Who should play David Irving?

I just learned yesterday from a link a friend sent me and from Professor Deborah Lipstadt’s blog that the team of producers who made The Soloist have optioned the movie rights to Professor Lipstadt’s book History on Trial: My Day in Court With a Holocaust Denier, which is the story of the libel suit brought against her by Holocaust denier David Irving in the U.K., a lawsuit that Irving ultimately lost big time.

This is excellent news. Having read her book, as well as Richard Evans’ account of the trial, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, I had always thought that the story of David Irving’s ill-fated attempt to silence Professor Lipstadt by suing her for libel in the U.K., whose libel laws are notoriously plaintiff-friendly, would make an excellent movie. It has it all: Drama, fighting against long odds, and, above all, a villain who is a caricature of the worst of British blowhards, David Irving. (On second thought, it doesn’t have romance; hopefully the producers won’t try to add a cheesy romantic subplot…)

I realize that optioning the rights to a book is a long way from actually shooting a movie and that many are the stories whose rights are optioned that never find their way onto film. Even so, I don’t think it’s too early to start making casting suggestions. Even though it’s a very obvious choice, I vote Meryl Streep to play Professor Lipstadt. However, that leaves the question of who could play David Irving. Irving himself, in a characteristically lame attempt at humor, has suggested John Cleese to play Lipstadt. How droll, Mr. Irving, and, no, Anthony Hopkins is not a good option to play you, unless he does it as Hannibal Lecter, although Jack Nicholson might be a good option if he’s in full The Shining mode. However, having John Cleese play Irving would make sense, especially if he does it in his full-out Basil Fawlty mode. I could totally picture that. Or maybe Rowan Atkinson.

But, hey, that’s just me. What about you? Who should play David Irving in a movie about the Lipstadt trial?


  1. #1 Lindsay
    April 25, 2009

    Could Burt Reynolds do a British accent?

  2. #2 Jennifer B. Phillips (aka Danio)
    April 25, 2009

    It’s tricky casting. I don’t want to put the face of an actor I actually like on that execrable human being. Maybe…William Shatner?

  3. #3 Joe
    April 25, 2009

    How about Mel Gibson? He has limited talent; but he is naturally stupid.

  4. #4 Iason Ouabache
    April 25, 2009

    I wonder how good Brian Cox’s British accent is. He’d be the closest thing appearance wise to Irving.

  5. #5 Swiftsure
    April 25, 2009

    What about Jim Carrey? A denialist playing a denialist. Seems quite apposite to me.

  6. #6 Jennifer B. Phillips (aka Danio)
    April 25, 2009

    How about Mel Gibson? He has limited talent; but he is naturally stupid.

    Oooh–given his apparent antisemitic views, this would be an interesting way to commit career suicide.

  7. #7 Jim Ramsey
    April 25, 2009

    For complete irony, how about F. Murray Abraham?

    He does villains really well.

  8. #8 Baron Scarpia
    April 25, 2009

    Ian McKellen would be a good choice.

  9. #9 Matthew Platte
    April 25, 2009

    Uh, how about David Irving playing David Irving? Sounds like he could use the money….

  10. #10 Elf Eye
    April 25, 2009

    No! no! not Gandalf!

  11. #11 Elf Eye
    April 25, 2009

    Though, actually, Ian McKellen played the Nazi in Apt Pupil.

  12. #12 Pareidolius
    April 25, 2009

    Really now, it’s gotta be Jim Carrey for the full-on irony factor. He can do his semi-retarded “nutty professor” imitation and we can find a role for a certain buxom blonde too. C’mon. Dude had the chops to play the Grinch . . .

  13. #13 Ktesibios
    April 25, 2009

    How about Clifford Rose? He’s had plenty of experience playing a rather smarmy intellectual Nazi.

  14. #14 Clare
    April 25, 2009

    Ralph Fiennes has the “villain” section of the casting world nicely cornered (and he WAS Amon Goth in Schindler’s List). However, would Irving be a step up or a step down from Lord Voldemort?

  15. #15 Badger3k
    April 25, 2009

    Tom Cruise – he’s both played a nazi and is a denialist (and crank). He’d fit into the part.

  16. #16 Calgacus
    April 25, 2009

    @4: Brian Cox is from Dundee and can do several British accents

    My vote to play Irving would be Richard Wilson, who can portray the mean spirited very well.

  17. #17 Adam Cuerden
    April 25, 2009

    Anthony Ainley would’ve been a good choice. He had the slimy, somewhat ineffective villain who thought he was much cleverer than he was down pat.

  18. #18 William Hyde
    April 25, 2009

    Henry Czerny does evil quite well (“The Boys of St Vincent”, “Clear and Present Danger”) and, if memory serves, even looks a bit like Irving.

  19. #19 John S. Wilkins
    April 25, 2009

    There’s really only one guy – the fellow who played Cliff Claven in Cheers.

  20. #20 Avi Steiner
    April 25, 2009

    However, that leaves the question of who could play David Irving. Irving himself, in a characteristically lame attempt at humor, has suggested John Cleese to play Lipstadt.

    Actually, according to the link you gave, John Cleese was suggested by one Simon Round. Maybe you saw the box on the side with Irving’s comments on this.

    Anyway, to put in my two cents, they should get the guy who played the main villain (can’t remember the character’s name or the actor’s) in Schindler’s List.

  21. #21 Magnus
    April 25, 2009

    How about animating a lump of clay?

  22. #22 Jon H
    April 25, 2009

    Glenn Shadix

    (He played Otho in Beetlejuice.)

  23. #23 Tunic
    April 25, 2009

    “Even though it’s a very obvious choice, I vote Meryl Streep to play Professor Lipstadt.”

    I must have missed something somewhere. I was under the impression that you were favourably disposed towards Professor Lipstadt…

  24. #24 Martin
    April 25, 2009

    Google’s new image comparison tool has the answer! The closest celebrity match to David Irving is…

    Jamie-Lynn Spears, younger sister of Britney. Just the thing that family needs to get on track.

  25. #25 Green Eagle
    April 25, 2009

    Is Peter Lorre still dead? I sort of imagine a reprise of the trial scene in “M”.

  26. #26 Shay
    April 26, 2009

    How about Russell Crowe? Playing an arrogant, overweight, obnoxious boor shouldn’t be much of a stretch for him.

  27. #27 ellie
    April 26, 2009

    Michael Gambon, a fine actor who (no offence to him) does a fine protrayal of vile human beings.

  28. #28 Mojo
    April 26, 2009

    Anthony Hopkins.

  29. #29 Mojo
    April 26, 2009

    Or how about Bill Wallis?

  30. #30 oliver
    April 26, 2009

    How about someone with real class, as a contrst to the real Irwing?
    I am thinking about a certain shakespearian actor…. Patrick Stewart 🙂

  31. #31 Mojo
    April 26, 2009
  32. #32 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    Pee Wee Herman

  33. #33 Julian
    April 26, 2009

    “Pee Wee Herman”

    That would be awesome.

  34. #34 llewelly
    April 26, 2009

    If you people actually want a serious movie, which does the book justice, as opposed to just mocking Irving (a fine sport in its own right) – well, Patrick Stewart is a very, very good actor, and quite capable of playing a convincing and serious villain. And while I can empathize with people who don’t want their favorite actor associated with Irving, a good movie needs a villain played by a good actor.

    Rowan Atkinson and John Clese are also capable of playing serious villains, but not, I think, to the extent that Patrick Stewart is.

  35. #35 blf
    April 26, 2009

    What about our very own Orac?
    No particular reason. I’m just tuning up my (currently somewhat-out-of-tune) snarkiness…

  36. #36 Ahistoricality
    April 26, 2009

    I could definitely see Patrick Stewart doing it well, or Ian Mackellen. Robin Williams might do too much with it.

    Jerry Lewis?

  37. #37 Kate
    April 26, 2009

    Unrelated, but something I wanted to bring to your attention: woo is infesting the NYTimes comments on the swine flu article.


    “Why is the CDC so quiet about the symptomology of the victims? Homeopathy offers excellent prophylactic remedies such as Ocillococcinum for a broad range of flu strains. Let the truth be known.

    — Dr. Bruck, Raleigh NC”

    Excellent, more Tamiflu for myself and my family.

  38. #38 Kapitano
    April 26, 2009

    Brian Blessed.

    Or as his fans call him, “


    Just the right mix of kitsch and bombast.

    Remember the Flash Gordon movie? He was Zontan the king of the bird people in that.

  39. #39 Orac
    April 26, 2009

    That’s it!!!!! Brian Blessed!

  40. #40 Daniel J. Andrews
    April 26, 2009

    If Brian will be doing his King Richard IV impersonation from Black Adder, then perfect! Loads of bombast and noise in those performances.

  41. #41 Sigmund
    April 27, 2009

    Speaking of character actors from Black Adder how about Tony Robinson – who played ‘Baldrick’ in the series.
    I have a cunning plan! I’ll sue Deborah Lipstadt for libel!

  42. #42 Danimal
    April 27, 2009

    I second the Tom Cruise idea. The guy is a Scientology kook and I do not watch his movies anyways.

  43. #43 El Guerrero del Interfaz
    April 27, 2009

    Santiago Segura definitively.

    He just has to “britishy” Torrente, et voilà…

  44. #44 Kimberly
    April 27, 2009

    Oh, don’t give all the good roles to Streep! After all, given that no fancy accents or period dress are required here, we should give some other actress a shot. Jennifer Connelly’s got the chops, and she’d be willing to wear a short auburn wig for the part, I’m sure.

  45. #45 Peter Hornby
    April 27, 2009

    Two possibilities jump immediately to mind.

    Kenneth Branagh reprising Gilderoy Lockhart in the second Harry Potter movie
    Steve Buscemi reprising that weaselly dude in Fargo.

  46. #46 IBY
    April 27, 2009

    Any actor who is naturally stupid is good for me. ^_^

  47. #47 Tassie Devil
    April 28, 2009

    I vote for Alan Rickman.

    And the actor that played Ivanova in B5 as Lipstadt.

  48. #48 Nash
    April 28, 2009

    Claudia Christian played Ivanova in B5. Excellent idea Tassie Devil

  49. #49 dNorrisM
    April 28, 2009

    Hugh Laurie can do British- Sorry, I wish I had a better idea.

  50. #50 Azkyroth
    April 29, 2009

    Ian McDiarmid?

  51. #51 Lilly de Lure
    April 29, 2009

    Or as his fans call him, “BRIAN BLESSED!!!”

    Just the right mix of kitsch and bombast.

    Nice idea but I can’t agree – there’s just something altogether too lovable about Brian Blessed. There is absolutely nothing lovable about David Irving.

    How about John Hurt? He can do evil with the best of them and he struck just the right note playing Alan Clarke – superficially charming, but ultimately sleazy.

  52. #52 Prup (aka Jim Benton)
    April 29, 2009

    Sadly, the ideal choice died seven years ago, the magnificent James Gregory — “Sen. Johnny Iselin” from THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. But you have to pick a major character and a good actor for the movie to have the effect we all want. (Another obvious choice were he still aline would have been Nigel Hawthorne from YES, MINISTER.)

    I’m tempted to suggest Davuid Jason, but I tend to thinbk he can do anything. (But for Lipstadt it HAS tio be Glenn Close, as good as Streep is.)

    The movie has to be as much about Irving as Lipstadt. In fact, if I were writing or directing it (hahaha) I would make it so that someone who left halfway through and knew nothing about it from reviews would think it was pro-Irving, then the last half would show his gradual but complete demolition.

  53. #53 Alex
    April 30, 2009

    I hope the person who said “Hugh Laurie can do British” was joking- he doesn’t “do British” as he is roughly as British as humanly possible. His father won a Gold Medal in rowing in the 1948 Olympics, he was born in Oxford, and went to Eton then Cambridge…

    Then again I can’t really blame you given how absolutely flawless his accent is in House.

    My suggestion- the guy who play Nixon in Frost/Nixon?

  54. #54 Curtis B Robinson
    January 2, 2010

    more importantly than the accent, he needs to be instantly recognizeable. He has to be redeable as a good debater since it is a serious subject and the court talks go pretty ugly (especially between him and Richard J. Evans)

    how bout
    James Garner or Robert Duvall
    (FYI Kurt Russel would make a great Richard Evans)

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