Hollywood Flashback: Why 'Election's' Tracy Flick Would Be a Donald Trump Supporter Today
Producer Albert Berger says the ruthlessly overachieving high school princess played by Reese Witherspoon would likely have gone on to work for a certain GOP presidential candidate: "Trump has this army of blond-haired surrogates that are direct descents of Tracy Flick. I think that’s what happens to her — she becomes a Trump surrogate on some cable network."
While the recent presidential election had aspects that were absurdly juvenile, 1999's Election was in many ways more adult in its focus on political absurdities — but those practiced in high school. Alexander Payne's first studio movie — which he says Barack Obama twice has told him is "his favorite political film; he also likes The Candidate" — also was a favorite with THR: "A sharp, funny, bracingly on-the-money high school satire." (As for box office, the MTV/Paramount film was a bit too sophisticated for the youth market: The $8 million production brought in $15 million domestically.)
But Payne's tale of ruthlessly overachieving high school princess Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon, then 23), who wants to be student body president but runs up against a social studies teacher (Matthew Broderick, then 37) determined to derail her campaign, has become a video cult favorite, earning a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "By using the high school environment, the film was able to expose our democratic process in its most fundamental, self-interested way," says producer Ron Yerxa. "The idea was you could show the mechanisms in student elections that are writ large in the national scene."
Based on the Tom Perrotta novel (he also wrote The Leftovers, on which the HBO series is based), the film mined Payne's belief that "people's personal psychodramas are exposed and play out in the public arena. You're certainly seeing that this year."
In the context of the recent election, the Witherspoon character is definitely more Hillary than Donald: She designs posters, bakes cupcakes for voters and has a determination that makes Clinton look like a slouch. Witherspoon has been asked what Tracy Flick would be doing today and said, "She probably runs the tea party now." (In the film, Flick wins the election and goes on to attend Georgetown.) Producer Albert Berger sees Flick's future similarly. "Trump has this army of blond-haired surrogates that are direct descents of Tracy Flick," he says. "I think that's what happens to her — she becomes a Trump surrogate on some cable network."
This story first appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.