Monday 16 February 2015

Casting Call: Fox-verse - X-Men and Fantastic Four

Miles Teller
Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic
The Fantastic Four (August 2015); Fantastic Four 2 (July 2017)

Josh Trank's FF reboot is rapidly approaching, and we've still seen very little promotional material for it. At least a teaser trailer has been released, which seems to suggest a harder science-fictional take on the source material, although the shaky, handheld-style footage expected from Trank is noticeably absent. It appears that this version will be based heavily on the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, with teenaged character who gain their powers when traversing another dimension in a scientific experiment, rather than travelling into space. Miles Teller is 28, perhaps a little old for such a role, but this isn't unusual for Hollywood. Teller has an awkward charm, which is just right for the ingenious but often unconfident Reed Richards. Richards was played in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four movies by Ioan Gruffudd.

Kate Mara
Sue Storm/Invisible Girl
The Fantastic Four; Fantastic Four 2

The oldest of the four leads, Kate Mara is 31, so they're really stretching that young hero angle. Best known for House of Cards and American Horror Story but with a string of film credits to her name, she's also been  the most outspoken in regards to the new movie, stating that she was advised not to read the comics to cloud her interpretation of the script, and that she and all the cast are focusing on making their characters "real." Bizarrely, some internet madmen are attacking her appearance in the trailer with her natural brunette hair. Far better than casting a Hispanic actor like Jessica Alba and altering her to look Aryan, surely. Seriously, some lunatics are suggesting that the casting of Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Melissa Benoist as Supergirl as evidence of discrimination against blondes.

Michael B. Jordan

Johnny Storm/Human Torch
The Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four 2

Easily the most controversial casting decision on this list, I'd say this is also the best. Having worked with Trank already on Chronicle, and Teller on That Awkward Moment, there's already a good working relationship in place, and Jordan is easily capable of playing a charismatic yet vulnerable young man. At 28, he's perhaps getting a little old to play a teenaged character. If anything, it puts me in mind of Donald Glover's campaigning to play Spider-Man - another black American actor keen to play an iconic but caucasian character, who is fast getting too old to do so. Inevitably, some people are up in arms about this casting. Frankly, any logistical arguments are farcical. There's nothing in Johnny Storm's character that suggests he has to be white, and the only problem is that he is the brother of Sue Storm, who remains white. Even this is easily dealt with with a simple rewrite; they could be half-siblings or stepsiblings, or Johnny could be adopted. Hardly an insurmountable narrative problem. Johnny Storm was previously played by Chris Evans, who was the best thing about the 2005 Fantastic Four, but is now, of course, Captain America.

Jamie Bell

Ben Grimm/The Thing
The Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four 2

English actor Jamie Bell is best known for Billy Elliot, but has action movie background in Jumper and King Kong. He's an unusual choice for the normally beefy Ben Grimm, who was previously played by Michael Chiklis. The look of the post-transformation, rock-like Thing has been a closely guarded secret, with an early leaked image being retracted and only the briefest glimpse in the trailer. Incidentally, all four leads are contracted to appear in Fantastic Four 2 in July 2017, but the production of that film will hinge on the success of the first, so I don't think we can consider it confirmed.

Reg Cathey

Dr. Franklin Storm
The Fantastic Four

Also known best for House of Cards, Cathey plays the father of Sue and Johnny Storm. The mainstream comics version of Franklin was a surgeon, estranged from his children, but the Ultimate Universe version was a regular character who worked on the supersoldier programme with Dr. Molhevic (the Mole Man). Expect some elements of this to be worked into the script, but not the supersoldier elements, which belong to Marvel.

Toby Kebbell

Victor Domashev/Doom
The Fantastic Four

First things first: Toby Kebbell is amazing. Another English actor, Kebbell played Kobo, the damaged and eventually villainous bonobo character in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It's probably safe to call him the next Andy Serkis, and his motion capture and voice skills should come into good use as the masked Dr. Doom. He was also excellent as a disturbed character in Black Mirror. However, news of the rebooted version so encouraging. The original version is one of the big bads of the Marvel universe, of course, a despotic ruler whose real name is Victor von Doom. The Ultimate version was changed to something slightly more sensible, Victor van Damme. So Victor Domashev is fine. It's just... he's being described as an angry blogger. "Doom" is his online handle. That's just so appallingly naff I can hardly compute it.

Tim Blake Nelson

Harvey Elder/Mole Man
The Fantastic Four

Tim Blake Nelson previously appeared in the MCU as Samuel Sterns. His appearance in The Incredible Hulk ended with him beginning his transformation into super-brained mutate The Leader. Clearly he was set to appear in the next Hulk film... which never happened. Now he's hopped over to Fox's franchise to play Harvey Elder, who, in the comics, is the freakish supervillain Mole Man, ruler of the Moloids and creator of numerous monsters. The Ultimate Universe version goes by the name Arthur Molekevic, a scientist employed at the Baxter Building where the FF are based. It's likely that, despite the name change, the movie version will be more like the Ultimate version, but as both are monster-breeding biochemists, it's clear Nelson's character is being set up as a future villain for the franchise. Expect him to have a major role in the sequel should it come to pass.

Ryan Reynolds

Wade Wilson/Deadpool
Deadpool (2016), X-Force (unknown)

Hurrah! Deadpool is finally getting an actual movie, thanks to some clever sorts who leaked that test film that got huge acclaim. Reynolds, of course, played Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which completely destroyed the character by turning him into a sort of conglomerate of all the cool bits of other mutants with none of the actual appeal. Or a mouth. However, Reynolds is now back in the role, which should actually have proper Deadpool stuff, like breaking the fourth wall and being funny. I really hope Deadpool turns to the camera and apologises for Origins: Wolverine. Everyone's second favourite Canadian mutant with a healing factor is set to get his own film next year, so they'd better get a wriggle on, before hopefully appearing in an X-Force movie further down the line with other popular characters such as Cable.

Gina Camaro
Angel Dust

Actress/MMA fighter Gina Camaro is set to play Angel Dust, a reasonably obscure character who is one of the Morlocks, a group of underground mutants with generally useless powers such as the ability to alter adrenaline levels, which is was Angel Dust can do. Still, with Camaro playing her, she should be good at fighting. She's also supposedly going to be starring in a movie adaptation of Rob Liefield's shit comic, Avengelyne.

Channing Tatum

Remy LeBeau/Gambit
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), Gambit (2016?)

Cajun charmer Remy LeBeau was the sexiest male cartoon character of the nineties in X-Men: The Animated Series, voiced by Chris Potter, before finally making it to the big screen played by the generally awful Taylor Kitsch in Origins: Wolverine. After rumours that he would be back for Deadpool, it was confirmed that Gambit would in fact be returning to our screens in 2016 in Apocalypse, before spinning off into his own movie. Both of which are supposedly going to be filmed in time for this extremely X-Men heavy year, which seems unlikely. Channing Tatum is set to take the role, after years of saying how much he'd love to play him. General consensus is that he should be pretty much perfect for the role. We might also expect him to appear in the proposed X-Force movie if Gambit is successful.

Sophie Turner
Jean Grey
X-Men: Apocalypse

The Game of Thrones star is set to play the young Jean Grey in the 1980s set X-Men: Apocalypse, as one of the mutants tutored/recruited by Professor Xavier. Famke Jansen previously played the older Jean in the 2000s X-Men trilogy (with dreamscape appearances in The Wolverine and a cameo in Days of Future Past). Jean was one of the original 'first class' of X-Men in the comics, in which she initially used the codename Marvel Girl. Sophie Turner is a truly excellent choice for the role.

Tye Sheridan

Scott Summers/Cyclops
X-Men: Apocalypse

Another first class recruit and eventual leader of the X-Men, Cyclops was played in the X-Men trilogy by James Marsden (also with a cameo in Days of Future Past). A teenaged version appeared briefly in Origins: Wolverine, played by Tim Pocock. Tye Sheridan is not an actor I'm familiar with, but a brief tells me her is well-regarded for his performances in The Tree of Life, Joe and Mud.

Of the other original class of X-Men, Hank McCoy/Beast is already part of the team, played by the excellent Nicholas Hoult. Warren Worthington/Angel and Bobby Drake/Iceman both featured in the initial 2000s trilogy as young characters, precluding their inclusion in these retro-set films.

Alexandra Shipp

Ororo Munroe/Storm
X-Men: Apocalypse

Sometimes leader of the X-Men, Storm doesn't date back quite as far as Cyclops and Jean Grey, but she's still a longtime member of the team, first appearing in Giant Size X-Men #1 in 1975, the first major black female hero in mainstream comics. Having been played by the dreadfully miscast Halle Berry in the X-Men trilogy and Days of Future Past, the younger Storm is now to be played by Alexandra Shipp, who is best known for playing the popstar Aaliyah. She's probably very good, but I note this another mixed race American actress. It's not like there aren't plenty of black African actresses who could play the character.

Oscar Isaac

En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse
X-Men: Apocalypse

Apocalypse is an ancient mutant in the Marvel universe, possibly even the first mutant, born over 5000 years ago. With complete psionic control over the matter of his own body, he is almost unstoppable, a monstrous monomaniac determined to rule the Earth (which he does in the timeline of the Age of Apocalypse). He was briefly played by Brendan Fredder in the post-credits scene at the end of Days of Future Past, building a pyramid psychokinetically while his four Horsemen looked on. Lauded Hispanic actor Oscar Isaac is set to play the mighty mutant in his eponymous film. Why Apocalypse did not figure in the initial timeline of the X-Men films is uncertain; perhaps the changes to history in Days of Future Past may have had more extensive repurcussions than we've seen. Maybe the slumbering Apocalypse was destroyed by Sentinels before he awoke in the initial timeline, whereas in the new timeline he is free to awaken and threaten the world.

Who the Horsemen of Apocalypse will be is as yet unknown. In the comics various mutants and mutates have taken up their roles over the years, with both Wolverine and Gambit taking on the role of Death. Seeing that they're both set to appear in Apocalypse (Gambit a definite, Wolverine a very likely), could we be seeing one of them being corrupted? 


Cody Smit-McFee
Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
X-Men: Apocalypse

Long-rumoured to be appearing in this film, Nightcrawler was previously played rather brilliantly by Alan Cumming in X2. Now the sequel/prequel/whateverquel has its Nightcrawler, to be played by 18-year-old Smit-McFee, best known for voice work including Paranorman, but with live action credits for Let Me In and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Good to see they're casting young with this; Nightcrawler's age was inderterminate in X2, but he's have to very young in the eighties. Looking forward to see what the guy looks like in blue.

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