Why 'Game Change' Chose Julianne Moore Over Tina Fey for Sarah Palin

While the "30 Rock" star was famous for her impression, it wasn't the tone the HBO film wanted to present.

It was Tina Fey, appearing on Saturday Night Live during the waning days of the 2008 Presidential Election, that said "I can see Russia from my house." But because she said it in such a dead-on, mocking impersonation of Sarah Palin, many people actually think it was the then-GOP vice presidential candidate that had said the silly line, and therein lied Jay Roach's dilemma: how does he make a movie about Palin, without including Fey?

The director of Game Change, HBO's new movie about Palin's tumultuous time as John McCain's 2008 running mate, has gotten plenty of slack -- from Palin allies -- over how the film portrays her as naive, stubborn and unprepared (criticism that has been shrugged off by both Roach and screenwriter Danny Strong).  But there is far less controversy over who portrayed Palin; star Julianne Moore is getting major plaudits for her work (read The Hollywood Reporter TV critic Tim Goodman's review here).

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Roach told Vanity Fair that he needed a brave actress, both to make a complicated transformation, and to transcend Fey's star performance years earlier. 

"I never thought that we should cast Tina Fey, because what Tina Fey did was so incredible, but was completely different from what we were going to do -- and she’d already done it," he said to the magazine. "But we knew it would come up all the time. Of course, from the moment we announced that we were doing it with Julianne."

That constant questioning made one of the film's more meta scenes into an even more rewarding experience, Roach said.

"One of my favorite moments in film is when you see Tina Fey in the film onscreen being watched by Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin," he offered, "so you get a direct comparison and a clear explanation of why Julianne is doing it, and she does what she does incredibly well, right next to Tina Fey, [doing] what she does incredibly well."


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