“There can be only one!”
Ah, the Highlander! Great concept, awesome film (1986)! (I’m sure I don’t have to explain what it’s about, right?) Perfect? No. But, despite a few flaws, I would easily rank it among my favorites. The sequels, on the other hand, left a *lot* to be desired. (Not sure I even watched the last couple.) The “Highlander” TV series was fairly popular — my brother was a big fan –, though I never watched much of it or the TV movie follow-up. I’m not sure I ever watched the (ironically) short-lived “Highlander: The Raven” spinoff series, either. (I found series star Elizabeth Gracen quite attractive, however.)
In case you were unaware, Lionsgate has been trying since 2008 — when they acquired the rights — to breathe new life into the franchise. It was announced last month that Chad Stahelski, one of the John Wick co-directors, has signed on to helm the Highlander reboot film. This follows false starts with various other directors (e.g., Justin Lin). Also, Ryan Reynolds was once attached as the lead, Dave Bautista as The Kurgan, and Tom Cruise rumored for Ramirez. I hope we dodged that bullet! (I’m OK with Bautista, but I think the other two would be big mistakes.)
Here’s what Stahelski had to say:
“I’ve been a huge fan of the original property since I saw it in high school. Such great themes of immortality, love, and identity are all wrapped up in such colorful mythology. I can’t think of a better property that gives the opportunity to create interesting characters, mythic themes and action set pieces.”
The studio is looking for new writers to tackle the project. I know the screenplay probably won’t exactly mirror the original movie, but I really hope they keep at least the main story and characters, not to mention much of the look, feel, and themes of the original. Also, the music in the original was, I think, a big part of its appeal. So, I hope they re-use at least a couple of the Queen songs (e.g., “Princes of the Universe”, “Who Wants to Live Forever”). Unfortunately, Michael Kamen passed away several years ago, so they can’t bring him back as composer/conductor for the orchestral pieces. Maybe Danny Elfman? No news, yet, about potential stars, so I offer my suggestions below.
Note: I am limiting myself to the 4 principal characters — yes, I’m assuming they’ll still use ‘The Kurgan’ — but addressing them all in this one post. So, in an effort to cover multiple candidates for each, I will be much more limited than usual in the accompanying text. Slight change to format, too.
Connor MacLeod / Russell Edwin Nash
Using the 1986 movie as our reference point, the main character is a 30-ish-looking Scotsman, perhaps 6′ or a little less, with a fit but not overly-muscular build. (Christopher Lambert (5’11”,b.1957) was in his late 20s at the time and not particularly muscular.) I’d like to get a native Scotsman for the role, but the important thing is that he can do a good (and understandable) Scottish accent. (Almost anything would be better than the French(ish) accent that Lambert had. Was he even trying?!) Oh, and he should look competent wielding a broadsword.
Not being familiar with a *lot* of actors from the UK, I went looking at the cast of “Game of Thrones” and found one that might fit the bill. Gethin Anthony (5’9.75″,b.1983), who played Renly Baratheon, is the right build and just within height parameters. Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling (6’0.5″,b.1980) is my oldest candidate but can still pass for early 30s. He’s a fine actor and even has some Scottish heritage. Then, we have the Australian Jai Courtney (6’1″,b.1986), who is exactly 30 (at the moment, anyway). He is perhaps a little beefier than the other two, but that’s OK, and he has been racking up an impressive genre resume.
Brenda J. Wyatt
Miss Wyatt, the love-interest who first gets onto MacLeod’s trail in modern-day NYC, was a forensic scientist working for (with?) the NYPD. I hope they retain that aspect of the character, though “investigative journalist” — however stereotypical — might be acceptable. The only real requirements here are that she be attractive, roughly the same age as the lead, have on-screen chemistry with him, and be believable in the part. Without elaboration, I present the following three lovely and talented actresses who could fill the role: Scottie Thompson (5’7″,b.1981), Sarah Lancaster (5’8.5″,b.1980), Megan Markle (5’7″,b.1981).
Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez
Since my ideal pick, Ricardo Montalban, is long dead and gone, I’ve managed to come up with a few more suggestions for this Egyptian immortal who long-ago adopted a Spanish name & identity. I’m flexible regarding height and build, though within reason, but preferably reasonably fit and believable as a master swordsman. Sean Connery was in his mid-50s when he played the part. My preference would be to cast someone pretty close to that, but the right person might convince me to go younger or older. The actor must also be credible in the role of MacLeod’s teacher/mentor, of course, and Connery’s shoes — though he may have seemed an odd choice at the time — will be hard to fill.
Assuming the producers go with a Latino, “Game of Thrones”‘s Pedro Pascal (5’11”,b.1975) might be an interesting choice. The main drawback here is that he’s in his early 40s. Antonio Banderas (5’8.5″,b.1960), on the other hand, is a tad on the short side but might be just right. We know Banderas is adept at both drama and humor, often mixing the two. Also, like Pascal, he has some experience with swordfighting. Finally, while I couldn’t find an Egyptian actor, I found one who once played an Egyptian mummy. Arnold Vosloo (6’2″,b.1962), who is actually South African, could be a great Ramirez. He’s the correct age, and I know he’s got the talent. (Note: I purposely chose pics of Vosloo and Banderas with beards to show the gray, like Connery’s Ramirez, though he had much less.)
Victor Kruger / The Kurgan
The Kurgan, as played by the terrific Clancy Brown, is truly a great genre villain. His imposing physicality, deep voice, Goth-cum-punk appearance, ruthless and somewhat psychotic behavior combine to make him a beloved baddie. I don’t expect the reboot to have the Kurgan look and act exactly the same, but I hope he is still a mix of brooding and psycho-killer. (More than just a “Terminator”, anyway.) Brown (6’3.5″,b.1959) is actually a couple years younger than Lambert, putting him in his mid-20s during filming. However, I think it better to find someone who is in his 30s, possibly 40s. He obviously must be physically imposing, so I propose a few athletic candidates that are over 6’6″.
Ex-NFLer Matthew Willig (6’6.5″,b.1969), whom we saw as “Lash” on Season 3 of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, has the right look. Robert Maillet (6’10”,b.1969), from “The Strain” and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, has a similar look. Of course, Willig and Maillet are already heading into their late 40s; but, they are also still very physically fit and active. Oh, did I mention that Maillet went by “Kurrgan” when he wrestled for the WWF? Now, for someone younger, slightly shorter, but even beefier, there’s always Icelandic Strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (6’9″,b.1988), who played Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane in “Game of Thrones”. Not sure about Willig, but Maillet and Björnsson have each done some swordfighting, too.
OK, that’s it for this Fan-Casting exercise. Let me know if you liked any of my picks, OK? L8r…