Barack Obama's first date with wife Michelle to be turned into a film

Needless to say, the President's day out with his future First Lady, perusing the cultural sites of Chicago, was a success. They married in 1992

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The site of their first kiss is already marked with a memorial. Now, the Obamas’ first date is to be immortalised on film.

The movie, Southside With You, which is due to begin shooting in Chicago next summer, will recreate the summer afternoon 25 years ago when the young Barack Obama took his future First Lady on their first date.

The writer-director Richard Tanne developed the idea for the independent project with the actress Tika Sumpter, who will play Ms Obama. The role of the 27-year-old Mr Obama has yet to be cast.

In 1988, Mr Obama had enrolled in law school after three years as a community organiser in some of Chicago’s toughest inner-city neighbourhoods. At the end of his first year, he went to work as a summer associate at Sidley  Austin, a corporate law firm. Michelle Robinson, three years his junior and already a practising lawyer, was assigned to be his adviser.

Tika Sumpter at the New York premiere of Get On Up in July 2014

When they first had lunch as colleagues, Ms Robinson said she had no time for career distractions, least of all men. But after several of his romantic approaches were rebuffed, a dogged Mr Obama wore her down and, following an office picnic, he offered to buy her an ice cream.

As he recounted in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, the two prospective lovebirds sat eating their cones on a kerb in the Windy City’s Hyde Park district. “I asked if I could kiss her,” he wrote later. “It tasted of chocolate.”

The site of their first kiss was commemorated with a plaque two years ago. During the 2012 presidential election campaign, the couple released a video in which they discussed their first official date, which took place shortly after that smooch in summer 1989.


The pair spent the day together, eating lunch in the courtyard of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then walking to a cinema to see Do the Right Thing, an acclaimed comedy-drama which depicted racial tensions in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood.

Mr Obama displayed “all facets of his character”, his wife recalled later. “He was cutting edge, cultural, sensitive.” The couple were married three years later.

Earlier this year, the Obamas appeared in a video shown at a 25th anniversary screening of Do the Right Thing, which was written, directed by and starred a young Spike Lee. “Spike, thank you for helping me impress Michelle,” Mr Obama said. “Do the Right Thing still holds up a mirror to our society, and it makes us laugh, and think, and challenges all of us to see ourselves in one another.”

According to Deadline, which first reported news of the film, Southside With You will be a drama with echoes of another indie classic, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995), in which Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy played strangers who spend the night strolling around Vienna, falling in love.

It will be far from the first cinematic depiction of a presidential romance. George W Bush met his future wife, Laura Welch, at a barbecue in Texas in 1977 as he was making an unsuccessful run for Congress.

In Oliver Stone’s 2008 film W., Mr Bush, played by Josh Brolin, tells Laura, played by Elizabeth Banks: “I don’t believe in forcing myself on people, so that’s why I’m just going to ask for your phone number and not your vote.”

According to Rolling Stone, when Mr Obama related the story of first date to Spike Lee, the director replied: “Good thing you didn’t choose Driving Miss Daisy.”