The Joys of Fan-Casting

Welcome to the inaugural post for “Heroes and Aliens”!

Avengers and the actors who play them in the movies

If you’re like me, you can’t help but fan-cast. When reading novels, I try my best to picture what the characters look like, but even with a description in the text, my mental images are somewhat blurry. With comic books and graphic novels it’s easier, since they are visual media. The artists have shown us what the characters look like — well, their interpretations, anyway. The next artistic team will probably represent them a bit differently, according to their individual styles and preferences. But, if the editors and creative team care at all about consistency, the differences will not be significant, especially for central and major supporting characters.

Iconic characters in particular have certain basics of their appearance that must be adhered to. (For example, a healthy, adult Clark Kent should never be portrayed as slender or under six feet tall. The Black Widow’s costume is always black or gray and her hair must always be red, unless she’s in disguise.) Unless, of course, the story is a “What If?”, “Elseworlds”, alternate reality / parallel universe sort of scenario, or maybe a storyline with temporary changes (e.g., Superman’s “electric blue” phase). And, obviously, some characters’ costumes undergo changes, but usually variations on a theme (e.g., Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Wolverine).

My point, here, is that certain characters are supposed to look a certain way. If they don’t look right, it doesn’t feel right. So, if they were to be portrayed by a real person in a live-action adaptation, that actor should look the part. (Within acceptable parameters, of course.) I want my onscreen heroes to look like they leapt right off the page! I can usually tolerate certain costume changes. (Besides, everyone has their own preferences and ideas about which version should be the standard for a particular character. Witness the many debates over Batman’s costume(s), for instance.) But, rarely can I accept when a major physical change is made. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine — who is supposed to be 5’3″ — is the rare exception. (Still kinda bugs me a little, but otherwise he’s done a pretty good job.)

[Side Note: For the record, when it comes to comic books, I am most familiar with the characters and stories from the 80s through roughly 2005/6 (or 2008, in some cases), so those are the memories I draw on for casting. So, if you prefer a ‘New 52’ appearance, that’s fine — I might even like it — but I’m gonna stick with the older continuity for my fan-casting.]

Naturally, then, when I’m watching TV shows and movies, I’m always on the lookout for actors who I think look like they could portray a superhero, villain, or supporting character. Most likely, I don’t have a specific character in mind, but I’ll see someone and think, “S/he would look good in spandex…” Er, no, I mean, “S/he might have the right look for some hero or other character.” So, I look up who they are on IMDB (if I’m not already familiar) and add them to my list. Does this sound familiar? Do you do anything like that?

joke about Cruise playing Reacher

McKayla is not impressed…

Now, as you’ve figured out by now, I think physical appearance should come first when casting for these roles. I’m a bit of a purist, so that visual element has got to be close, or it’s just going to annoy me throughout the show/movie. The actor might not be in quite the physical shape the character needs to be in, but some fitness training can usually whip them into shape. (Or, maybe eat a few dozen donuts to get that Harvey Bullock look.) Obviously, we would like the actor to have some acting chops, too. Depending on the demands of the role, s/he may need a few (or a lot of) acting lessons. Hopefully, between coaching and directing, even lesser talents can give a satisfactory performance. But, in my book, the actor must first and foremost look the part. So, for example, I would NEVER cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, who is supposed to be a beefy six-foot-five. (What were they thinking?!)

I plan to do quite a bit of fan-casting on this blog. (Or, rather, to show & explain to you the fan-casting ideas I’ve come up with at one time or another.) Some I feel more strongly about than others. A few choices have been influenced by rumors about actual casting and/or by comments others have made. But, most of them I came up with on my own. It’s a good thing I enjoy it, because I’ve certainly wasted invested enough time doing it. 😉 Personally, I think I — we fans, in general — have got better ideas for a lot of these characters than I’ve seen on small- and big-screen. Now, if only the studio heads would listen to us….

Oh, and I don’t just fan-cast for comic characters. I have ideas for reboots of movie and TV series, too — e.g., some of the Star Treks, A-Team, The Terminator, the Bionic Man/Woman, and, yes, Jack Reacher. It will be awhile before I get through them all, but let me know if there’s something you are anxious to see/discuss, and I’ll consider moving it up the queue.

Of course, this isn’t just about me. I want to know your ideas, too. If you think I’m off my rocker, let me know! Better yet, suggest someone else and explain why your choice is better than mine. Let’s have some fun!


One comment on “The Joys of Fan-Casting

  1. Pingback: Happy (Belated) 1st Birthday to Us! | Heroes and Aliens


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