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Casting Call: Recasting Alien

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 or my second one, a recasting of Indiana Jones here. For this, the third edition, I’m going to put together a modern-day cast of the first three movies in the Alien saga – Alien, Aliens, and Alien3. Maybe someday I’ll do a sequel where I add in Resurrection, Prometheus, and Covenant.         

This one will be a little long because the three films have nearly completely unique casts. There’s one character that’s in all three and another that’s in the second two, otherwise, everybody only has one film. Alien is sci-fi like Star Wars, but instead of fantasy is more of a horror take of the cosmos. The eponymous Xenomorph doesn’t need to be recast, but I would like to pay respects to the original man in the suit Bolaji Badejo who tragically died in 1992 at only 39 years old.

The Star – Ellen Ripley

Much like the title character in my last article, the success of the series depends almost entirely on Ripley. Sigourney Weaver played the character with grit, toughness, confidence, and violence but with a touch of maternal instinct. She and the character have become icons in the industry and one of the great examples of a female lead in cinema. The film was released the year she turned 30 and it was only her third feature film credit. To recast the role, I looked for a few specific traits. First, I wanted an actress with action-hero chops. Particularly in the later films, Ripley is a beast and tangles with the Xenomorph believably. Second, I wanted an actress that fits in a sci-fi environment. Obviously, actors act but it’s more fun if you and I can envision the choice actually playing Ellen Ripley. Finally, I wanted to try and match Sigourney’s general age, so early 30s. 

As with prior iterations, I avoid actors/actresses that have appeared in the universe as it was originally cast. That excludes the first most obvious choice for the role, Charlize Theron. Action-actress Uma Thurman, of the Kill Bill films, might have been a great choice had I been writing this in 2000 but she’s a little too old now. There are two actresses that have recently had a lot of success and fit the other keys pretty closely, Tessa Thompson and Zoe Saldana. Saldana has been in a number of sci-fi action films, most notably the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Avengers films, and the Star Trek reboot. Thompson has made a couple of entries in the genre as well as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and in the somewhat disappointing MIB: International. Saldana is a little older than Sigourney was (or Thompson) but I would trust her more to deliver the tough, no-nonsense, take-charge performance that made Weaver an icon of the genre.

Sigourney Weaver to Zoe Saldana

Alien (1979)

Arthur Dallas

The captain of the ill-fated vessel on which the events of the first film take place was played by Tom Skerritt. Skerritt was a classic 70s and 80s “man’s man” appearing in MASH, Top Gun, and several Westerns, often donning a bushy mustache. Several good options fit the mold, I’ll turn to the man who embodied the ultimate coach on Friday Night Lights, Kyle Chandler.

Tom Skerritt to Kyle Chandler

Joan Lambert

The navigator of the ship, Lambert was one of the victims but also serves as a witness to some of the scariest moments. I was looking for an actress with some horror chops and who could be better than Toni Collette?

Veronica Cartwright to Toni Collette

Samuel Brett

The ship’s technician was played by the distinctive Harry Dean Stanton. A brilliant actor who had many wonderful roles in his career spanning over 200 credits. Only an experienced and unique actor is worthy of filling his shoes. I did swerve a bit from his appearance, however. I went with one of the most underrated supporting actors in the business and someone who always brings something interesting to even the smallest parts. 

Harry Dean Stanton to Paul Dano

Thomas Kane

One of the most important characters in the first film is played by the excellent John Hurt. Only a year later he was nominated for an Oscar for his title role in The Elephant Man. He is the first victim, so a lot of the film hinged on Hurt and he delivers. I considered an older star like Liam Neeson at first, then thought perhaps Jake Gyllenhaal was the choice (he could certainly do it) but decided to stick with a Brit and cast Eddie Redmayne.

John Hurt to Eddie Redmayne

Ash

If you haven’t seen Alien then you should stop and go watch it before reading the rest of this. Ash, played by the excellent Ian Holm, is the synthetic android installed on the ship as the Science Officer by the nefarious Weyland-Yutani Corp. His identity as an android is hidden from the cast and the viewer until a big reveal and Holm plays it fabulously. He is the secret antagonist and in a poetic sense, the actual alien the film’s title refers to. To pull off both being a droid and being believably hidden requires a subtle performance that turns violent and sinister at the drop of a hat. A couple of names who would do smashingly include Martin Freeman, Michael Shannon, and David Oyelowo but I went instead with the wonderful Mark Rylance.

Ian Holm to Mark Rylance

Dennis Parker

The last character I’ll look at from the first film is the chief Engineer Parker played by Yaphet Kotto. Kotto retired in ‘08 with nearly 100 credits to his name including the title character in Liz White’s Othello and Mr. Big in Roger Moore’s Bond flick, Live and Let Die. Kotto was one of Ripley’s closest allies and one of the last to fall to the Xenomorph. He’s clever and tough but isn’t as important a role as Ash or Dallas. Ewen Bremner would be a reimagination that could be interesting, Ben Mackenzie is an up and comer with chops, but I’ve always liked the energy Bryan Tyree Henry brings to a role so he’s my pick.

Yaphet Kotto to Bryan Tyree Henry

Aliens (1986)

Just a brief comment. The title of this film is one of the most breathtaking examples of minimalism in film history. James Cameron is a genius, David Fincher’s idea for the 3rd film was fine, had a little Fincher-style 90s emo feel, but Cameron wins the battle of the sequel-naming.

Rebecca ‘Newt’ Jordan

In the second film, Ripley and the Queen Xenomorph are parallel examples of how motherly instinct can be quite ferocious. For Ripley, this is manifest by her relationship with Newt, an orphaned survivor of the Xenomorphs at the Colony, Hadley’s Hope, that houses the events of the film. It was Dafne Keen’s only acting role but she did quite well. I went with the surprising and funny little sister from Stranger Things Priah Ferguson.

Carrie Henn to Priah Ferguson

Corporal Dwayne Hicks

A group of Marines is sent to do battle with the Xenomorphs and save the colonists at Hadley’s Hope on planet LV-426. One of their fireteam leaders and ultimately the only survivor was Corporal Hicks. Hicks is played by Michael Biehn who was at the peak of his career. Just two years prior he was Kyle Reese in Cameron’s The Terminator. While Biehn is a fine actor, in both roles he was overshadowed by his co-stars. Hicks is also the closest thing to a love interest Ripley comes across in the trilogy but that ends in a similar lack of payoff. 

There are two ways this recasting could go: I could pick Chris Evans, who has had the career that Michael Biehn was supposed to have, or I could pick Liam Hemsworth, who I think is more likely to always be “Chris’ brother” but physically fits the dashing-Marine archetype. At the end of the day, I went with Liam. Maybe it’s too meta, but when Ripley saves Hicks, having it be the kid from The Hunger Games seems pretty poetic.

Michael Biehn to Liam Hemsworth

Carter Burke

One of the surprising turns of the film is when fresh-faced funny guy Paul Reiser turns out to be the Corporate villain (the real alien in this film). Looking back on the role it’s quite a divergence from what his typical work became. Recasting presents several options, my first thought is to go villainous with Peter Sarsgaard, then there’s the option of paying homage to Interstellar and having Matt Damon play the sort of boy scout villain again. Another route is to play more on the surprise and have Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Jon Cryer from Two and a Half Men take the spot. In the end, I’m going to go bold and give the role to a really fantastic actor who has, admittedly by choice, pigeon-holed himself into comedic films despite possessing impressive range when he wants to show it.

Paul Reiser to Ben Stiller

Lance Bishop

The new androids are no longer Ash models, but instead Bishop models. The Marines have one with them and he’s played by the gruff Lance Henriksen. I am a huge fan of Henriksen and feel Bishop’s relationship with Ripley is a really cool dynamic in the 2nd and 3rd films. Henrickson returned in the 3rd film and had to both play a damaged android and the creator/designer of the Bishop models, Weyland-Yutani officer Michael Bishop. My first two thoughts were Ed Harris and Timothy Olyphant, riffing on the rugged western physique of Henriksen. Then another name was suggested and I think he’s perfect, the intense and sophisticated Viggo Mortensen.

Lance Hendricksen to Viggo Mortensen

William Hudson

The funniest and craziest member of the Marine unit that arrives is Private William Hudson played by Bill Paxton. Paxton takes the performance to 100 the entire film. Hudson is a space-jarhead, cracking jokes and getting under the skin of anybody and everybody he can. Once again, there’s a couple different directions available to recast in. Funny guys James Franco and Paul Rudd were my first thought since they both possess the ability to keep the audience laughing without taking them out of the film. Instead, I could go with the scary-crazy jarhead look with Frank Grillo or Tom Hardy. Hardy is a particularly attractive choice since he’s one of the best actors working today. I settled on a combination of the soldier-look while possessing a surprisingly effective sense of humor, Chris Evans (if you don’t believe me, check out The Losers). 

Bill Paxton to Chris Evans

Scott Gorman

Lt. Gorman was the “inexperienced staff officer who gains his men’s trust while losing his life in the process” trope, but it was an effective aspect of the plot. In fact, the more you learn about Burke and Weyland-Yutani’s plan to acquire a Xenomorph the more it makes sense they’d choose a greenhorn officer for the mission. Canadian character actor William Hope played the character well and I chose a look alike who I think possesses the ability to match in more than just look.

William Hope to Wentworth Miller

Jenette Vazquez

If Michelle Rodriguez had been acting in 1982 she’d have been Vazquez. She essentially was in Avatar.

Al Apone

The last character I’ll do from Aliens is Master Sergeant Al Apone, the NCO attached to the Marines. He was the inspiring leader opposite the inexperienced Gorman. Al Matthews, who played Apone, was an actual Marine and at Vietnam was the first black Marine to be meritoriously promoted to E-5 in US Marine history. He was also a singer who performed primarily in Europe becoming the first black voice to be heard on England’s national radio. The immensely talented Delroy Lindo was my first thought for the role, but he’s getting pretty old. Then there’s Adam Driver, who was a marine himself, but he’d be tough to see as a barking career NCO. The rapper Common has put together an impressive acting resume and could serve as an effective representative of calm, experienced leadership next to Wentworth losing his mind.

Al Matthews to Common

Alien3 (1992)

The third film takes place immediately after the fairly hectic ending of the second one. Ripley was the only actual survivor as the others that escaped the Xenomorphs were either killed by Weyland-Yutani operatives or the crash of their escape pods. And Ripley’s victory was as Pyrrhic as they come, as she literally was in the process of being impregnated by a facehugger as the film came to a close. David Fincher, a master of suspense and dark foreboding tones, made the most horror-driven entry in the series. The characters were all members of the high-security prison colony Fiorina 161 that Fincher dropped the Xenomorph in and let the viewers watch how the prisoners turned on each other and were slowly picked off. It’s good fun, and here’s how I’d recast it.

Leonard Dillon

The spiritual leader of the inmates was played by Charles S. Dutton. Dillon is a reluctant leader of the inmates and represents the good of humanity in the face of adversity. He’s soft spoken but inspiring and I think Terrence Howard is the perfect recasting.

Charles S. Dutton to Terrence Howard

Jonathan Clemens

Clemens is Ripley’s love interest in the 3rd film. He was a disgraced physician who became the medical officer at the prison after serving his term for the negligent murder of several people in his care. His experiences made him caring and devoted to the others but hardened to the realities of the world – a true battlefield medic archetype. Charles Dance plays the role wonderfully. My first instinct for the role was Bryan Cranston but further reflection led me to Idris Elba but alas, he’s already in-universe appearing in Prometheus. So I pivoted younger and went with rising star Oscar Isaac.

Charles Dance to Oscar Isaac

Walter Golic

Golic is a violently insane inmate who ends up worshipping the Xenomorph. He’s a side character who adds frenetic energy and frightening sadism to the film. Paul McGann is acceptably creepy and wild. A match in so many ways is the ultra-talented James McAvoy.

Paul McGann to James McAvoy

Harry Andrews

Andrews is the Weyland-Yutani appointed Warden of Fiorina 161. He acted as the leader of the group and refused to acknowledge the existence of the Xenomorph until it killed him. British Pro-Wrestler-turned-actor Brian Glover was solid in the tough guy, authoritarian role. Michael Gambon was my first thought but then I thought Bryan Cranston might be a little better.

Brian Glover to Bryan Cranston

Francis Aaron

The dumb prison guard who worked for Andrews was played by Ralph Brown. Ralph has stayed busy with nearly 120 credits and counting is his career. As characters begin to die off, Aaron becomes pretty important both in his interactions with Ripley and his attempts to defeat the Xenomorph. He’s not necessarily a villainous character but his motivations are more complicated than simply good, bad, or even self-preservation. Jon Bernthal was my first choice but I think Joel Edgerton fits the role a little bit better.

Ralph Brown to Joel Edgerton

David Postlethwaite

The last character I’ll recast for this film is David, given his last name only by fan-fiction authors to match the actor Pete Postlethwaite. An inmate in the prison, David is a minor character who is noticeable simply because Postlethwaite is such a compelling presence in any cast. I chose John Malkovich to play David. This choice is a little indulgent because of the prominence of Malkovich, but he never ceases to be interesting no matter the size of the part. 

Pete Postlethwaite to John Malkovich

Before addressing the directors I’ve got a bonus recasting. In the first film, the ship is a functioning cyber-intelligence called the MU/TH/UR 6000 and referred to as “Mother.” Character actress Helen Horton provided her voice for the ship but the obvious choice for the new series would be sci-fi icon Sigourney Weaver.

Helen Horton to Sigourney Weaver

Directing

One of the more remarkable aspects of the first three Alien films are their directors. Ridley Scott has become one of the most accomplished directors in Hollywood, dabbling in all sorts of genres and collecting a number of awards along the way. James Cameron has two of the biggest box office hits of all-time with Titanic and Avatar along with the epic first two Terminator films and several other hits. David Fincher is an auteur with a number of cult-hits and classic films including Fight Club, Se7en, Gone Girl, The Social Network, and Zodiac. All three possess nearly impossible shoes to fill. But I would pick these three guys to helm my new series.

For my first director, to set the tone for the series, I’d go with the fascinating visionary Jordan Peele. I loved Get Out and appreciated Us and feel like he could both lay the foundations for the horror aspects of the series and explore the various themes. 

To do the second film I’d turn to the director of my favorite Star Wars film, Rogue One, Gareth Edwards. Though I understand there were difficulties between Edwards and the Disney Execs, his ability to capture the tone of what a Star Wars film is supposed to feel like and look like is exactly what I want for a sequel director.

Then for the third film I want to turn up the scares and get a bonafide horror expert behind the clapper. There’s nobody in the business scaring people better than Ari Aster. 

Ridley Scott/James Cameron/David Fincher to Jordan Peele/Gareth Edwards/Ari Aster

There you have it – if you’re a director looking for casting help, hit me up!

ALIEN

Directed by Jordan Peele

Zoe Saldana…………………………………………………………………………………………………Ellen Ripley
Kyle Chandler…………………………………………………………………………………………………………Dallas
Toni Collette……………………………………………………………………………………………………..Lambert
Paul Dano………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Brett
Eddie Redmayne……………………………………………………………………………………………………..Kane
Mark Rylance……………………………………………………………………………………………………………Ash
Bryan Tyree Henry………………………………………………………………………………………………..Parker
Sigourney Weaver………………………………………………………………………………………………….Mother

ALIENS

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Zoe Saldana…………………………………………………………………………………………………Ellen Ripley
Priah Ferguson………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Newt
Liam Hemsworth…………………………………………………………………………………………………….Hicks
Ben Stiller………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Burke
Viggo Mortensen…………………………………………………………………………………………………..Bishop
Chris Evans…………………………………………………………………………………………………………Hudson
Wentworth Miller………………………………………………………………………………………………..Gorman
Michelle Rodriguez……………………………………………………………………………………………….Vazquez
Common……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Apone

ALIEN3

Directed by Ari Aster

Zoe Saldana…………………………………………………………………………………………………Ellen Ripley
Terrence Howard……………………………………………………………………………………………………Dillon
Oscar Isaac…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..Clemens
James McAvoy………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Golic
Brian Cranston…………………………………………………………………………………………………..Andrews
Joel Edgerton………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Aaron
Viggo Mortensen…………………………………………………………………………………………………….Bishop
John Malkovich………………………………………………………………………………………………………….David

Look out for the next installment of Casting Call – Recasting The Great Escape coming soon!

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