Fan-Cast: The Equalizer

“Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer 212-555-4200” — newspaper ad

Did you ever watch “The Equalizer” series back in the mid- to late-1980s? (Assuming you were around back then, that is.) Or, maybe you picked it up later on some cable or streaming channel, or you got the DVDs from the library? Anyway, it aired during my high school days, and I thought it/he was so cool. Not as much action as you might think, certainly not as compared to some of its contemporaries (e.g., “The A-Team”). But, it was a “gritty”, well-written drama (like “Wiseguy”) and one of my favorite shows at the time.

The titular character was ‘Robert McCall’, played so well by the late Edward Woodward (5’9or10″,b.1930). McCall was a middle-aged, former CIA operative (yet, obviously British), now retired and living comfortably in a modest NYC apartment. He had expensive tastes — i.e., for nice clothes, food, wine, opera — and didn’t seem to hurt for money, but he didn’t have a regular job. In an effort to ease his conscience from having done some nasty stuff in the past, he offered his services — at no cost, apparently — to average folks who got in over their heads and felt their lives/safety threatened. In effect, he was part private investigator, part vigilante.

Woodward played the character with a combination of stern, cool menace and mystique. McCall may have preferred to keep things low-key and not resort to violence, but he was quite comfortable using physical assault, threats, guns, and whatever else it took to protect his clients from bad guys and, in many cases, teach his opponents a lesson in “manners”. Because he was 50-something and had a cultured, British air to him, New York criminals — especially young punks and hoods — often underestimated him.

Edward Woodward as The Equalizer

While primarily a solo operator, McCall made use of his many contacts and a few specialists. His old handler, ‘Control’ (Robert Lansing), would alternately give warnings, advice, or provide helpful information, but he also argued a lot with McCall and didn’t always cooperate. McCall had a sort of love/hate relationship with the NYPD, sometimes assisting and sometimes being a thorn in the side of various Lieutenants (Smalls, Burnett, Brannigan, Elmer) and others. ‘Mickey Kostmayer’, played by the terrific Keith Szarabajka, was a young CIA operative that McCall most often called on for backup when things were gonna get hairy. (I seem to remember him having some computer expertise, as well, but don’t quote me on that.) There was also the streetwise ‘Jimmy’ (Mark Margolis), who was able to “acquire” whatever McCall needed for surveillance, sting operations, etc. ‘Sterno’ (Irving Metzman) was the overweight and somewhat neurotic accountant/numbers-guy who McCall roped into assisting in a few episodes. ‘Pete O’Phelan’ (Maureen Anderman) added her skills into the mix in later episodes. Etc.

The other day, I watched the new(ish) The Equalizer (2014) film starring Denzel Washington (6’1″,b.1954). (Russell Crowe (5’11.5″,b.1964) had been originally attached to star.) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I have mixed feelings about it, given my affinity for the old TV series. The acting by Washington and his co-stars was terrific, of course, and it was a decent story. (SPOILER ALERT!: McCall doesn’t call himself ‘the Equalizer’ or solicit clients with a newspaper ad until the very end.) But, other than being a retired CIA agent with a certain set of skills (and psychological baggage) and a love for reading classics, this version of McCall was very different from the TV version. There was also more violence, but that’s to be expected in an ‘R’ movie involving vigilante justice.

Personally, I’d prefer a white guy in the role, though the character works fine for a Black actor, too. I’m more concerned that they made him American. I mean, sure, it makes more sense for a CIA operative to be American. But, McCall’s being British was part of what made the original an interesting character. (Given his last name, Scottish would be acceptable, too.) The other (potential) issue for me is age. Woodward was 55 when the pilot debuted and 59 at the series finale; I think that age range works best for the concept. Washington, on the other hand, was 59 when The Equalizer movie came out, and he’ll be 63 when the sequel hits theaters this July. That said, I thought he totally sold the fight scenes. (Kudos to the director and fight choreographer, as well.) So, I guess a fit 60-something works, too.

With that in mind, if I were to fan-cast ‘Robert McCall’ for a new TV series, perhaps one that continues from where the original left off, here are a few candidates…

Peter Woodward

I would love to see Peter Woodward (5’10.5″,b.1956) take over his father’s role. He has a similar build and bearing, and he has a long resume of work in the action/adventure and sci-fi/fantasy genres. For example, “Crusade”, The Patriot, “Charmed”, “Fringe”, The Fall of the Essex Boys, “Dracula”, The Last Scout, plus some voice work, and currently “Age of the Living Dead” and “Dystopia”. He’s already 62, but as long as he’s relatively fit, I think he’d be great. Whether or not to give him a hairpiece, I’m undecided. 🙂

 

Ray Winstone

Another actor in his early 60s that might do the character justice is Ray Winstone (5’10”,b.1957). He generally plays less-refined types, but he probably has the skills to play a more “cultured” character. He certainly won’t have a problem with the violence, since he’s done a few of those roles. A few credits on his CV are “Fox”, “Robin Hood”, Sexy Beast, Henry VIII, King Arthur, The Departed, “Vincent”, 44 Inch Chest, The Sweeney. He may need to shed a few pounds, but I think Winstone could be a decent Equalizer.

 

Ralph Fiennes

Now, going a bit younger and a somewhat different look, let me suggest Ralph Fiennes (5’11”,b.1962) as our new McCall/Equalizer. Regarding genre credits, consider Schindler’s List, Strange Days, Red Dragon, various Harry Potter films, The Hurt Locker, Clash/Wrath of the Titans, Coriolanus, and the last two James Bond flicks. Fiennes definitely has both the drama and action chops, and I think he’d do a fine job in the role of our erstwhile CIA man-turned-detective/vigilante.

 

 

Graham McTavish

Finally, while slightly on the tall side, I think Graham McTavish (6’2″,b.1961) might be a terrific choice for the part. He’s certainly physically fit and used to action-oriented roles. Some relevant things he has appeared in are “Red Dwarf”, “Taggart”, Rambo, “Prison Break”, “24”, the Hobbit movies, Creed, “Outlander”, “Preacher”. McTavish has done quite a bit of voice work, too. He often has a full beard, but I chose a pic without it (as with the other candidates). Next to Peter Woodward, McTavish just may be my preferred candidate.

 

 

I’m sure there are other great British actors that would do a bang-up job as ‘The Equalizer’. Indeed, I considered and rejected a few more (e.g., Liam Neeson, Idris Elba, Peter Firth, Colin Salmon) for various reasons. But, among those I’ve been exposed to, the above are my top choices. Feel free to add your own suggestions…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

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Fan-Cast: Black Widow

“Hawkeye, your mouth flies faster than your arrows.” — Black Widow

Last November, a somewhat vague comment by Stan Lee hinted that a Black Widow solo film might be in the offing. Then in January, reports started coming out that confirmed this, with Jac Schaeffer attached as screenwriter and a tentative release date — well, year — of 2020. Presumably, Scarlett Johannson will star. She is a big reason for the character’s popularity in the Avengers and related movies, after all.

But, it got me thinking it was time for me to fan-cast our favorite Russian femme fatale. I mean, if Johannson wasn’t necessarily attached to the film — maybe they were looking to reboot the character after Avengers 4 –, who would I give the tight black costume and “Widow’s bite” bracelets to?

First, though, a brief review of the character…

Black Widow

The “origins” of Natalia Alianovna Romanova (aka Natasha ‘Tasha’ Romanoff) are a bit confusing, as there have been conflicting tales. What we know for sure is that she is decades older than she looks, she has enhanced human strength/stamina/reflexes and other abilities (perhaps due to a variation of the Super-Soldier Serum), she was married to a distinguished Soviet test pilot (Alexi Shostakov, who became Red Guardian), and she eventually went to work for the U.S.S.R.’s KJB during the Cold War.

With her gifted intellect and athletic regimen, Romanova mastered multiple forms of martial arts and many blades and firearms, became fluent in several languages, and she is exceptionally skilled in information-gathering and other spy-related talents. In addition to traditional weapons, she has been known to employ an electric “Widow’s bite” via special wrist-devices, which hurt like heck and can stun even a very large opponent. In short, she is a top-level spy and one of the deadliest assassins in the world, making her nom de guerre, “Black Widow”, quite appropriate.

Romanova clashed with both Iron Man and Hawkeye early in their careers, even pitting them against one another, which helped to label Hawkeye a criminal. Shortly afterward, she was seriously injured when trying to defect, and she convinced her then-paramour Hawkeye to turn to the Avengers. Black Widow has had a long, mostly friendly, association with the Avengers ever since, having led at least one team. She has worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. a lot, too. She had a long relationship/partnership with Daredevil and has been romantically linked with Bucky Barnes (aka Winter Soldier). She even co-founded the Champions of Los Angeles, though the team disbanded not long after. Despite these associations with many superheroes and the U.S. intelligence community, Black Widow has spent a lot of time as a solo operator, as well. She even retired for awhile, but that didn’t last.

Since her defection from the Soviet Union, Romanova’s foes have ranged from underworld thugs and costumed criminals to super-spies, super-soldiers, and foreign governments. As a trained spy and assassin, she learned to be very cold, calculating, practical, and it serves her well in her line of work. But, she has softened a bit over the years. Certainly, she has demonstrated compassion and loyalty to her friends, lovers, and toward the victims of her enemies. Still, she is not the easiest person to get to know, and she can be quite hard and brutal. She’s a complicated woman with decades of violence and death — often at her own hands — behind her, and that tends to take a toll on anyone. (Anyone who isn’t a sociopath, that is.)

On to the casting…

Scarlett Johansson (5’3″,b.1984) has done a decent job with the role, but she never quite felt right to me. She didn’t have quite the right look, she’s too short, and I always thought Natasha should retain at least a mild Russian accent. (I know, a good spy would probably learn to speak English without the accent. Still,…) The Marvel wiki lists Black Widow as 5’7″, so I think a range of 5’5″ to 5’9″ is fair. I’d like to cast a natural redhead and/or someone from Russia, but hair-coloring and a good voice coach could make sure those bases are covered, I suppose. She should, of course, be very attractive, able to perform “action moves”, and probably ranging from mid-20s to early-30s (though I might have to settle for mid-30s).

I considered several actresses for the role, mostly from Russia or Eastern Europe: 1) Slovak-born actress/opera singer Apollonia Vanova (b.1966), known for various genre roles, including ‘Silhouette’ in Watchmen and the leading Wraith Queen in “Stargate: Atlantis”; but, she’s too old. 2) Ana Alexander (5’10”,b.1976), a Serbian-born model/actress, has appeared in Glass Trap, a couple CSI series, “Bones”, et al. Great look, but still too old and too tall. 3) Ukrainian-born actress/model Olga Kurlenko (5’8.5″,b.1979), known for roles in Hitman, Quantum of Solace, Oblivion, Momentum. She’s a little too old, as well. 4) I have long thought that French actress/model Eva Green (5’6″,b.1980) (Casino Royale, The Golden Compass, 300: Rise of an Empire, “Penny Dreadful”) would make a great Black Widow, but she’s a tad older than I’m looking for, now.

I eventually narrowed it down to four other talented ladies, whose ages (at the time of writing) range from 32 to 35. They are…

Olga Fonda

Russian-born Olga Fonda (5’6.5″,b.1982) came to my attention a couple years ago while watching the short-lived “Agent X” TV series, in which Fonda played supporting player and enemy agent ‘Olga Petrovka’. Others might recognize her from Real Steel, “The Vampire Diaries”, or appearances in “Nikita”, “Hawaii Five-0”, or “Altered Carbon”. She’s pretty, a native Russian, almost the exact height of the comic character, and has genre experience — even to playing a Russian spy. She’s also trained in martial arts (both armed and unarmed), extreme sports, and likes to do her own stunts Works for me!

 

Yuliya Snigir

The only thing I’ve seen Yuliya Snigir (5’5.75″,b.1983) in is A Good Day to Die Hard (see pic), which I just re-watched a few weeks ago. I immediately thought that this Russian beauty would be perfect to play Natasha Romanoff. She also starred in the Dark Planet movies, Delirium, and Blockbuster. As with Fonda, Snigir is very attractive, Russian-born, and has genre credits. Looks good riding a motorcycle or firing a gun, too, both of which Black Widow has an affinity for. She’d be great!

 

Tereza Srbova

Tereza Srbova (5’8″,b.1983) is a model/actress/singer from the Czech Republic, who I noticed when she guest-starred in a few episodes of “Strike Back” as ‘Major Nina Pirogova’. She has also appeared in “Eastern Promises”, Inkheart, Siren, and The Inside. I’ve only ever seen pics of her as a blonde, but that shouldn’t be a problem. She holds a masters degree and speaks four languages (none of them Russian, though) and has a bit of familiarity with guns (thanks to “Strike Back”). Another wonderful choice to play ‘Tasha!

Emily Beecham

In “Into the Badlands”, British actress Emily Beecham (5’5.25″,b.1985) plays a deadly, red-headed warrior woman, who wears black and calls herself “The Widow”. Too on the nose? Sure, but she has both the looks and the skills, thanks to the martial arts training she and others go through for the show. She has appeared in “Afterlife”, 28 Weeks Later, “Merlin”, Basement, “The Fear”, “The Musketeers”. She also did a little voice work for the “Mirror’s Edge” video game. As long as she can do a decent Russian accent, she’d make a great Black Widow for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

There you have ’em. Four lovely and talented candidates to play the lethal assassin/spy/superhero, Black Widow. Choose one, if you dare….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

Inhumans Mini-Review and Fan-Cast

Yep, I did it! I watched the “Inhumans” mini-series.

I have to say, it didn’t suck as badly as I’d expected, based on some comments I’d read. But, it was very disappointing. As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve liked the Inhumans, especially the Royal Family, since their early appearances in the Fantastic Four comics. So, although I realize they might not be the easiest to adapt to live-action, what with the supersized dog and the leader/king who can’t speak (without destroying stuff, that is), I was still hoping for a decent show. So much for that idea…

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

Now, there were positive points. For example, I thought Lockjaw looked great, and his teleportation effect was cool, too. Other visual F/X were good, and they got the general color schemes for the characters right. Triton was surprisingly bad@$$. (I don’t remember him being so deadly in the comics, but then I haven’t read any Inhumans stories in several years.) What else? Um,… the girls were cute, and, uh,… I’m sure there was something else I liked….

One annoying thing I noted early on was when otherwise-intelligent people kept doing stupid things or *not* doing sensible things. For example, I realize that Black Bolt’s sign language would not have been understood by Americans, but why didn’t he at least try to communicate with the police? He (and his family) obviously knew a lot about some Earth things, including how to read/speak/understand English. Couldn’t he have written stuff down? Also, how did he not realize that stealing would bring attention from law-enforcement? Then there’s Medusa, who didn’t think to take Auran’s comm unit. Also, since she must have known of Auran’s incredible healing ability, why didn’t she make sure Auran was dead after their battle, or at least shackle or tie her up?

There were inconsistencies, too, like Gorgon’s boots being shaped like hoofs (as they should be), and then later just looking like normal boots.

The writing and acting was generally bad or lackluster. I’ve seen some of the actors before, and they didn’t suck then. So,… do we blame the director? Black Bolt in particular was odd. For one thing, I kept thinking I was watching Jim Caviezel, ‘cuz Anson Mount looks so much like him. Something about the set of the jaw and the eyes, I think. But, while Mount was forced to do much of his acting via his eyes, I’m afraid it just didn’t work. His range of expression seemed to be stuck between alarmed, frustrated, and just plain bewildered. (I don’t remember his performances in anything else, so I can’t say if he has displayed much more depth or range.)

And Maximus? I was really looking forward to a raving madman. After all, they don’t call him “Maximus the Mad” for nothing. But, what we got was a better-behaved Ramsay Bolton who just wanted to be one of the cool kids. Sigh!

Another disappointing thing was the limited displays of Medusa’s and Karnak’s powers. I think I read a critique somewhere that said her prehensile hair wasn’t a good effect, but I thought it was decent. In my opinion, shaving her hair off in the beginning, while a dramatic plot point (and true to a comic storyline, I think), was a bad move. We fans want to see Medusa (and her hair) in action! (Also, Serinda Swan looks <much> better with hair.) As for Karnak, they made a point of injuring him to reduce his amazing analytical abilities, which then gave him a crisis of confidence. Related to this was his limited fighting. Was this intentionally done, because Ken Leung has little-to-no martial arts ability? Again, I wanted to see Karnak the Shatterer kick butt! He had a couple OK scenes (though one took place mostly in the dark) — and it was kinda cool the way they showed him calculating trajectories and probabilities and such — but he could/should have been <so> much better. (Props for giving him the facial tats, but why no enlarged cranium?) Wish we had seen more of Triton, too. He must’ve been reveling in having all that water to swim in! And we didn’t get to see Black Bolt fly, either, dangit!

In the end, I suppose I would have chosen a different story that allowed everyone to better showcase their powers.

Alright, I’ve said enough about that. Now, I’d like to present my choices for if I were to cast the Inhumans Royal Family. I won’t get into Inhumans history or powers/abilities or (for the most part) the actors’ resumes, this time. Let me say up front that, as usual, I tried to stick to the general height (within reason) and build of the characters as seen in the comics. Also, I think Black Bolt is one of the oldest of the royal siblings & cousins, so I put him at mid-30s to 40. Crystal would be the youngest at early- to mid-20s. Everyone else should probably be late-20s to late-30s.

Philip Winchester

Nicole Steinwedell

I considered both Ryan McPartlin (6’4.5″,b.1975) and Eric Dane (6’1″,b.1972) for Black Bolt, but they’re both a little older than I preferred, and McPartlin’s a little too tall. So, I went back to someone I’ve recommended for other square-jawed hero roles: Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981). For Medusa, I wanted someone who could play both regal and compassionate queen, preferably redhead (though that’s going to be CGI, anyway), and (here’s the toughest part) tall. Either Eva Green (5’6″,b.1980) or Emily Beecham (5’5.25″,b.1984) would be great, except Marvel’s wiki puts Medusa at 5’11”. It is really tough to find good actresses in that height range. But,… though she is usually blonde, I think Nicole Steinwedell (5’11”,b.1981) fits the bill! (I even found a pic of her in a purple/violet dress!)

Roman Reigns

Nicholas Tse

The warrior Gorgon is tall (6’7″) and muscular, so I thought a wrestler might be a good choice. In fact, it didn’t take me long to realize that Joe Anoa’i (aka Roman Reigns) (6’3.25″,b.1985) is practically perfect. I mean, look at this guy! Put him in hoof-boots, and he might even reach 6’7″. Karnak, on the other hand, is a foot shorter and slimmer (though still muscular). It has never been clear to me if he is supposed to be Asian-looking. (Sometimes, he even looks French to me, for some reason.) But, that’s the way the series went with the character, and I agree. Jet Li (5’6.25″,b.1963) might’ve been a fair choice, but he’s too old and still has a thick accent. So, my vote is for Nicholas Tse (5’9″,b.1980), who is an actor & martial artist who happened to go bald for a recent part (see pic).

Andy On

Saoirse Ronan

Medusa’s baby sister, Crystal, is a pretty strawberry-blonde who clocks in at 5’6″. I decided to go with the talented Saoirse Ronan (5’6″,b.1994), known for her work in Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna, all before she turned 17. She could certainly play young Crystal with some depth. (Coincidentally, in recent years Crystal was married to (and subsequently separated from) Ronan the Accuser, the Kree warrior/judge.) As for Karnak’s older brother, the water-breathing Triton, I opted for another martial artist/actor: Andy On (5’11”,b.1977). (I would’ve considered him for Karnak, but he’s too tall.) He is a little older than I’d like for the role, but he has the right build, and I think he can easily pass for 30-something.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we have Black Bolt’s younger brother and intermittent enemy, the evil and treacherous Maximus. I saw someone else fan-cast Joaquin Phoenix (5’8″,b.1974), who coincidentally played ‘Commodus’ to Russell Crowe’s ‘Maximus’ in Gladiator. While a little older and shorter than preferred, I agree that he could’ve been a great Maximus the Mad. While Maximus has had a number of different looks (i.e., costume, armor, hair, build), it was a more recent version (rightmost pic above) that made me think of Dominic Rains (6′,b.1982). If Rains looks familiar, it is because — and here’s another one of those interesting connections — he has been playing the evil (insane?) Kree overlord/station-commander, Kasius, on the current season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, who creates Inhumans for his own entertainment and profit. Perfect, no?

Rains as Kasius

Dominic Rains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that is an Inhumans movie/series I would love to see!

This concludes our review/fan-cast combo for the Inhumans Royal Family. Hope ya liked it! Don’t be afraid to leave a relevant comment below….

Fan-Cast: Deathstroke the Terminator

“You called me a villain. Never thought of myself as that. I’m a mercenary. A soldier for hire.” — Slade Wilson, Deathstroke

Most of you are probably aware that Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke the Terminator), played by Joe Manganiello (6’5″,b.1976), is set to be a villain — perhaps the main one? — in The Batman. Or, at least, he was, until questions about Ben Affleck’s involvement and other issues arose, then Matt Reeves took over as director, and now it isn’t certain if Deathstroke will be in the film, after all. A few weeks ago, though, I saw an announcement that Manganiello will be starring in a Deathstroke solo film, which will be directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid). Like most DC fans, I think Manganiello is a great choice for the role, especially physique-wise. But, news of the solo movie got me thinking again of who (else) I thought might be able to take on the role. So, here ya go…

Deathstroke the Terminator

From what I can gather, Slade Wilson was roughly 30 when he was promoted to Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, got married, and was shipped off to war. (His second.) Some time after this, he volunteered for the experiment that ended up giving him powers, i.e., the ability to use up to 90% of his brain capacity, as well as near-superhuman strength, durability, and agility. After a military discharge (possibly connected to bouts of depression), he became a wealthy and famous big-game hunter. A few years after that, after mercenaries broke into their home and kidnapped their younger son, Joey, Wilson confessed to his wife that he was also Deathstroke the Terminator, “one of the world’s deadliest and most highly sought after assassins.” Wilson saved Joey, but not before the boy’s vocal cords were cut, making him mute. Wilson’s angered wife, Adeline, shot him, destroying his right eye. However, Wilson’s skills with firearms, bladed weapons, etc., was so great, as was his ego, that his occupation wasn’t even affected. In fact, he incorporated his right-eye blindness into his “Terminator” costume.

While generally working as a mercenary/assassin and even bounty hunter, Deathstroke sometimes works with superheroes, too. He often tangles with the Bat-family of heroes, various Justice Leaguers (alone or together), and most especially the (Teen) Titans. At times, he has been known to infiltrate a super-team (i.e., either himself or a double-agent) and/or foment conflict between members. He has even led the Titans for a time. His older son, Grant, was a villain called Ravager; son Joey became a hero/Titan named Jericho; and daughter Rose later took the name Ravager, her loyalties wavering between the Titans and her father. Deathstroke’s abilities and training allow him to hold his own (and sometimes temporarily defeat) much more powerful opponents, even multiple foes at once. He is cold, brutal, often lethal, yet he retains a sense of military-born honor.

Though I have seen a version of Wilson with black hair and no beard, his iconic look is silver/white hair and a goatee on his chin (no mustache). He is a tall, white man, quite muscular, with a patch over his blind right eye. (DC’s wiki page puts him at 6’4″, 225 lbs.) A later experiment gave him regenerative abilities, which also means that he ages extremely slowly. That said, I think it best to cast someone in their 40s, possibly even 50s. (Especially if we want the option of introducing one or more of his children in their teens to 20s.) He should also be at least 6’2″ and very physically fit. (Of course, anyone cast would probably need to do strength- and weapons-training.) I considered Kevin McKidd (5’11”,b.1973), but he’s too short. Alexander Skarsgård (6’4.5″,b.1976) might work for a younger version of Wilson. Except for his height, Stephen Lang (5’10.5″,b.1952) might’ve been a decent choice 20 years ago, but now he’s too old.

And that brings us to my three candidates for the role of Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke the Terminator):

Ray Stevenson as The Punisher

Ray Stevenson‘s (6’4″,b.1964) name should sound familiar to you (and I think I’ve suggested him for another role or two), since he has played two Marvel characters — namely, Frank Castle in Punisher: War Zone (see pic) and Volstagg in all three Thor movies. He is also known for such genre fare as “Rome”, The Three Musketeers, “Dexter”, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the Divergent film series, “Black Sails”, and voice work for “Star Wars: Rebels”. He is almost outside my preferred age range but still appears to be quite fit and could likely handle the physicality of the role. He is also the exact height of the comic-book Deathstroke.

 

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage (6’2.5″,b.1971) should be another familiar name, as he has had roles in “Ultimate Force”, “Robin Hood”, “MI-5”, Captain America: The First Avenger, “Strike Back”, the Hobbit trilogy, “Hannibal”, “Berlin Station”, and voice work for “Castlevania”. That’s a pretty solid genre resume, and it includes some very physical action, including shooting guns and wielding swords. Plus, we know he looks great with chin whiskers (e.g., this pic I pulled from his IMDB profile). Just shave the mustache, trim the beard down to a goatee, dye it silvery-white, and we’re good to go!

 

Michael Shannon is The Iceman

Now, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to present a third candidate but ultimately I decided that Michael Shannon (6’3″,b.1974) was too good a possibility to pass up. He did such a great job with Zod in Man of Steel, and he spent part of that movie with a gray-n-black goatee (no mustache). So, we already know he can pull off the look; on the other hand, it might be too close to Slade Wilson’s classic look, so they might need to alter it. (Maybe a full goatee?) In any case, he has been in a ton of stuff besides MoS (e.g., Tigerland, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Jonah Hex, Machine Gun Preacher, “Boardwalk Empire”, The Shape of Water) and would make a fine Deathstroke the Terminator.

Do my candidates meet your approval, dear readers?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 5: Felix Leiter

“Just what the hell are you trying to do, 007? Start World War III? ” — Felix Leiter (John Terry) in The Living Daylights

Last week I fan-cast “Q”, and I think I did a pretty good job. Now, let’s see if I can propose a few candidates to portray another of James Bond’s sometime-associates, Felix Leiter….

Felix Leiter

The 7 (Major) Leiters

Felix Leiter, as 007 fans know, is an American CIA (later DEA) agent who occasionally works with Bond on certain missions. They are written as friends and peers, though Bond, of course, always takes the lead, whether authorized to or not. Leiter’s role is often fairly small, typically assisting with technology, hardware, muscle, and/or money. After all, it’s the British agent who is the star.

The name originates from a combination of two of Ian Fleming’s friends: Ivar Felix C. Bryce and their mutual friend Thomas Leiter. The Leiter character has been portrayed on-screen by nine different actors, if you include the two versions from non-Eon productions (i.e, Bernie Casey in  Never Say Never Again (1983) and Michael Pate’s British agent, Clarence Leiter, in the first Casino Royale (1954)). But, those in the official Bond films were Jack Lord (1962), Cec Linder (1964), Rik Van Nutter (1965), Norman Burton (1971), David Hedison (1973 & 1989), John Terry (1987), and Jeffrey Wright (2006-2008).

Felix Leiter by George Almond

The Casino Royale novel introduces Leiter as a former U.S. Marine working with NATO’s Joint Intelligence Staff. He is tall, thin, and roughly 35 — so, about the same age as Bond. Also, “a mop of straw-coloured hair lent his face a boyish look which closer examination contradicted”. (Note: The sketch by George Almond appears to be of Leiter after he lost a hand and half a leg in a shark attack and joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency. The incident occurred in the Live and Let Die novel but was delayed until the License to Kill movie. We’ve never seen a post-amputation Leiter on-screen.) Most of the actors to play Leiter have been at least 6′ tall, but the ages have ranged a bit — especially Linder, who was nearly a decade older than Connery in Goldfinger, and Hedison, who was 19 years older than Dalton in License to Kill — as have builds and ethnicities. The better portrayals are described by experts as “swaggering” (Lord), “relaxed and charming” (Van Nutter), and Hedison lent the role an “understated charm” and “genuine chemistry” with Bond.

Given the variety of looks for Leiter in the past, along with the fact that many of the particulars really are inconsequential for this supporting character, I decided not to try to adhere to Fleming’s description of a tall, thin, boyish-looking blonde. However, I did opt to keep him roughly the same age as Bond (i.e., mid-30s to 40ish). I like Ben Foster (5’9″,b.1980) for it, and I think he may be the only actual blonde that I looked at for the role. He’s the right age and general build, but ultimately I decided he was a tad too short and didn’t have quite the right look. Jai Courtney (6’1″,b.1986) has the acting and action chops, but I decided he was a little too young. Similarly, Corey Hawkins (6’3″,b.1988) might have been an interesting choice, plus he’s tall and thin, but he is even younger than Courtney. So, he’s out, too.

My choices?

Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (5’9.25″,b.1981) is my youngest candidate, and he still has a fairly boyish look to him, which certainly works in his favor. On the other hand, he is barely taller than Foster. Still, I think he could do a bang-up job as Leiter. His genre credits include “3rd Rock from the Sun”, “The Outer Limits”, Mysterious Skin, The Lookout, Stop-Loss, Killshot, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. I don’t think playing Bond’s CIA counterpart would be too tough for him. Not at all.

Prinze

My oldest candidate, and what some might consider a surprise pick, is Freddie Prinze, Jr. (6′,b.1976). Prinze’s genre roles were in things like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Wing Commander, Scooby-Doo, No Heroics, “24”, “Bones”, et al. He has also done a lot of voice work over the years, including Delgo, a couple “Mass Effect” games, a couple “Dragon Age” games, “Star Wars: Rebels”, and “Robot Chicken”. He’d probably need to dye his graying hair, but playing Leiter in a Bond film or three might be a great way to get the talented Prinze back into movies.

 

Bomer

Possibly my favorite (at least, at the moment) is Matt Bomer (5’11.5″,b.1977). He even played a superspy in a few episodes of “Chuck”. Other genre credits include “Tru Calling”, Flightplan, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, “Traveler”, “White Collar”, In Time, Space Station 76, “American Horror Story”, and The Magnificent Seven remake. He might need to give the role a harder edge than others he has done, but Bomer has the looks, build, and talent to make a great Bond-ish secret agent. Felix Leiter could be right up his alley.

The best choice of the three would probably depend on who is cast as Bond and the potential similarities, differences, and acting chemistry between them.

That’s it for 007 and associates. Maybe someday I’ll try fan-casting some old Bond villains….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 4: Q

“Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic laws.” — Q (Desmond Llewelyn)

In light of the latest 007 news, it seems appropriate that I continue my efforts from a few weeks ago of fan-casting James Bond’s closest associates. (Of course, I already had this planned and nearly finished before the news broke.) My latest is for the beloved ‘Q’….

Q

The Four (Major) Qs

As you all know, I’m sure, ‘Q’ (short for “Quartermaster”) is the brilliant and innovative engineer who provides Bond (and other agents) with tricked-out sports cars and various weapons and other devices intended to help keep Bond alive and accomplish his missions. In fact, ‘Q’ is the head of Q Branch/Division, MI6’s fictional R&D labs. As per Wikipedia, “Charles Fraser-Smith is widely credited as the inspiration for Q due to the spy gadgets he built for the Special Operations Executive. These were called Q-devices, after the Royal Navy’s World War I Q-ships….”

The character has been portrayed by six men altogether, though only the four pictured here were in official Bond films by Eon Productions: Peter Burton (1962), Desmond Llewelyn (1963-1999), John Cleese (2002), Ben Whishaw (2012-present). Burton played the armourer “Major Boothroyd” in Dr. No, a character Ian Fleming named after Geoffrey Boothroyd, a firearms expert in Glasgow, Scotland, who had given him some suggestions for improving Bond’s firearms. Boothroyd returned in From Russia with Love, this time played by Llewelyn. But, from Goldfinger (1964) forward, the character was referred to as ‘Q’. Llewelyn died in late 1999 and Q’s assistant, ‘R’ (Cleese), got a promotion in Die Another Day (2002). Alas, ‘Q’ was recast along with everyone else for the Craig-era films.

Llewelyn and Brosnan

I am not aware of any physical description given for Boothroyd/’Q’ by Fleming in the original novels, though there may be. However, the point is fairly moot, since (like ‘M’) the title has been held by more than one individual over the years. Most of them have been relatively slender and at least 6′ tall. Whishaw is only 5’9″, though, and also seems to be the only one under 40. The older, “consummate professional” versions of ‘Q’ are typically of mixed feelings toward Bond, recognizing the agent’s successful track record, yet often annoyed by his short attention span and a “playful lack of respect for his equipment”. There is usually a bit of verbal sparring between the two, though usually limited to lighthearted teasing, nothing heated. Despite this, the respect is mutual. The dynamic is somewhat different with the now-younger and less experienced ‘Q’, but Bond recognizes and appreciates the younger man’s skills.

My preference would be to cast someone in their 40s to 60s, though I’m flexible on height and general build. In addition to my final three, there were only two actors that I seriously considered for the role before ruling them out, and they happen to be my oldest and youngest candidates, respectively. Brendan Gleeson (6’2″,b.1955) has, of course, been in many things over the past three decades, including genre productions like Braveheart, Turbulence, Mission: Impossible II, Edge of Tomorrow, and three Harry Potter films. James Corden (5’8″,b.1978), on the other hand, has been acting (e.g., “Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story”, Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman, Gulliver’s Travels, “Doctor Who”) for about 20 years but is most known these days as the popular, silly host of “The Late Late Show with James Corden” here in the States. Though they didn’t survive my “Top 3” cut, I still think either Gleeson or Corden could do a wonderful job — Gleeson in particular playing Q as uptight and humorless, whereas Corden would be best playing it rather more eccentric, perhaps even goofy.

I’m going to throw a couple Americans out for your consideration first. I think you’ll see, though, how these “out of the box” choices might be surprisingly good candidates for ‘Q’. The last (and oldest) might be a more traditional choice….

Masi Oka

A certified genius, Masayori “Masi” Oka (5’6″,b.1974) graduated from Brown University with degrees in math and computer science and a minor in theater arts. He appeared in various small roles in TV and film, while working as a CGI artist for Industrial Light & Magic. He became a genre star with his breakout role as Hiro Nakamura in “Heroes” (and later “Heroes Reborn”). Since then, he has become a semi-regular as Dr. Max Bergman on “Hawaii Five-O” (see pic). His quirky performance and straightforward, somewhat wordy explanations of his findings (to the mild annoyance of the other characters) would, I think, work quite well as a version of ‘Q’, too. If he can’t do a passable British accent, they could have fun with his being a “Yank”.

Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris (6′,b.1973) came to prominence as a child actor playing “Doogie Howser, M.D.”. He also did voice work (e.g., “Capitol Critters”) and appeared in genre shows like “Quantum Leap” and “The Outer Limits”. Later genre work includes Starship Troopers, “Joan of Arc”, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (see pic), and lots more voice work (e.g., “Justice League”, “Spider-Man”). Since his sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother”, ended, he has appeared in Gone Girl, “American Horror Story”, and stars in the new “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Harris is multi-talented, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he could pull off a good British accent. He could play ‘Q’ as a by-the-book, humorless/sarcastic straight man (pun intended), OR he could play him as a rather fun and eccentric character. Either way, he’d make a great Quartermaster.

Kenneth Branagh

I think the first thing I remember taking note of Kenneth Branagh (5’9.5″,b.1960) in was Dead Again, though I don’t much remember the movie. I was, of course, aware of his work in Henry V, and he went on to do other Shakespearean works, as well. I next saw him in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Robert De Niro. Other genre work includes Wild Wild West, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Valkyrie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, “Wallander”, and the recent Dunkirk. Branagh is another top-notch talent — heck, he could direct the film, too — who could do a terrific job as a semi-comedic foil / ally for Agent 007. He is also old enough to be a quasi-mentor or fatherly figure for our 30-something Bond.

I can’t decide which one I like best. You?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Casting the Original Predator Movie for Today, part 2

Continuing from last week, let’s finish casting the original Predator movie as if it were being produced today….

“Hawkins”

Bracey

Courtney

Radio operator Rick Hawkins is roughly 6′, give or take, and in good shape but not nearly as brawny as most of the other guys. Shane Black played him as somewhat of a foul-mouthed, comic-reading dork. (But, not *too* dorky.) He held his own for awhile and took out a few guerrillas before being taken out himself by the Predator. Black was in his mid-20s, but there’s no reason we can’t cast someone a few years older. There are probably plenty of actors who would have fun with this role, but for some reason I came up with Jai Courtney (6’1″,b.1986) or Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989). I can definitely see either one of them hamming it up as an annoying, yet very capable, goober.

“Poncho”

Isaac

Bernal

The terrific Richard Chaves played explosives expert Jorge “Poncho” Ramírez in the original Predator. As with Hawkins, he wasn’t nearly as big and muscular as some of the other guys. He had more of a slim and wiry frame and clocked in at 5’10”. With this in mind, I wanted another, non-beefy Latino — under 6′ tall and in his mid- to late-30s — for our “Poncho”. Two talented actors came to mind: Gael García Bernal (5’7″,b.1978) and Oscar Isaac (5’8.5″,b.1979). Bernal can be seen in things like Babel and Salt and Fire, while Isaac is known to genre fans for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and X-Men: Apocalypse. I’d feel comfortable putting “Poncho” in either one’s very capable hands.

“Billy”

Segers

One of the fan-favorite characters from Predator has got to be the Native American tracker, Billy Sole, as portrayed by Sonny Landham. ‘Billy’ was the strong, silent type, who when he did speak revealed a rich bass voice. He knew how to take care of himself, live off the land, etc. All he really needed was a big, sharp knife, and he was good to go. So, when this guy got spooked, you knew you were in trouble! Naturally, we need another tall, beefy Native American, preferably around 40 or so, who can give that similar vibe. No one came to mind, but my research turned up the perfect candidate in Geno Segers (6’3or4″,b.1976). You may have seen Segers in “Banshee” or Bone Tomahawk and noticed that he has the right build and the bass voice, too. I think he’s perfect for the role.

“Anna”

Sellers

Telles

Anna Gonsalves is, of course, the 20-something woman that Dutch’s team rescues & protects, as originally played by Elpidia Carrillo. Keeping Carrillo as the model, we need a cute Latina of slender build. At first, I thought of Alice Braga for the part, though she’s perhaps a little older than I’d prefer. Then I remembered that she already played Isabelle in Predators (2010). (Of course, by casting the original film now, I guess that would put Predators in an alternate timeline.) So, I came up with either Julia Goldani Telles (5’7″,b.1995) (“Nurse Jackie”, “The Affair”) or Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (5’2″,b.1996) (“Mia and me”, “Game of Thrones”), who is actually of Italian descent. Either one works for me.

“The Predator”

DeSantis

The title character is a very imposing creature, quite tall and muscular, with a fearsome visage and arthropod-like external mandibles. (Appearances have changed somewhat from movie to movie, of course.) How tall? Well, certainly the average is taller than the average human. But, the actors portraying Predators on-screen have ranged from 6’2″ (Tom Woodruff Jr. as “Grid” in AVP: Alien vs. Predator) to 7’2.5″ (the late Kevin Peter Hall in Predator and Predator 2). Ian Whyte (7’1″) has played multiple different Predators, even in the same film. The rest were either 6’5″ or 6’7″. They’ve all done great jobs, but I thought it might be nice to get someone totally different in the prosthetics this time.

Singh staring down John Cena

Bjornsson

My first suggestion is John DeSantis (6’9″,b.1977), known for such fare as “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “Falling Skies”, “Supernatural”, Seventh Son, and many more. He looked quite barrel-chested in “Supernatural” (see pic), but not so much in others. Regardless, he has played many “creatures” over the years, so he should be used to prosthetics and heavy make-up. Next up is Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″,b.1988), whom we have seen in “Game of Thrones” as Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. (Although, Ian Whyte had that role before him.) He is a beast and would probably be the most muscular of all to play a Predator. I think he’d make a great foe for Johnson’s “Dutch”. Finally, upping the size factor another notch, I’d like to see the one-and-only Dalip “The Great Khali” Singh (7’1″,b.1972) suit up. Known for his massive upper body and prognathic jaw, this former powerlifter/bodybuilder and wrestler would make an incredibly formidable, alien antagonist for our commando team. (Especially “Dutch”, who has to go hand-to-hand against him!) He’s the oldest of the three, but roughly the same age as Johnson. So, as long as he’s still in shape…. I can’t decide which one I like best!

There ya are, folks! My casting picks for a present-day version of the original Predator! Can you imagine seeing a heavily-armed “Rock”, White, Oparei, Austin, Bracey, Isaac, Segers, and Sellers go up against a technologically-superior hunter the likes of Björnsson or Singh? Here, take my money!

Fan-Casting the Original Predator Movie for Today, part 1

Original *Predator* cast (well, most of them)

I love(d) Predator (1987).

Not only is it one of Ahnold’s best movies (imho), but the John McTiernan-directed flick is a great sci-fi/action thriller, too. You probably knew that there was a new sequel coming out next year, right? The Predator is being co-written and directed by Shane Black, who played the character of ‘Hawkins’ in the original. But, did you also realize that Predator celebrated its 30th anniversary just a couple weeks ago (June 12)?!

In honor of the occasion (though slightly belated), I’d like to offer my suggestions for casting the original — same characters, same plot — as if it were being made today. Of course, it would be extremely difficult to match, let alone surpass, the original cast. They were perfect and just worked so darn well together! But, I think I came up with a really good lineup. You be the judge…

“Dutch”

The star and leader of the ill-fated team of commandos is Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer. I think we need an actor who is just as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger was — in physical size, fame, and charisma. I considered a couple others (e.g., John Cena), but the obvious choice here seems to be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (6’4or5″,b.1972). OK, so he doesn’t look like a “Dutch”, but that can be explained in any number of ways (e.g., mixed heritage, adoption, inside joke) and, frankly, wouldn’t even need to be addressed in the movie. We know he’s got the presence and the talent to play a tough, cigar-chompin’, take-charge military leader, as well as the muscles to give a big ol’ Predator a run for its money.

“Dillon”

Next in line is Dutch’s old comrade-in-arms, Dillon. Originally played by Carl Weathers, he needs to be a large black man, almost as muscular as Dutch and roughly the same age. My pick is Michael Jai White (6’1″,b.1967). He’s an avid martial artist and already quite muscular, though he might want to bulk up a little more for this. In the original movie Schwarzenegger and Weathers were both in their late-30s, but for this one Johnson would be in his mid-40s and White is almost 50, if you can believe it! (Looks younger, though, and still kicks @$$.) White mostly does B-movies and voice work, but he has also been in “Arrow” and “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”. He’d make a formidable CIA liaison and former U.S. Army Colonel George Dillon.

“Mac”

For this character, we need another big black dude, even taller than Dutch or Dillon, and preferably in his 40s (though early 50s might do). As played by the wonderful actor/director Bill Duke, medic Mac Elliot was an intense guy who didn’t say much. I could’ve gone a few different ways with this character, but ultimately I liked British actor Deobia Oparei (6’6″,b.1971) the best. He had a supporting role as Doran Martell’s bodyguard in “Game of Thrones” and as an African warlord in Independence Day: Resurgence; he was also in Doom with Johnson (see pic). He’s tall, beefy, and intimidating. Perfect.

 

“Blain”

Austin

When wrestler Jesse Ventura played Blain “Ain’t got time to bleed.” Cooper, he was only in his mid-30s. I’ve opted to go a bit older for my version, but it shouldn’t make much difference. My three candidates — yeah, I can’t decide — are also big, tough wrestlers. At least two of them have wielded large-caliber ordnance for roles before, too. They are Steve Austin (6’0.75″,b.1964), Bill Goldberg (6’3.5″,b.1966), and Paul “Triple H” Levesque (6’4″,b.1969). I think any of them ought to be able to handle the role of the bubble-gum chewing, hard-rocking gunner.

 

Goldberg

Levesque

OK, I need to cut this one a little bit short, since I’m traveling over the next few days. I’ll finish up next week, including finding someone new to play the title character….

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 3: Miss Moneypenny

“Flattery will get you nowhere… but don’t stop trying.”  — Miss Moneypenny, Dr. No

As promised, I continue fan-casting James Bond’s closest associates this week with the ever-loyal Miss Moneypenny.

Miss Moneypenny

Moneypenny is the private secretary and assistant to “M”, head of MI-6, and holds the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy (actually, the Women’s Royal Naval Service until it was integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993). The latest version even did a bit of fieldwork before deciding she was better suited to administrative duties. As with “M”, the character’s creation appears to have been inspired by a mix of various real-life acquaintances/associates of creator Ian Fleming — from Kathleen Pettigrew (personal assistant to Stewart Menzies, the actual head of MI-6 from 1939-1952) to Joan Howe (Fleming’s own secretary at The Times in the 1950s, who typed the original Casino Royale manuscript).

The Four (Primary) Moneypennys

Moneypenny is incredibly attracted to — perhaps I should say infatuated/smitten with? — the dashing and roguish Agent 007, often daydreaming about marrying him or, at the very least, enjoying an illicit tryst. Knowing that this will likely never happen, she has (mostly) resigned herself to playful flirting with Bond. She is smart, efficient, and quite loyal.

Lois Maxwell played the role for all Connery and Moore films, as well as Lazenby’s one film. (The only exception was 1983’s non-official Never Say Never Again, in which Pamela Salem filled in.) Caroline Bliss was Dalton’s Moneypenny in 1987 and 1989, with the conveniently-named Samantha Bond taking over for Brosnan’s run. Craig’s first two films had no Moneypenny, but Naomie Harris has had the role since 2012’s Skyfall, which also gave her the first name “Eve”. I am not aware of any physical description given for the character, but the movie versions have obviously varied a bit. What does seem fairly consistent is that she is slim, attractive, and her age is roughly that of Bond, give or take. Over the years, the actresses ranged in age from mid-30s to late-50s, as did the Bond actors (though Moore was a bit older).

For the next reboot, I’d like to see Bond and Moneypenny continue to be about the same age: early- to mid-30s, though a slightly older Moneypenny would be OK. I would also like to keep a bit of sexual tension and Moneypenny’s unrequited feelings, which were barely there in Fleming’s original novels but have become identified with the character in the movies and later novels. To that end, attractive 30-something actresses are naturally my focus here.

Let me begin by saying that there are a couple Americans who I considered: Alison Brie (5’3″,b.1982) and Emma Stone (5’6″,b.1988). They would each bring different qualities to the role, and I thought they might do a good job. Assuming we want to stick with someone from the UK, though, I considered Emma Watson (5’5″,b.1990). However, she may be a bit too young (barely 30 by the time a reboot might shoot), and I’m not sure how well she’d fit the role. On the other hand, I thought Hayley Atwell (5’7″,b.1982) would be a fun choice. The reason I ultimately rejected her is that I’d rather see her as a “Bond girl”, in particular as an agent of some sort, so she can show off her “Agent Carter” moves.

Which brings me to my three preferred candidates for Miss Moneypenny…

Sienna Miller (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

First choice: Sienna Miller (5’5″,b.1981). You might remember her from “Keen Eddie”, Layer Cake (w/ Daniel Craig), Stardust, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, American Sniper, or the recent The Lost City of Z. The British-American former model seems to have the right mix of prettiness and spunkiness (like Harris) that makes for a fun and interesting Moneypenny.

Keira Knightley

Next up: Miller’s close friend (and co-star in The Edge of Love), Keira Knightley (5’7″,b.1985). If you somehow don’t remember, Knightley has appeared in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, The Hole, several Pirates of the Caribbean films, King Arthur, The Jacket, Domino, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Everest, etc. Like Miller, Knightley is a very attractive and talented actress who could have a lot of fun with this relatively small, supporting role.

Honeysuckle Weeks

My third choice is less known, a tad older, and more “cute” than “pretty”, IMO. Honeysuckle Weeks (5’7″,b.1979) came to my attention as the driver/aide to Detective Foyle in “Foyle’s War”, so this casting would be especially appropriate(?) if Michael Kitchen (who played Foyle) became the next M. She was also in various British mysteries, as well as Red Mercury, “The Bill”, The Wicker Tree, “Inspector Lewis”, and “The Five”. I can definitely see her as Moneypenny.

That about does it. Have ideas of your own for Moneypenny? Let us know in the comments! I think I’ll take a break for now, but I’ll take a stab at fan-casting ‘Q’ and Felix Leiter in the coming weeks/months.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 2: M

“Go to hell with ‘dignity’. I’ll leave when the job’s done.”  — M, Skyfall

A little over a month ago, I did some fan-casting for legendary British intelligence officer, James Bond, aka Agent 007. I promised to eventually follow up with casting suggestions for Bond’s closest associates. So, assuming another reboot when Daniel Craig leaves the franchise in a few years, this week I’d like to take a shot at finding a new “M”. (I was going to do “Miss Moneypenny”, too, but I decided they each needed a separate post.)

M

The Four Ms

Apparently inspired by various individuals that Ian Fleming knew or was familiar with, M is the Head of the Foreign Intelligence branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, i.e., Great Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) (aka MI-6). As a member of the 00 Section, Bond reports directly to M. The tradition of the head of MI-6 signing his/her name with a single letter came from the agency’s real-life first director, Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith Cumming, KCMG, CB (1 April 1859 – 14 June 1923), who used to sign “C”. Some, but not all, of those holding the office in the novels and movies have had the initial “M”, but the single-letter title seems to have stuck.

As per Wikipedia, “A naval theme runs throughout Fleming’s description of M and his surroundings, and his character was described by journalist and Bond scholar Ben Macintyre as “every inch the naval martinet”. Macintyre also notes that in his study of Fleming’s work, Kingsley Amis outlined the way Fleming had described M’s voice, being: angry (three times); brutal, cold (seven times); curt, dry (five times); gruff (seven times); stern, testy (five times).” The character often clashes with Bond, while simultaneously trusting the agent’s intel and respecting his end-results. I am not aware of any physical description given for M. Of course, there have been multiple people to hold the office (four in the movies, not sure about the novels), including a woman, so that would all vary, anyway. But, we do know that the sorts of people who are appointed are very smart, accomplished, usually with military experience, and not averse to doing a little field work.

If casting someone in their 70s (by the time a post-Craig film went before the cameras), I can think of three distinguished British actors that could do the role justice. First, there is Jeremy Irons (6’2″,b.1948), known to genre fans for everything from Dead Ringers and Die Hard with a Vengeance to The Man in the Iron Mask, The Time Machine (2002), Eragon, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Michael Kitchen (5’7″,b.1948) hasn’t done much genre work, though he did appear in Dracula A.D. 1972, “Thriller”, “Tales of the Unexpected”, The Russia House, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, and he played the recurring ‘Bill Tanner’ character in Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough. (He came to my attention when he starred in the “Foyle’s War” series of TV movies.) Then, of course, there is the amazing Helen Mirren (5’4″,b.1945). In addition to starring in the various “Prime Suspect” mini-series, Mirren can be seen in “Thriller”, Excalibur, 2010, White Knights, “The Twilight Zone”, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, State of Play, RED & RED 2, with some voice work thrown in.

If I had my druthers, though, I’d like to see someone a little younger in the role, if for no other reason than to increase the odds of their staying with the franchise for several years. So, here are a couple of candidates:

Colin Salmon

Once suggested by Pierce Brosnan to replace him as Bond, Colin Salmon (6’4.5″,b.1962) would be a terrific M! First appearing in “Prime Suspect 2”, Salmon went on to appear in such genre fare as “Tales from the Crypt”, Immortality, Resident Evil, “Dinotopia”, “Keen Eddie”, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, “Hex”, “Doctor Who”, Punisher: War Zone, “Merlin”, “Strike Back”, “MI-5”, “Arrow”, “24: Live Another Day”, etc. And, oh yes, he played M’s Chief of Staff, Charles Robinson, in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Salmon is a wonderful actor with a commanding voice and presence. It might even make sense for the Robinson character to be promoted into the M position.

Stephen Dillane

“Game of Thrones” fans know him best as would-be king ‘Stannis Baratheon’. But, Stephen Dillane (6′,b.1957) has been around for awhile and appeared in plenty of other genre productions. These include “The One Game”, “Super Soldier”, Welcome to Sarajevo, Spy Game, King Arthur, Freakdog, 44 Inch Chest, “Eternal Law”, “Hunted” (in which he played the head of a small office of spies), “Secret State”, Zero Dark Thirty, and the current “The Tunnel” series. His characters are often cold, stern, by-the-book types, which fit perfectly with Fleming’s original characterization of M. I think Dillane would be a great choice.

If I was more familiar with British TV and movies, I could probably come up with a couple more. But, those will have to do for now. Comments?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.