Man of Many Faces

Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Actors Have Played You Today?

From Bryan Cranston to Randy Quaid to King of the Hill, see the men who’ve played the 36th president.

Everett Collection; Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater; The Weinstein Company

Everett Collection; Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater; The Weinstein Company

Bryan Cranston is taking to the stage to portray Lyndon B. Johnson. From Randy Quaid’s depiction to Donald Moffatt in ‘The Right Stuff,’ see the actors (and one cartoon) who played the 36th president.

Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

BRYAN CRANSTON

L.B.J. is the one who knocks. Bitch. Bryan Cranston took on the role of the 36th U.S. president in Robert Schenkkan’s play, All the Way, which opened on Sept. 19 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass.—and which has already sold out its entire run through Oct.  12 (probably because of a little show called Breaking Bad that’s taking its final bow on Sunday). Cranston was described by The New York Times as cutting a “vigorous, imposing figure as L.B.J.” and The New Yorker even saw fit to draw up a list of all the parallels between Cranston’s L.B.J. and his Breaking Bad character, Walter White. If Cranston’s not really your style though, there is another play, The Great Society, at the Clurman Theater in New York City that features actor Mitch Tebo as the late president.

Everett Collection

DONALD MOFFATT

Donald Moffatt, who you may remember as the man who screams “I’d rather not spend the rest of the winter TIED TO THIS F—KING COUCH!” in The Thing, took on the role of Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman’s film about the Mercury Seven astronauts. Johnson played a key role in helping win the space race between the United States and the Soviets and awarded NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal to two of the Mercury Seven team.

Everett Collection

RANDY QUAID

Randy Quaid won a Golden Globe for his depiction of a younger and more dapper Lyndon Johnson in LBJ: The Early Years. The film showed the highlights of Johnson’s life from 1934 to 1973, including his first run for Congress, his antagonism of Bobby Kennedy, and his first day as a congressman, when he parked in the Senate majority leader’s reserved parking spot (which, some years later, would come to bear his name anyway).

Anne Marie Fox/The Weinstein Company

LIEV SCHREIBER

Liev Schreiber donned a whole bunch of old-man makeup in order to portray Lyndon Johnson in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a role that Schreiber described as enlightening. “Before I did this movie, I wasn’t really aware of the extent to which LBJ had moved forward the civil-rights movement on Kennedy’s behalf,” the actor told the Los Angeles Times. “He was a white male from Texas and perhaps wasn’t the obvious choice for this kind of change, but working with Mexican immigrants [when he was younger] became a powerful part of his life and continued to influence him as president… I don’t know if as many people credit him with these advances as they should.”

Everett Collection

MICHAEL GAMBON

Michael Gambon, who is best known as Professor Albus Dumbledore in the last six Harry Potter films, played Lyndon Johnson in the 2003 HBO TV biopic Path to War, which detailed Johnson’s years in the White House during the Vietnam Era. Alec Baldwin co-starred as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, whom the film portrays as pushing Johnson deeper and deeper into the conflict.

Everett Collection

JAMES CROMWELL

You probably know him as Jack Bauer’s dad on 24 (or as the warden in The Green Mile—or the farmer from Babe) but James Cromwell also tried the role of President Johnson on for size in the TV movie RFK. Perhaps his most memorable scene: the moment Robert Kennedy is told that, despite his vice-presidential ambitions, he’s just “not a good fit,” but tries to console him with the possibility of remaining as attorney general. “I’d rather have you inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in,” he tells an insulted Bobby.

Kennedys Productions (Ontario) inc. and Zak Cassar

DON ALLISON

Don Allison appeared in three episodes of the 2011 TV miniseries The Kennedys as President Lyndon B. Johnson, alongside Katie Holmes as Jacqueline Kennedy, Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy, and Tom Wilkinson as Bobby. As the movie was mostly about the Kennedy clan’s trials and tribulations, Allison’s role was mostly peripheral.

Youtube

LAURENCE LUCKINBILL

Laurence Luckinbill took a more unique approach to the role of Lyndon Johnson by starring in a one-man show called Lyndon, which he toured with in 1991-1992 and which was a response to Oliver Stone’s J.F.K. Before that, Luckinbill played the same role for a 90-minute PBS show called Lyndon Johnson.

Everett Collection

WALTER ADRIAN

In the 2000 drama Thirteen Days, Walter Adrian played Vice-President Johnson during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, alongside Bruce Greenwood as John F. Kennedy and Kevin Costner as Special Assistant to the President Kenneth O’Donnell.

Youtube

BUCK STRICKLAND

OK, so he’s not actually a dead president. Or a real human. But did you know that this King of the Hill character, protagonist Hank’s boss at Strickland Propane, is (totally probably) modeled after the characters’ fellow Texan, Lyndon B. Johnson? He looks like him and sounds like him (voice credit goes to actor Stephen Root) and another tribute to Johnson comes in Hank’s dog (named Lady Bird after Johnson’s wife). It’s not a very flattering depiction though—Buck is a womanizing, alcoholic, chauvinistic cheater.