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Casting Call: Recasting Star Wars

One of my favorite pastimes is recasting films & franchises from years gone by with today’s stars. It most fun when establish a few ground rules, 1) there’s nothing wrong with making super bold choices like gender-bending or complete reimaginations of the character, but in general, going for a match as opposed to a “fresh” take 2) money and cast/director workability are not considered, so sure if I pick 4 ‘A’ listers for the same film, maybe it would cost billions and they fight the whole time, but this is purely a mental exercise, so I don’t those factors, and 3) I strike to pick actors that don’t just fit the role in the film but also fit the role in their career – so I wouldn’t pick an established superstar to be a minor supporting role, with the possible exception of scene-stealing work or cameos. 

I’m going to endeavor to recast some of the biggest franchises/films over the past 70 years of film over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy them and if I totally miss it, let me know in the comments.

For my first challenge, I’ll be recasting Star Wars – the original 3 film saga: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.

The Key Players

Luke Skywalker

Recasting Luke is the most important piece. Lucas got lucky in that he landed a virtual unknown who then, mostly through circumstances out of his control, remained only Luke for most of his career. Hamill has done other things, he has had a decorated voice-acting career and has a few credits on his IMDB, but what seemed like the christening of the new great leading man faded as quickly as it had started. I obviously can’t guarantee my choice would fade the same way, but finding that perfect combination of “just getting started” while also having enough to defend the choice made this brutal.

I want a young, charismatic, athletic, everyman type. He needs to be convincingly novice while confident. Tom Holland is the immediate answer but…is he too good in the sense that he’s already a superstar? Let’s throw out some other names before making a choice. Nicolas Hoult has been around for awhile, did some child acting and has picked up some bigger roles in the past few years. Robbie Amell has made a name on the small screen in Upload and The Flash and is currently filming the Resident Evil reboot. Another small screen standout that fits the role is Jake Abel. If I could get him to be in a space opera, I’d probably call Lucas Hedges’ agent first, of the ones I’ve named, he seems to be the most talented. Disney+ has rumors swirling that Sebastian Stan would be their choice to take the role. Right behind them, and ultimately who I think is my choice, is Logan Lerman. 

Lerman has been around since his appearance in The Patriot at the age of 8. He was the face of the Percy Jackson films and has shown a willingness to be in more fantastical films (such as Paul WS Anderson’s The Three Musketeers) and more serious ones (David Ayer’s Fury) and demonstrated deft skills as a dramatist and action-star. This role would catapult him to the top of his class and I believe he could handle it.

Mark Hamill – Logan Lerman

Leia Organa/Skywalker

The prime heroine of the trilogy, Carrie Fisher’s Leia was feisty, haughty, and sharp but also caring, and served to give the male-dominated cast a heart. She’s Luke’s twin, so she needs to be convincingly similar in age to Lerman, so that ruled out my first inclination which was Alexis Bledel. While she’s probably one of the biggest rising stars in the industry, while looking for a good option I kept coming back to Saoirse Ronan. It would be a bit of a departure for her career-wise, although she showed in Hanna she’s got a willingness to do the femme fatale archetype. 

Carrie Fisher – Saoirse Ronan

Han Solo

The ultimate side character, Hollywood already recast the role with the Ron Howard-led spinoff Solo starring Alden Ehrenreich. I’m one of the few humans on the planet that didn’t hate the film apparently and I thought Alden was very good in the role. However, I’m not looking to cast a young imitation of Harrison Ford as much as recast the role in the same mold. 

Solo should be a little older than his castmates and have the kind of swagger a space-pirate would possess. Shia LeBeouf would’ve been the obvious choice at one point in his career but I think that time is past. Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds would both be interesting choices sort of in opposite directions, but both are a little too old and carry a little bit too much history. If Pedro Pascal were not already in the universe, I’d find him intriguing as well. In the end, I’ll go with the swagger, wit, and toughness of Charlie Hunnam.

Harrison Ford – Charlie Hunnam

The Bad Guys

Darth Vader

One of the greatest villains in history is mostly just a voice. The physical aspects of Vader could be played by anyone as he remains entirely masked throughout. The esteemed thespian James Earl Jones brought gravitas, authority, and menace with his booming voice. Recasting that voice seems almost blasphemy to the hallowed halls of Hollywood. As long as Jones is with us, he’s the voice of Darth Vader.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least take a shot at it. Some of the great deep-voiced voice actors working today include Hugo Weaving (V in V for Vendetta, Megatron in Transformers), Tom Hardy (Bane in Dark Knight Rises), Charlie Adler (Dr. Doom in various titles, Starscream in Transformers), Keith David (100s of voice acting credits), Jeremy Irons (Scar in The Lion King), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug in The Desolation of Smaug), and of course Morgan Freeman.

In the end, nobody is going to better than JEJ but if forced at gunpoint, I’d give the role to Laurence Fishburne.

James Earl Jones – Laurence Fishburne

Emperor Palpatine

Ian McDiarmid was only 39 when he first donned the hooded robe and let loose with his massive, cackling laugh. In the following 40 years he has seemingly grown into the role, with his distinctive smile and fantastically creepy voice work. A distinctive looking and agile vocal actor immediately pops to mind.

Ian McDiarmid – Benedict Cumberbatch

The Other Guys

C3PO

It can’t be anyone other than Anthony Daniels. He’s the only man to be credited in every Star Wars film as well as virtually innumerable other forms of Star Wars media. I cannot in good conscience recast. Long live the great Anthony Daniels. (Matthew Goode would be perfect). 

Anthony Daniels – Anthony Daniels

Old Ben Kenobi

Alec Guinness was a celebrated actor nearing the end of his career when he took the “old man in the desert” role. He appeared in only six more non-Star Wars films over the 20 years after being Kenobi. He played the role with a glint of mischief and years of wisdom. There are some fantastic options for this role.

Robert Redford is a little too old. Jeff Goldblum is a little too idiosyncratic. Kurt Russell or John Travolta don’t quite have the “wisdom” part to the role while it’s harder to see Denzel Washington being convincingly old. Bill Murray, Kevin Costner, and Michael Keaton I think are my top three options, all for different reasons. Unless, if by some miracle, I could coax the greatest actor in history out of retirement. So, I’m going to pretend I can.

Alec Guiness – Daniel Day-Lewis

Grand Moff Tarkin

Peter Cushing was an austere character actor who established the mold for the evil officer class of the Galactic Empire. He leaned into his role as a cold calculating commander and established a mythos which has received quite a bit of attention in the ensuing years of Star Wars content. 

The choice here I feel is obvious. Derek Jacobi, though I fear he may be too old, having just turned 82. If he was unable to go, maybe I could get Mark Rylance to show a mean streak.

Peter Cushing – Derek Jacobi

Lando Calrissian

Billy Dee Williams and his younger mimic Donald Glover both brought unlimited amounts of suave and cool to the role of Lando. A brash, cocky, and confident smuggler with a heightened fashion sense, Lando needs an actor with scene-stealing chops. Michael B. Jordan or the late Chadwick Boseman would both be my immediate choices, but I’d like to dig a little deeper for this one. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be too much of a reimagination, though I think he fits the role personality-wise. Sterling K. Brown on the other hand would need to be “less mature” but I think he has the chops for the role. Instead, I’ll turn to an up-and-comer who’s shown a propensity for the more comedic side of acting.

Billy Dee Williams – Tyler James Williams

General Veers

There are several Imperial Officers that get screen time throughout the trilogy but other than Tarkin, only Veers in Empire really stands out. This is partially because he was played by Julian Glover who also played effective villains against both James Bond and Indiana Jones.

Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn have already been in universe so I’ll look elsewhere. Javier Bardem was an effective Bond villain but he’s too domineering and too proficient to take such a small role. I’ll pivot to another franchise’s antagonist and choose the soft spoken but intense Sean Harris.

Julian Glover – Sean Harris

Yoda

Frank Oz brought a distinctiveness to the little green Jedi which is almost impossible to replicate. There is no matching that, but the spirit of the role is a sort of dark comedy. Yoda is frankly ridiculous when Luke first meets him, stealing his stuff and being an obstinate jerk (no surprise where Baby Yoda gets some of his attitude, right?). The depth of little Yoda’s wisdom is a shock next to how dumb the little green puppet seems at first. As a result, I think a comedian is the way to go and after considering Jeff Goldblum, Seth Green, and John Mulaney, I settled on Jim Gaffigan.

Frank Oz – Jim Gaffigan

There are several other named characters but they were fairly anonymously cast. Boba Fett, Mon Mothma, Admiral Piett, Uncle Owen & Aunt Beru, and any number of other tertiary characters could be mentioned. However, I’ll conclude with selecting a director.

Directing

Obviously, George wrote and directed the first film himself and then got other action-adventure directors to do Empire and Jedi. For this series, I’ll try to avoid some of the pitfalls of three films with different directors and instead use the Harry Potter method and find my David Yates.

Yates wouldn’t be a bad choice himself, although I’m not sure there’s much evidence he’d be good in the sci-fi aspects of the series. Neil Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) and Duncan Jones (Moon, Mute) have really good entries and really bad entries but have shown skill in the genre. James Gray (Ad Astra, Lost City of Z) and Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Bourne Identity) are also intriguing options. Creators of the TV series The Expanse Mark Fergus & Hawk Osby and their primary director Breck Eisner would be a deeper cut. If Chappie hadn’t been so disappointing…

George Lucas – Doug Liman

So that’s the new cast:

STAR WARS

Directed by Doug Liman

Logan Lerman……………………………………………………………….……….Luke Skywalker
Saoirse Ronan……………………………………………………………..Leia Organa/Skywalker
Charlie Hunnam……………………………………………………………………………….Han Solo
Laurence Fishburne………………………………………………………….Darth Vader (voice)
Benedict Cumberbatch……………………………………………………….Emperor Palpatine
Daniel Day-Lewis………………………………………………………………..……Old Ben Kenobi
Derek Jacobi………………………………………………………………………..Grand Moff Tarkin
Tyler James Williams………………………………………………………………Lando Calrissian
Sean Harris………………………………………………………………………………….General Veers
Anthony Daniels…………………………………………………………………………….C3PO (voice)
Jim Gaffigan……………………………………………………………………………………Yoda (voice)

Think you can do better? Put your choices in the comments, and stay tuned for more entries in this series!

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