EXCLUSIVE: Robert Forster has been signed to play Ronald Reagan in The Lifeguard: Ronald Reagan and His Story, a one-man stage play written by David Rambo to be directed by Tony Award winner Peter Hunt. The play is being produced by David Permut and Mark Travis, with Merry-Kay and Steven Poe. Permut and Travis plan to follow the template they established with James Whitmore and Give ‘Em Hell Harry. That Harry Truman story was first mounted as a stage show that toured the country, and it was filmed and released as a theatrical feature in 1975. Hunt directed Whitmore in that role. Rehearsals start March 1 for the Reagan play. The producers are booking the tour now, with the hope they will end up on Broadway, where the performance will be filmed. Even though studios turned down Give ‘Em Hell Harry, the producers were able to book the film directly with exhibitors, which began showing the film three weeks after it was shot. Whitmore was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Truman, and the $100,000 budget film grossed over $10 million. The producers did even better when they followed the same strategy with Richard Pryor Live in Concert, which grossed over $30 million.
Rambo is the CSI writer whose plays include God’s Man in Texas, The Ice Breaker and The Lady with All the Answers. The Lifeguard covers Reagan’s rise from humble beginnings to Screen Actors Guild president, California governor and iconic U.S. president. The Reagan family has been involved in a consulting capacity through the development of the project.
Forster got a career second wind when Quentin Tarantino cast him to star in Jackie Brown. Forster has since worked extensively in TV and films, and was recently set for JJ Abrams’ series Alcatraz after playing a recurring role on Heroes. Permut, Travis and Hunt considered many actors to play Reagan, before deciding Forster was right for the role. The deals comes on the eve of what would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday this Sunday, an event that will be commemorated at halftime of the Super Bowl.