“You can add Dennis Quaid to the actors who have successfully gone through the cauldron of playing real U.S. presidents,” says an industry friend who’s seen Richard Loncraine‘s The Special Relationship (HBO, 5.29), which deals with the relationship between President Bill Clinton (Quaid) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen, in his third go-round with the character).

“Quaid’s Clinton is certainly one for the ages,” the guy says. “He has everything down perfectly — the look, the accent, the demeanor, even the walk. It’s a real treasure of a performance. What’s surprising about A Special Relationship — for me anyway — is that it doesn’t hit its stride when focusing on his friendship with Blair. Instead, the film finds all its humanity and raison d’etre in watching a marriage pathetically deflate.” Bill and Hillary’s, I presume he means.

“I put Quaid a couple of notches below Anthony Hopkins as Nixon and a couple of notches above Hopkins as John Quincy Adams in Amistad. He’s fucking brilliant.”

The Special Relationship “is an American/British political film directed by Loncraine from a screenplay by Peter Morgan,” says the Wiki profile. “It’s the third film in Morgan’s informal Blair trilogy, which dramatizes the political career of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair (1997-2007), following The Deal (2003) and The Queen (2006), both directed by Stephen Frears.

“The first drafts of The Special Relationship dealt with Blair’s working relationships with Presidents of the United States Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and George W. Bush (2001-2009). But Morgan excised the Bush scenes from subsequent drafts because he found the Blair/Clinton dynamic more interesting. He intended to make his directorial debut with the film but backed out a month before filming began and was replaced by Loncraine. The film is produced by Rainmark Films and backed by HBO Films and BBC Films.

The film also stars Hope Davis as Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Helen McCrory as Cherie Blair. Principal photography on locations in and around London, England ran from July 20 to September 4, 2009. The film will be broadcast on HBO in the United States on May 29, 2010. Optimum Releasing will distribute it in cinemas in the United Kingdom; the company website lists a release date of May 7, 2010.”