianni Versace, are already in the works. But this one is already casting, so there could be only a small window to speculate until ageless chameleons Sarah Paulson and Tilda Swinton sign on and draw straws over who plays who.