"In this day and age, he wouldn't have become president," Roger Michell, director of Hyde Park on Hudson, declared at a press conference during the Toronto Film Festival.
The film stars Bill Murray as FDR exploring the fascinating relationship he had with his distant cousin, Daisy Suckley, played by Laura Linney. Everything in the movie is based on Daisy's diaries, which were discovered in a suitcase under her bed following her death at the ripe old age of 100.
FDR, of course, was married to Eleanor Roosevelt at the time his relationship with Daisy blossomed in the late 1930s. Daisy thought she was the only 'other' woman, but alas, there were others. It's easy to wonder how FDR had time for all of these women on top of his presidential duties.
Murray joked that FDR's life was overrun by women. "It was like a henhouse. It was insane. These women are all barking at each other -- the mother, the girlfriend, the wife, the secretary and the maids," he said. "This guy was beleaguered. They were all after him. Thank God he had a dog!"
Of all his many ladies, it may have been Eleanor who placed the most demands on his time. "She was on him all day every day. They would argue openly at dinner," said Olivia Williams, who plays Eleanor in the film.
This isn't the first time Murray and Williams have starred on the big screen together: they both appeared in Wes Anderson's cult classic, Rushmore. Williams said this shared experience made it easier to capture FDR and Eleanor's uniquely tense-yet-comfortable dynamic. "I do feel that the fact that Bill and I were kind of battle-worn comrades from 14 years ago [helped us naturally portray] a comfortable agreement they had reached in understanding each other's foibles," she said.
Murray said Williams put it slightly less delicately the day before. "It was truly funny. She said I feel like I've been with you for 14 years," he recalled, laughing.
FDR's exhausting relationship with Eleanor may have been why quiet, unassuming Daisy was so appealing. "I think she gave him space where he didn't have to impress or cajole," said Linney. "I think her needs were few ... and she was very comfortable with how she fit into this constellation of people."
She was also comfortable "pleasuring" him in the car, as evidenced in one of the film's funniest-slash-awkward scenes.
The movie also explores the unique relationship FDR had with King George VI of England (Samuel West), who visited FDR's beloved Hyde Park on Hudson estate with his wife, Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman). As with the ladies, FDR was able to work his charms on the King, too.
So what was FDR's secret to making everyone love him? Linney has her own theories. "Part of what makes charisma charisma, he made everyone around him feel like they were seen and understood," she said. "That's a really powerful thing."
Watching Murray channel FDR is fascinating, and his performance just might land him another Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, for a movie about love, lust, betrayal and tricky international politics, it's surprisingly dull. The acting is great, and Linney and Williams are also outstanding in their respective roles, but the true-to-life approach is a bit slow, and could have benefited from some creative embellishing (or at least a quicker pace).
If you're a Murray fan and intrigued by FDR's affairs of the heart, though, don't let the slow pace deter you from checking out Hyde Park. Just don't go in expecting any passionate, bodice-ripping love scenes.