Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ketty Jay: The Series

In the past year, I have been fortunate enough to become acquainted with a series of novels that's just plain fun, yet a serious, adult read at the same time. I've heard people describe Chris Wooding's Tales of the Ketty Jay series as Firefly crossed with Pirates of the Caribbean in a dieselpunk setting. That's not a bad description, even if it does barely scratch the surface.

Part science fiction, part fantasy, part western, part sky-pirate story, and mixed together in a way that feels familiar and yet fresh at the same time, Tales of the Ketty Jay is a four-novel long action/adventure story set in a fictional world where electricity, machinery, etc. exist yet society is still at about the level of about early 20th Century. Our heroes are the captain and crew of the Ketty Jay, a Millennium Falcon-esque airship that's seen better days. Darian Frey and his crew are freebooters; they'll take almost any job that pays well, even illegal jobs, even if there are some lines they won't cross. Action and danger rule the skies, and our heroes are frequently at the heart of it. 

For those of you who aren't familiar, I'll try and go light on the spoilers, but I will encourage you to go pick yourself up a copy of these books right away. You won't be disappointed.

Now, up until now I have been casting film versions of the books I've read, but this time, I feel a television series would be best. The books aren't super-long but there's a fascinating world and set of characters to be explored here and I'd love to see a four-season TV series running on, say, Starz or BBC America. I think the best title for the series would be simply Ketty Jay rather than Tales of the Ketty Jay, since really, none of the individual book titles would work for the series as a whole. Well, maybe Ace of Skulls but it sounds a little too obscure.

Also, I mentioned in my first post that I take into consideration the age of the actors vs. the characters, and for the most part, I've followed that here, but for a few of the roles, I've aged them up a bit (and perhaps down a bit, too). In this case, characters' ages are less relevant, and in the case of at least one of them, I feel he was too young in the novel to have amassed the life experiences he supposedly has. Despite that, I still feel these actors will do a great job.

The Regular Cast

For our intrepid (hah) hero, Darian Frey, I kept picturing Dominic West of The Wire and The Hour fame, but I'm afraid he's just a bit too long in the tooth by now. Darian is self-centered, often greed-driven, treats women poorly in general and is a burgeoning drug addict. We're talking about a seriously flawed, yet very human and engaging, lead character. I'm picking Tom Riley, formerly of Da Vinci's Demons, but I'll confess, I'm primarily familiar with this actor thanks to his performance as Robin Hood (seriously) on Doctor Who, where he showed a great deal of charisma and charm. This tells me he's an actor with range, as his role on Demons was darker and more brooding. There's darkness and charm to Darian, so Riley should work perfect.

Also aboard the Ketty Jay is gentleman daemonist Grayther Crake. Crake is on the run, and with him is a mysterious golem named Bess. Crake's main talent is in binding daemons, which comes in handy a lot, and really, his only other skill is fitting in with society crowds, which comes in handy for infiltration purposes. He eventually realizes he belongs on the Ketty Jay. The foppish dandy seems like a good role for Stephen Campbell Moore.
Stephen Campbell Moore
Jez, aka Jezabeth Kyte, is the new navigator aboard the Ketty Jay. She's small, looks younger than she is, and is maybe a little too good at her job. What's she hiding? Well, on the Ketty Jay, where everyone has secrets, she's right at home. Kaya Scodelario is a tad young, but to me captures the mysterious, yet inviting, young navigator.
Then there's good old Doc Malvery. I like Althazar Malvery, and you will, too. He's a fatherly, wise old feller, even if he is a functioning alcoholic. He's sort of the mentor character, and one of my favorites. I wanted to match his girth, age and wisdom with an actor that would be TV-ready, and came up with Game of Thrones's Ron Donachie. All he needs is a walrus mustache.
Ron Donachie
The role of the Ketty Jay's engineer, strong silent-type Silo, was tougher, because he's probably the most layered character in the book. A Murthian, Silo is basically a strapping, handsome black man with a thick accent and bass voice. He starts off so serious, quiet and withdrawn that he's hardly a character. But once we begin to delve into him, well, let's just say that still waters run very deeply in this case. I think I've found my Silo in Jimmy Akingbola.
Jimmy Akingbola
Then there are the two out-flyers. These are the men who pilot the planes that scout ahead of the Ketty-Jay and help in any dogfights they get into. First up is Artis Pinn, the whipping-boy for the rest of the crew who is a few bricks shy, and also chubby, sexist, perpetually horny, even a little mean-spirited. Sounds like a great guy, eh? Well, no, he's not, and the book even makes it clear. The only thing he's good at is flying, and he thinks of himself as a dashing hero because of it. To me, he looks like Calvin Dean.
Second outflyer is Jandrew Harkins. Harkins fought in the Aerium Wars (read the books to find out what they are) and is still shell-shocked from them. He's perpetually frightened, only ever feeling at home in his plane. He was another who was hard to cast, but I think Jason Flemyng could handle the jittery, rat-faced, balding, gap-toothed pilot.
In the last two seasons, a new regular comes aboard. Her name is Ashua Vode, and she's a street rat trying to break into bigtime thievery. She's a short ginger with a tattood face, and kinda looks like this:
Which to me, looks an awful lot like Karen Gillan. That's not Gillan in the photo, but it's a pretty good estimation of what she'd look like dressed as Ashua.

Recurring Cast
The following characters will appear frequently, but probably not often enough to be considered regulars.

The first of these, and the most important, is Frey's love interest, Capt. Trinica Dracken. After he left her, she became probably the most infamous and feared sky pirate in the world, and cultivates an evil persona that she uses to inspire fear. Underneath it all, however, there are hints that Darian's beautiful former fiance is still there. I chose Rosamund Pike for the part. I think she could handle both aspects of the character.
Rosamund Pike

The Century Knights are a fun group. They're the hundred most deadly fighters in the Coalition, and we get to know one of them quite well; Samandra Bree, a dual-rifle wielding, short, cute badass, she was a lot of fun and I wanted to cast a fun actress in the role. Believe me, I'm not just trying to work in as many Doctor Who companions as I can, but I think Jenna Coleman would rock this part.
Jenna Coleman
 Samandra's partner, giant, taciturn Colden Grudge, basically just calls for a really big actor. So I chose stuntman Spencer Wilding, who stands 6'7".
Spencer Wilding
There are lots of other roles, but few that appear as often as the ones I cast. I'm gonna leave it up to other Wooding readers to suggest actors for people like Kedmund Drave or Plome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gideon Smith & the Mechanical Girl

This one's a bit different from my last post. This book isn't a decades-old classic that quite a lot of people know of, and know in depth. This one's relatively new, and quite different. However, as new as it is, I need to advise you of potential spoilers below, so maybe if you haven't read this one and don't care for spoilers, just give this one a pass.

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a rollicking, fun steampunk adventure from author David Barnett that hit shelves last year. Multiple reviews of the book talk about how it feels like a movie, and unlike a lot of the books I read, it's short enough that there shouldn't be any trouble fitting this into a two-hour running time.

As the cover might imply, there's a ton of spectacle and high adventure. It's a mystery/adventure/quest story that involves vampires, monsters, automatons, airships, magical artifacts, you name it. It mixes actual history (it's set in Victorian Britain) with the fantasy/horrors of that day. Bram Stoker might actually exist, but so might his creation, Count Dracula, and other vampires. And I prefer not to say much more about this.

Anyway, our hero is a young, earnest fisherman from a village called Sandsend. His father's disappearance (and rumored death) start the plot, as young Gideon is certain that foul play is behind the situation and does what any loving son would do; attempts to contact the hero of the penny dreadful stories he enjoys reading: the dashing Capt. Lucien Trigger. Gideon, who's about 25 or so, is described as being muscular and broad shouldered, but to me, what came across far more in the writing was his earnestness, vulnerability and wide-eyed wonder. I kept trying to picture him as a strapping, muscular lad, but the image of Andrew Garfield wouldn't leave my mind. Despite that, having reviewed the choice, I think Aaron Taylor-Johnson would fit much better. Kick-Ass showed that he has the same vulnerability but is a much more impressive physical specimen.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Along the way, Gideon meets an Irish writer who refuses to believe in the first. His name is Bram Stoker. Michael Fassbender, like Stoker, is Irish, a ginger, and looks like he could pass for the historical Stoker.
Michael Fassbender
Bram Stoker

Stoker's take on the supernatural changes dramatically when he meets - not Dracula, but Dracula's widow, the Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. I'm less worried about historical accuracy when casting Bathory, because we really have no idea what she looked like, only paintings, which may or may not be accurate. All we need is a beautiful woman who also looks dangerous. Eva Green, anyone?
Eva Green

After getting separated from Stoker, Gideon's adventure takes him to Einstein's house. Well, not Albert. Albert's grandfather. Among the wonders there is a beautiful automaton (the titular mechanical girl) who looks almost perfectly like a young lady, who begs Gideon to take her with him. He agrees. She looks very young, innocent and blonde. Kinda like Sophie Turner.
Sophie Turner
After meeting back up in London, Gideon meets a foul-mouthed, decidedly hygiene-lacking fat reporter with a sharp mind. Aloyisius Bent is absolutely the comic relief here, but he's also that rare bird; comic relief that is actually useful. He comes along on their adventure, sensing a big story. And Nick Frost would play him to perfection.
Nick Frost
Bent leads them to Capt. Trigger, who, alas, is nothing like Gideon expected. He's actually a weak, frail, aging man whose one real talent is writing, and he has actually been chronicling the adventures of his friend (and lover) Dr. John Reed, who remains safely anonymous since everyone thinks the adventures belong to Trigger. He's not all that frail looking, but the image of Kenneth Branagh clung in my mind as I read about the aging, cowardly, closeted man.
Kenneth Branagh
It turns out that John Reed is missing, too. Trigger reluctantly decides to join the quest, hoping to find his lover. To facilitate the journey, they hire the Mistress of the Airways, Aerostat captain Rowena Fanshawe. She reminded me of Natalia Tena.
Natalia Tena

They run afoul of a notorious American pirate names Louis Cockayne, who's almost as much a figure of legend as Trigger and Fanshawe. I know that it sounds like type-casting, but every description of him given in the text made me think of Adam Rothenberg. So, I can't help it, he's my Louis.
Adam Rothenberg

 They need to go to Alexandria, it turns out, and hire local sub captain Mr. Okoth. Who better to play a large, intimidating, but ultimately jolly African man? Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbage, of course!
Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbage
They make it to Africa, and they do indeed find Dr. Reed. But is he friend or foe? Iain Glen looks like the middle-aged, strong, bearded man that Reed is.
Iain Glen
Ah, but who is the mysterious Walsingham, who appears to be the one who has been behind most if not all of the trouble? Walsingham is tall, elderly, thin, and has a sharp nose. Sounds like Charles Dance to me.
Charles Dance
Also, it's a minor role, but Varney the Vampire shows up. I couldn't resist casting everyone's favorite emaciated, reanimated corpse, Julian Richings.
Julian Richings

Dune by Frank Herbert: A Good Version

When it comes to sci-fi novels, there may be none more revered than Frank Herbert's Dune, which I like to call the Lord of the Rings of science fiction. At it's heart, it's a sort of sci-fi Messiah tale, similar in many respects to Star Wars (except it came first) but with a staggering amount of world-building and mythology built in. I may as well tell you that I don't have a ton of interest in giving plot outlines on this blog. That's not what it's for. It's mostly about finding the right cast for it, and generally I assume that if you're reading the blog, you're already familiar with the source material.

In the case of Dune, however, there have already been two filmed versions; David Lynch's 1982 bomb and the somewhat-more-successful 2000 Sci-Fi Channel mini-series. Of the two, the mini-series was marginally better, at least in getting across the ideas in the novel, which the movie tried to compress into just over two hours, and, like a lot of movies based on long novels, poured a ton of detail into the first hour and then rushed the second.

I think Dune is pretty cinematic, and since its sequels mostly feature different characters and lots of time-jumps, I think it fits much better as a movie. Perhaps it could be turned into a six-hour "Event" television series, or perhaps it could follow Kill Bill and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and just split into two (three hour plus) movies. I'm good with either option, and it doesn't change my casting choices either way.

So, let's get this party started. First of all, we have our hero, Paul Atreides, son of the Duke of the planet Caladan, and young unlikely hero of the Fremen. Paul is described in the novel as being fifteen (though he is seventeen or eighteen before the novel concludes) and small for his age. Honestly, his being small is just kinda mentioned. The character's height really has nothing to do with how he is portrayed, and is probably just to make him seem even less likely to be a hero. Paul is often quiet, moody, intense and very intelligent. At the novel's start he is less moody, but the longer the novel goes on, the more of a brooder he becomes.

Anton Yelchin
To play the character, you want a young-looking actor capable of the sort of intensity Paul later shows while still able to play a privileged youth who was raised to be an heir to a Ducal title. For that, I pick Anton Yelchin, a very likeable young actor with a nice range who I think could easily handle both Paul's powerful and vulnerable sides. He's in his mid-twenties, which is okay, because he can be believed as a teenager, and as a young adult. He would, in fact, be the youngest actor to ever play the character.

Cate Blanchett
Paul's mother, and the female lead, is Lady Jessica, who is a Bene Gesserit "witch" that became his perpetually unmarried father's concubine. Jessica, as a Bene Gesserit, is secretive and manipulative, but also, as Paul's mother who loves the Duke very much, a solidly heroic character. She needs to look austere and mysterious without looking evil. Cate Blanchett should be able to pull that off.

The role of Duke Leto Atreides, Paul's father, Jessica's lover and, at the start of the story, the Duke of Caladan and also of Arrakis (the desert planet known colloquially as "Dune"), is not a huge part, but is very important and memorable, and will require a solid, recognizable actor in the part. Since he is nobility, he will have to look high-born and noble, but since he's a good man, it's important he also be likeable. I admit, I struggled with this one. None of the movies got the Duke right before. I struggle between Jason Isaacs and Mark Strong, with Strong ultimately winning out.
Mark Strong
Jason Isaacs
Yes, I know both men are known for playing bad guys, but their also actors with a ton of presence who have great range. Strong, to my mind, looks more like a noble, but if he's unavailable, I pick Isaacs.

The story's principle villain is Vladimir Harkonnen, the despicable Baron of the planet Geidi Prime, who is the other half of an ages-long feud between his house and House Atreides. He is secretly in league with the Paddishah Emperor and the Spacing Guild to destroy House Atreides. He is described in the book as being grossly fat, to a degree that he needs an anti-grave belt to even stand up, and speaking in a rumbling "basso" voice. He had red hair as a young man, but that's not important to the character, plus you could even make him bald.

Neither film version really cast him well. They just went for a heavy-set actor. Baron Harkonnen is supposed to be almost inhumanly fat. After going through a number of fat actors such as Pruitt Taylor Vince, Timothy Spall and Simon Fisher-Becker, I decided that it was far more important that the actor chosen have villainous gravitas and an evil look than that he be overweight. After all, there's probably no one outside of Guinness World Champions who would be fat enough, so I decided to choose a creepy, evil looking actor and let a thousand pounds of latex (like so) take care of the rest. I chose Hugo Weaving.
Hugo Weaving
And that should be all I have to say about that.

Ellen Page
From here, it gets a little harder. I'll start off with Paul's Fremen lover, Chani, who is supposed to be physically small and rather elfin. I know that some people equate the desert-dwelling Fremen with a middle-eastern look, but to be honest, I just don't know enough middle-eastern actresses the right age and look. I'm sure there are some, but I'm not familiar with enough of them. So I'm sticking with my first choice, which was Ellen Page.
She's a tiny little wisp of a thing that just looks so much like Chani is described that I can't see anyone else. Well, I considered Chloe Grace Moretz, but she is still a child, and whoever plays Chani will need to be able to do at least one nude scene. By the way, yes, I know Ms. Page came out recently. Words cannot describe how little I care. I say that because I don't want the comments section to devolve into a discussion of her sexuality.
Ray Stevenson
For the Fremen leader Stilgar, I went with a guy who is large and powerful, yet capable of some powerful acting with some grand presence. Ray Stevenson seems more than capable of pulling off this part. For the Imperial Planetologist turned Fremen sympathizer Dr. Liet-Kynes, well, honestly this part is kinda nondescript and could be played by any solid actor over the age of 55. I choose Jonathan Pryce because, well, he's a solid actor, and over 55.
Jonathan Pryce

Ray Winstone
Now we come to the supporting characters; that colorful cast that Dune is known for. I'll start with the three House Atreides retainers who seem to be commonly associated with each other: the Mentat Thufir Hawat, the musical Marshall Gurney Halleck, and the traitorous physician Dr. Wellington Yueh. Hawat and Yueh are short on descriptors, other than to describe both as old men, but Gurney is described as short, squat, blonde, ugly and baring a scar (which makeup would take care of). For whatever reason, they gave this role to Patrick Stewart in the movie version. What? Today, the best man I can think of for the job is Ray Winstone. He's short and compact, and while not hideous he's not handsome, either.
Michael Gambon
Plus, he looks like he could kick your ass. Hawat is a man whose mind has been enhanced to the point where he's practically a human computer. He's kind of a Dumbledore to Paul, at least at the start of the novel, though the way he's used is far different. So different, that I don't mind him being played by, well, Dumbledore. Seriously, I think Michael Gambon fits this part quite well.

While we're on the subject of actors from Harry Potter, I'm sorry, but I just can't help but picture Alan Rickman in the role of Potter cast in this movie. Most of my choices aren't Potter related. But read the book and tell me he wouldn't be great.
Alan Rickman
Dr. Yueh. I can't put a finger on why. He just seems right in the role. And no, this isn't a case of just wanting all the

The final Atreides retainer is swordmaster Duncan Idaho. Idaho is not a large role, but he's a fan
Benedict Cumberbatch
Michael Fassbender
favorite and considered the breakout character of the book, so he should be played by someone memorable. At the moment I'm torn between Michael Fassbender and burgeoning geek god Benedict Cumberbatch. At the moment, I still lean toward Fassbender, but something tells me that fans will "sqee" at the idea of Cumberbatch in the part. Perhaps I should put up a poll on the subject.

Douglas Booth
I know that up until now, everyone reading this has been asking "What about Sting's part!? Where's Sting's character?" Well, the funny thing is, the character Sting played in the original film is, well, not that large a role. It's not a tiny one, certainly, but he's a second tier villain; Feyd-Rautha, the nephew and heir apparent to Baron Harkonnen. A lot of people seem to remember him the most from the original film, possibly due to who played him. Personally, I don't think a big star is necessary here. A charismatic actor, sure, but not a major name. Feyd-Rautha is young (around 16 in the book), brash, sneers a lot, and is a little, well, fey. I think Douglas Booth comes closest to how the book describes him, but then, his Romeo & Juliet costar Ed Westwick also seems to have the attitude necessary for Feyd. I think I'm gonna stick with Booth, for now, though. He's more fey.

While we're casting the second-tier villains, let's look at the other half of the anti-Atreides conspiracy, the Paddishah Emperor Shaddam IV. The character doesn't actually appear on-page much in the novel, but is nonetheless a pretty central role who needs to be featured. He's described as looking much younger than his eighty-plus years, with red hair. I was watching Doctor Who when I saw the perfect Emperor; Scottish ginger-haired middle-aged character actor Tony Curran.
Tony Curran
Imogene Poots
I know some think a major name should be used here, but honestly, why waste the budget on walk-on roles for huge-name actors? Curran will do just fine. Might as well cast his daughter, Irulan, while we're here. Not a villainous role, indeed not a large role in the novel at all, but an important one (man, this book's full of them!), but tall, willowy Imogene
Poots seems a good fit for the role.

Moving on, we have creepy Mentat Piter DeVries, creepier eunuch Count Hasomir Fenring, and hulking brute (and Feyd-Rautha's half-brother) Count Glossu Rabban. These are sorta the henchmen roles. Piter is the Baron's personal Mentat, and is described as having a "killer's smile". Basically, whoever plays Piter is gonna have to be one creepy dude, one you would never trust to turn your back on. Few do creepy so well as James Frain.

James Frain
Speaking of creepy, the aforementioned Fenring is creepy, but in a much less hostile way. You're less afraid that he'll knife you in the back and more afraid that he'll...erm..."knife" you in the back...end. I struggled over this one. He's not really a well-described character. But I eventually decided that creepy character actor would be the way to go. I'm against Brad Dourif being in this because he played Piter in the original, but Jeffrey Combs, who is great at
Jeffrey Combs
playing camp creepy characters, would rock this part.

 The last role I consider necessary to choose an actor for is the semi-villainous Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim. Yes, there are other major characters, but I'm gonna let them remain uncast because they could end up either cut or minimized to walk-on roles. The Reverend Mother's role cannot be done that way, however; pretty critical character, here. Really, any older actress with gravitas could play this character, but after seeing the most recent Robin Hood movie, I'm choosing Eileen Atkins, who looks amazing for her age and is a terrific actress.
Eileen Atkins

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fan-Casting: A Tricky, But Fun, Pass-time

I love to fan-cast. I do it with much of what I read.

I understand this is something a lot of people like to do, and I understand why. It's fun, plus it makes for an easier way to picture the characters when you read about them. But it's also a tricky little pass-time. Allow me to explain why.

First, time marches on, and if there's a book you read twenty years ago that you had fan-cast at the time, then obviously most if not all of your choices won't be valid anymore. However, it's often hard to shake from your mind the idea of casting Actor X in this much-beloved role. Let's say that in your mind, the first time you read, say, Dracula, your mind immediately pictured Alec Guinness playing Prof. Abraham van Helsing. The problem? You first read the book in 1982 and Alec Guinness is DEAD. Despite that, to you, that's what van Helsing looks like and you can't really see him any other way.

Another problem is that casting is a subjective thing. Some people read a book and picture a character very differently than the book describes him or her. I once heard someone say that when they read A Clash of Kings, in their mind Stannis Baratheon looked like John Noble as Denethor in the Lord of the Rings movies. Of course, Stannis looks nothing like that. He's tall, balding, wears a beard and is at least a decade younger (more if you go by the book age of the characters and not the HBO television series). But to this reader, the attitude of Stannis made him think of Denethor, and so that's how he pictured the character. To him, no one but John Noble would have made a good Stannis.

Some people get hung up on whether or not the actor's hair is the same color as the character's, as if wigs and/or hair dye don't exist. The only time I worry about stuff like that is if their skin tone is way too dark to make a convincing blonde, for example

It's not impossible that two people with equal knowledge of and appreciation for the same source material may feel that certain actors are "the only" choice for a given role, and even if that's not the case may still disagree, even vehemently, with each other about what actor is best for what role. You're probably gonna hate a lot of my choices. That said, just know that every choice I make was carefully selected, and there are usually lots of alternates in my mind, as well. 

For that matter, that brings me to another issue, which is that often, film/TV versions often give us a different take on the characters. Using the above example, the television series version of Game of Thrones, which is based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire ages up many of the characters. Adults who were in their 30's in the books are in their 40's or even 50's in the series. Some minor or secondary characters are totally unrecognizable from their book counterparts. This is not uncommon. In fact, the closest I've ever seen a movie version get to its source material was Peter Jackson's take on The Lord of the Rings.

This is not how I fan-cast. For the most part, I try to get as close as I can to the characters as described in the books. There might be some exceptions to that rule. Often a character might be impossibly tall, or hugely fat. Camera tricks, visual effects and fat suits can take care of such things, meaning that I care far more that the actor, facially, voice-wise and acting-ability wise be able to portray the character than I am worried about whether or not they're tall/short/fat enough. After all, in a world where we can make full-sized humans into hobbits and dwarves or an average-height actor like Rodrigo Santoro into a towering colossus, we no longer have to be so hung-up on stuff like that. The only exception might be a character like Little John in a Robin Hood movie, as he's not super-human, just really big.

But then there's the other trap, one that far, far too many fan-casters have fallen into, and that is, casting wrong.

When I pick an actor for a part, I take the following into account:

1) How closely the actor resembles (or could resemble with make-up) the character.
2) Whether the actor is physically anything like the character as described, and how much that matters to the portrayal.
3) The age of the actor vs. the age of the character, and how much that matters to the portrayal.
4) The ability of the actor to portray the character in terms of acting ability, range, ability to affect an accent not their own, etc.
5) The sort of roles the actor takes, and whether their current clout might prevent them from taking said role.
6) Whether the actor in question is still alive.

Quite a few of the fan-casters I've seen more or less stop with number one.

I don't know how many times I've seen it. Maybe they're casting a movie version of a book with a ton of characters, so they decide to cast them all. However, they just pick actors they're familiar with and try and match, to some degree, the look of the actor with the look of the character. Sometimes they go full moron and cast an actor famous for a certain role in a role that is similar. For example, I honestly don't know how many times I've seen someone look at a role of a serious, badass strong silent type with a mysterious past and think "Yeah, Viggo Mortensen! He played a great Aragorn, so he should make a great Roland Deschaine!" Of course, there are several problems there. For one, Mortensen usually doesn't play that sort of character. He was cast against-type, and took the role mainly because his daughter wanted him to. Also, just because a character shares a few aspects of Aragorn's character doesn't mean the same actor can, or should, play both.

Probably the most off-the-wall awful casting suggestion I ever saw was when someone was trying to fill all the roles in A Song of Ice and Fire, casting the books as movies (which, of course, would have ruined them, but that's another story). Among her choices was Tom Cruise as...Renly Baratheon.

Now, I don't know how many of you have read the books, or watched Game of Thrones, but Renly is in his early twenties and not a very large role. If they had decided to do Game of Thrones as a movie, he would likely have had about one or two scenes per movie, maximum. Tom Cruise, meanwhile, is over 50 (and would have been well into his forties when I first saw the suggestion) and is probably still one of the biggest movie stars in the world even today. Even if he had the acting range to play Renly, and he might, not only would he have been wrong for the part, but he would have been prohibitively expensive, even if he consented to taking what would have amounted to a walk-on role.

That's not how I cast movies, or TV shows. I want the sort of cast list that looks at least somewhat plausible, assuming what I have read ever does get turned into a movie. I study movies and TV shows that I watch. If an actor who has a small part seems to have some presence or seems to fit a part well, I look up that person's name and keep them in mind should I need them for a part.

With movies I'm a little more star-heavy, at least sometimes. I try and choose actors you'd at least recognize, even if they're character actors or actors who normally do TV. I try very hard not to stick huge actors in supporting or minor roles. You will not see on this blog a suggestion such as Leonardo DiCaprio playing, say, one of the Merry Men or Fortinbras in Hamlet or something.

Also, much of what I read is in serial format. Often the books are huge, or contain intricate plots, and I feel they would be ruined by being squeezed into a two to three hour running time. When that happens, I will probably cast it as a television series, rather than a movie. When I cast a TV series, I also keep in mind whether actors are available, since it makes little sense to me to cast an actor in my TV series who will be tied up with another series for conceivably years to come. Also, in some cases I may note which network (cable mostly, but not always) it would be best suited on. I also may note who will be a regular cast member and who will just recur.

One last thing, I am an absolute giant among nerds, so most of what I read falls well into the Sci-fi/Fantasy category. I also read some horror, and every now and then something that doesn't fall into my preferred genre, but mostly it will be speculative fiction.

Next Post: A Good Dune movie!