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The Day Reagan Was Shot (2001)

The 30th of March, 1981, the delusional John Hinckley Jr. tries to kill president Ronald Reagan. His life hangs on a thin thread at the hospital, while the Soviet Union is ready to invade a... See full summary »




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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Alexander Haig
... Ronald Reagan
... Buddy Stein
... Caspar Weinberger
... Michael Deaver
... James Baker
Leon Pownall ... Ed Meese
Robert Bockstael ... Dick Allen
... Special Agent Cage
... Dr. Allard
... Dr. Gregorio
... Nancy Reagan
... John Hinckley
Sean McCann ... Donald Regan
Jack Jessop ... William Casey


The 30th of March, 1981, the delusional John Hinckley Jr. tries to kill president Ronald Reagan. His life hangs on a thin thread at the hospital, while the Soviet Union is ready to invade a Poland on the brink of a revolution. Based on actual events during the final stages of the cold war. Written by OJT

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

9 December 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A merénylet napja  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Sean McCann also appears in the miniseries "The Reagans" (2003) (TV), which also covers this film's events. See more »


During the trip to George Washington Hospital, Special Agent Cage's radio hand-mic changes colors from tan to black. Also it changes hands when in fact the mic is fixed in place under his clothing. See more »


Alexander Haig: Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.
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Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #22.82 (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

Perception and Substance
4 October 2003 | by See all my reviews

One of the fundamental issues in social life is the difference between the real life we lead and the way we see ourselves behaving, the difference between substance and perception.

The crisis here involved maintaining the perception that all was hunky dory.

Well, there were clips of the shooting repeatedly shown on TV so the incident couldn't readily be denied outright. But Reagan was reported walking unaided into GWH and joking with the medical staff, so he was perfectly all right except maybe with an injured rib or something. Brady was clearly in bad shape but we heard much less about him, and even less about the other victims. Reagan was always in good shape, never in danger, and was seen waving from the hospital window with that marvelous grin, back at work in no time.

That was the perception we were handed by governmental spokesmen and a media happy to oblige. The substance was that Reagan was quite seriously injured, with a bullet lodged between his collapsed lung and his heart. A seventy-year-old man, he didn't respond readily to treatment and took months to recover. During part of that time of course he was narcotized and no longer in control of the government or anything else. The "football" which could start a nuclear war was taken by the FBI, who refused to turn it over to anyone except Vice President Bush, who was incommunicado, and then only when so authorized by the AG. Alexander Haigue, Secretary of State, seems to have promptly taken over the reins but was challenged by a number of other members of the cabinet. (As a result, nobody knew who, if anyone, was "minding the store.") The code card that activated the football had been left in a wallet in Reagan's pants, which had been thrown into a hospital laundry hamper. The reason the Vice President was incommunicado was that the phones didn't work. Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, raised the defcom level on his own, leading the USSR to believe that perhaps we blamed them for the shooting and were about to strike back. There is an illuminating exchange between Hague and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during these arguments. Hague: "Can the Soviet Union launch a first strike?" Chairman: "Yes, they can." Hague: "How do we stop it?" Chairman: "Launch a first strike." VP Bush wasn't much help in clarifying things, refusing to take over as Acting President partly because his doing so would look in the press as an admission that Reagan was incapacitated (which of course he was).

That was the substance. But sometimes, through perfectly ordinary mistakes, the perception that was prepared for the public ("Everything's just fine") was contradicted. Alexander Hague got his line of succession wrong on TV in public. It had been changed in the late 1960s and he gave the earlier version. That statement shook up the press a bit, but as an error it was strictly minor league compared to what was going on behind the scenes.

You don't really need to be a conspiracy theorist to see with what condescension the public is treated by powerful political figures and, with some exceptions, by the press. As things fall apart and the center is in danger of not holding, as the formal norms fail to be observed, as the substance becomes rent with disagreement and disbelief, a perception is gradually agreed upon that will be handed to the public. It doesn't have to be true (it doesn't even have to be compellingly believable) but it has to be as soothing as a dose of Pepto-Bismol otherwise the great unwashed, whose intelligence is far too low to manage the complexities involved in understanding the substance, will panic.

The movie is, as I say, pretty well done. Dreyfus is a much more commanding figure than Hague appeared to be in interviews, but he did miss one outstanding moment in this real-life drama. It had to do exclusively with perception, not substance. In trying to calm the TV audience by saying that everything is proceeding normally, and "I'm in charge now," the most dramatic impression wasn't so much that he'd gotten the line of succession wrong. (Hardly anybody in the audience recognized the mistake because they didn't know the line of succession themselves.) The most persistent memory of that announcement was that Hague was an absolute nervous wreck, sweaty, shaking, his voice quavering. It projected an image of anything BUT normality. Cap Weinberger comes across as a thoughtless and impulsive hawkishly-bent bureaucrat, which is pretty close to an accurate picture of the man. He hated "welfare" when he was at what was then called The Department of Health Education and "Welfare". (Now it's called The Department of Health and "Human Services". You see my point about substance and perception.)

Small point. The "devastator bullets" that Hinckley used would never explode during removal. There was no question of their being dangerous after having been fired. The point this movie makes is a much larger one, going beyond even the question of the succession to the presidency.

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