Monday, October 25, 2010

Amateur Casting Director: Superman

A film reboot of the Superman franchise is on its way, with Christopher Nolan producing, Zack Snyder directing and David Goyer writing the script. The rumour mill is churning out plenty of speculation -- some reports suggest they're starting from scratch at the beginning, others say they're looking for an older actor to play an established Man of Steel -- but not much has been confirmed officially. And before that happens, I felt like posting my own ideal cast for a new Superman movie. Because why not.

Clark Kent/Superman - Brandon Routh
For whatever faults Superman Returns had (and I liked it personally) Brandon Routh wasn’t one of them. He’s gone on to prove himself as an actor since (see “Chuck” and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and has shown he can pull off that key “powerful, but affable/approachable” vibe effortlessly - just like Superman. With a new script and direction that’s more concerned with building its own world than paying respect to Superman: The Movie, I believe he’d knock it out of the park. Give Routh the cape again - he deserves it.

Lois Lane - Rashida Jones
I almost went with Zooey Deschanel here (who would be a fine choice as well) but then Jones came to mind and struck me as a natural fit - and I think she could better pull off that assertive, take-no-crap attitude that Lois needs. She can do smart, fearless, and looks good in a suit - combine the three and you have the perfect 21st century Lois Lane.

Lex Luthor - Billy Zane
This one’s a no-brainer. Past performances have shown that he can get the all-important confidence/arrogance part of the character down pat. And if they fully explore the character this time around - as in, there being more to his motive than simple greed and jealousy - this could be just the role Zane needs for a bit of a career resurgence.

Brainiac - Joseph Gordon Levitt
Levitt is on something of a roll lately, after building up some indie cred for a few years, and now a major role in this year’s Inception - incidentally directed by new Superman producer Christopher Nolan. Play up the cold-and-calculating, and he'd do great as the corrupted Kryptonian artificial intelligence - possibly created by Superman's birth father, Jor-El. Brainiac is one of Superman's more famous villains, yet has never been used in a feature film before. And using the robotic Brainiac would give him a villain he could hit, which is kind of a plus.

Perry White - John Goodman
I don't even feel like I have to explain this one... though I will anyway. White is the soul of the Daily Planet, a tough-but-fair boss and a journalistic idealist who will always stand up for the truth. John Goodman is a phenomenal actor, but he's at his best when he's boisterous. Now imagine him storming through the Planet bullpen, barking out orders at Clark and Lois. Come on, he's perfect. Nothing more to say here.

Jimmy Olsen - Johnny Simmons
Simmons was a scene-stealer in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and fully captured the part of the bright-eyed fan waiting for his turn in the spotlight. That's basically the "before" picture of Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen, who becomes Superman's pal and goes on crazy adventures all the time. All Simmons needs is a bottle of hair dye.

Jonathan and Martha Kent - Jeff Bridges and Patricia Clarkson
The Kents, Clark's adoptive parents, are what put the "man" in Superman. Generally portrayed as salt-of-the-earth types; warm, hard-working and compassionate parents who could raise the world's greatest hero and inspire him to be a beacon of hope. Bridges and Clarkson are both gifted character actors who can play damn near anything, but seem to naturally radiate warmth. It just clicks - you know I'm right.

Jor-El and Lara - Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Mitchell
Hamm claims he’s too old to be Superman. I don’t necessarily agree - if they’re focusing on a long-established version of the character, he’d be the ideal choice. However, if they’re trying to build a franchise and want to skew a bit younger for the first installment, then he’s certainly age-appropriate to place the infant Kal-El in a rocket to Earth and help guide him from beyond the grave via holographic messages in the Fortress. And while it’s not a huge part, I think he’d really sell the part of a conflicted scientist coping with the loss of his world and forced into making an uneasy choice in order to save his child.

Mitchell pulled off being cold and alien as well as warm and loving brilliantly on “Lost”. Like with Jor-El, the Lara role wouldn't be huge, but I think she would add a lot as Superman’s mother on Krypton. Even better, follow the lead of the comic miniseries "Superman: Birthright" and have Lara be Jor-El’s partner not only in marriage but also in Kryptonian science, giving Mitchell some more to work with than previous versions of the character.

Cat Grant - Jane Krakowski
This would be a small role, and perhaps a smidge derivative of her part on “30 Rock”, but Krakowski would nail the part of the flirty divorcee gossip columnist for the Daily Planet. Along with the rest of the "background comedy trio" below, she'd add some extra flavour to the newspaper office and make it feel like a well-rounded, "real" workplace.

Ron Troupe - Phil LaMarr
Troupe is a multiple award-winning journalist at the Daily Planet, generally considered the most educated amongst the staff. Phil LaMarr is mainly known for his voice-acting work ("Futurama", "Justice League Unlimited"), but he's talented and funny, as well as a huge comic-book fan. It's not a big role, but the character is likely to be Lois Lane's main rival for the bylines, frequent verbal sparring partner with Steve Lombard, as well as the more likely to see past Clark Kent's disguise - so there'd be plenty for LaMarr to work with.

Steve Lombard - Nathan Fillion
The sports writer for the Planet, Steve Lombard is an insufferable, obnoxious, egotistical jackass. He's the kind of guy who'll insult your manhood while tying to pick up your girlfriend right in front of you. And I don't know of anyone who can play that kind of role as hilariously as Nathan Fillion (just see Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Amateur Casting Director Gets It Wrong

Knowing full well there are much better uses of my time, I still can't help but play "Amateur Casting Director," either for movies that are in the works or ones that don't "officially" exist in any capacity. I've been obsessive-compulsively absorbing pop culture my entire life, so I can't really help it.

Where is this going? Well, over a year ago I was thinking, "You know what? Emma Stone really should play Mary Jane in the next Spider-Man movie." I liked the Sam Raimi movies well enough, but I thought her character was kind of off. She got repeatedly placed in the "damsel in distress" role, which okay, is sort of inevitable in superhero stories... But Mary Jane should be anything but helpless. She's not a superhero, but she can hold her own! I'm reminded of one comic-book story in which the Chameleon discovered Spider-Man's secret identity, captured Peter Parker, copied his "face" to impersonate him, then went after Mary Jane... who quickly figured out his ruse and beat him unconscious with a baseball bat.

Mary Jane is a fairly complex character, originally hiding behind a flirty party girl persona as she attempted to hide from a difficult life, and later growing out of her "mask" and learning to fully open up. She's tough and confident, a far cry from the typical weepy love interests more common to classic comic books. She's cool, she has some attitude, and is legitimately interesting - the perfect superhero love interest, in my opinion. This is what I'd like to see on the big screen, and I thought the role fit Stone perfectly.

Also, come on, she sure as hell looks the part:

So when the internet rumour mills started up recently about Stone being in talks for a role in the upcoming Spider-Man reboot, I felt a little pride in having "called it" so far in advance. Until yesterday they officially announced that she'd been cast... as Gwen Stacy.

Now, Stone is very talented. She's funny, she has a great screen presence, and I'm sure that she'll do a great job in the role. (And apparently she's actually a natural blonde, so there's that going for it!) And who knows, maybe they'll go the "Ultimate Spider-Man" route and rework the character as a cooler, more complex "punk girl" type... But I'll be honest with you, Internet, Gwen Stacy might be famous as Peter's first major love interest, but I can't say I'm a fan. As she originally appeared, she didn't have much depth, she was boring, and worst of all, she fit that "weepy love interest" archetype to a T. And if that's the route the film is taking, I think it'll be a huge waste of Stone's talent. (But it's way too early to assume anything about the role, so I'll leave it at that.)

Either way, I'm interested to see how it turns out. And even though I missed the mark a bit this time, I feel oddly encouraged to play the game again.