Fan-Cast: Buck Rogers

“Well, I’m scheduled for execution, and if I miss it I could be in a lot of trouble.” — Gil Gerard as ‘Buck Rogers’

While planning the ‘Buck Rogers’ entry in my recent “Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2019” series (and even before), I got to thinkin’ that a reboot TV series might be cool — or, even a movie or two. Buster Crabbe played the role in 1939, and Gil Gerard played him 40 years later. Another 40 years have gone by, so who could play ‘Buck Rogers’ now? I decided to fan-cast the character, and… this be that. Enjoy!

Buck Rogers

Buck (r) and Buddy (l)

The story of ‘Buck’ Rogers is that of a man thrown roughly 500 years into Earth’s future. Published in 1928/1929 (novels & comic strip), the original version has Anthony (later nicknamed ‘Buck’) Rogers as a 29-year-old former airman and veteran of World War I. By 1927, he is working for the American Radioactive Gas Corporation when he is called in to investigate unusual phenomena in abandoned coal mines in Pennsylvania. A cave-in exposes him to some sort of radioactive gas, which puts him into “a state of suspended animation, free from the ravages of catabolic processes, and without any apparent effect on physical or mental faculties”. Rogers is presumed dead, and he remains in suspended animation until waking in AD 2419.

He manages to get out of the cave, wanders through some unfamiliar forests, saves a woman (Wilma Deering) from being attacked, realizes how long he has been “gone”, and is introduced to a strange, new world. Essentially, the world is ruled by a number of huge “gangs”, including the Bad Bloods who shot down Wilma’s patrol. Rogers ends up not only acclimating but becomes a gang leader himself.

Other versions (e.g., radio show (1932-6), movie serial (1939), ABC TV series (1950-1), comic strip revival (1979-83) followed the same basic outline, but certain dates, locales, supporting players, and specifics regarding gangs & dictators, etc., were altered. For example, for the movie serial starring Buster Crabbe, “Buck and his young friend Buddy Wade get caught in a blizzard and are forced to crash their airship in the Arctic wastes. In order to survive until they can be rescued, they inhale their supply of Nirvano gas which puts them in a state of suspended animation. When they are eventually rescued by scientists, they learn that 500 years have passed. It is now 2440. A tyrannical dictator named Killer Kane and his henchmen now run the world. Buck and Buddy must now save the world, and they do so with the help of Lieutenant Wilma Deering and Prince Tallen of Saturn.

TV poster for NBC TV series

The 1979 motion picture Buck Rogers in the 25th Century — created by Glen A. Larson, who gave us Battlestar Galactica, too — updated the concept a bit and led to a new TV series of the same name from NBC. In this one, Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers is a USAF/NASA pilot who commands Ranger III, a space shuttle-like ship launched in 1987. “When his ship flies through a space phenomenon containing a combination of gases, his ship’s life support systems malfunction and he is frozen and left drifting in space for 504 years. By the time he is revived, he finds himself in the 25th century. There, he learns that Earth was united following a devastating global nuclear war that occurred in the late 20th century, and is now under the protection of the Earth Defense Directorate, headquartered in New Chicago. The latest threat to Earth comes from the spaceborne armies of the planet Draconia, which is planning an invasion.”

From what I can tell, all versions of Buck Rogers have him as an athletic, action-oriented, white male. He is attractive, self-confident, and (at least in the NBC series) charming and with a good sense of humor. (Though his 25th-century friends don’t always understand his jokes or 20-century references.) He is also bright, a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, and an exceptional pilot — all skills that come in handy as a “gang” leader or Directorate operative.

Buster Crabbe was about 30/31 when he shot the Buck Rogers serials, and Gil Gerard was 36 when Buck Rogers in the 25th Century debuted. Given his military experience, I think 30-something is a good age for the character. As for height, Crabbe and Gerard were/are both 6’1″. I’d prefer Rogers be at least 6′, though I’d consider an otherwise excellent candidate who is an inch or two under that. He should also be a white male with an athletic build. For whatever reason, I think of Rogers as having dark hair (while Flash Gordon I think of being blonde). That’s not really very important, though I think a relatively short, military-acceptable cut would be reasonable, especially at the start.

If this project were being made a few years ago, I would have nominated Alex O’Loughlin, Eric Dane, and maybe Mark Wahlberg. Unfortunately, they are all in their 40s, now. I looked at Daniel MacPherson (39), but he’s too short. I considered Diego Klattenhoff (39), but decided he just didn’t feel right for the part. Dylan Bruce (39) and Alan Ritchson (34) are both strong possibilities, but I’ve cast them several times before and wanted to bring you some newer faces this time. 🙂

So, here they are…

Chris Evans

OK, Chris Evans (6′,b.1981) isn’t exactly a new face, but I don’t think I’ve cast him for anything before. Genre movie fans know him best as Captain America in various films and, before that, the Human Torch. He has also had major roles in The Losers, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Push, Street Kings, Cellular, et al. We also mustn’t forget his voicework on “Robot Chicken”. I think Evans has the right mix of charm and physicality to do this role justice. Probably my top pick. Besides, it seems rather fitting for the guy who played ‘Steve Rogers’ to then play ‘Buck Rogers’, no? Hmm, I wonder if the characters could be related….

 

Lex Shrapnel

You might remember that I included Lex Shrapnel (????,b.1979) in my “6 Coolest Names in TV & Film” post. Unfortunately, I can’t find his height listed anywhere; but, I estimate it at about 5’10”. He’s not a big name, but he has appeared in “Flyboys”, Captain America: The First Avenger, “Hunted”, “By Any Means”, Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines, “The Assets”, Thunderbirds, “Sons of Liberty”, “Medici”, et al. Assuming he is sufficiently likable on-screen, this role could be a breakthrough for him.

 

Luke Macfarlane

 

Fans of the “Killjoys” series will recognize Luke Macfarlane (6’2″,b.1980) as ‘D’avin Jaqobis’. He has also appeared in “Supergirl”, “Person of Interest”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Over There”, and lots of non-genre things, as well. On “Killjoys”, his character is flying around in spaceships, shooting blasters, getting into fights, etc. ‘Buck Rogers’ sounds right up his alley. Plus, he has the required looks and charm. I think he’d make a fine ‘Captain Rogers’… Buck, that is.

 

Tom Hopper

Tom Hopper (6’5″,b.1985) is both the youngest and tallest of today’s four prospects. He is currently enjoying some success as ‘Luther Hargreeves’ in “The Umbrella Academy” (recently renewed). Genre fans might have also seen him in “Game of Thrones”, “Black Sails”, Kill Ratio, “Northmen – A Viking Saga”, Knights of Badassdom, “Merlin”, et al. Even an episode of “Doctor Who”. He obviously has the required physique and is familiar with action roles. Hopper might just be the Buck Rogers we’re looking for….

 

Think you have the perfect casting suggestion for ‘Buck Rogers’? Let us know below…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2019.

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Fan-Cast: Joker

“I killed you! You’re dead! Dead! Dead! Well, just have to kill him again, that’s all. Kill the little birdie. Yes, yes. First things first, though. Things to do. Places to go. People to kill…” — Joker, upon seeing the new Robin for first time

Speaking of “things to do”, it’s about time I take a stab at fan-casting Batman’s rather “differently sane” archenemy, the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker. Dontchathink? Of course, I’m not sure there’s anyone out there that’s just “perfect” for the role, but… I do have a few talented gents for you to check out. I’ll get to them after we get in the mood with a little character review…

(The) Joker

Various tales have been told of the Joker’s origins, including his real name and how he became “the Joker” we all love to fear. But, no one really knows the truth, and Joker doesn’t appear to be sure himself. Was he a mild-mannered, wannabe stand-up comic? A low-rent hitman/enforcer? Leader of the “Red Hood” gang? Something entirely different? DC has apparently decided to keep it nebulous. But, a recurring piece of the story is that he somehow fell — did the neophyte Batman push him? — into a vat of mysterious chemicals that turned his skin white, hair green, and mind seriously addled. The unnatural (and near-constant) grin on his face may also be the result of the chemical bath and/or there may have been some knife-play involved.

Ever since then, Joker has become one of the most dangerous and infamous criminals in Gotham City. Over the years, he has operated solo or paired with Harley Quinn, run criminal gangs, and partnered with other supervillains (either to fight mobsters or superheroes). He has been known to rob banks, blackmail & extort, poison people en masse, blow stuff up, sell arms to terrorists, attempt genocide, commit various individual murders (either personally or via proxy), etc. (For a time, he was the Iranian Ambassador to the U.S., thereby giving him diplomatic immunity.) Many of his crimes are connected to his obsession with Batman and a desire to cause him pain, either by attacking innocents for no (other) reason or by hurting those Joker knows (or suspects) that Batman cares about. (For example, shooting Barbara Gordon and beating/killing Jason Todd.) He has been caught by Batman and his associates several times and sent to prison or (usually) Arkham Asylum, but he always ends up escaping, often with the help of one or more accomplice(s).

Joker may not look very formidable, and some of his rants might make one write him off as merely a loon. But, he actually possesses a brilliant mind, with training in chemistry and engineering. These skills have aided him in making poisons — his trademark being “Joker Venom”, which gives its victims a rictus grin (like his) before they laugh themselves to death — and bombs and other gadgetry (e.g., the lethally-charged “Joy Buzzer”). Despite (or perhaps because of) his madness, he has an indomitable will and an incredible resistance to pain and toxins. Surprisingly, he is also a moderately skilled hand-to-hand combatant; his speed, agility, and chaotic style have even allowed him to fend off Batman for awhile. He is also a master of disguise and an escapologist. Some have speculated that his seeming ability to frequently cheat death is the result of an altered physiology.

Joker’s personality is what you might call “complex”, though that would be an understatement. As would “unpredictable”. His insanity makes him quite mercurial at times, while at others he can, for example, go undercover (in disguise, of course) and play the roles for days on end. He finds murder, serious injury (even to himself), and just about any other sort of violence and disorder to be funny. This, combined with his capricious nature, makes it dangerous to be around him, even for his henchmen and other companions. He can be alternately cruel and sadistic one moment, then forgiving and tender (as with Harley Quinn). He may or may not kill someone just upon a whim. When he does, he may take joy in it or he might barely give it another thought. His immediate motives change all the time, but his primary goals are to cause chaos, wreak havoc, and to destroy Batman. In short, he is a homicidal maniac… with a few twists.

Almost all artistic renditions of the Joker show him to be a slender, even wiry, guy with a narrow-ish face — maybe an unusually long nose and chin, too. (Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in the 1989 movie is a notable departure.) DC’s wiki lists him at 6’5″, 192 lbs., though he doesn’t seem to always be drawn quite so tall. Various stories located at different points in the Bat-timeline would make Joker — who I’d say is roughly 10-20 years older than Batman — anywhere from his mid-30s to 50s. There are also the aforementioned bleached-white skin, green hair, ghastly grin, and an affinity for (often garishly colored) suits. Purple seems to be a favorite. Lest there be any doubt, yes, I want a classic look for my live-action Joker.

My preference would be to cast someone 40ish and over 6 feet tall, but I decided to open up the parameters a bit for this one. So, who did I consider but pass up? Some are familiar names, while others are lesser-known. The oldest ones were Willem Dafoe (5’9″,b.1955) and Hugo Weaving (6’2″,b.1960), both great actors who have played Marvel supervillains (Green Goblin and Red Skull, respectively), but I felt they were too old. Billy Baldwin (6’2″,b.1963) and Crispin Glover (5’10”,b.1964) are interesting choices and in their mid-50s, but ultimately I thought they were a tad too old and not quite right for the part. The next bunch, ranging from mid-40s to early-50s, included Vince Cassel (6’1.5″,b.1966) (suggested on a Will’s War video), Jack Plotnick (5’11”,b.1968), Jason Clarke (6’1″,b.1969), Matthew Lillard (6’4″,b.1970), and Adrien Brody (6’1″,b.1973) — all talented folks.

The last, youngest group of candidates that I liked but ended up ruling out of my finalists for various reasons were Shawn Reaves (?,b.1978), James Ransone (5’9″,b.1979), Jason Segel (6’4″,b.1980), Tom Hiddleston (6’2″,b.1981), Finn Wittrock (5’9″,b.1984), and Niko Nicotera (5’9″?,?). I still think those first two could be cool Jokers, but I had to limit myself. Now, from youngest to oldest, my Top 5 are…

Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne (6’0.5″,b.1982) has mostly done historical period pieces, including Black Death. He was also in Jupiter Ascending and was a voice-actor for Thomas & Friends: Sodor’s Legend of the Lost Treasure. But, genre fans will know him best from the Fantastic Beasts films. He has a slender build and an interesting face, somewhat reminiscent of Willem Dafoe’s, that might lend itself well to the Joker. (Clearly, he’s not afraid to make a statement with his choice of menswear, either.)

Gustaf Skarsgard

A member of the talented Skarsgård acting family, Gustaf Skarsgård (6’4″,b.1980) can be seen as a regular on “Vikings”. Prior to that, he was in many Scandinavian productions, including “Snapphanar”, the “Arn” movies and series, Iskariot, Kon-Tiki, The Wizard’s Daughter. He appeared in several episodes of “Westworld”, and he’ll be in the upcoming “Cursed” fantasy series based on Arthurian legend. From what I understand, his ‘Floki’ character from “Vikings” is a bit… off. If he can amp that up to full-blown, amoral psycho, he might make a great Joker! (He’ll need a green hairpiece, though.)

 

Blake Ritson

I only came across Blake Ritson (5’10”,b.1978) recently, when he played ‘Brainiac / Voice of Rao’ in the “Krypton” series. As it turns out, he has done a lot of video game voice work (e.g., Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Xenoblade Chronicles, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward). Ritson also appeared in “Red Cap”, RocknRolla, Dead Man Running, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, et al. He has the right build and a longish, tapered nose. I’d love to see him in Joker makeup!

Troy Baker and his alter ego

Troy Baker (6’3″,b.1976) is an uber-talented and popular voice actor, best known for voicing… the Joker. (Mark Hamill is slightly more popular for that particular character, though.) He has also done a ton of characters for video games and animated movies. Too many to list. The question is really whether or not he has the acting chops. He has, in fact, done a couple movies, including playing a whack-job in Striking Range. Plus, he’s done stage-acting and motion-capture for video games. I’m not the only one who thinks Baker should play the role in live-action. He knows the character and has the voice/mannerisms nailed down. He’d be awesome!

Bodhi Elfman

The first person I ever thought of for the ‘Joker’ role was Bodhi Elfman (5’9″,b.1969). He has the face/nose and even a smile that can go rather… maniacal. True, he’s on the short side and turns 50 this year, but as long as he’s relatively fit, I think he could turn out a terrific ‘Joker’ performance. He has played a homicidal killer at least once before, as recurring foe ‘Mr. Scratch’ on “Criminal Minds”. He was also in Mercury Rising, Godzilla (1998), Armageddon, Gone in 60 Seconds, “Freedom”, “Touch”, et al. (Incidentally, his co-star on “Touch” was the pre-teen David Mazouz, who now plays teenage ‘Bruce Wayne’ on “Gotham”.)

 

There ya go, ladies and gents. Have we found our live-action Joker? Lemmeknow…

P.S. I probably wouldn’t have chosen Joaquin Phoenix (5’8″,b.1974) for the part, but he is the one we’ll see next on screen in this year’s Joker movie. Phoenix is talented, though, so I’m curious how his and writer/director Todd Phillips’ version will turn out.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2019.

Fan-Cast: Juggernaut

“I’m the Juggernaut! Ain’t nothin’ — ain’t nobody — can beat me!” — Juggernaut

Who in the world could play Marvel’s Juggernaut (aka Cain Marko) character on-screen? That was the question I posed myself. Of course, to do the musclebound, hulking supervillain justice (pun intended), he really needs to be done with CGI — like they have done with other huge characters (e.g., Colossus, Hulk). But, if… if a live-action movie or TV series was being made, and it was decided to go with a Juggernaut of more human dimensions, yet bigger than we saw in X-Men: The Last Stand, who might fit the bill?

First, though, some semi-obligatory background on ol’ Juggsy…

Juggernaut

At least a couple other people briefly held the title and powers of the Juggernaut in recent years, but the primary “avatar” has always been Cain Marko. Marko was a troubled child, abused by his alcoholic father, who also favored his stepson, Charles Xavier, over Cain. Naturally, Marko was jealous and bullied the younger Charles. Xavier’s emerging telepathic powers allowed him to accidentally experience Marko’s pain and anguish, giving him a measure of sympathy for the boy. Sharon Xavier-Marko died “of a broken heart”, and Dr. Kurt Marko died after saving the boys from a lab fire. Xavier eventually went on to athletic and scholastic success, as well as secretly mastering his telepathic talent, while Marko stayed in the Xavier mansion and nursed his bitter soul. Marko later went into the military, became a mercenary, and befriended the mutant known as Black Tom Cassidy — truly a bad influence.

Marko and Xavier served together briefly in Korea, where they encountered a cave with the lost secret Temple of Cyttorak, a powerful mystical entity. Marko grabbed a glowing “ruby” from the lap of an idol and read the inscription (which he “saw” in English): “Whosoever touches this gem shall possess the power of the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. Henceforth, you who read these words shall become forevermore a human juggernaut.” Marko was physically transformed into a huge, superhuman being. Just then, explosions outside caused a cave-in; Xavier escaped, while Marko was buried alive. Xavier thought his step-brother died, but Marko’s mystically-granted enhancements allowed him to survive and eventually dig his way out.

Thanks to bonding with the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, Marko gained a number of superhuman abilities. He has “limitless” strength, stamina, and (with his personal force field active) nigh-invulnerability to any forms of physical injury. He is immune to all toxins, poisons, and disease. Should he somehow be injured, his superfast, regenerative healing factor will kick in. His mystically-powered helmet protects him from even the most powerful telepaths, e.g., Xavier. There are a couple more perks, but even the Class 100+ strength alone makes him one of the most physically powerful beings on Earth (or most places, I’d imagine). Plus, as the Avatar of Cyttorak, he is the embodiment of irresistible force, such that “[o]nce he begins to advance in a certain direction, it is virtually impossible to halt his movement.”

Juggernaut vs. WW Hulk

Years after the Korea incident, Marko went to the U.S., intent on killing his step-brother, who by then had founded his School for Gifted Youngsters. Now calling himself the ‘Juggernaut’, Marko would have defeated Xavier and his X-Men if not for the assistance of the Human Torch. Marko was kept comatose for awhile but later escaped with the help of criminals known as the Factor Three. Thus began his long and complicated history with the superhero and supervillain communities.

Either alone or partnered with Black Tom (and sometimes the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants), Marko has battled many heroes and caused a lot of death and destruction. (He would later be exonerated for much of it.) He has often contended with Xavier and the X-Men, of course, but also fought the New Warriors, X-Force, Spider-Man, a couple versions of the Hulk, Thor, and additional Avengers. On the other hand, there have been times when he fought on the side of good, too. He aided Dr. Strange on more than one occasion and has spent some time working with the X-Men. He briefly wielded the power of Captain Universe and also joined the Thunderbolts for a spell. Much of his “hero” time was while he was partially depowered, but an enchanted Asgardian hammer transformed Marko into Kuurth, Breaker of Stone. Colossus (who became Juggernaut for a minute) later tricked Cyttorak into returning the power to Marko — but even bigger and stronger.

Marko isn’t stupid, exactly, but neither is he the brightest bulb. He has been deceived or manipulated by heroes and villains alike. Clearly, he is a complex individual dealing with conflicting values and loyalties and a lot of emotional baggage. Certainly, he is often furious, greedy, cruel, jealous, selfish, stubborn, etc., and he often lets his fists do the talking. Alternately, he has occasionally demonstrated repentance, sorrow, kindness, and joy.

That’s the basics of who the man is, what he can do, and (without too much detail) what he has done.

Now, since we are casting for a live-action, (mostly) non-CGI Cain Marko / Juggernaut, we need someone of truly unusual size. None of this barely-over-6-feet-Vinnie-Jones-in-a-fake-torso-muscle-suit stuff, like we got in X-Men: The Last Stand. (Sorry, Vinnie.) Marvel’s wiki puts him at roughly Hulk-size (9’5″ and 1900 lbs), but I believe this is the result of the aforementioned “return to power” later in his career. Prior to that, the hugely muscled Marko was originally listed at 6’10” and 900 lbs. (Not exactly a lightweight.) While we aren’t going to get quite the mass, we can indeed find a few very tall — say, over 6’6″ — and very muscular fellas to consider. Age-wise, it depends on when in X-Men history the story takes place, but he should probably be somewhere in his 30s or 40s.

There are a few wrestlers and strongman competitors that come to mind, of course. One that I considered was Kevin Nash (6’10”,b.1959) (The Punisher, John Wick), who might’ve had potential a couple decades ago, but he’s too old for the part now. Another was Rob Archer (6’6″,b.1975) (“Lost Girl”, Ant-Man and the Wasp), who first came to my attention as the various BioMan clones in “Defiance”. He definitely has the build for it, but even at six-and-a-half feet tall and ~285 lbs., he’s a tad small for Marko/Juggernaut. So, I had to move on and kick it up a notch. Here are my final 3…

Nathan Jones in Fearless

The first time I started contemplating casting Juggernaut years ago, I’m pretty sure Nathan Jones (6’11”,b.1969) was the first guy that sprang to mind. The Australian strongman-turned-wrestler’s huge, muscular physique was perfect for the role. I remember him initially from Troy, but he has also appeared in Fearless, The Condemned, the 2011 Conan the Barbarian remake, and 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, among others. The main drawback with Jones is his age (i.e., turning 50 this year). But, he is still in good shape and playing more movie roles. Also, Juggernaut would probably not be written as a very complicated character. It’s the monstrous, unstoppable supervillain we’re looking for, and Jones has got that part down pat.

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson

Another professional strongman whose name I just have to throw into the ring is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″,b.1988) of Iceland. Beyond strongman competitions and documentaries, Björnsson is mostly known for his turn as Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane in “Game of Thrones”. I don’t remember him speaking any dialogue, do you? I’m not even sure he knows English, but that can be remedied. Anyway, he has also squeezed in a couple movie roles this past year: Kickboxer: Retaliation and Operation Ragnarok. As a powerlifter, he doesn’t have quite the bodybuilder physique of either of our other contenders, but he is quite the imposing figure. Björnsson would make a fearsome Juggernaut.

 

Martyn Ford

Martyn Ford (6’8″,b.1982) is one of my more recent finds and reminds me quite a bit of Jones. This 320 pound bodybuilder/fitness star/trainer added acting to his resume in 2016, beginning with appearances in “Of Kings and Prophets” (as Goliath) and Boyka: Undisputed (as a fighter named ‘Koshmar’, aka ‘the Nightmare’ (see pic)), which I recently watched. Subsequent roles included Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Accident Man, Redcon-1, Robin Hood: The Rebellion, et al. Like Jones, he has already played a number of brutal warriors/fighters and should have no problem playing a brute like Cain Marko, aka ‘Juggernaut’.

 

As indicated earlier, I doubt the Marko/Juggernaut character would be written with too much depth, and dialogue might actually be kept to a minimum. So, I don’t see why any of the above three gentlemen, limited though their acting skills may be, couldn’t thrill viewing audiences with an on-screen, live-action Juggernaut portrayal.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2019.

Fan-Cast: Lex Luthor

“Those red eyes, I’m sure they look right through me, like I am nothing more than a nuisance. But when I see you? I see something no man can ever be. I see the end. The end of our potential. The end of our achievements. The end of our dreams. You are my nightmare.” — Lex Luthor to Superman

It has been nearly a year since I last fan-cast a DC character, so I’m gonna get one in before this year is out. I decided on Luthor when I read about the casting of Jon Cryer (5’9″,b.1965) in the role for the “Supergirl” series. Jon Cryer? Really?

I mean, I know he usually appears bald these days, and there’s the irony (or, circularity?) of his having played Luthor’s nephew, Lenny, in Superman IV (1987). But, he just doesn’t seem to fit the part to me, either physically or in acting strengths (his being comedy). Plus, it was already established in the series that Lex is only, say, 5-10 years older than his adoptive sister, Lena, played by Katie McGrath (b.1983). So, that doesn’t really work without some time-travel or accelerated aging or something like that thrown into the mix. Well,… whatever. If the powers-that-be want a 50-something Lex Luthor, I figure I can find some better candidates….

Lex Luthor

For those who need a brief refresher on the comics character, Alexander ‘Lex’ Luthor grew up quite poor. A nasty but brilliant young man, he arranged for the deaths of his parents and used the large life insurance payout to fund his company, LexCorp. His genius in business and the sciences, along with a lack of scruples, soon resulted in a wide-ranging business empire. (A later retcon has the Luthor family intertwined with the history of Metropolis, before they lost their wealth, which Lex eventually rebuilt. In his youth, a period spent in Smallville resulted in his meeting Clark Kent and friends.) Luthor is both respected and feared at the highest levels of business and government, where his reputation, money, and accomplishments have made him a powerful force to be reckoned with. At the same time, he has managed to maintain a (mostly) positive public image, due in large part to various philanthropic endeavors. He was even elected President of the United States a few years ago.

Make no mistake, though: Lex Luthor is one of the most dangerous supervillains in the DC universe. He has been diagnosed insane at least once. Whether technically crazy or not, he is a ruthless and amoral man with extensive resources, influence, and drive. He is not above committing murder, either personally or (more often) by proxy, though any evidence tracing back to him always seems to be erased or is too insubstantial to act on. Other charges against him seem to go away via legal technicalities or disappearing evidence (or witness). He is a master manipulator and will use whatever means necessary, legal or otherwise, to accomplish his goals. This includes fraud, theft, bribery, blackmail, torture, unethical (and often involuntary) human experimentation, framing people for crimes they didn’t commit (e.g., Bruce Wayne for the murder of Vesper Fairchild), etc.

Luthor seems equally comfortable working from an office or a secret lab or lair, and he occasionally trades in his 3-piece suit for a suit of armor and high-tech weaponry. There have also been times when he gained superpowers of his own. He either works alone (plus a few interchangeable lackeys) OR via superpowered and/or specially-equipped contractors OR even in league with other supervillains (e.g., Injustice Gang). Over the years, he has clashed with many different superheroes and costumed adventurers, as well as the media (unless he owns them), governmental agencies, and other corporations (e.g., Wayne Enterprises). But, his primary foe is, of course, Superman. He has vowed to destroy Superman multiple times over the years and nearly succeeded more than once. Indeed, ever since Superman arrived on the scene and was revealed to be from another planet, Luthor has loathed the idea that a superpowered extraterrestrial would be idolized and considered a hero of the people.

Luthor is not the type to form longstanding friendships or relationships. (Witness his multiple failed marriages.) Oddly enough, though, he has for years maintained a deep affection for Lois Lane, despite her often publicly questioning his motives, even exposing his machinations, in her news articles. She has spurned his romantic overtures and has worked with Superman (and other heroes) to foil Luthor’s plots on many occasions. The only other people Luthor seems to have truly cared for are his sister, Lena, and his bodyguard/enforcer, Mercy Graves. Beyond that, while Luthor generally maintains a calm and calculating demeanor, he has been known to lose his temper, especially when frustrated by Superman or in his plans to discredit and destroy Superman. He can be malicious, vindictive, and cruel. Yet, in his mind, he is the real hero, as he tries to free mankind from the threat of Superman and his ilk — no matter the cost.

Lex originally had red hair, until an accident caused him to permanently lose his hair altogether. (There are different iterations of the story, but he usually somehow blames Superboy/Superman for it.) He does, however, have either red or black eyebrows. Some versions of Luthor have him with a bit of a paunch, even rotund. Most often, however, he is physically fit, ranging from lean to quite muscular. (And that’s not counting when he has been artificially enhanced.) DC’s wiki lists him as 6’2″ and over 200 lbs. For my purposes, I’m going to look in the 6′ to 6’4″ height range and, as indicated earlier, an age somewhere in the 50s.

Shall we begin?

I considered Michael Bailey Smith (6’4″,b.1957) for a burly and slightly taller version of Luthor. But, he’s too old now, and I’m not sure he’d be believable as a brilliant scientist and/or businessman. While watching Season 3 of “Daredevil”, it occurred to me that Vincent D’Onofrio (6’3.5″,b.1959) would be good as the older and heavier version of Luthor from several years ago. James Spader (5’10”,b.1960) might be an interesting choice, but he’s too short, almost too old, and ultimately I decided was not quite right for the part. Bryan Cranston (5’10.5″,b.1956) could be great, too, but again: too short, too old. The first guy I ever thought of for the Luthor role was Mark Strong (6’2″,b.1963), born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia. He’s the right age and build, often bald, and can play brilliant and menacing characters. But, he has already played two big DC villains — ‘Sinestro’ in Green Lantern and ‘Dr. Sivana’ in the upcoming Shazam!. So, while I’m sure he’d be great, I decided to choose some lesser-knowns for my final three.

Arnold Vosloo

Well, OK, Arnold Vosloo (6’2″, b.1962) isn’t exactly a “lesser-known” actor. I first remember him from Van Damme’s Hard Target and the two Darkman sequels (replacing Liam Neeson in the lead). Of course, Vosloo has been in many genre films and TV series in the more than two decades since: e.g., The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, “Veritas: The Quest”, “24”, “Chuck”, two G.I. Joe movies, “NCIS”, “Bones”, “Grimm”, “Bosch”, et al. He has also voiced ‘Black Adam’ and other DC characters in animated productions. He’s the right age and height, and he can definitely play brilliant, driven, and menacing characters. I think he could be quite good as Lex Luthor.

 

Richard Zeman

Try as I might, I could not uncover a height or birthdate for Richard Zeman (?,b.?). He looks to me to be in the desired age-range, though, and a picture of him standing next to Paul Walker (6’2″) makes me think Zeman is roughly 6′ tall. He has had roles in genre productions since the 1980s, including Scanners II: The New Order, Warriors, “TekWar”, The Bone Collector, The Score, Rollerball, “Psych”, two “Stargate” shows, Brick Mansions, “The Flash”, et al. It may have been that last one that recently brought him to my attention, in fact. I think he’s got a great look, a strong build, and could present a formidable archenemy for the Man of Steel.

Simon Northwood

For a somewhat different look, consider stuntman/actor Simon Northwood (6’2.5″,b.1968). Northwood has a long resume of genre work — some speaking parts, some not; some human characters, some not. A few acting credits include “The Dresden Files”, Outlander, “Nikita”, “Alphas”, “XIII: The Series”, “Lost Girl”, “Reign”, “Star Trek: Discovery”, and the upcoming Code 8 and Shazam! films. He has a fairly muscular build, and the fact he can do his own stunts would be another plus. As long as his voice isn’t high or weird-sounding, this guy might be a fantastic choice for the well-dressed, super-rich, xenophobic megalomaniac we all know as Lex Luthor.

 

Interesting choices, eh? Some day, I’ll have to do another post fan-casting for a 30-something Luthor. I know I can find someone better than that Eisenberg fella from the current movies. (What a disappointment!) L8r…

P.S. Before going to press, I saw a few pics of Billy Zane (6’0.5″,b.1966) and thought maybe he should be in the running, too. Yes? No?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

Fan-Cast: Namor, the Sub-Mariner

“Imperius Rex!” — Prince Namor

It’s time for a fan-casting exercise, my friends, and this time I’ve cast my eye upon Marvel’s Avenging Son and Lord of the Seven Seas, Prince (later King) Namor, known to surface-dwellers as the Sub-Mariner. But first, the usual background summary…

Namor, the Sub-mariner

Namor McKenzie was born to ship-captain Leonard McKenzie and Princess Fen, daughter of the Atlantean Emperor Thakorr, in (best guess) 1916. In the 1940s, he fought the Axis powers alongside Captain America and the Invaders and later the All-Winners Squad. After later conflicts with surface-dwellers, he disappeared in 1958. It wasn’t until 15-20(?) years ago that Johnny Storm (aka the 3rd ‘Human Torch’) came across an amnesiac bum with unusual strength, whom he recognized as the long-missing Prince of Atlantis. Storm helped Namor regain his memory and full strength, but when the prince came to believe that humans’ nuclear testing had wiped out his people, he swore vengeance on surface-dwellers. Of course, he eventually realized he’d been mistaken, but not before causing havoc and making surface-dwellers rather distrustful of him, too.

Over the years that followed, Namor has had an erratic history of alternately working with the “good guys” (e.g., Fantastic Four, Defenders, X-Men) and sometimes with “bad guys” (e.g., Doctor Doom, Magneto). At times, his alignment with the latter was due to being tricked or otherwise manipulated by others, while other times he was simply convinced that his and Atlantis’s best interests lay in fighting, for example, governments like the U.S. and Wakanda and/or heroes like the Fantastic Four. This has included what some have termed “terrorist” activities in response to activities he deemed harmful to oceanic ecologies. So, when Namor shows up, sometimes it’s hard to tell at first whether he is friend or foe. Namor also has intermittently had to contend with rogue elements among his own people (e.g., the usurper Attuma and his followers) and their undersea, Lemurian cousins. In addition, he has had to deal with much sorrow in his life, including destruction of parts of his kingdom, the deaths of many friends (plus his first wife (Dorma) and cousin (Namorita)), and the betrayal of his childhood friend Meranno (aka U-Man).

Namor is one of the most formidable beings, as either ally or enemy, on the Earth. As ruler of a technologically-advanced submarine kingdom, he can wield considerable military power. Indeed, the Atlantean armies are not to be trifled with, and he can be an inspiring (if grim) leader. But, even as an individual, Namor is incredibly powerful. As a hybrid of Homo mermanus and Homo superior (aka “mutant”), he has several superhuman abilities. Physically, he is one of the strongest and most durable beings, able to duke it out with the likes of the Thing, Hulk, Sentry, et al. He can both fly and swim at amazing speeds. He has superhuman agility, stamina, and various other amphibious adaptations. Truly, he is someone to value having in your corner, but his instability makes him a bit of a wildcard.

Namor is basically Caucasian in appearance, which he inherited from his father. (Pureblood Atlanteans have blue skin.) But, since he is half merman and a mutant, he has a few unusual features, including (usually) oddly-sculpted hair, tiny feathered wings that grow from his ankles, high-arched eyebrows, and pointed ears that remind one of an elf or a certain First Officer from Starfleet. He has a quite muscular build, black hair, and Marvel’s wiki lists him at 6’2″, 278 lbs. (Some of that weight may be from bone and tissue that are slightly denser than human.) Namor shares a general distrust of — even a disdain for — surface-dwellers with his fellow-Atlanteans. On top of this, he is known to have a large ego and rather imperious attitude toward anyone he considers his inferior. Not surprisingly, there are extremely few whom he would consider his equal, let alone his better. (Note that he trusts and respects Captain America enough that he has deferred to him as team leader in the field of battle.) As one who wears the responsibilities of the crown, he is known to brood a bit. Despite all his, there are also times when Namor has demonstrated love and affection, usually to a close relative (mother, wife, cousin) or to Susan Richards (nee Storm) of the Fantastic Four.

In trying to cast Namor, my requirements were pretty simple: over 6′ tall, dark haired (though that can be colored, of course), and muscular, with the presence to make one believe he was a supremely confident and superpowerful monarch. I would prefer to find someone around 30 years old, give or take, but it’s hard enough to find any contenders, so I was more flexible with that. In fact, while names like Henry Cavill (6’1″,b.1983), Tahmoh Penikett (6’3″,b.1975), and Josh Hartnett (6’3″,b.1978) crossed my mind, I really only focused on these three….

Jason Momoa

You might think that my choice of Jason Momoa (6’4″,b.1979) is too easy, even “cheating”, since he is portraying ‘Aquaman’ on the big-screen these days. Of course, his genre credits also include “Baywatch”, “Stargate: Atlantis”, “Game of Thrones”, Bullet to the Head, Wolves, Braven, “Frontier”. Personally, I think Momoa is a much better fit for Marvel’s King of Atlantis than for DC’s. Give him a widow’s peak, Vulcan ears, little wings on his feet (well, maybe those can be tattoos?), and a condescending royal sneer, and he’d be perfect as Prince Namor. Heck, he already has a head-start on the eyebrows!

 

Roman Reigns

Professional wrestler Roman Reigns (real name: Joe Anoa’i) (6’2″,b.1985) may be an unusual pick, but he has a certain swarthy appearance that reminded me of Momoa, especially with the whiskers and muscles. (I know I’m not the first to note the similarities.) I don’t think he has done any acting outside of wrestling. His only non-wrestling appearances were in “Ride Along (“reality TV”) and “Table for 3” (talk show) and “Raw Talk” (talk show), where he played himself. So, he may need acting lessons to pull off a decent ‘Namor’. But, he certainly has the physique for it, and he comes closest to my preferred age-range. Plus, you know, ‘Roman’ spelled backwards is ‘Namor’ (which, I believe, was the inspiration for the character’s name in the first place).

Sasha Roiz

Sasha Roiz (6’5″,b.1973) might not the the first to come to mind, either. He’s also the oldest of my candidates, being almost 45 when I write this. But, if the powers-that-be chose to go with an older Namor, he’d be great. You may remember Roiz from his roles in “Caprica” or “Warehouse 13” or “Grimm”, but he also appeared in Land of the Dead, 16 Blocks, a couple “CSI” show and similar series, and he’s now co-starring in the second season of “Salvation”. As you can see from the shirtless pic I chose (from not all that long ago), he’s fairly physically fit — more of a swimmer’s physique? — and could probably put on a few more pounds of muscle if necessary. King Namor?

 

While it’s possible Momoa might someday play a Marvel character, I seriously doubt they’d sign him on to play someone so similar — at least in some aspects — to his current DC character. But, I can still play “What If?”, right? If not him, though, maybe Reigns or Roiz? What do you think? This one was tough! Anyone else strike you as a possibility?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

…And, Man, Are My Arms Tired!

I have been out of town for the past week on vacation, and I just flew back yesterday afternoon. So, I haven’t had much time to research/write a normal, weekly post. That said, I wanted to stay (almost) on schedule and managed to put together a short one.

“When Ethan Hunt Said ‘No’ to Superman”

As you may know, Henry Cavill plays a CIA agent in the hours-from-being-released Mission: Impossible – Fallout. There is a scene in which his character (‘August Walker’) and Tom Cruise’s (‘Ethan Hunt’) HALO jump out of a C-17 military transport plane. As Cruise and anyone he works with will remind us, he is highly-trained — hundreds of hours of his own time learning various skills — and does as many of his own stunts as he can. (Still, production on the film was delayed after Cruise broke his ankle jumping between buildings.) So, of course, he jumped out of the plane.

Cavill thought his training for this and other roles was sufficient to do the same, but star/producer Cruise put the kibosh on that idea.

“The day came and I was begging Tom: ‘I’m wearing a parachute, I’ve got some wind tunnel (training), surely I can just jump?’ And he said, ‘Henry, I know exactly how you feel. I get it, you’ve done every single stunt in the movie so far, but this one I can’t let you do. It needs specific training.'”

When he realized how dangerous and complex the stunt was, Cavill relented: “I was like ‘OK, fine, I’ll sit this one out, Mr. Cruise,'” he laughed.

Cavill has said for years that he would love to play another superspy, James Bond, a role he was actually considered for a few years back. Meantime, he has played Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., though that version of the character was actually a high-end thief who gets betrayed by a woman and blackmailed into working for the C.I.A. But, Cavill still has his eye on the Bond role. When asked (on “The Rich Eisen Show”) about the possibility of him succeeding Daniel Craig after his final Bond film (currently just “Bond 25” (2019)), Cavill said,

“That would be a lot of fun! We’ll see. I mean, if the opportunity comes my way, then I will definitely jump at it. But,… that’s up to them [i.e., probably producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson], not to me.”

I didn’t include Cavill in my fan-casting for 007, but I agree, he’d make a great one!

Fan-Cast: Captain America

“I fought your kind every day of that war, Zemo! You mocked democracy and said that free men were weak! Well feel this grip, Zemo. It’s the grip of a man who loves liberty! Look into the eyes of your foe, and know that he will die for his freedom! The world must never again mistake compassion for weakness! And while I live, it had better not!” — Captain America, Avengers, vol. 1, #6

Evans as Rogers/Cap

When the fourth Avengers movie comes out next year (2019), Chris Evans will be almost 38, and it will be his 10th film overall (including brief cameos) portraying the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America. If you ask me, he could play the character for a few more years, but he might be getting a little tired of it, wanting more time to branch out into other roles. At the moment, Evans doesn’t have any other movies scheduled in which he plays Cap, and he confirmed this past March that Avengers 4 will be his last time as the Shield-Slinger. Rumor has it that Steve Rogers will die, and another hero will put on the flag costume and grab the shield — probably either Bucky Barnes (aka Winter Soldier) or Sam Wilson (aka Falcon), both of whom have taken on the mantle in the comics.

But, what if Marvel/Disney decided to go another way? What if they re-cast the Steve Rogers role, perhaps by bringing in a version from an alternate timeline? Or, they fake his death, only to bring him back after a little plastic surgery? (Hey! It could happen…) Don’t like those options? OK, let’s pretend we are in an alternate universe in which they are only now getting around to planning the MCU, and they’ve decided to start with Captain America, the First Avenger, instead of Iron Man or Hulk. Who should we cast? Hmmm…

Captain America

First, allow me to give a brief “origin story” / history / profile of the character from the comics….

Steve Rogers was a rather skinny, even frail, young man with a strong sense of honor and duty. He wanted desperately to help fight America’s enemies in World War II, but his slight physique kept him from meeting the physical requirements to join the Army. He was recruited by General Chester Phillips to participate in Dr. Abraham Erskine’s “Operation Rebirth”, a top-secret performance-enhancing experiment. With a combination of Super Soldier Serum and vita-rays, Rogers was transformed into a robust figure at the peak of human strength, speed, and agility. After combat training, Rogers was given a red-white-and-blue costume and similarly painted steel shield, then sent overseas. Later, his “uniform” was updated, and he was given his famously indestructible, disc-shaped shield of vibranium-steel alloy, designed by Dr. Myron MacLain.

Rogers went on several missions over the next few years, some solo, some with his partner (teenage Bucky Barnes) and/or a squad of soldiers. He also occasionally fought alongside other costumed heroes of the era (e.g., the Invaders). He became quite a hero and symbol for America and her Allies, fighting Nazis and other fascists, imperialists, and even a time-traveling Dr. Doom. Then, when he and Bucky were battling Baron Zemo in April 1945, an exploding plane apparently killed Bucky and cast Cap’s unconscious body into icy waters. His body was never recovered and he was presumed dead. That is, until decades later, when his frozen body was discovered in suspended animation in a block of ice. He was recovered by the Avengers, whose ranks he soon joined.

Over the following couple decades (longer in real-time, of course), Rogers fought innumerable fascists, communists, anti-nationalists, eco-terrorists, alien invaders, ninjas, evil secret societies, street gangs, fanatical militias, criminal organizations, supervillains of various types, demons, gods and demi-gods, etc. On occasion, he even mixed it up with a few superheroes and vigilantes. His personal rogues’ gallery would likely be topped by the Red Skull, Baron Zemo (both of them), and Hydra.

While Captain America has befriended many superheroes, including working with a few official junior partners (i.e., Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson / Falcon, Rick Jones), he is best known for his membership in the Avengers. His inspiring presence and leadership abilities made him a natural leader of the team, whether on or off the battlefield, and he served in that role — off and on — for many years. There were times when he temporarily left the team, by choice or otherwise, but he eventually ended up back with them in some capacity. Rogers even spent brief periods using different noms de guerre — e.g., Nomad, the Captain — and a few civilian aliases. But, as Captain America, not only did Rogers become a prominent modern-day hero and the heart & soul of the Avengers, he also grew his Living Legend status as an icon and defender of liberty, justice, American ideals and patriotism.

Except for those storylines where he temporarily mutated or significantly aged, Steve Rogers has always been a handsome, square-jawed, white guy with blonde hair. Thanks to the experiment that gave him his enhanced abilities and an intensive exercise regimen, Rogers is quite muscular and athletic. More recent events would, I think, put him at roughly early- to mid-40s (ignoring the 60-70 years in suspended animation, of course), but he was born in 1920 and would have been in his early-20s when he was subjected to Dr. Erskine’s procedure. The Cap that emerged from the ice would’ve been roughly 25. Marvel’s wiki lists him at 6’2″, 220 lbs, and “a ‘perfect’ specimen of human development and conditioning.” (I would like to see someone cast who is between 6′ and 6’5″, with a physique that is believable for a near-superhuman with the martial and acrobatic training Cap has had.) As for personality, Rogers is kind, selfless, even-tempered, loyal, brave, very confident, but without the arrogance someone of his abilities and accomplishments might be expected to have. He is mostly serious, especially during a mission, but can relax and joke around a bit during down-time. Sometimes… maybe.

If the powers-that-be wanted (for whatever reason) to cast a 40-ish Steve Rogers, then I suggest one of the following: Ryan McPartlin (6’4.5″,b.1975), Johann Urb (6’4″,b.1977), Justin Hartley (6’2.5″,b.1977), or Trevor Donovan (6’2″,b.1978). They all meet the physical requirements. McPartlin played ‘Captain Awesome’ (just a nickname) on “Chuck”, Urb played ‘Vigilante’ on “Arrow”, Hartley has played both ‘Aquaman’ (sort of) and ‘Green Arrow’. Donovan hasn’t played a superhero, yet, but he’s quite young-looking and could play a 30-something character. On the other hand, if they wanted someone closer to Chris Evans’ age (b.1981), here are four more great choices: Dylan Bruce (5’11.5″,b.1980), Luke Macfarlane (6’2″,b.1980), Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981), or Travis Van Winkle (6′,b.1982). You may remember Bruce from shows like “Arrow” and “Orphan Black”; Macfarlane plays the older Jaqobis brother on “Killjoys”, though he has appeared in “Supergirl”, too; Winchester has been in “Strike Back” and “Fringe”, among others; Van Winkle currently co-stars in “The Last Ship”. Again, they’re all very physical actors, but Van Winkle would probably need to bulk up more than the others.

My preference is to go a bit younger. I considered both Chris Zylka (6′,b.1985) and Luke Bracey (6′,b.1989) but ultimately rejected them in favor of the following three gentlemen:

Alan Ritchson

My favorite candidate is Alan Ritchson (6’2″,b.1984), who I have had in mind for the role for several years — probably since I first saw him as Arthur Curry / ‘Aquaman’ on “Smallville”. Genre fans might remember him as ‘Gloss’ on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and he also played ‘Raphael’ in the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. Ritchson was in Lazer Team and made appearances on “CSI: Miami”, “Hawaii Five-O”, and “Black Mirror”. He was a regular as a cop on “Blood Drive”, and he will be portraying ‘Hawk’ in the “Titans” series premiering later this year. He has the perfect look and build for Steve Rogers, and he even has prior (and upcoming) experience playing costumed adventurers. This guy would make an awesome Captain America!

Greg Finley on ‘The Flash’

Greg Finley (6′,b.1984) is a lesser-known actor, but he has been in a few genre productions. For example, he appeared in Hypothermia, “Star-Crossed”, “The Flash” (as ‘Gridiron’), and “iZombie”, as well as episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “CSI”. In that last one, he played an amateur — and non-powered, of course — costumed vigilante. (One of a small group, actually.) Thus, he was credited as ‘Male Superhero’. Finley is obviously a beefy, good-looking guy, and he might actually be a surprisingly good Captain America.

Armie Hammer

Probably the biggest name — not to mention, tallest actor — among my candidates is Armie Hammer (6’5″,b.1986), who teamed up with Henry Cavill (aka Superman) in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. not long ago. He has also appeared in J. Edgar, Mirror Mirror, The Lone Ranger (as the title character), Free Fire, Mine, and Sorry to Bother You. He also provided the voice of ‘Strong Arm’ in Stan Lee’s Mighty 7. Assuming he bulks up sufficiently for the role (as the other two would, I’m sure), I think Hammer could really make a great Steve Rogers and his alter-ego, too!

 

In addition to acting talent and an appropriate physique, the best choice would have a good measure of charisma and likability, as well. So, who do you think would be the best pick?

Happy Independence Day, y’all!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

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.

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….