With Josh Trank‘s Fantastic Four reboot finally beginning to pick up momentum – FOX has finally set a release date for March 6th, 2015 – we turn our eye to the problem of casting. One of the issues many people had with the original 2005 release was, for one, that Ioann Gruffudd and Jessica Alba felt like box-ticking choices for the parts of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, and though Julian McMahon could certainly capture the vanity of a pre-accident Dr. Victor Von Doom, the menace wasn’t there.
With that in mind, Scott Merridew, Phyll Perrins and myself made our own picks for the main five roles: Reed, Sue, Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm AKA The Thing, and Doctor Doom.
REED RICHARDS (MR. FANTASTIC)
Unfortunately, Reed Richards has the reputation of being a boring, static character. He’s seen as the straight-laced genius with a way-too-attractive wife, and not much else, but in the comics, he began as a stolid leader and loving father. Lately he’s been more aloof, even more focused in the lab (if possible), and a tad icy with Ben Grimm and the rest of the team (as well as being a part of the Illuminati).
He’s perhaps the smartest in a Marvel Universe that includes Tony Stark, Hank Pym, Bruce Banner, Doc Ock, and Peter Parker. He’s easily the biggest mind in FOX’s Fantastic Four/X-MEN expanded universe, and he should act like it, while hopefully maintaining a tender connection with the team, and also wrestling with the guilt that he created The Thing and their whole current situation. Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot to mine here. As such, my choice for the role would have to be none other than David Tennant.
Now let me get this out of the way as quickly as possible, I’m a huge Doctor Who fanboy, BUT I wasn’t a fan of Tennant’s version of The Doctor. Even so, he is a fantastic actor; I’ve loved him in many things since like Fright Night and more recently Broadchurch. He can play the goofy character and the science genius and more importantly a leader, he would be a absolutely fantastic pick as Reed Richards.
Say what you like about Ioan Gruffalo (Tee hee, I’m so naughty!), at least he looked the part, more or less. So few actors, at least to me, fit the look of Mr. Fantastic. Well, a few did but they all looked like Abercrombie & Fitch models, not scientists. Ben Barnes looks like a reasonable cross between the two.
Fans will say “Yeah, I could see him in a lab” and non-fans will like his good looks, like the repulsive, shallow little gits that they are. On a more important note, Barnes is a rather good actor. Most people will know him as Prince Caspian from the film… Prince Caspian (Makes sense), but he’s got a pretty good resume. He’s been in such films as Easy Virtue, Bigga Than Ben, Killing Bono and the upcoming Jeff Bridges film Seventh Son.
I think Barnes might have to prove himself a little, but let’s face it, he hasn’t got particularly big shoes to fill.
For my money, there’s no better “young” actor out there than Ben Whishaw. Having recently won a BAFTA for Best Leading Actor for last years’ BBC production of Richard II, Whishaw is profoundly good at fey and tormented, and, as the new Q in Skyfall, he showed he can pull off playing a brain-box, too. It remains to be seen whether he can hold his own in the action stakes, but Whishaw could certainly provide a sense of interiority to Reed Richards that no other Marvel character has so far displayed, short perhaps of McKellen and Stewart.
SUE STORM (THE INVISIBLE WOMAN)
Sue’s a babe and the den mother/Team Mom, but she also doesn’t take $#*!. You have to be a patient, strong, and smart woman to be able to corral the intensely different personalities of Johnny, Reed, and Ben. Unfortunately, that kind of makes her sound like an outdated 1950′s suburban woman of the house. She’s not just Claude Rains with breasts: Sue has the most powerful abilities on the team, as she can create and project energy force fields, and shouldn’t ever be the damsel in distress.
Alice Eve is a very beautiful woman, and when it comes to any fan-cast within the geek community she always seems to be picked (I’m still a little bitter she wasn’t cast as Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class) and after her performance in Star Trek into Darkness and that… unforgettable scene between her and Captain Kirk – I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many screenshots all over the Internet from one movie, so her stock is very high within the cult of geek.
Yvonne Strahovski has done a lot of impressive stuff lately. She was super-spy Sarah Walker in Chuck, serial killer Hannah McKay in Dexter, the voice of ice queen Miranda Lawson in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 and will star in the upcoming film I, Frankenstein. Impressive stuff and she’s got the talent to back it up.
She’s played a myriad of different characters and been in more than one action scene. Plus she’s used to dating a nerd onscreen so that helps. The great thing about Sue Storm is that she’s a wife and a mum, but also an awesome superhero. Jessica Alba might have gotten the latter right but she needed to work on the former (along with her acting skills).
Strahovski could easily get both parts down. She can be the emotional center in one moment and kick plenty of arse in the next.
Mainly a TV actor by trade, Natalie Dormer has built up a reputation for brains and beauty since she first appeared as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors six years ago. As well as netting her two Gemini Award nominations – the Canadian equivalent of the Emmy – it’s led to roles in Game of Thrones and Elementary. Now making a break into film through the likes of Rush and Ridley Scott’s upcoming The Councillor, Dormer’s ability to shift from delicate to fierce at a moment’s notice could provide some depth and duality to a character at risk of being simply transparent.
Next up: Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm, and Doctor Doom…
JOHNNY STORM (THE HUMAN TORCH)
Everyone loves Johnny. He’s, literally, a hotshot, a young never-grow-up playboy who’s all about having a good time. He’s cocky, brash, and has a snappy catchphrase that doesn’t need repeating.
In the original comics, he was 16 when he got his powers, so he had to endure high school and the like while dealing with his powers. This would be more interesting if we haven’t seen it a 100 times since then, most indelibly with Spidey, but I think the age gap could be used to great effect if they went that route.
I really liked Tron Legacy, and a lot of the reason why I liked it was the performance of Garrett Hedlund, and has the necessary attitude that I would expect from Johnny Storm.
Alex Pettyfer is another one of those actors that make many an audience member go: “OMG SO HOT, SO HOT, SO–” SHUT UP! BACK IN YOUR CAGES! Yeah, Pettyfer sends many a teenage heart a-quivering, but he’s actually a decent actor who has displayed a lot of talent over the years, with the exception of Beastly and I Am Number Four because those two still make the voices in my head tell me to burn things. And speaking of burning things, I think he’d be great as the Human Torch.
He has a lot of youthful energy and can get across some of the naivety that I think is part of Johnny Storm’s character. He’s not just a confident jerk, he’s a young guy trying to find his place in the world and Pettyfer could definitely bring that to the table. Chris Evans seemed already full size in the original films, if a bit lacking in the self control area. With Pettyfer, there is plenty of room for him to grow.
Cocky and impulsive, Johnny Storms initially seems like one of those roles that’s almost too easy to fill: half the young actors in Hollywood have the credentials. With that in mind, I think Ryan Kwanten could bring something interesting to it. Based on his offbeat, occasionally deranged performance in True Blood, he could certainly manage both the egomania and vulnerability of the immature Johnny, as well as bringing the necessary “Whoa, dude” vibe to it. At 36, he may seem a little old to Flame On, but Johnny only needs to be young in spirit: the older he is in form, the more of a tragicomic figure he is.
BEN GRIMM (THE THING)
The hailing king from Yancy Street, Ben is the gruff heart and soul of the FF squad. He’s the muscle, but also the sensitive and tortured one. He’s Frankenstein’s Monster with orange rocks as a skin, a Letterman’s jacket in his closet, and a few less stitch-marks. He’s the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is another one of those actors that seems to get put in every fan-cast going, and that’s because… he is awesome in everything he is in: a scene-stealer in Watchmen, fantastic in the criminally-underrated The Losers, he has the presence and warmth to play Pre-Thing Ben Grimm, and the voice to play a CGI version of the character, too.
Hoo-boy is this guy awesome! Jayne Cobb, Kal’Reegar, John Casey, Marcus Hamilton, that guy from Independence Day. Adam Baldwin has done a LOT of cool stuff.
And this tough guy would fit the role of Ben Grimm perfectly. Because he’s not just been playing tough guys. He’s been playing complex, deeply emotional tough guys. Michael Chiklis, bless him, seemed slightly out of his element playing the sympathy card. Not that he didn’t try, it’s just not his wheelhouse. And then there was the issue of his height. At 5ft 7in, he just didn’t seem like the Thing, more like a scaled down version. But with Baldwin at 6ft 4in, he fits the profile. Plus he actually looks like the human Ben Grimm. So to sum up, he looks the part and can act the part. I think we have a winner here guys!
There might be no actor on the planet who in recent months has received as much press as this guy. With Breaking Bad having recently drawn to a close – *sobs* – it stands to reason that Bryan Cranston will be looking for work, though we’re sure he’s not at a lack for offers (see sentence 1 of this paragraph). In any case, Cranston’s ability to morph from a cheerful, avuncular figure to a being of chilling rage might not quite fit the character arc of Ben Grimm (who goes from being a flesh-and-blood human to one made entirely out of rock), but Cranston – who could find pathos in reciting a copy of the dictionary – could certainly make us feel for The Thing in a way previous interpretations has failed. Marvel will have to get in quick, though, if the rumors are true about DC circling him for the role of Lex Luthor.
DR. VICTOR VON DOOM (DOCTOR DOOM)
After two mediocre movies, people may be hesitant to dip into the well of Doctor Doom again. To that, I’ll quote the following, brilliantly cheesy line from one of the best villains in comics: “Rivals… No one rivals Doom! NO ONE! Doom is supreme! There is no power on earth, no intellect in all creation to equal mine!”
The man’s got a point. As I mentioned, the Fantastic Four have a ton of other possibilities, but I think they did get it in right in introducing Galactus later (though they fumbled the execution). I don’t think anyone can really take Mole Man seriously, but there are worse ideas than putting green goggles on Philip Seymour Hoffman, Andy Serkis, or Michael Emerson and watching them go nuts underground.
The Super-Skrull and the Skrulls in general are tricky, and after the Chitauri in The Avengers, they may not wanna go with introducing an alien race right off the bat. Of course, the Chitauri were basically nothing but nameless henchman and arrow fodder. So we stick with Doctor Doom. There’s a ton of stuff they can do with him, from bringing him along for the ride with the FF in space like in the first attempt at the franchise, but I think it’s stronger to highlight their differences. Keep with the original story: Doom goes forward with an experiment despite Reed’s warnings not to, and it blows up in his face, leaving him scarred.
He, of course, blames Richards, and retreats to Latveria for some old-fashioned villainy. He shouldn’t be Americanized. The film should play up the fact that he’s from Latveria, that this guy has his OWN COUNTRY, and that he’s successful ruling it. It should be emphasized that his citizens and the country are peaceful. He’s like T’Challa in Wakanda, but instead of wanting to be left alone, he wants to spread his influence across the globe. His genius and intellect is on par with anyone, even Reed, though his arrogance is typically his undoing. He’s also a powerful sorcerer. There’s not many in the MU that can straddle both as adeptly as Victor.
Hannibal is by far my favorite show on television right now, it took a concept and a series of books that I adore, cast an ex Bond villain as its title character and its become one of the best Television shows going. And at the heart of it is Mads Mikkelsen, he is one of those actors that has the ultimate screen presence, whenever he is on screen, no matter what’s going on, or who is talking you watch him, and that voice just oozes Doctor Doom, that cold calculating voice that only Mads can deliver for the most fearsome of all Marvel villains.
Returning to another staple of fan-castings, Alexander Skasgard is yet to find his place in the MCU. Another True Blood alum, he is has the level, predatory gaze and sheer magnetism a villain like Doctor Doom needs to project from behind that cold, metal mask. Appearing in four features this year alone, from technological thriller Disconnect to family drama What Maisie Knew, Skasgard’s career is building up a head of steam. The role of Dr. Victor Von Doom could be just the push he needs to propel him into stardom.
But what do you think? Does David Tennant deserve a place in the Baxter Building? Is Yvonne Strahovski your Sue Storm of choice? Would Cranston and Kwanten make for a Ben and a Johnny who could really get their rock and flame on respectively?