Star Wars is celebrating its 35th birthday this year, so just for fun, ForeverGeek has re-cast Episode IV: A New Hope as if it was being made today. What modern actors would be the most interesting choices for iconic roles like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo? Our choices may surprise you.
Seeking to re-cast the main characters of Star Wars is a dangerous thing. The actors and the roles they play are so engrained in our consciousness, that the thought of someone else stepping into their shoes might be downright blasphemous. To that I say: this is all in good fun.
The idea here is to approach the original Star Wars as if it never existed before, and modern actors were being cast in these roles. We’re not casting for a remake here.. So the main rule of thumb is that I wasn’t looking for impersonators. I chose actors who fit the roles and could make them their own — not people who could mimic or look like the 1977 actors we know and love. So my goal was to come up with actors that could inhabit these characters without altering who we know them to be.
(Yeah, I know, it’s a contradiction to pretend Star Wars doesn’t exist while acknowledging that we all know it does. You’ll have a lot more fun if you just roll with it.)
A few other rules I tried to stick to:
- no superstar actors (with a few exceptions)
- all actors should be of similar ages and ethnicities to the original cast
- bold, unexpected choices
- only actors that are alive today
Ready? Here we go.
Mark Hamill was around 26 years old when Star Wars first released, which narrowed down the possibilities considerably. I didn’t want to pick actors that we automatically associate with other roles, so people like Shia LaBeouf and Zac Efron were out. Likewise, Adam Brody would have been an interesting choice, but he’s too old for the role; Anton Yelchin, a terrific actor who could certainly pull it off, is too young.
My choice is Spencer Treat Clark, a selection that may come out of left field, but hear me out. Clark is best known for roles he played as a youngster — namely Joaquin Phoenix’s royal nephew in Gladiator, and Bruce Willis’ son in Unbreakable. That second film really showed off what Clark can do in front of a camera, and his wide-eyed innocence was impossible to look away from. His physical presence is a great fit for the role, while those powerful eyes of his would give the character some soulful new depth and angst. Just look at the photo to the right and tell me you can’t see Luke Skywalker in there. He even has a shaggy ‘do that would suit Luke’s bowl perfectly.
Actors also considered: Jamie Bell (another solid choice who grew up acting, and could conceivably fit the part — plus, he’s comfortable around visual effects work), and a young man that would make a really interesting and provocative choice, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter). Clark won out in the end simply because I look at him… and I believe.
Carrie Fisher was the youngest member of the original cast, at just 21 in 1977. Leia Organa is one of the most iconic female roles of all time, calling for an actress who can portray both strength and vulnerability, who’s regal yet sassy, and wholesome but seductive when called for (in 6 years, the actress would have to wear a gold bikini).
My choice is Mae Whitman, another child actor who’s all grown up now. She’s known to geeks as the “munchkin” daughter of Bill Pullman and Mary McDonnell in Independence Day, but she’s become a very talented and lovely adult actress. She’s got talent for both comedy (she was a recurring player on Arrested Development) and drama (currently co-starring on NBC’s Parenthood). She’s got the “wholesome” thing down, providing the voice of Tinkerbell in Disney’s popular DVD movies for kids. She and Spencer Treat Clark could easily pass for siblings. And she can kick butt with serious attitude, as she proved (while barely recognizable) in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as evil ex-girlfriend Roxy Richter. Plus, she’s got a roundish babyface that would fit those buns like a glove.
Also considered… Carey Mulligan, Anna Kendrick, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Emma Stone.
Alright, let the flaming comments begin. I know some readers are going to hate this one.
As hard as I tried to separate “Han Solo” from “Harrison Ford,” it’s just impossible to think of one without the other. And replacing Harrison Ford can’t be done; he’s universally adored, and he perfectly embodied this character who’s one of the good guys, but rough around the edges, unapologetically selfish (at least when we first meet him), and has no problem shooting first. Ford’s checklist of qualities is too long to match, but Solo’s is more manageable.
My pick is Taylor Kitsch. He’s a charismatic actor with charm and masculinity, and I can see him in this kind of role. He’s believable as a take-charge action hero, and he’s young-looking enough to later make a plausible suitor for Whitman. You could argue that he’s better known now than Ford was when Star Wars was made, and I won’t dispute that. But he’s yet to have that big, breakthrough role on the silver screen (the upcoming John Carter might just be it), the way that Star Wars was for Ford. Kitsch fits the charming, gruff, “man’s man” qualities of Han Solo.
Are you as surprised as I was to learn that Ford was 35 years old when he first played Han Solo? I had no idea! Kitsch is four years his younger, at 31.
Also considered… George Clooney could totally pull it off, but he’s too old for the role now. I seriously considered Ryan Reynolds, a solid actor who’s too well known now and felt a little too goofy/slapstick in his comedy roles to suit Han’s self-confident, devil-may-care brand of wry humor (though I could certainly be wrong about that). Sam Worthington could possibly manage it, but I don’t see Han Solo when I watch him — I see an actor more along the lines of Russell Crowe. Joshua Jackson is charming and roguish enough for the role, as he proves weekly on Fringe, but his small frame doesn’t physically fit the role. (I still think he’d make a fun choice, though.) Tom Hardy, “it” guy of the moment, has loads of charisma and a commanding screen presence, but he’s too intense for Han’s easy-going persona. Lost‘s Josh Holloway would make for a fascinating choice, but he’s in his 40s now.
For Obi-Wan Kenobi, you need someone capable of a subtle, nuanced performance. Someone able to impart dire information with a deft touch and a nobility of character. Obi-Wan doesn’t get a ton of screen time compared to others, but he’s a pivotal character with so much more going on behind his eyes than what comes out of his mouth.
John Noble is my choice, and I see him as someone a casting director might consider as taking an unexpected and inspired chance. If you’ve never seen Fringe, then you should still know him as the vile Denethor, Steward of Gondor, from The Return of the King. But his layered performance on Fox’s cult hit show proves that he’s incredibly talented. He’s not known for this kind of mentor role, but I’d love to see him show others how it’s done. Put simply: I picked him because he’s the only person on my list of finalists that could make the character his own to the point that we would forget about Alec Guinness. And that’s an insane task.
Also considered… Jeff Bridges is the right age for the role, but since George Lucas chose a British actor, I felt obliged to pick someone who can at least do a British accent — sorry, Jeff. Ian McKellan would be terrific, as would Anthony Head, but they’re both so strongly identified already with prominent “wizard mentor” roles (Gandalf and Giles). I seriously considered Hugh Bonneville, because he’s super talented and a true chameleon, capable of disappearing into any kind of role. He came in a very close second to Noble. I think an interesting choice would be Bernard Hill, aka King Theoden from Lord of the Rings, who’s very capable of that “nobility with a light touch” that the character requires.
Vader is a unique case, because in the original film, he was played by two different actors — one who performed his physical presence (David Prowse) and another who gave Vader his unforgettable voice (James Earl Jones). So following this model, I can’t imagine better choices than Sala Baker and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Baker is best known for his work as the dark lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings (pictured), as well as that creepy Uruk Hai from the first film that Aragorn fought at the end (the one who grabbed Aragorn’s sword and pulled it through his own abdomen). He’s got an incredibly intimidating physicality, so he would be perfect for embodying Darth Vader, one of the greatest screen villains of all time.
Cumberbatch is the tall, skinny Brit who stars as the Great Detective in BBC’s Sherlock, and anyone who’s ever seen him in action knows why I chose him: he’s got a deep and powerful voice. With Cumberbatch, Vader would have not only a voice, but a soul. And if you need further endorsement, how about this: Peter Jackson recently hired Cumberbatch to voice Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit, a character many consider to be the definitive dragon of all time.
Grand Moff Tarkin
Peter Cushing chewed up every scene he was in with his refined but intense portrayal of single-minded Grand Moff Tarkin, overseer of the Death Star (and essentially A New Hope‘s stand-in for the Emperor). Only another bigger-than-life actor will do, so I’m going with Jeremy Irons. He’s a skilled actor with a real talent for playing single-minded baddies. And not to harp on this, but he’d put his own spin on the character that would be just as valid as Cushing’s.
Also considered… Michael York and Malcolm McDowell. York I still think would be an interesting choice, but he’s not known for playing a lot of evil characters. McDowell I ruled out because I think he’d make a better Emperor!
Is there really any other choice for a modern Chewie than Andy Serkis? His performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was by far the best part of that movie, and who can forget Gollum? Serkis has proven time and again that he knows how to inhabit a creature and intelligently create a physical performance, and I’m sure he’d be just as good at wearing a big fur suit as he is at wearing those motion capture tights. (Note: in no way am I suggesting Chewbacca should be a CGI character.)
Anthony Daniels made C-3PO a prissy, fussy little droid that talked too much but was adored by fans anyway. He was also the comic relief for all six films. Doug Jones could do this kind of role in his sleep. Jones is a trained mime and a fantastic actor (he was Pan in Pan’s Labyrinth, Abe Sapien in Hellboy, the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four 2, and the lead Gentleman in Buffy‘s “Hush” episode), and he’s good at doing different voices, to boot. Plus, he’s comfortable in heavy makeup and elaborate costumes, which ought to make it easy for him to squeeze into C-3PO’s metal droid suit (though it would need to be stretched a bit taller to accommodate Jones’ 6’3″ height!). The role might as well have been tailor-made for him.
R2-D2 must be played by a live actor, not CGI. Kenny Baker gave the little droid a real, beating heart that came through with R2’s every movement. Squeezing another actor into R2-D2’s can ain’t gonna be easy, so I point to Deep Roy as a solid actor with a versatile range that includes all of the attitude and emotion that’s needed for this unusual character. You may not recognize him, but you probably know his work: he was all of the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he was Scotty’s cheeky alien cohort Keenser in 2009’s Star Trek, along with dozens of other roles. He even had a tiny bit part as one of the band members in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi! Plus, he’s performed stunts in everything from Hook to Van Helsing, so he could handle the grueling hours under R2’s dome.
Alright. You’ve heard my picks. Now give us yours!