Biden turns to Spielberg to beat Trump in blockbuster election

Joe Biden as an action hero - Biden turns to Spielberg to beat Trump in blockbuster election
Joe Biden's team feel the president is in need of some Hollywood glamour in the run up to November's election

After watching Joe Biden’s dramatic entrance to his D-Day commemoration speech on Friday, one would be forgiven for thinking he had been bingeing action movies in his spare time.

The US president kept his 150 guests waiting at Pointe du Hoc, where his team had set up a lectern on top of a decommissioned German pillbox.

As assembled veterans and Pentagon top brass began to wonder where Mr Biden had got to, speakers in front of the makeshift stage blared into life with a patriotic brass-and-string instrumental, and the sound of helicopter rotors could be heard in the distance.

Seconds later, from behind the curve of Normandy’s Jurassic cliffs came Marine One – Mr Biden’s presidential helicopter – with its distinctive white-and-green paint job emblazoned with the words “United States of America”.

As it turned out, Mr Biden had not just been inspired by watching Saving Private Ryan on the plane over. His theatrical turn was masterminded by Steven Spielberg himself.

Saving Private Ryan
Mr Biden watched Saving Private Ryan on the plane over to the D-Day commemorations, and is being helped by the film's director Steven Spielberg - AA Film Archive

Mr Biden touched down, hopped out of the chopper (with some caution, given the delicate condition of his spine) and hobbled to the lectern.

“At last, the hour had come,” he thundered. “Dawn, 6th of June, 1944. The wind was pounding, as it is today and always has against these cliffs.”

For the next 12 minutes, guests heard his narrative retelling of D-Day heroism and call for the defence of democracy.

The acclaimed Hollywood director was spotted in the president’s Paris hotel room hours earlier, where he offered the president advice on injecting some drama into his delivery.

White House aides hope that Spielberg’s big screen magic can help Mr Biden compete with the charisma of Donald Trump, this year’s Republican nominee and America’s greatest showman.

Spielberg, a long-time Democrat supporter, has already agreed to produce a film about Mr Biden to be shown at the Democratic National Convention in August that will “tell the president’s story”.

He has also become a fixture in speech-preparation sessions, where he has worked on how to “best tell the president’s story, his accomplishments, and his vision for a second term,” according to one report.

Spielberg has donated more than $800,000 to the Democratic Party over his long career, and is a close friend of former president Bill Clinton.

The filmmaker appeared at a Biden fundraiser in Los Angeles in December, while his friend and former Dreamworks partner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, is a co-chair of the campaign itself.

On Thursday, as Mr Biden gave another speech at the American cemetery near Omaha Beach, Spielberg sat in the front row with Tom Hanks – the star of Saving Private Ryan and a co-collaborator on Band of Brothers, the director’s later Second World War series.

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg
Tom Hanks and Spielberg are both long-time Democrat supporters and were in Normandy for the D-Day commemorations last week - AFP/Saul Loeb

Mr Biden’s search for Hollywood pzazz comes amid anxiety within his team about the president’s image in the run-up to November’s election.

A survey taken by the pollsters JL Partners in December asked voters to describe each candidate’s plans for a second term in one word.

The word that came up to describe Mr Biden’s strategy most frequently was “Nothing”.

James Johnson, the pollster who conducted the research, said that celebrity endorsements were one way to resolve the issue of Mr Biden’s image “lacking in any spark, or really, any energy at all”.

“People feel that he is lacking the physical and mental energy to do the job, so it’s therefore hard for him to curate much excitement about his campaign, but obviously he really needs to generate that if he wants to get people to turn out to vote for him,” he said. “Celebrities are one way of doing that.”

But he added that the campaign also risked highlighting the difference between slick celebrity endorsers and the US president himself.

“If he appears on stage with these celebrities, it often actually shines a bigger light on what voters fear about Joe Biden,” he said. “It can simply expose the problem with Biden, rather than generate enthusiasm for him.”

Mr Biden’s campaign is struggling to deal with the unavoidable fact that the president is a creature of Washington DC – the city that has become known on the American Right as the “swamp”.

While some voters will credit his decades of experience in Congress and as Barack Obama’s vice president, he is inexplicably linked to the political establishment that Trump has successfully demonised in the minds of many Americans.

Souping up Mr Biden’s speeches and bringing in celebrity endorsements is one way his aides hope to dispel his image as an aged legislator.

Last month, the White House brought in Mark Hamill, the Star Wars actor, to give his endorsement at the daily press briefing.

The actor, another long-time Democrat, christened the president “Joe-bi Wan Kenobi” and told reporters he was pleased to have received a pair of Mr Biden’s trademark aviator sunglasses.

“I love the merch, love it all,” the Luke Skywalker actor said.

Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker
Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, visited the White House last month calling the president 'Joe Bi-Wan Kenobi' - AP/Alex Brandon

A recent campaign ad was voiced by Robert De Niro, who gave a performance that earned him a ticket to the state dinner held in April for the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida.

Attempts to win the backing of Taylor Swift – by far America’s most influential name – have been less successful.

Biden campaign staffers have reportedly been tasked with bringing the singer on board, certain that she could win back younger voters that have deserted the Democrats over the war in Gaza.

But an endorsement has so far proved elusive. Swift posted a video on Super Tuesday urging her followers to vote, but did not tell them which candidates to support.

Polls show that Ms Swift is less likely to be popular with Republicans than Democrats, which some analysts have attributed to her endorsement of Mr Biden in 2020.