Recast This!

*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.


I don’t know how many people caught it, but a couple of weeks ago Tom Selleck was a guest on the David Letterman show.  He was there to promote his CBS series Blue Bloods, but the conversation eventually turned to a role Selleck had been offered but had to eventually turn down.  I’m not sure how many people know this, but about 35 years ago, Selleck was cast by Geroge Lucas and Steven Spielberg to play a college professor who moonlighted as an archeologist named Henry “Indiana” Jones.  The problem was Selleck had a prior commitment to a TV pilot he had starred in called Magnum, P.I.  He couldn’t do both roles because of his contract with CBS, so he had to turn down playing Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark.   Of course, Magnum went on to be a massive hit for CBS, so we shouldn’t feel too badly for Tom Selleck.  He more than landed on his feet.

I bring this up because a couple of days ago, an Internet rumor (At this point, are there any other kinds of rumors?) mentioned that Disney wants to go ahead with making a fifth Indiana Jones movie.  The rumor makes sense.  Disney owns the character now that they own LuscasFilm, and they recently negotiated with Paramount to have sole rights of Indy’s marketing and distribution.  They wouldn’t have paid that money if they weren’t serious about making further films.  Alan Horn is on the record saying they want to make Indy 5, but that with the new Star Wars trilogy revving up in May, Indy might not become a priority for at least a couple of years.  That means Harrison Ford will be 105 years old by the time production begins.  I know people who actually want to see Ford continue on in the role, but he will be in his mid-70s in 2016.  He will be a very old man at that point, and I have no interest in that.  So, the rumor came out a couple of days ago that Disney would be looking to recast Indy with a younger actor.  The name that was being bandied about was Bradley Cooper, though nothing official had gone out regarding this casting.  Cooper was just something of a “what if?” scenario.

Right on cue, and with the sort of dexterity that only comes from years of practice, the film geek community lost its mind.  Again.  Not since the Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor tantrums of a few weeks ago has the “Why do they hate us?” gnashing of teeth been so out in force.  Seriously, “Why do they hate us?” was an actual comment I saw on an actual message board.

I find this all kind of amazing, because two of the biggest geek properties known to man are built around the idea of regularly recasting the lead character.  Doctor Who is actually premised on the idea that a different actor will play the character from time to time.  Since the 1960s, we’ve come to expect that after four or five movies, another actor will come onboard and play James Bond.  Audiences just accept these casting changes and, in the case of Roger Moore, actively look forward to them.  If anybody cares to take a stroll down memory lane (The memories of being totally wrong about casting ideas are frequently buried in the geek community.), Daniel Craig, by far the most successful Bond in terms of box office success, was a source of great casting controversy a few years ago, because he had light-colored hair.  It had nothing to do with his acting chops.  There had never been a blonde Bond before, and geeks were beside themselves over it.  You have to admit that’s a really shallow thing to be concerned about.

I am totally in favor of recasting Indiana Jones, and I’d go one step further and go full-on Sherlock and reboot the whole thing into the present day.  I would also cast Ford as Marcus Brody, who was so well played by Denholm Elliott in the early Indy pictures.  The reason that I would recast the role is, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull aside, I love these movies.  They are escapist entertainment at an elite level, beautifully crafted and smartly written.  It kind of bothers me that we’ve only gotten three of them in the past 34 years, when all of the principle players involved are alive and well.   Indiana Jones is a great movie character, and he shouldn’t be put out to pasture when the actor who plays him gets too old to continue on.   Remember, Ford wasn’t even the first choice for the part, and he shouldn’t be the last.  If we get so married to the idea of one actor only playing a certain role, then the Bond films would have ended at Diamonds Are Forever.  We wouldn’t have ever gotten Skyfall, and I adored Skyfall.  Anthony Hopkins was pretty iconic in The Silence of the Lambs, but I would argue that Mads Mikkelsen might be an even better Hannibal Lecter.   And, if the Bond films had ended with Connery, Mikkelsen couldn’t have been such a terrific baddie in Casino Royale.  It’s the great Circle of Life, Simba.

Personally, I’m not sold on Cooper in the part, but he hasn’t been cast and no film has even gotten a greenlight at this point.  There’s something really smarmy about Cooper on film, which is one of the reasons why I thought he was so great in American Hustle.   A problem that exists sometimes in the casting game is studio heads seem to know more about celebrities than they do actors.  It’s casting by means of Access Hollywood, and it leads to bad choices.  One of the things Kevin Feige has gotten right is the dude knows actors, and, from Robert Downey Jr. forward, the Marvel casting choices have been one home run after the next.  I would bet dollars to doughnuts most studio heads had never heard of Chris Pratt, and Marvel is going to make Pratt into a huge movie star.  There are people in the industry like Linda Lowy who are really good at casting, and we should let them do their jobs.

I know geeks will want Nathan Fillion to wear the Fedora, and he wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.  For all intents and purposes, he’s already played Han Solo.  If it were up to me, I’d take a good look at Timothy Olyphant, who exudes tough guy and intelligence in equal measure each week on Justified, and we know he can wear the hat. 

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