By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Americans may be gearing up for the 2012 presidential elections, but HBO is revisiting the drama of the 2008 race to the White House in a TV film about Sarah Palin and John McCain.
"Game Change," starring Julianne Moore as Palin and Ed Harris as McCain, is based on the 2010 book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin that documented the behind-the-scenes action of the presidential campaign four years ago.
But the new film, which will premier on March 10, focuses on the rise of Palin as McCain's 2008 Republican Party running mate.
"We felt that story of Sarah Palin is truly one of the great American political stories of our time," writer Danny Strong told television reporters on Friday.
Moore said that she spent hours working with a vocal coach to master Palin's "idiosyncratic way of speaking" as well as reading Palin's book and watching her TV reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska."
"It's a daunting task to play somebody who's not only a living figure but also hugely well known. So for me, the most important thing was accuracy. We're all very familiar with her and those iconic moments four years ago," said Moore, who starred in movie drama "The Hours" and "The Kids Are Alright".
Strong said he was given interviews with everyone he wrote into the film. Except for Palin. Instead, he used the former Alaska governor's own book "Going Rogue" as one of his main sources.
"Her (Palin's) situation was an extraordinary one. She was someone who was involved in state politics and suddenly thrust into international politics, and clearly wasn't prepared," said Moore.
"She was so incredibly charismatic and so unbelievably able to communicate, a true populist," she said.
"Saturday Night Live" actress Tina Fey, whose Palin impersonations became one of the highlights of the 2008 presidential campaign, will also appear in "Game Change", which incorporates news footage into the film .
"I really looked forward to the moment where Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin, would be watching Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. I thought that would be interesting to the story," said director Jay Roach.
Harris, who researched McCain in-depth before portraying him, said his respect for the Arizona Senator deepened.
"He's a man of commended sense of honor and duty, and when he decided to go into politics, by his own admission, his ambition and his ego were constantly in conflict with his sense of honor and duty and patriotism," the "Beautiful Mind" actor said.
Palin, 47, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, ended months of speculation last October by announcing she would not seek a presidential run in 2012.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant)