Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...

updated 07/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/29/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>The White House

THE PRESIDENT'S DOMESTIC POLICY

LONG BEFORE THE SCI-FI BLOCKbuster Independence Day invaded Cineplexes, a scene from the trailer—showing an alien spaceship zapping the White House to smithereens—had audiences cheering. Oddly enough, the current residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue also enjoyed that apocalyptic vision. On June 22 the First Family—Bill, Hillary and Chelsea—got a sneak preview of ID in their private screening room. "Watching the White House blow up from inside the White House, it was like the twilight zone," says ID's producer Dean Devlin, who, with director Roland Emmerich and actor Bill Pullman, sat in with the Clintons. The President shared a big bag of popcorn with Pullman, who plays the Chief Executive. Afterward, Clinton gave the film a glowing review. "He said it's terrific," Devlin recalls.

ID is hardly the first film to get a friendly reception from the Clinton Administration. The White House staff was "very gracious and good to us," says Lilly Kilvert, production designer for both 1993's In the Line of Fire and 1995's The American President. Not only did Kilvert get to chat with the Prez, she also carried First Cat Socks around while taking measurements of the East Wing, the Grand Foyer and the State Dining Room. (Filmmakers must re-create the interiors from sketches. Photography is banned for security reasons.)

But the producers of Dave, a 1993 comedy starring Kevin Kline as a presidential impersonator, and Without Warning: The James Brady Story, a 1991 HBO docudrama about the Reagan press secretary disabled by an assassin's bullet, got only limited access to the Bush White House. "Both Ronald Reagan and George Bush were very concerned about the Presidency not becoming a movie prop," explains Marlin Fitzwater, who, as a Brady successor, served both Administrations. Even so, he adds, "the settings in Dave were very realistic."

So were the $2 million American President interiors, which Oliver Stone borrowed for 1995's Nixon and Devlin leased for ID (at a bargain $150,000). What wowed the First Lady, however, was not the scenery but Pullman's give-'em-heck performance. "Gosh, you were so good," she teased him. "Maybe Bill could take a couple of days off, and you could fill in for him."

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