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Fantasy Casting: If They Made STAR WARS Today...

Who would you cast in Star Wars if you remade it today? From the sublime to the ridiculous, here's a look at how the most iconic roles in cinema might look if Rob Beames had that power...

Iconic is an overused term, but few things really merit its use like the original Star Wars of 1977. And when you think of those enduring pop culture images they are indelibly wedded to the actors who played the parts: Luke Skywalker looking wistfully at that binary sunset on Tatooine, with John Williams' stirring music behind it, is forever linked to Mark Hamill in our collective imagination. For many Harrison Ford IS Han Solo, whilst everybody would be freaked out if Darth Vader spoke with any voice other than that of James Earl Jones. But what if the film were made today with different actors? With the Star Wars Blu-ray finally hitting stores next week and another hypothetical exercise in the spirit of Alex Lawson's interesting take on re-casting Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon, I'm looking at re-casting all the main parts with today's actors. But whereas Alex wrote his article imagining Dog Day as an un-produced and recently rediscovered screenplay, I don't think I could convincingly do that with Star Wars. Star Wars, along with Spielberg's Jaws a few years earlier, redefined the modern family-oriented blockbuster and changed Hollywood forever. The idea of discovering Lucas' screenplay in 2011, and making it for the first time now, just doesn't work because we don't know what the film industry would look like without its influence. Instead the hypothetical scenario I've chosen here is as follows: after years of tinkering and generally ruining the saga for everyone, George Lucas has had the franchise removed from his care in a court of law on grounds of diminished responsibility. Apparently Lucas suffered a blow to the head sometime in 1983, accounting for both the Ewoks and Short Round, and he's been struggling to keep it together ever since. Having wrestled control of the property from its self-destructive creator, executives at 20th Century Fox are now planning a new version of the original film so they can start all over again and quietly forget lots of things happened. Before I go on, I feel the need to add this caveat: I am not suggesting this will/should ever happen. For the record, the original Star Wars trilogy shouldn't even be touched by Lucas himself (or the prequels for that matter, before he starts adding more scenes in the galactic senate) and I'd roll my eyeballs derivatively at the first mention of a remake just as you would. With that in mind, the cast of Star Wars (2013 Film) - as it's destined to be known on Wikipedia - can be seen below (bar R2-D2, who should be an actual robot by now) ...

TOPHER GRACE as Luke Skywalker

Conventional wisdom would probably be to cast an unknown in this central role - someone with whom the audience will have no semiotic attachments. Yet that would be really boring for this fantasy list, which ideally aims to provoke discussion. Instead I've gone for Topher Grace - and not because his That 70s Show character Eric Foreman was a Star Wars obsessive who in one episode imagined himself as Luke Skywalker. Instead I've picked Grace because he's an excellent and underused actor. Granted his one shot at the big time to date wasn't well received - with Venom in Spider-Man 3 almost universally hated - but his intelligence and vulnerability are appealing characteristics for this role. At this point the actor's unexceptional theatrical run (though I personally liked In Good Company and Predators) would make it unlikely that he'd get the gig. Especially with his best known work being comedy, as Luke needs to start off as quite an earnest, wet character. But this is my fantasy casting, so there. Alternatively: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daryl Sabara or Zac Efron (seriously, he's not a bad actor)

ANNE HATHAWAY as Princess Leia

If I let reality intrude on this fantasy for a second, it's doubtful the beautiful Ms. Hathaway would take on the Batman franchise AND a re-booted Star Wars within a year. But otherwise I'd say she's the perfect choice. She is feisty, funny and has serious acting chops to boot. As I'm sure she'll demonstrate next year in The Dark Knight Rises, I'm certain Hathaway would make for a convincing action-heroine. Original actress Carrie Fisher has all these qualities too, along with a streetwise, casual, sardonic edge which anyone whose seen Rachel Getting Married will know comes equally easily to the younger actress. She is also close enough in age to Topher Grace that their reveal as twins (SPOILER WARNING!) shouldn't be too far fetched either, whilst being in her late 20s makes it seem plausible that she might be partnered with my actor of choice for Han Solo (see below) - who is 42 but could easily pass as thirty-something in movie-land. Alternatively: Amy Adams, Mila Kunis or Emma Stone (who doesn't want to see that?)

SAM ROCKWELL as Han Solo

I'm not copying Alex Lawson here - who previously included Rockwell in that previously mentioned re-casting of Dog Day Afternoon. It's just that Sam Rockwell has a crackling, unpredictable energy about him and a certain roguish charm. He can be hilariously funny, punchably cocky and also intensely relatable all at once, which I think makes him a great pick for this morally ambiguous mercenary. As an actor, he's never one to go through the motions and I for one would love to see him given a cavalier anti-hero role such as this. He's a much better actor than Harrison Ford anyway - and that's not a slight on Ford at all (his Han Solo was my childhood) but just an indication of the high esteem in which I hold Mr. Rockwell. Seriously, check out his performances in Moon, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Hell, he was even the best thing in Iron Man 2. Alternatively: Robert Downey Jr., Gael Garcia Bernal or Jeff Bridges (an older take on the character, but it could be awesome)

ANDY SERKIS as Chewbacca

With modern motion capture technology reaching new heights in Rise of the Planet of the Apes this year, it seems a no-brainer to me that Chewbacca would benefit from a more expressive performance, inevitably given life by Andy "Gollum" Serkis. Along with R2-D2, Chewy previously only existed as someone to shout exposition at in the original trilogy, but these days he could be a fully-fledged character. Serkis could even inherit the live-action suit work of the mega-tall Peter Mayhew (albeit on stilts), with CGI facial expressions added in post production a la Where the Wild Things Are. Serkis' Chewbacca might even remain restricted to those trademark loud roaring sounds, but the actor could do for him what he did for King Kong and, more recently, Caesar the revolutionary chimpanzee. We might actually care about the walking carpet this time around. Alternatively: Chris Hemsworth, Billy Connolly or Mel Gibson (making a surprise comeback in this uncredited supporting role)

DAVID HYDE PIERCE as C3P0

There is a huge difference between the effete, cowardly and pedantic C3P0 of the original trilogy and the hyper-camp comedy model of the prequels (for my money the C3P0 comedy moments at the climax of Attack of the Clones are far worse than anything Jar Jar Binks ever did). With that in mind Frasier star Hyde Pierce would strike the correct note, with all the comedy and indignation of the original creation and none of the self-parody that has sullied Anthony Daniels' golden droid in recent times. He needs to be more like a butler than a cabaret act. Alternatively: Will Ferrell, David Tennant or Larry David (a different way to go, but I'd like to see it)

DAVID STRATHAIRN as Grand Moff Tarkin

I always tend to overlook the fact that the main baddie of the original Star Wars isn't really Darth Vader at all (he's more of a menacing, toyetic sidekick). Instead that honour fell to Hammer Horror actor Peter Cushing as the sinister Grand Moff Tarkin. David Strathairn - of LA Confidential, Good Night, And Good Luck and The River Wild - would be fantastic in the role. He'd be less of an obviously creepy nod to B-cinema however, and instead he might be a more contemporary form of villain: a petty bureaucrat and arch-capitalist, who sees the Death Star as a morally justifiable means to an end. Strathairn's ability to play self-satisfied intellectuals with a sort of strange charm would make his take on the role really eye-catching. Alternatively: Ian McKellen, Christopher Plummer or Kevin Coster (he's soon to appear in Man of Steel and, apparently, the new Tarantino Western - so why not help facilitate this comeback?)

DIANE KEATON as Aunt Beru

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN as Uncle Owen

I'll admit this one is pretty much just stunt casting. I wanted to get Philip Seymour Hoffman in here somewhere - gruffly shouting at Luke to stay on the moisture farm for one more harvest - and Diane Keaton is a warm screen presence you wouldn't want to see reduced to charred skeletal remains. They'll be dead a few minutes into the film so it's really just an impactful cameo designed to make us think "holy shit, they just killed Philip Seymour Hoffman", sort of like a similar moment in Deep Blue Sea. Alternatively: Patricia Clarkson/Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon/Christopher Walken or Allison Janney/Bryan Cranston (cheaper TV pair if Fox worry about the escalating budget)

TERRENCE HOWARD as Lando Calrissian

I know, I know: smuggler turned city administrator turned Rebel General (?) Lando Calrissian was introduced in the sequels and not the original film. However, look at that picture for a moment. Look at it. Doesn't Howard look like the air apparent to Billy Dee Williams? I want to see him rocking a purple cape - and, in the immortal words of Randy Newman, he can leave his hat on. The series is famously low on non-white human characters, so it probably wouldn't hurt to write Lando in from the beginning - maybe as a rival smuggler at Mos Eisley space-port trying to undercut his buddy Han Solo by offering Luke and Obi-Wan a faster/cheaper/cooler ride to Alderaan? Alternatively: After seeing Terrence Howard in the above photo, I don't want anyone else in the role. The project is cancelled if he declines to star.

With...

RUSSELL CROWE as Obi-Wan Kenobi

Russell Crowe would make a perfect modern day Obi-Wan Kenobi. Just like the late Alec Guinness, he's an internationally acclaimed actor who would think of the role as somewhere quite far beneath him, but he would also bring a degree of gravitas to proceedings. He might not necessarily evoke the same effortless sense of nobility as the beloved English knight, but he would also certainly be fit to play a more dishevelled, even slightly mad, version - a man whose years hiding in the deserts of Tatooine have made him bad tempered and eager for a fight. Whereas the old Obi-Wan was a little bit past it, lightly chatting his way through a half-assed duel with his arch nemesis before simply giving up (it's still not clear how he became "more powerful than you could possibly imagine"), this version would be involved in a few more action scenes and might benefit from the sort of omnipotent, Jedi commando treatment given Liam Neeson in the earliest scenes of Phantom Menace. Crowe's intense presence would certainly make for a watchable re-imagining of the icon. Alternatively: Denzel Washington, Lambert Wilson or Takeshi Kitano (trivia: the legendary Toshiro Mifune was Lucas' original choice for the role)

And...

TILDA SWINTON as Darth Vader

This isn't a left-field choice for the sake of it: imagine the ramifications - the subtext - if Luke and Leia were being pursued through space by their twisted, evil mother as opposed to their father. I'm not suggesting for a moment that a father's attachment to their children is, or should be, any less significant than a mother's, but the idea of Vader having actually given birth to the twins would be creepy, sad and possibly even poignant. Besides, Swinton is tall, scary and versatile. She exudes a mighty screen presence too, which is what Vader needs. Alternatively: Cate Blanchett, Cher (how creepy would that be?!) or Mark Strong (for those who'd prefer a more traditional bad guy) I'd want to see something with that cast anyway! Let us know who you'd hire for this absurd fantasy project below. Star Wars is released on Blu-ray from Monday;
We need more writers about Russell-Crowe, George Lucas, Topher Grace, Sam-Rockwell, Andy-Serkis, David-Strathairn, Tilda Swinton, Phillip-Seymour-Hoffman, Anne-Hathaway, Star Wars, Terrence Howard, Diane Keaton, Editors Picks, remake and david hyde pierce! Get started below...

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A regular film and video games contributor for What Culture, Robert also writes reviews and features for The Daily Telegraph, GamesIndustry.biz and The Big Picture Magazine as well as his own Beames on Film blog. He also has essays and reviews in a number of upcoming books by Intellect.