As promised, here is my attempt at fan-casting two of the most important (aside from Alfred) “civilians” in the life of Bruce Wayne / Batman. (Dr. Thompkins, of course, knows that Bruce is Batman, but Lucius, as far as I remember, does not.) It wasn’t easy….
Over the years, Lucius Fox has appeared to be, by my estimation, anywhere from 10 to 40 years older than Bruce Wayne. My preference is to make him roughly 20 years Bruce’s elder, give or take. After all, he is an upper-level executive at Wayne Enterprises (eventually CEO), so he probably has several years of lower-level and management experience there and elsewhere (e.g., Atwater Air). This would put Lucius at least in his 40s during “Year One”, though he could already be 50ish by then. A more established Bruce/Batman would, of course, put Lucius well into his 50s, possibly even 60. (Yet another reason why I thought Morgan Freeman, who I really like, was not right for the part in the last movie trilogy.) DC wiki doesn’t give a height & weight for Lucius, which makes sense, since I seem to remember him being portrayed with varying builds — from slim to dumpy. Also, imo, height doesn’t really matter much for this character.
Fox is described as a financial genius with “quick-witted business savvy and strong ethics”. As a business leader, he is respected by peers and subordinates alike. All of this is why Bruce originally picked Fox to lead the new Wayne Foundation and why he has been able to not only keep Wayne Enterprises afloat in Bruce Wayne’s many absences but has helped to grow it even further. However, as smart and capable as he is, I have always thought he might be a little “slow” or unobservant when it comes to friends (and family?) matters. Specifically, why did never figure out that Bruce is Batman? He has had plenty of clues.
When thinking about fan-casting Lucius Fox, I considered quite a few actors of varying looks and ages — from Bill Cosby (6’1″,b.1937) (OK, maybe not <seriously> considered) to Malcolm-Jamal Warner (5’11”,b.1970). On the one end, we’ve got guys like Glynn Turman (?,b.1947), Joe Morton (5’9″,b.1947), and Steven Williams (6’2″,b.1949), who I like a lot but are already in their mid- to late-60s. A little younger (early 60s) would be Clarke Peters (?,b.1952), Michael Dorn (6’2.5″,b.1952), and James Pickens, Jr. (6′,b.1954). Now, we start getting into my preferred age range with the following four “Honorable Mentions”: LeVar Burton (5’7″,b.1957), Michael Beach (5’9″,b.1963), Don Cheadle (5’8.5″,b.1964), and Steve Harris (6′,b.1965). They have all done genre work and would be great for Lucius Fox, but… the next three edged them out:
Courtney B. Vance (5’11”,b.1960)
Vance would be perfect for this role. His overall look, especially with glasses and a nice suit, is great for a savvy businessman-type character, and he certainly has the talent. One of Vance’s first roles out of drama school was in Hamburger Hill, followed a couple years later with The Hunt for Red October. He has appeared or starred in many, many TV series, TV movies, and theatrical releases in the last two-and-a-half decades — from The Adventures of Huck Finn to “Picket Fences” to Panther to “Boston Public” and “ER”. His genre work includes Ambushed, Space Cowboys, “FlashForward”, Final Destination 5, and the upcoming Terminator: Genesis. Yeah, I think he’s got sufficient cred to play Lucius Fox.
Andre Braugher (6′,b.1962)
IMDB puts Braugher’s first credit as Glory, which he then followed with a few “Kojak” TV movies and his first <big> break as a regular on “Homicide: Life on the Street”. He has also been in a lot of stuff since then, including genre fare like Frequency, “Thief”, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and the recent “Last Resort”. He has played a variety of characters, including a little voice-work (e.g., “Darkseid” in “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse”). To my eye, Braugher doesn’t look the part quite as well as Vance (or Morris). But, he is very talented, I always enjoy watching him, and I think he could do a great job as Mr. Fox.
Phil Morris (6’1.5″,b.1959)
You might know him as lawyer Jackie Chiles on “Seinfeld”, but Morris has been doing genre work for ages. In addition to playing John Jones on “Smallville”, he has appeared in series beginning with the original “Star Trek” (as a boy, uncredited) and including “Knight Rider”, “Mission: Impossible”, “Babylon 5”, “Star Trek: DS9”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”. He has been in a few movies, including Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, too. But, Morris may be best known to genre fans from his tons of voice-work for video games (e.g., “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”, “Command & Conquer”) and animated TV series (e.g., “Justice League”, “Destroy All Humans”, “Danny Phantom”, “Kim Possible”, “Legion of Super Heroes”, “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”, “Black Panther” “Ultimate Spider-Man”). He’s got the look, the talent, and he’s definitely comfortable around superheroes.
You may have noticed that all three of these guys are in their early- to mid-50s. If we needed a 40-something Lucius, a possible candidate is Alphonso Ribeiro (5’5.75″,b.1971). My older readers may remember him from “Silver Spoons” in the ’80s or “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in the ’90s, but he also did genre voice-work, too (e.g., “Spider-Man, “Extreme Ghostbusters”). Another possibility is Malik Yoba (6’2″,b.1967) from “Defying Gravity”, “Alphas”, and “Revolution”.
Dr. Leslie Thompkins
Leslie Thompkins was a good friend of Bruce Wayne’s parents, who later served (along with Alfred) as another surrogate parent, guardian, and counselor to the orphaned Bruce. She knows how the now-adult Bruce spends his nights and, as a pacifist, has never been comfortable with the violence involved. She also worries about Bruce’s psychological well-being and feels she has failed him. Still, there is a mutual caring and respect between them, and she helps patch up or otherwise provide aid to various members of the Bat-Family (when Alfred is unable), along with drug addicts and criminals.
Thompkins’ entry at DC wiki says she is 5’7″, 130 lbs. As with Lucius, I’m not real concerned with sticking to that exact height. I also seem to remember her weight varying, so I’m not going to worry too much about that, either. As for her age, given that she was good friends with the Waynes, I think she must be at least Alfred’s age, probably a few years older — so,… 25-35 years older than Bruce.
The first person I thought of to portray Dr. Thompkins in a live TV/movie series was Diana Muldaur (5’5.5″,b.1938). Not too surprising, since she voiced the character on “Batman: The Animated Series” and played a doctor for one season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, as well as in other series before that. But, Ms. Muldaur is definitely outside of our age parameters. Similarly, Sharon Gless (5’5″,b.1943), now seen on “Burn Notice”, would have made a fine choice but is a few years too old, too. I’m sure if I had more time, I would be able to come up with a few more candidates. As it is, though, I have three that I think you will like:
Kate Mulgrew (5’5″,b.1955)
Now seen in “Orange Is the New Black” and in “Warehouse 13” before that, Mulgrew is best known to genre fans as Captain Janeway in “Star Trek: Voyager”. She has also done voice-work in a few video games and shows like “Batman: The Animated Series”, “Gargoyles”, and “Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa”. (Yeah, I never heard of that last one, either.) She often plays strong female characters and I think would be quite believable as the caring doctor who isn’t afraid to give the Batman a piece of her mind.
Mary McDonnell (5’6″,b.1952)
McDonnell has played cops (e.g., in “The Closer” and its current spin-off “Major Crimes”), doctors (e.g., in “E/R” (not “ER”)), and other tough ladies. I first remember her as “Stands With A Fist” in Dances with Wolves. She also played the First Lady in Independence Day. But, genre fans probably know her best as Laura Roslin in the “Battlestar Galactica” series remake from a few years ago. She could definitely play the kind-but-tough Dr. Leslie Thompkins.
Annette Bening (5’7″or8″,b.1958)
The lovely Ms. Bening may seem like a little bit of an odd choice, simply because she isn’t known for the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. But, she had early appearances in both “Miami Vice” and “Wiseguy”, and in the ’90s she starred in Mars Attacks and The Siege, followed by What Planet Are You From?. Bening is a talented actress who has also played many strong roles, and I think she could do a terrific job with the Leslie Thompkins character.
That’s enough Batfan-casting for now. Let me know in the comments if you like any of my choices or want to suggest your own. It’s lonely out here in Gotham, and I need to know somebody’s listening….
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2014.