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Casting Call: Recasting Indiana Jones

Welcome back to the Casting Call. To get a feel for what I’m doing, check out my first article in the series, where I imagine how I’d cast Star Wars for an early 2021 release date here. For the second edition I’ll tackle Spielberg’s epic 80s Action-Adventure series Indiana Jones. I’ll be focused on the original trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade. You are welcome to pick your own characters for that fourth one. Unlike last time, I’ll break the casting into each individual film – except of course the first pick.

The Star – Indiana Jones

The key to making this cast work is picking the title character. As a result, I’ll spend a little more time here than on the other choices. When Spielberg was choosing he had Star Wars for tape on Harrison Ford, so I’m not looking for an unknown. Indy is an action star with comedic chops and rugged charm. The films revolve around the character entirely, he’s a superhero with no super powers, a batman with no mask, a globetrotting American who punches Nazis, defies cultists, and flashes an irresistible smile along the way. Harrison Ford was an inspired choice and no matter who takes the mantle, it’ll be somewhat of a reimagination of the role.

My first instinct was Oscar Isaac. He’s effortlessly likable and believable as a tough guy. I think there’s a better choice though, I need somebody more rugged. Chris Pratt jumped out next, he’s shown some of that rugged masculinity in Jurassic World, but I think he’s too silly. My next thought was Joel Kinnamon. More of a chiseled, tall soldier look. That led me to consider Michael Fassbender, and I nearly settled there, because Fassbender is amazing. But, someone named Indiana needs to be an American. Then I was reminded of a rugged looking but charming leading man who has soared to incredible heights in recent years. Bradley Cooper transitioned from comedic sideshow to dramatic action star with aplomb and his career’s heights are virtually…limitless (get it?). 

Harrison Ford – Bradley Cooper

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Marion Ravenwood

The first (and truest) love interest for Indy is the youthful and curious Marion. Played by Karen Allen, age 30 at the time, she was a relatively unknown actress who’s bright smile and energy played well with Ford’s gruffness. I went with an actress in a similar place in her career, with perhaps slightly more experience but still youthful and fresh.

Karen Allen – Lily Collins

Sallah Mohammed Faisel el-Kahir

The Egyptian sidekick and professional excavator was played by the lovable John Rhys-Davies. This was the 80s, it seems a bit of white-wash to cast a Brit but Rhys-Davies did spend several years of his youth in Africa, specifically in Tanzania. However, recasting gives me an opportunity to find someone that perhaps more closely matches the name Sallah. Himesh Patel is another English actor who recently made a name for himself with the rom-com Yesterday. His parents were born in Africa, more specifically Zambia and Kenya, and he has Gujarati ancestry.

John Rhys-Davies to Himesh Patel

Marcus Brody

Another of Indy’s sidekicks, Marcus is a curator of artifacts who has known Indy since he was a child. Denholm Elliott played the character with a wink and grin and added in some physical comedy along the way. To recast, I needed to find someone who was old enough while still being spry and funny. If Michael Jeter were still with us, I feel like he’d have been perfect. Instead I’ll go with excellent British character actor Eddie Marsan.

Denholm Elliott to Eddie Marsan

Colonel Herman Dietrich

Square jawed Arian Wolf Kahler was steely eyed and ferocious as one of the villains in Raiders. He’s probably most famous for the grisly end that he met when they opened the Ark. There are several other villains, such as Gobler, Satipo, and Toht but I’ll just recast Dietrich to keep this from getting too long. While Kahler has had a fine career appearing in over 100 films and TV shows, I’m going to go in a more star-studded direction. First, because he’s one of my favorite actors alive and second, since I’m only choosing one villain I want to go big. 

Michael Fassbender has a vaguely European sense about him and is a proficient chameleon, so there is no doubt he could pull off a Nazi. He has also shown to be more than capable of rage and calculated menace as Magneto. Is this pick a little indulgent? Could a more anonymous menacing-looking tall German work fine? Yes and yes – but c’mon Fassbender would be amazing. 

Wolf Kahler – Michael Fassbender

Temple of Doom

Willie Scott

In the second film, Indy ends up with a feisty blonde singer. They fight and snap at each other hilariously all the way through the film. The cultists Jones finds himself opposing select her for human sacrifice and Capshaw plays it all off quite well. To recast, I was looking for a blonde without too much pedigree to get a fresh take. Enter Hayden Panettierre. 

Kate Capshaw to Hayden Panettiere

Mola Ram

The leader of the Thuggee cult that Indy found himself entangled with was played by Indian legend Amrish Puri. Puri has over 300 credits to his name and is widely considered the greatest antagonist to come out of Bollywood. I was saddened to discover Irrfan Khan passed away just this April at only 52 years of age, because he was my immediate choice. Instead I’ll select decorated villain Nana Patekar.

Amrish Puri to Nana Patekar

Chatter Lal

Raj India and British-Indian relations are an undercurrent in the film. Chatter Lal, played by Roshan Seth, is the Prime Minister and secretly a part of the Thuggee cult. Roshan is still going strong with nearly 100 credits to his name. In the mid 80s he was in several big Hollywood productions along with Temple Doom including Passage to India and Gandhi. While a little younger at this point in his career, the standout British-Indian actor of today is Dev Patel.

Roshan Seth to Dev Patel

Captain Blumburtt

The British side of the Raj India discussion is the nervous Captain Blumburtt, played by Philip Stone. Stone was a favorite of Stanley Kubrick’s appearing in Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange. His distinctive deep set eyes could be dark or goofy, like in Flash Gordon. I went for more of a physical match in this case with character actor John Bedford Lloyd.

Philip Stone to John Bedford Lloyd

Lao Che

Before running into the Thuggee cultists, Indiana spends most of his time running from Chinese gangster Lao Che played by Roy Chiao. Chiao was an accomplished actor in Chinese cinema and appeared in several western films as well including Bloodsport and Game of Death with Bruce Lee. I went with a bit of a swerve with my choice here. Lao’s persistence and Indy constantly slipping his grasp is good comedy so I went with the hilarious Randall Duk Kim.

Roy Chiao to Randall Duk Kim

Last Crusade

Henry Jones

In the third film, Indiana teams up with his estranged father to chase their mutual obsession, the Holy Grail. Sean Connery is pitch perfect in the film and the synergy between himself and Ford is a blast to watch. I was looking to match a star currently in his 60s to Cooper that was believably his father. One of the details that is just smirked at in the original is Connery’s accent, I endeavored to find someone who didn’t have a massive plot hole of that kind.

My first choice was Daniel Craig. There’s some poetry in that Connery and Craig were both Bond and Craig is nearly the same age as Connery was. However, he isn’t quite believably old enough. Other names that came to mind were Russell Crowe, George Clooney, and Kevin Costner. However, the best match in my opinion is Mel Gibson.

Sean Connery to Mel Gibson

Elsa Schneider

In the third film, it was Austrian art critic and Nazi turncoat Elsa Schneider that stole Indy’s heart. I didn’t have to look far to find the perfect actress based on her excellent Austrian accent in JoJo Rabbit and Arian blonde/blue eyes look.

Allison Doody to Scarlett Johannson

Walter Donovan

Indy’s rival archaeologist and primary antagonist in Last Crusade was Walter Donovan. Played with appropriate levels of camp and menace by Julian Glover. If you read my recasting of Star Wars you would recognize Glover and remember that I cast Sean Harris to take his role as General Veers. I’m going to go a different direction because 1) Walter Donovan is different than General Veers and 2) it would be boring if I also used the same replacement anytime an actor showed up. Donovan is suave and calculating so I’ll pick an underappreciated favorite of mine and ask him to do a rare villainous turn.

Julian Glover to Damian Lewis

Ernst Vogel

Along with Donovan and Elsa, Indy also had to contend with the Nazis led by SS Standartenführer Ernst Vogel. Veteran character actor Michael Byrne played him and had an almost wild skeletal appearance. I skewed young with my recasting of Donovan and I first thought I’d do the same here with Daniel Brühl. However, there’s a couple other brilliant actors that are closer matches, Ralph Fiennes or Christoph Waltz. Both have donned the broken cross to critical acclaim in the past. Fiennes has more of a serpent look while Waltz I think matches Byrne’s skeletor look better.

Michael Byrne to Christoph Waltz

The Grail Knight

One of the great lines in cinema is delivered by Robert Eddison, who was awarded an OBE for his contributions to the stage but didn’t do much on the silver screen. After Donovan disintegrates for choosing the wrong grail he utters, “He chose…poorly.” There’s a perfect choice here, an esteemed actor who may be well beyond his prime but still possesses the timing and gravitas necessary for the iconic moment.

Robert Eddison to Harrison Ford

Kazim

The last character I’ll recast in this edition is Kazim. When Indy gets close to the grail, a group of zealots who have devoted their lives to protecting it attempt to stop him. Their leader, in the field, is Kazim played by Kevork Malikyan. Malikyan is still going strong today and has appeared in a number of blockbusters throughout the years. I recently watched Extraction and Indian action star Randeep Hooda was fantastic and appeared to me to be a perfect choice for the fanatical zealot. 

Kevork Malikyan to Randeep Hooda

The Others

There are several other named characters that I left off, Short Round, Belloq, Gobler, Musgrove, Satipo, Herman, and Young Indy (a Tom Holland cameo would be great for that scene). But for brevity’s sake we’ll end it there and move to the Director.

The Director

Steven Spielberg is quite possibly the greatest director in history. As such, there aren’t any good 1 for 1 replacements. But, the thing that makes Spielberg so unmatched is his skill and success in such a variety of genres. So, for the 2021 Indiana Jones launch I’ll look to find someone that matches his ability precisely in the action-adventure saga genre. David Yates, Taika Waititi, David Ayer, Paul Greengrass, and Christopher McQuarrie all come to mind. In the end, I’ll go with an elite brother pairing who showed the ability to build a cohesive multi-film universe with action and humor.

Steven Spielberg to The Russo Brothers

The there you have it.

INDIANA JONES

Directed by The Russo Bros

Bradley Cooper………………………………………………………………………………………….Indiana Jones
Lily Collins……………………………………………………………………………………….Marion Ravenwood
Hayden Panettiere…………………………………………………………………………………….…..Willie Scott
Scarlett Johannsson………………………………………………………………………………….Elsa Schneider
Mel Gibson………………………………………………………………………………………………….Henry Jones
Himesh Patel………………………………………………………………………………………….……………..Sallah
Eddie Marsan……………………………………………………………………………………………Marcus Brody
Michael Fassbender…………………………………………………………………..Colonel Herman Dietrich
Nana Patekar……………………………………………………………………………………………..……Mola Ram
Randall Duk Kim…………………………………………………………………………………………………Lao Che
Dev Patel………………………………………………………………………………………………………Chatter Lal
Damian Lewis………………………………………………………………………………………..Walter Donovan
Christoph Waltz…………………………………………………………………………………………….Ernst Vogel
John Bedford Lloyd………………………………………………………………………………Captain Blumburtt
Sandeep Hooda…………………………………………………………………………………………………….Kazim
Harrison Ford………………………………………………………………………………………………Grail Knight

Stay tuned for the next entry in the series when I tackle the first 3 films in the sci-fi horror series Alien!

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