Casting Call: Captain America

Nov-17-08

Marvel has announced an upcoming Captain America movie, as part of their Avengers series of films. Now, details about the film aren’t available (at least, details aren’t available to me), so I don’t know which characters from the comics we might see in the upcoming film, but I thought we might take a look at the characters who figure prominently in Cap’s life and see who we might choose to cast in those parts.

Captain America: Obviously, this is the most important role in the film, and it’s tempting to cheat by saying I’d cast an virtual unknown, like they have with Superman in the beginning of his two film series. I think that a movie with a new actor in the starring role, and with established actors filling out the rest of the supporting cast, would work very well. However, that’s kind of cheating for these Casting Calls, so let’s see who we can find. Cap is actually a difficult role to fill; you need an action star who can act, but more importantly, you need a huge, buff guy, which really isn’t in vogue these days. Most young actors are skinny and don’t have the size that Cap really needs. That being said, I’m going to cast Adam Baldwin, from Firefly, Angel and Chuck. I can’t remember if I’ve cast him before, and he’d need to dye his hair blond, but he’s a great actor, and he’s got the size to be a convincing Cap.


Red Skull: Cap’s greatest enemy is a sure bet to be in the film, although I don’t know if they’ll have the skull be just a mask, or his actual face. I’m also not sure if they’ll play him more as a criminal genius or as a martial arts expert to rival Cap. In either case, chances are we aren’t going to see his face much. Still, if there’s an actor we know can do an evil German, and we know can act under a lot of makeup, that would be Ralph Fiennes. Whether we see his actual face or not, he would make the Skull truly memorable.


Bucky during World War II: Hard to say how much of the movie will be set in WWII, but a younger Bucky is a distinct possibility. What young actor could recreate the character? Without a doubt, this has been the hardest part for me to cast. I would have cast Lucas Black, from American Gothic in the part, were he still 15 years old. Sadly, that time has past us. I find it hard to actually identify teenage male actors who seem like they could handle this part; most “teens” on TV are in the early 20s and tend to look like it, and I really think that Bucky needs to be a teenager. Finally, I’m going to go with Rafi Gavron, who was just in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. He was fun in that character, but he’s younger, he looks like a teenager, and yet he’s built enough to be Bucky (he’s the one on the left).


Winter Soldier: The older Bucky has proven to be such a neat idea in Ed Brubaker’s comics that he would have to be included. I’ve recast this part a few times. Personally, I think that the Winter Soldier should look pretty bad, and look a little older, to really cement how much he’s been through since WWII. However, in the comics he still looks relatively young, since he’s been in suspended animation for many of those years. I’m going to pick Jensen Ackles, of Supernatural, who has the build and the ability to be moody and intense. I think he could pull it off.


Sharon Carter: There’s sure to be a love interest, and Sharon Carter is the best one for Cap. As the only main female character in the movie, this woman has to do a lot. She’s got to be able to be strong, both physically and emotionally. I’m going to go with Charlize Theron, who’s proven she can hold her own in both Hancock and Aeon Flux (among others).

Nick Fury: I’m going to stick with the casting of Samuel Jackson for this one. I think the role should have gone to David Hasselhoff, who played Fury in the TV movie, but for some reason, Hollywood didn’t agree. Since Fury has already been seen in the Marvel movie Iron Man, and Jackson will do a great job with it, he’s in.

We were going to add another villain, but since this took me so long, I’m going to leave it with these six. Jason may discuss the other villain if he’d like. I’m sure he’ll have some comments on these selections anyway.

Yeah, I noticed on Friday that Newsarama was invading our casting turf (after we blatantly swiped it from Wizard…back when Wizard used to be good…or at least better…or at least entertaining) and thought we should jump on casting a movie that actually has a chance of being made in the near future. Our Justice League, Hawkeye and Doctor Strange casting calls are all pipe dreams at this point. But this one could actually see the light of day! Hopefully the two of us, and our four and a half average daily readers, can have some influence!

John made some solid choices overall. I don’t really feel horribly put off by any of them, but I do think there are some individuals who could fill a few of these roles more appropriately. I will say that I did not mind at all doing a 20-minute image search for the right Charlize Theron picture. As I’ve said before, she and Kate Beckinsale can do no wrong in my eyes. I was going to pose a half-serious argument for David Hasselhoff in the Nick Fury role, with visions of his career taking off like Travolta’s did post-Tarantino. But then I realized that I don’t really want The Hoff’s career to take off (and I don’t really care for Travolta either…he ruined what could have been a good Punisher movie).

Like John said, I was originally thinking of a secondary villain. Not sure how the script would play out, but it seems like Baron Strucker and HYDRA could be good foils for Captain America as he struggles with the Red Skull. And the two villains are of the same mold and might work with each other (or double cross each other as villains are wont to do). So, I’ll be casting the role of Strucker in addition to the others…

Captain America: I like Adam Baldwin…as a supporting actor. For some reason, and I don’t know if it’s the person or the roles he’s been put into, he always comes across as smug and sarcastic to me. He just doesn’t seem like the all-American guy I picture when I think of Cap. I’m with you on this one that they should probably cast a relatively unknown actor. However, I have to give it a shot, so I’ll go with Colin Ferguson. You may recognize him from a variety of TV shows, most recently the Sci Fi series Eureka. He’s 36, looks world-weary and can play both strong and humble (he has an improv background). The only slight against him is that he’s fairly thin…but I could see that working for the pre-serum Steve Rogers and then have him add some weight for the action parts of the flick.


Red Skull: I have no problem with Ralph Fiennes, per se. He’s a great actor who has played both a German and a villain, so that’s a good fit. The role needs a strong personality, someone who is willing to play it over the top and really brash. I’m not saying Ralph Fiennes is out, but I would like to offer up two other choices: Peter Weller (Robocop) and Peter Greene (Zed in Pulp Fiction). Oddly enough, both actors have the same general appearance…which seems to translate well to a skeletal look. Weller always came across as a bit more stone-faced and cold to me. Greene is the quintessential slimy bad guy type and creeps me out on screen. Let me know what you think of either of those options.


Bucky (young WWII version): I’m in the same boat as you when it comes to young Hollywood types who could play this role. In lieu of pounding my head on my desk in an attempt to shake a name loose, I’m just going to agree with you on this Rafi Gavron dude (even though I have no idea who he is).

Bucky (Winter Soldier version): This is another Ralph Fiennes moment for me. I see nothing wrong with Jensen Ackles and actually enjoy his Supernatural role. While he’s not yet written off by me, I’d like to suggest some competition in the form of Wentworth Miller. Miller has that look of someone who has gone through hell, been manipulated and came out the other side not giving a damn. Brooding is a good trait for older Bucky. It also helps that Miller looks like an older version of Gavron.


Sharon Carter: As I said above, I’m a ginormous Charlize Theron fan. She’s gorgeous. She’s fun. She’s proven she can occupy a variety of roles. I’m sure there are other strong blonde actresses out there, I’m just drawing a blank on any one in particular right now. Therefore, Theron is in.

Baron Strucker: The head of HYDRA has to have a maniacal bent to him. In fact, I posit that he has to look literally insane from power and hatred of his fellow man. This role needs an abrasive, evil man who can not only hold up under the monocle, facial scar and bald look…but thrive in it! For this special spot in the credits, I choose the guy who played both Laura Palmer’s dad on Twin Peaks and the Devil himself in Reaper: Ray Wise.


Sam Jackson as Nick Fury is a gimme. That completes my cast…sort of. Let’s discuss the Red Skull role a bit. And then give me your feedback. I can take it!

You’re completely correct when you say that Adam Baldwin has usually been somewhat smarmy, if not downright villainous. I think, however, that he’s a good enough actor to pull off Cap, but your counter suggestion of Colin Ferguson was brilliant! I hadn’t thought of him, and he would be great! You’re right, he’s a little thin, but he should be able to bulk up.

As for the Red Skull, your choices are fine, but I’m going to defend Ralph Fiennes. I think he’s a stronger actor than the other two, and again, he’s proven that he can work through makeup. He’s also an excellent villain, who simply oozes menace, and he can be somewhat cultured at the same time. Of all my choices, he’s the one I feel the strongest about, and I still think he’s the best choice for the role.

How sad is it that we couldn’t come up with a better choice for a young Bucky? It says something either about today’s teen actors, or our knowledge of today’s teen actors. Again, I can think of former child stars who would have been good in the role, but they’re all too old now, and most “high school” students are TV are in their 20’s. Is there an actor waiting in the wings on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon that I’m simply not aware of? Quite possibly. Perhaps this is the part that will be filled with some unknown after a nationwide search.

I’m a huge Wentworth Miller fan as well, and he could pull off the Winter Soldier, no doubt about it. This is the first choice where I throw up my hands and say that I could see either one in role. I think I’ll go with Wentworth Miller, simply because he does look more like our young Bucky than Jensen Ackles. I think he may also be a little thin for the role, but that’s nothing a personal trainer and a high protein diet won’t fix.

Ray Wise as Strucker is a great choice! I’m good with that. I believe we have our cast!

You’re right that Fiennes is clearly the better actor of the three choices. And it might help to anchor the cast with someone who has that experience and depth. Plus, Fiennes could play the role with more of a simmering hatred which would contrast brilliantly with a boastful, bombastic Strucker. Isn’t it rather strange though that all three of the actors selected have the same basic appearance? The larger forehead and deep-set eyes really portray the skull visage underneath.

I’m trying to come up with something to fill that “young Hollywood” gap in my brain, but it feels like a fruitless effort. All the Nickelodeon shows my sons watch are either animated or feature teenagers who don’t really act like teenagers. And if you’re good with Wentworth Miller then it makes sense to cast the visually similar Gavron as his younger self.

So that’s that. Not only could I imagine Colin Ferguson smiling in the face of danger as Ralph Fiennes seethes and fumes, but I could also totally see Ray Wise and Sam Jackson butting heads on opposite sides of a national security threat. Anyway, here’s our version of the Captain America movie cast:


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How to make your lame villain scary

Oct-30-08

Both Marvel and DC have something in common; their superhero universes contain a lot of lame villains. Oodles. Marvel tried to correct the problem in the 80s when they introduced Scourge, a character who seemed to exist only to clear out some of the deadwood in the Marvel criminal community. However, not only did Scourge miss a ton of losers, but many of the ones he killed have seen their gimmicks and names passed to new thugs, so their legacies (such as they are) live on. Perhaps seeing that this attempt at eliminating pathetic evil-doers didn’t stick, both Marvel and DC seem to have settled on revamping many of their villains and making them, as the kids say, bad asses. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t. Herewith are our recommendations for turning the Ringer into next year’s villain du jour.

1. Less blood, more threat: The most popular way to make a villain seem scary is to have them go out and rack up a body count that borders on genocide. Popular thinking seems to believe that, if your victims don’t number in the triple digits, you’re small time and might as well go back to fighting Captain Ultra. Alternately, you don’t have to kill a lot of people, if you kill just a few, but really gruesomely. Now, gruesome can have its place, but often times today’s comic writers seem to simply be trying to outdo the last gruesome death that saw print, and consequently, the deaths themselves mean little.

Let’s be clear: a huge body count is absurd, and it’s one of the things that’s pushed the Joker from menacing to maddening (for the readers). You don’t need to murder a stadium of sports fans to make a point, and how many villains are interested in doing that anyway? It makes your villains seem like crazy comic book villains if they’re going after huge masses of people. Most readers can’t relate to that sort of crime; none of us really expect to get blown up with lots of other people in a mass venue. That’s where people feel safe. Instead, keep your villains relatable; if they’re killing people, have them break into the house in the middle of the night, or catch someone walking home from the movies (perhaps after seeing a Zorro flick). Then you’re hitting your reader somewhere they’re more familiar and you’re more likely to dredge up some scares in them. Of course, this will work even better if you follow tip #2:

2. Let your reader get to know your victim: The better the reader knows the victim, the more impact it will have when your villain offs them. Of course, you don’t want to have Terra Man kill Lois Lane just to make him scarier, but you can introduce other characters for Terra Man to kill or threaten. The reader doesn’t have to spend a lot of time with the character; it can be a simple page or two, as long as you use that space to effectively convey enough of a piece of the victim’s personality so that the victim can be seen as a person, and not just as a piece of meat to be ground up by your villain.

3. Strip your villain back to basics: Often times what makes a villain even lamer is when writers try to give them more gimmicks and more toys in an attempt to make the villain more threatening. Unfortunately, this often backfires, and the villain comes off looking worse than ever. Let’s use the Ringer for example. For those who don’t know, the Ringer is a Marvel villain who’s gimmick was…well, rings. He had all kinds of different rings which did different things, and every time he appeared, it seemed he had a new set of rings that could do even more useless tricks. I would get rid of all of them and stick with one of his original gimmicks: constricting rings. Instead of having the Ringer tossing exploding rings across Times Square, have him sneaking through the dark alleys. He finds a victim, slips out of the shadows, and quickly slides a constricting ring around the victims throat. Then he watches as the poor person suffocates at his feet. Or perhaps he wants the victim for some future purpose. One ring around the body, which constricts enough to prevent the person from taking a deep breath (driving most of the fight from them) and then another around the wrists to bind the victim and make it easy for Ringer to capture them. That’s much more threatening than anything the character has ever done in the past.

4. No more primary colors: We’ve discussed a lot about art the last few days, but I need to mention it again. If you want a scary comic, you need art that provokes an atmosphere. It’s not just about the pencilling and inking, but you also need a strong colorist, who can keep the colors muted and provide a spooky setting, without making the book a bloody, dark and impossible to read mess.

5. Allow them occasional victories: Many villains are considered lame because they never win. Of course, when we’re reading this sort of story, we know the villains will lose in the end (unless you’re reading current DC) and that’s part of the tacit agreement we, the readers, make with the creators. However, it’s important to note that, unless you want your villain to be a laughing stock, you need to give them a win every now and again. It doesn’t have to be a big one, but if they never manage to bring any plans to fruition, they’re certainly not going to be scary. Perhaps some of their early plans succeed because the hero doesn’t know about them, or perhaps they even beat the hero a few times, when the hero isn’t expecting them or their abilities. In the end, it’s just important that they sometimes succeed, so the reader doesn’t know if they’re actually going to pull off the plan that will spell the end for a threatened supporting character. If the villain sometimes wins, they become credible, and then they can start to become scary.

There’re some ideas. Agree? Disagree? Have some of your own?

Yeah, I have a suggestion. Don’t ever again write a post that mentions both Terra Man and Ringer. That was the most frightening thing I ever read!

The one point you make that I feel the strongest about is #5. If the villain isn’t a credible threat, they’re never going to be taken seriously. Look at someone like Green Goblin. On paper, he’s ridiculous. But what was the first big thing he did as a villain? He offed Spider-Man’s girlfriend. Instant archenemy.

And I think #4 is an important rule. I mean, really, who’s scared of Shocker in his yellow quilted shirt? Or a giant orange Armadillo? Or Wizard in his fancy purple and red ensemble with the giant helmet (or, for that matter, the Leader and his giant cranium tucked into an orange and yellow turtleneck)?

If we’re talking about turning villains more towards the scary side of things in terms of tone and method, then I think there are three other points that need to be made:

6. Intimidation works. A strong baddie is an imposing baddie. And I don’t mean that he has to be huge or have some sort of magnificent power that cancels out the sun. Perfect example: Galactus is NOT scary (especially his movie version…ooooh, a cloud!). No, I’m talking about their mere presence sending a chill up someone’s spine. The foe could be old and frail, like Cassandra Nova or have a really bizarre look, like Emplate, and they would be more effective than Turner D. Century in his spiffy suit. This criteria is one of the reasons why Doctor Doom, Ultron and Red Skull have remained on the scene for so long. Plus, it helps to keep the main threat hidden for as long as possible in order to build up the suspense. Show a creepy hand or part of a horrific visage every now and then, but keep the big reveal until absolutely necessary. Evolution is a viable course to follow too. Take Annihilus for example. When he was first introduced, he just looked like a dude in a giant metal bug costume. However, his latest incarnation shows him in a more insect-like form and, I have to admit, he’s a bit skin-crawly now.

7. Go off the deep end on occasion. There’s something to be said about being organized and rational. Perfection involves a certain type of horror. However, that perfection can be elegantly offset with the occasional psychopathic outburst. Tear apart a puppy with your bare hands. Push a stranger off a bridge. Randomly erupt and beat the beejesus out of one of your henchmen with a nearby computer keyboard, cackling wildly as letters and numbers careen off his scalp. Divine madness goes a long way towards building a scary reputation. That’s one of the few things I’ve respected in good portrayals of the Joker.

8. Have a grand scheme. Anymore these days, villains are just out on personal vendettas which, while they have their place in history, do not build up a broad depth to your villainy. None of the bad guys seem to have any plans beyond eliminating so-and-so. What then? Now, I’m not saying we should go back to the days of simple bank robbing or awkward planning to poison water supplies with special fish, but there has to be a rational beginning and end to the rampage, aside from ending up in jail. To be effective, you have to follow through. An exception to this rule is taunting. A great villain needs to be able to taunt without remorse…kidnapping loved ones, stalking alter egos, harassing coworkers and implying even worse plans. That stuff always works. Not to say it couldn’t be augmented with some unrelated evil plotting.

Scary is in the eye of the beholder. And I feel that there are very few villains in today’s comics that fit the bill. Most of them are just glorified punching bags. The most recent example of a good revamp that I can think of is Dr. Light. DC definitely made him a creepy dude. Of course, a swift kick to the nuts remedied that. Taking a previous example, I’m not sure we could ever morph Turner D. Century into a formidable foe, but I think the rules we’ve set out are a clear checklist for avoiding the pitfalls that created Mr. Century in the first place.