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Hollywood Exclusive: Dennis Quaid Felt Weight of Responsibility Playing Bill Clinton

For anyone who lived through the Clinton administration, Dennis Quaid's performance in HBO's May 29 "The Special Relationship" just might evoke a shiver or two. Although he doesn't — by conscious choice — look like a twin of William Jefferson Clinton, he inhabits the role of the 42nd president down to the set of his mouth in angry moments.

And yet, Quaid admits, "I was kind of shocked when they asked me to do the role. It just seemed such a daunting task — getting the voice, the mannerisms." However, he tells us, "I have a philosophy that sometimes you should do the thing that frightens you most because it's probably the thing you need to do to overcome your fear. Fear is a great motivator."

The hardest part was "just capturing his spirit," says Quaid. "I didn't want to do a Saturday night skit of him. I wanted to make him into a human being. I was lucky I had four months to prepare," he adds.

Quaid, who's had his own relationship with Clinton — including several rounds of golf — admits he's thought quite a bit about how the ex-commander in chief will feel about his portrayal and the film in general.

"Better me than Darrell Hammond," he says with a smile. Then, more seriously, he adds, "I've seen the movies (playwright/screenwriter) Peter Morgan has done before — 'Frost/Nixon,' 'The Queen ...' I felt they were empathetic portrayals, that I could understand these people a little more after seeing them. That was obviously an attraction. At the same time, I know certainly there are certain parts of my life I wouldn't want to have made into a movie, and I understand the sensitivity involved in having those portrayed," adds Quaid, who knows what it's like to go through the tabloid grinder via the all-too-public ending of his marriage to Meg Ryan and his substance abuse problems of the 1980s.

"The Special Relationship" focuses on the relationship between Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (again played to perfection by Michael Sheen), and does go into the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal that led to Clinton's impeachment. Quaid says, however, that "I think I have a lot more respect for him now than I did before playing him. He was already the smartest man I'd met. What he was able to accomplish in his presidency is really remarkable — even during the scandal."

CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC: Hunky country star Blake Shelton looks mighty good on those videos of his, such as "Home" and "Hillbilly Bone," and would appear to have acting potential as well. No wonder he's had some inquiries from Hollywood. So, does he want to add film or TV work to his resume?

"I don't' want to say I don't have any interest in it," he tells us. "But it's not something I'll pursue. If something came my way that looked like a good fit, it might be fun. But I'm just getting to point where I always wanted to be," he adds, referring to his music career. "So I want to completely concentrate on what I do, now more than ever."

Shelton will be touring all summer, he says. "We pretty much tour anyway, at least one gig a week, even in the down season. But when June rolls around, it'll be most of the time until September."

THE BIG-SCREEN SCENE: Tom Sizemore keeps managing to get work despite his time behind bars, in rehab and all over the tabloid media. The latest is a low-budget picture called "Visible Scars" in which he'll play "a hermit serial killer," according to casting notices. They're filling the roles of his potential next victim and of the ghosts of twin girls who were abducted 17 years ago. The action takes place in cabin in the wilderness.

FEELING A LITTLE SICK: Just when you think you've heard it all, here comes a new reality show called "Virus Hunters," featuring real-life stories of people who've contracted ailments that pose a threat to the greater population. Casting is under way for actors to portray people who have a virus. "I hope this is the bottom," responded one actor we know, "because if they're going lower, I'm going to have to leave."

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster


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