Republicans aren't the only ones looking for a presidential candidate. The producers of Mars Attacks! Tim Burton's tale of an alien invasion -- have been mounting their own search for a distinguished actor to play the Commander-in-Chief in the Warner Bros. comedy, set for Christmas '96. Mars sources say Warren Beatty was the front-runner, but his legendary perfectionism with Love Affair lessened his luster with Warner execs. Producers also hoped for Paul Newman, who considered playing another part but dropped out over concerns about the film's violence.
Which left the field open for Jack Nicholson, who cackled all the way to the bank in Burton's Batman. Nicholson raked in close to $50 million from Batman, counting gross points and a chunk of merchandising. This time, says a source, ''he wanted the world.'' With the world presumably taken care of, Nicholson is now set to play two characters: U.S. President James Dale and Las Vegas operator Art Land. With Jack on board, top actresses are lining up: Susan Sarandon will probably play Barbara Land, and Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and Stockard Channing are being considered for the First Lady.
But finding a president isn't Burton's only White House woe. The director may be distressed to see that the trailer for Independence Day, a more sober alien-invasion thriller due this summer, features the White House being destroyed by a spaceship a near copy of a scene planned for Mars Attacks! Coscripter Scott Alexander assures that Mars' comic tone will distinguish it from its counterpart. ''As Fail-Safe was to Dr. Strangelove,'' he says, ''Independence Day will be to Mars Attacks!''