First Daughter (2004 film)

First Daughter is a 2004 American romantic comedy released by 20th Century Fox. It stars Katie Holmes as Samantha MacKenzie, daughter of the President of the United States, who enrolls at college and develops a relationship with another student (Marc Blucas). The film follows Samantha as she is experiences a new sense of freedom during her time away from the White House, and the advantages and disadvantages of her college life. It co-stars Michael Keaton as the President of the United States and Amerie Rogers as Samantha's roommate, Mia Thompson.

First Daughter
First Daughter poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byForest Whitaker
Produced byJohn Davis
Mike Karz
Wyck Godfrey
Screenplay byJessica Bendinger
Kate Kondell
Story byJessica Bendinger
Jerry O'Connell
Music byMichael Kamen
Blake Neely
CinematographyToyomichi Kurita
Edited byRichard Chew
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • September 24, 2004 (2004-09-24)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[citation needed]
Box office$10.4 million[1]

The film was directed by Forest Whitaker, written by Jessica Bendinger and Kate Kondell from a story by Bendinger and Jerry O'Connell, and produced by John Davis. Whitaker likened First Daughter to a fairy tale, characterizing it as "the story of a princess who leaves the 'castle' [the White House] to go out in the world to discover who and what she is."[2] The film languished in "development hell" for several years, and was further delayed after its completion.[citation needed] It was not a commercial success upon its release, and received negative reviews.


Samantha MacKenzie is the only child of United States president John MacKenzie. Because of her father's political career, she has been in the public eye her entire life and spent most of her high school years in the White House. Having to deal with lack of privacy and public scrutiny for the most ridiculous things, Sam has had a sheltered existence and her father has trouble letting her have more freedom yet is too busy to spend time with her. Though her mother Melanie is supportive, she still stands by her husband's decisions, leaving Sam feeling restricted from having a normal life. Accompanied by Secret Service agents everywhere she goes, and with her father running for re-election, Sam finally believes she has the chance to break out of her cocoon when she is given the opportunity to attend college in California.

At school, Sam ends up sharing a dorm room with boy-crazed Mia Thompson, who is hesitant at first to room with the first daughter, but eventually warms to Sam. After Sam's Secret Service agents tackle a student brandishing a water gun at a pool party and hastily evacuate Sam from the premises, she insists that her detail be reduced to just two agents, which her father begrudgingly agrees to. Settling into some semblance of normalcy, Sam meets and becomes interested in fellow student James Lansome, her resident advisor. James helps her avoid paparazzi, escape her security team, and experience life as a normal girl. They discuss their deepest thoughts and wishes, and Sam tells him that although she is never alone, she is often lonely. She says she always wanted to get in an old Volkswagen and drive herself off to college, with no babysitters or parents. As a thanks to James and Mia for their tolerance of her complicated world, Sam flies them home to D.C. to attend a ball, with the dresses delivered to her personally by Vera Wang. Outside the ball, a disruptive protest causes Sam's security team to evacuate her again, when she discovers that James is actually an agent and has been protecting her all along.

Heartbroken and betrayed, Sam tries to readjust to college life, but an attempt to make James jealous only results in her drunken photo splashed across tabloid articles. She returns home to help her father on the last stretch of his campaign, while James is disciplined for failure to act in a manner becoming of an agent. Sam asks her father to make sure James's career is not ruined by their romance, to which he agrees. The President wins re-election and dances with Sam at his inauguration ball, referencing something she told him in his speech and acknowledging that she is now a grown woman and worthy of his respect. Sam is surprised and pleased to see that James is in attendance at the ball, having been reassigned to the presidential detail. They dance, and he gives her keys to an old Volkswagen (her dream car) and encourages her to go "break some rules." The film ends with Sam driving off in her car heading back to college and the narrator telling us that she will be back in the Spring, and will reunite with James.



The film began development in March 1999, when actor Jerry O'Connell sold a screenplay he had written to Regency Enterprises for a six figure sum, with O'Connell also intending to star in the film. Originally to shoot in the summer of that year, the project was pushed back to the spring of 2000 (under the direction of Brian Robbins) to allow O'Connell to film Mission to Mars, and then Rob Thomas was hired to rewrite the script.[3][4] For unknown reasons, the film was not produced at that time, although O'Connell later received a "story by" credit for the film from the Writers Guild of America. (The film's original producer, Mike Karz, was also credited as a producer in the final print of the film.)

Filming began on June 2, 2003[5] on a budget of $30 million,[6] and continued into July.[7] The film was shot on location in Southern California. For the opening scene, where Samantha descends a red-carpeted stairway, the lobby of the Los Angeles Theatre in Los Angeles was used, while the auditorium of the building was used for a scene where Samantha and James go to see a movie. On-campus scenes were shot at UCLA, and the Huntington Library in San Marino stood in for the exterior of the building in the first scene.[8]


Critical responseEdit

The film received negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 8% approval rating based on reviews from 86 critics, with an average rating of 3.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "First Daughter is a bland and charmless fairy tale that fails to rise above the formula".[9] On Metacritic the film has a score of 31 out of 100, based on reviews from 24 critics.[10] Reviewer Mike McGranaghan pointed out that the film was very similar to that of the concurrently-made film Chasing Liberty, which coincidentally had the working title First Daughter, and which also involved a plot where the President's daughter tried to experience life away from the White House.[11]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film a negative review and wrote it "Plays more like a nightmare than a dream, and an exceedingly unnerving one at that. Sam isn't just a prisoner of her parents' ambitions; like nearly everyone else in this film, she's a zombie, sleepwalking through life while Rome burns."[12] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post called the film, "One hackneyed, inauthentic, predictable scene after another."[13]

Box officeEdit

The film was a financial failure. Opening in fifth place at the box office,[14] First Daughter totaled at $9.1 million in domestic ticket sales and $10.4 million worldwide.[1] It was Katie Holmes's second least successful mainstream film after Teaching Mrs. Tingle.[15] The film performed better on home video and DVD, where it made $13.14 million in combined rentals and sales.[16]


  1. ^ a b "First Daughter (2004)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ Page Title Archived 2005-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ - news from hollywood reporter
  4. ^ Jerry O'Connell - 20 Oct 99
  5. ^ - News - "First Daughter" Showdown: Katie Holmes vs. Mandy Moore
  6. ^ First Daughter - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers
  7. ^ "Katie Holmes". Archived from the original on 2005-02-14.
  8. ^ Filming Locations of "First Daughter" (part 1)
  9. ^ "First Daughter". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  10. ^ "First Daughter". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Manohla Dargis. "One of the Lessons of College Is Being a Proper Daughter". Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  13. ^ Michael O'Sullivan. "'First Daughter': Impeachable (". Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  14. ^ "Weekend Box Office (September 24–26, 2004)". Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  15. ^ Katie Holmes Movie Box Office Results
  16. ^ First Daughter Lee's Movie Info

External linksEdit