Friday, June 14, 2013

Live Action Casting: Justice League - The Dynamic Duo (part 1)

Here we are with the next in our series of fantasy castings for films based on DC Comics characters leading up to our dream version of a Justice League movie. Today’s installment is our reboot of the Batman franchise which we are calling The Dynamic Duo? Why that name? Because we can’t call it ‘Batman and Robin’ now can we? Jonny Prophet and I wanted this Batman franchise to shine a light on the origin and development of Dick Grayson who in the comics was the first Robin. Since the new Superman movie Man of Steel is titled after one of the character’s nicknames, we figured The Dynamic Duo would work just fine.

So naturally we begin by casting our Bruce Wayne/Batman. We wanted someone who is a decent actor, in his late 20’s/early 30’s, has the right look and can do action.

We have chosen Armie Hammer. This isn’t really that world shattering as he was already cast as Batman in the previous failed attempt at a Justice League film called “Justice League Mortal,” a project ultimately doomed by the 2007 Writer’s Guild Strike.  There’s a damn good chance he will be officially cast again as The Caped Crusader if The Lone Ranger does well. Hammer certainly has what we want for the part.

The next role to fill is that of Dick Grayson, the young acrobat who would become Batman’s crime fighting partner Robin. We wanted to avoid the mistake of the previous movie Robin by actually casting a kid (instead of twenty-something Chris O’Donnell). We also needed a kid who could do fight scenes and could be believable as an acrobat. We think we found someone perfect.

We pick Leo Howard. You might remember him as young Snake Eyes from GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra where he had an awesome fight sequence against young Storm Shadow. Or maybe you remember how bad ass he was as young Conan in the recent Conan the Barbarian film. Howard is fifteen and a black belt! Jonny and I think he is perfect to play Batman’s sidekick!

Now the part of Alfred Pennyworth is a tricky one. Michael Caine not only raised the bar for that part, but he then took that bar and chucked it off a suspension bridge into the ocean! I see no way to top that performance, plus Alfred’s role in this franchise will be far more scaled back (since he was arguably the “Robin” to Bale’s Batman). We want our Alfred to be comforting but also witty to provide some comic relief.

We are going with legendary British comedian John Cleese. He carries that proper Englishman persona that is perfect as Wayne Manor’s butler but is a comedic genius who will bring some great comedy, something necessary for a dark Batman movie.

We move on now to the role of Commissioner James Gordon of the Gotham City Police Department. Just like with Caine’s portrayal of Alfred, Gary Oldman made an amazing Gordon. We felt that we needed someone who had strong acting skills and could both be convincing and look the part.

We picked Bryan Cranston. We didn’t want to, not because we dislike Cranston, but that it was too easy… too predictable. Hell, Cranston even voiced the Commissioner in the DC animated feature Batman: Year One! That being said, he is perfect for the part. I am a big fan of Breaking Bad and Bryan Cranston has blown me away as an actor. (He’s come a long ways since being Malcolm’s dad!)

In our quest to find a Commissioner Gordon not named Bryan Cranston, we considered one of our favorite and underrated actors Vincent D’Onofrio. The problem is, Vincent has gotten kind of… big. I know, we all get older, metabolisms don’t work like they did, but D’Onofrio just doesn’t look like Jim Gordon to me. But who he does look like is Detective Harvey Bullock! This works well because we wanted to introduce another of the GCPD…

… Renee Montoya. We need a decent actress to play the Hispanic detective. She needs to be tough, look the part… oh, who are we kidding?

The role of Renee Montoya was practically made for Michelle Rodriguez! Jonny and I cannot come up with any actress better suited for the part and we aren’t alone. Rodriguez is a popular fan casting for the part.

Truth be told, we wanted to introduce Detective Montoya in The Dynamic Duo to lay the groundwork for a movie of The Question! However, we also think it would be cool to make a stand-alone GCPD movie within the “World of Batman” where Gordon, Bullock and Montoya have to take on the mob, like a classic gangster flick but with a cameo by a certain crime fighter. It’s at least a cool idea to consider.

In speaking of cameos, we wanted to include a little something for the fanboys with an appearance by former heavyweight boxing champion Ted Grant, who some may know as the Justice Society’s Wildcat. In the movie, we want Grant to run a training gym in Gotham City and also allude to the fact that he did help train Bruce Wayne years ago.

Jonny insisted that the part of Ted Grant be played by one of his favorite actors, Kurt Russell. I can’t knock the choice. The man was Snake Plissken. He can easily pull off the tough, hard nosed retired boxer.

And now we move onto the bad guys! First up with Tony Zucco, the mobster who killed Dick Grayson’s parents. This isn’t necessarily a huge role, but it is very prominent. We wanted someone believable as a lower tier gangster that could be ruthless and conniving.

Jonny and I want to go with Eli Roth. We loved him as “The Bear Jew” in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. He kind of looks like he could be a hitman for the mob, doesn’t he? We aren’t sure what kind of acting chops Roth has, but the part won’t require much. Come on, if the lead singer of the band James could play Mr. Zsasz in Batman Begins, Eli Roth should be able to play Tony Zucco?
For the main villain of the movie, we wanted to go with Black Mask, a character never before shown on film. The biggest plus of Black Mask is that he doesn’t require that much of a back story, so more time can be devoted to Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. For the part, we need an actor with some serious skill. He has to portray the greedy and manipulative Roman Sionis and his rise to power, then after the accident that grafts the mask to his face, he must become more ruthless and slightly paranoid.

For the part of Black Mask, we are going with British actor Dominic West. You may know him from The Wire, the BBC America show The Hour, or as Jigsaw from Punisher: Warzone. It’s that particular role as Jigsaw that convinced me that West, with his amazing amount of range, was more than able to become the twisted, unstable and violent Black Mask. 

For the last part to fill, we wanted Black Mask to have a right hand man who helps him become the king of Gotham’s underworld. I thought it would be great to make this underling a more obscure villain from Batman’s rogues gallery and for this villain to bring some serious fighting skills to set up a showdown with the Caped Crusader. We settled on KGBeast. Since he would have to be pretty old to have been in the KGB, Anatoli Knyazev will be referred to by his nickname of “the Beast” due to his violent reputation in the Russian mafia as a “cleaner.” We would have the character dressed in an outfit similar to the comic book attire, complete with concealed face and his dialogue would be kept to a minimum. Consider “the Beast” to be kind of like a Russian hitman version of Boba Fett.

Jonny and I want Ray Park as “the Beast.” With his knowledge as a martial artist and stuntman, Ray Park has made many a film better. He was the best thing about Episode I and his work as Snake Eyes has made the GI Joe movies a lot better than they should have been. We figure Park could be the Fight and Stunt Choreographer, which would be freakin’ awesome. Just imagine… it would be like Snake Eyes versus Batman! Just the mere thought of that is enough to send fanboys into geek-gasms!

For note, Jonny and I were also considering making a couple of cameo parts for Adam West and Burt Ward, the Batman and Robin from the 1960’s program. Jonny thought of Ward as the C.C. Haly, the owner of the circus that featured The Flying Graysons. I thought West would be great to play the judge that makes the adoption of Dick Grayson by Bruce Wayne official. 

(Continued in Part 2)

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