Wednesday, March 03, 1999

Who will filmmakers cast as Springer?




BY JOHN KIESEWETTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        He's not exactly matinee-idol handsome. Anyone who saw Ringmaster last year knows he can't act.

        So Fox TV executives face a huge challenge if they're going to shoot an unauthorized, irreverent biography of Jerry Springer.

        It's not like Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Alec Baldwin will line up to audition.

        How can Fox find an actor who, essentially, can't act? Other than Tom Arnold.

        Jerry Springer looks uncomfortable on camera, has a big nose, and never risks ripping an Armani breaking up fights on his syndicated talk show. So maybe we can help Fox cast the film being written in Hollywood by Mark Geldman and Ron Yanover.

        Nerdy Peter Scolari from Newhart might be the best choice. Or Jeff Daniels, whose experience on Dumb and Dumber would fit the typical Springer guest (or viewer).

        If you want a dead-on double, why not CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield. He's got the nose and glasses. He probably can't act, either.

        If they want skinny, geeky guys with glasses from the Tristate, they could consider Cris Collinsworth or Reds bullpen coach Tom Hume.

Outrageous vision
        Mr. Geldman compared his vision to HBO's Don King: Only in America, the outrageous bio which won the 1998 Emmy for best TV movie. Much of the movie could be set during Mr. Springer's tenure on Cincinnati City Council (1971-74; 1975-81) and at Channel 5 news (1982-93).

        “We go from the young, idealistic up-and-coming political figure, to this talk show, which most people regard as sleaze,” Mr. Geldman said.

        If familiarity with Cincinnati sleazeballs was vital, then Lebanon's Woody Harrelson should top the list. He's already played Larry Flynt.

        Mr. Geldman doesn't have a specific actor in mind for the role. The only name he mentioned was Darrell Hammond, the Saturday Night Live master mimic who does President Clinton and Ted Koppel.

        If looks weren't that important, tons of former SNL guys would be available: Dan Aykroyd, Kevin Nealon, Chevy Chase, Dana Carvey, Tim Kazurinsky, Rich Hall or Joe Piscopo.

        And speaking of SNL, why not audition Melanie Hutshell (she did Tori Spelling during her 1991-94 stint) or Mary Gross for the role?

Gender bending
        Gender wasn't a problem for Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie), Linda Hunt (Year of Living Dangerously) or Jaye Davidson (The Crying Game). It shouldn't be for casting Mr. Springer.

        Why not Penny Marshall? Put glasses and an Armani suit on her, and any studio audience would start chanting “Jer-Ree! Jer-Ree!”

        Who could play Springer? Who has the nose? The same sandy brown hair? Can't act? Gets nervous in the public eye? Has experience drawing sordid details out of people?

        To me, the choice is obvious: Linda Tripp. If she lost a few pounds, she could have a new career.

        CAST YOUR VOTE

        If Fox makes a Jerry Springer docudrama, who do you think could play the former Cincinnati politician and news anchor? And why?

        Send suggestions to gnoble@enquirer.com. Include your name, address and daytime phone. We'll print the best (and funniest) ideas later this month.

John Kiesewetter is Enquirer TV/radio critic. Write him at 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, 45202.