Marvel Comics is in the middle of making approx. 35 movies about Marvel cartoon superheroes, like Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. DC Comics and Sony have recently joined the party; the J.R.R. Tolkein universe has somehow spawned a trilogy based on one book, The Hobbit; there will be a trilogy of Harry Potter spinoffs; and apparently there will now be a Lego movie franchise, based on the success of Lego Movie. Oh, and Avatar is currently being turned into a million sequels.
Forget all that crap. We all know what movie series America truly needs.
Theodore Roosevelt: the Movie Universe.
The great thing about the TR-verse is, every single movie could be a true story. Here’s my chronological list of possible Theodore Roosevelt franchise films:
- A comedy of difference/acceptance where a spoiled young Harvard brat moves to the backwoods of Maine and wins the trust of the locals
- Drama centered on the single day when both his mother and his wife died
- A classic-style Western about a cattle rancher capturing two hardened bandits and taking them on an epic journey to justice across the North Dakota Badlands
- A tough new police commissioner of New York deciding to reform corrupt cops by going undercover himself on the city’s nighttime streets
- The Spanish-American War: Rough Riders, invasion of Cuba, and heroic charge up San Juan Hill
- December 1902: the hardball American president enters a showdown against Germany, the UK, and Italy, and narrowly avoids starting a World War where the Kaiser and England were united against the USA
- Year-in-the-life movie about daughter Alice Roosevelt, who spent TR’s presidency romancing congressmen, jumping into swimming pools in front of foreign dignitaries, scandalizing Washington, and handing out medals at the 1904 Olympic marathon
- Hell, what about an entire movie for the 1904 Olympic marathon, which was won by a guy who rode a car half the distance, and included a guy who poisoned himself with strychnine by mistake, plus a random mailman who stole fruit from orchards on the route and stopped to chat with fans–but still finished fourth
- A courtroom drama about the Brownsville Incident, a shameful episode in American race relations
- The wild, tense 1912 presidential election campaign, and the toll it took on all three candidates, two of whom were previously friends
- The night when TR got shot in the chest and still gave a campaign speech, saying, “I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose”
- A harrowing adventure thriller about the fatal trip down the River of Doubt in the Amazon jungle
Reminder: all those things are true. Theodore Roosevelt really was a crime-fighting cattle rancher. Theodore Roosevelt really did explore an uncharted Amazon tributary called the River of Doubt, with three crew members dying on the trip (and TR nearly dying, too). He really dodged starting World War I early. And a random mailman with a snack habit really did place fourth in the Olympic marathon.
Now, look. That’s twelve amazing-sounding movies, and I didn’t mention the Panama Canal. Or any of TR’s domestic policies. Or his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Or the fact that he forced his cabinet members to go skinny-dipping.
Theodore Roosevelt is the greatest character in American history. He’s one of our most complex, multi-sided, conflicted, and fascinating heroes. He’s a legendary badass, but also a severely flawed man who earned the hatred of Mark Twain. At times, he was even an antihero. The real challenge is not finding material: the challenge is finding an actor who can play Theodore Roosevelt.
And if you can even find such an actor, then you have to convince him to play the part for thirty years, so he can be young TR and old TR.
It will probably never happen. Which is too bad, because forget about comic book characters. Forget about Legos. Forget about blue aliens. Hell, forget about lightsabers. America has a glorious national epic, and that national epic is Theodore Roosevelt.