Dream casting: The Stand movie
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Well, who would you want to see bringing King's masterpiece to the big screen?
One of the great works of modern fiction by the man whom many call the modern-day Charles Dickens, Stephen King’s The Stand is coming to the big screen. Set to be told across a multi-movie canvas with David Yates in the director’s chair and Steve Kloves as the writer, this could be a brilliant adaptation of one of the gargantuan works of fiction that are generally considered to be unadapatable.
Yates and Kloves are the same team that brought us the last three Harry Potter movies, and while that may be a big warning sign for some, you can’t argue with the level of box-office success they have achieved as a team. King himself has been somewhat vocal and skeptical of the news, considering that he will be uninvolved with this adaptation.
This may well have something to do with the NBC mini-series adaptation of The Stand that was made during the 90’s, which King wrote himself and had a strong influence over the production that writers are rarely granted. The Stand mini-series, it must be said, has not stood the test of time very well. It already looks incredibly dated, and it’s fair to say that the production never really got the budget it fully deserved. That said, to give credit where credit is due, Gary Sinise gave a pitch-perfect performance as protagonist Stu Redman, and Jamey Sheridan made for a pretty left-field but memorable Randall Flagg.
With Yates behind the camera and Kloves as scribe, though, The Stand is likely to finally get the big-budget and studio support it fully deserves.
For those who don’t know, The Stand is considered by many to be King’s masterpiece, and is almost certainly the book he is most famous for. The Dark Tower may be his magnum opus (which until recently was going to get almost the same big-screen adaptation treatment until the deal with Universal fell through) and Carrie may have established him to the world, but it is almost always The Stand that people cite as his best work. Set in 1980 (or 1990 if you’re reading the uncut version, which you absolutely should be), it tells the tale of a super-flu manufactured by the US Army that accidentally gets unleashed, devastating the world population and killing off 99.4% of Earth’s inhabitants.
From the ashes of the old world, two new societies are born, each under a leader that possesses quasi-biblical, magical powers: Mother Abigail, a 108-year-old black woman with an unshakable faith in God; and Randall Flagg, a beast wearing the face of a man who possess dark magic beyond comprehension. Under these two leaders, the survivors of the world flock, seeking to re-establish some form of society. But they are as different as can be. Mother Abigail beckons survivors to Boulder, a small town in Colorado, where slowly the old ideals of America are re-established through a series of town hall meetings very much in the ilk of New England. There is a small-town closeness about the community that walks the very fine line between Republican and Democrat, bringing out the best political ideals of both parties. In what was once Las Vegas, though, Flagg is rallying the sadists, criminals and weak under a banner of efficiency, greed and totalitarian control. Under his dictatorship, his power is absolute, enforced by murderers, arsonists and freaks. His word is law and punishment for any slight, regardless of severity, is crucifixion. Flagg’s rule is one of fear and creeping madness.
Though published in one volume, King divides The Stand into three books. The first deals with the outbreak of the super-flu, called Project Blue by the army and later Captain Trips by the public and media, as well establishing the key characters upon whom the novel focuses. The second book focuses almost entirely upon the journey to Mother Abigail as the protagonists slowly come together in Boulder through sets of different circumstances and then the formation of a new Republic in “the Free Zone”, where enemies stand to opposite outside and within. The third and final book, simply titled “The Stand” tells the culmination of these events when the key characters decide to take the fight to Flagg and make their stand.
It’s a truly epic story that in many ways underpins what it means to be an American, but fundamentally it is a story about a battle between good and evil in a world where there is no room for compromise, about redemption and damnation, madness and forgiveness. And it’s the opinion of this writer that it’ll make one hell of a trilogy. Logically, it just makes sense to do this as three movies. As divided in the books, so it should be in the film. To cram everything into one movie would be nearly impossible to do effectively without cutting more than half of the story; or worse, producing a rush-job that doesn’t remain true to the novel.
The writer and director team may have already been decided, but as yet none of the cast has been determined. However, we have some pretty good ideas about who we think should play the main characters in King’s masterpiece. This has been an extremely hard list to make, and in some cases it’s become almost impossible to decide which of two candidates should take the part, so in some instances there will be a substitute suggestion as well.
Casting the man who is generally considered by The Stand’s chief protagonist, quiet, withdrawn Southerner Stu Redman is exceptionally difficult for one reason only: because Gary Sinise nailed the part so damn well in the mini-series. Seriously, if there was a way to shave fifteen years off Sinise, I’d absolutely support him coming back as Stu for the big screen movie version. However, time only flows one way and as such we have to work with what we have. So, speaking of calm, soft-spoken Southern gentleman, only one man really comes close to stepping into Stu’s shoes – Timothy Olyphant. These days you can catch him as soft-spoken, Southern gentleman and Federal Marshal Raylan Givens on FX’s superb (SUPERB!) Justified. Perhaps this is stepping into type-casting territory, but something about Olyphant feels so damn right that it’s impossible to ignore, no matter how predictable it might be. It could be argued that as yet Olyphant is not a big enough name or a recognizable enough face to carry the role of leading man in what could potentially be a massive movie franchise, but it’s worth noting that before Lord of The Rings Elijah Wood wasn’t that big of a name either. However, this being Hollywood, I can well imagine them wanting to bring in a bankable big name, and if that was the case, I’d be most comfortable with them going with Hugh Jackman…but Olyphant is number one.
Of all the characters in The Stand, Fran is perhaps the hardest to cast. Fans were famously disapproving of Molly Ringwald’s performance as Fran in the miniseries, and with good reason – she was just wrong for the part. With Fran you need someone who can fully express her vulnerability, but also her quiet reserve of strength. Someone young who has not fully grasped the ramifications of the plague but slowly realizes that the world as she knows it is gone for good. Fran has a lot of growing up to do in a very short time, and her character requires an actress that can make that transition with subtlety and grace. It was incredibly hard to find someone who could express all of Fran’s fragility, youth and strong morals that define her character, but after serious thought, the conclusion I arrived at was that Bryce Dallas Howard is the best fit for this very complicated heroine.
Despite being deaf-mute, Nick Andros is one of the most compelling and charismatic characters in The Stand, and his quiet heroism and thoughtful nature would best be demonstrated by someone who has the emotional range to express everything without speaking. Ben Whishaw has experience playing an almost silent charcter from his breakout performance in Perfume as serial-killer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and while babyfaced, he does possess certain boyish qualities that make him just right for Nick’s character. Though not yet a megastar, his performances across all his films mark him as an incredible talent, and in his most recent work in the BBC’s The Hour he effortlessly stole every scene.
Substitute: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Beginning as a cocky up-and-coming singer and composer, Larry “ain’t no nice guy” Underwood is one of the most interesting characters in The Stand because of his journey from a selfish freight-train bounding through everyone he comes into contact with to a considerate, responsible leader. Larry has a tendency to blame himself for things beyond his control, criticizing himself more than anyone else in his life, but when the super-flu rolls around he has a chance to reinvent himself. Although he’s been away from acting for a little while, Casey Affleck, whilst babyfaced, has more than demonstrated his emotional range and particularly his darkness in The Killer Inside Me and The Assassination of Jesse James. Larry is a man looking desperately for redemption, and few actors come to mind ahead of Casey Affleck for the role of this man going through both a personal and literal journey through Hell. Affleck has the look, the sarcasm and the broodiness required to make Larry come to life on screen.
Substitute: Dominic Cooper
Few characters unravel as beautifully as Harold Lauder does, and his slow descent into madness and obscurity mark him for one of the most intruiging characters in King’s sprawling cast. Not even remotely a comical character, Jonah Hill may at first seem to be an odd choice for social outcast Harold, but his physically fits perfectly and if given a chance he could almost certainly pull off the dramatic depth and seriousness the role requires.
Some of the roles in The Stand are mighty hard to cast, perhaps because there are too many actors that could do the job right or too few. In some cases though, the obvious rightness of a single person is completely apparent without even having to give it much thought. Such is the case with Eva Green for the role of Nadine Cross. Nadine, a virgin school teacher, has the kind of body a woman would kill for, whose mind slowly but surely collapses under the weight of her dreams of the Dark Man, Randall Flagg. Eva Green has all the dark, sexy sultriness required that makes it almost impossible to see someone else in the role.
Currently playing Dale on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Jeffrey DeMunn has all the quiet, collected old-man wisdom needed to play the part of sociologist and professor Glen Bateman. Soft-spoken, highly intelligent and utterly democratic, Glen is in many ways the man who re-establishes order and a foundation of laws for the survivors in Boulder, acting as John Adams to Stu’s George Washington.
Amiable farmer Ralph is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, mild-mannered and practical. Ralph represents the blue collar, the working man, and in many ways the average American in The Stand. Lacking a formal education, Ralph is far from stupid and is largely responsible for getting the power back on in Boulder. He also has a seat on the Free Zone Committee and is considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of Boulder. Though not a big name and most recently seen on AMC’s The Killing, Brent Sexton has the perfect working-man look to him to make Ralph come alive.
Substitute: Jim Beaver
A young housewife who loses her husband and daughter to the plague, Lucy is your typical girl-next-door type who has the rug pulled from under her when the plague hits. She stumbles upon Larry and Nadine and falls in love with Larry. Though not a central character, she’s still important enough to warrant a talented, capable actress to pull off the part, and whilst she doesn’t quite fit the girl-next-door profile (and may be just a little too beautiful for the role), Amanda Seyfried would make a great Lucy Swann.
Substitute: Madeline Zima
For no-nonsense, straight talking Judge Farris, an actor with real gravitas is needed. Somebody who absolutely nails “the cool old guy”, and there are few actors alive who can pull that off better than Edward James Olmos. Hard as nails and tough as iron, Judge Farris has a small but significant role, acting as one of the chief advisors to the Free Zone Committee and mentor to Larry Underwood. Admiral Adama would knock it out of the park.
A small but important part, Susan is the only woman other than Fran to be on the Free Zone Committee, and she plays an important role in establishing order in Boulder. A college student when the plague hits, Susan is a 24-year-old woman with wisdom beyond her years and is not afraid to make her opinion known. Although younger than many of the other women in the community, Susan rises up as an unquestioned leadership figure. Rose Byrne fits the bill just right.
Fran Goldsmith was one of the hardest to place, and Tom Cullen is on par. For the mildly retarded, nice as pie Tom Cullen, a grown man who is never happier than when playing with his toy cars, you need someone who is going to really pull at your heart strings in the cruelest way. Not only that, Tom Cullen is described as being physically imposing and hella strong. Chris Hemsworth is certainly physically imposing, and although we haven’t seen much evidence of it so far, one suspects he has the goods to tug at your heartstrings too.
Another small but crucial character, Dayna Jurgens is among the band of women rescued by Stu and company. She proves to be every bit as tough as any of the other survivors. Tough and practical, she’d best be played by an ass-kicking lady with heart. Top choice for this one? Rosario Dawson.
Substitute: Rose McGowan
If you’re going to cast someone to play the part of a one hundred and eight year old, God-fearing
black woman, Ruby Dee is the only candidate to do a credible job. The floating suggestions of
using Oprah or Whoopie Goldberg are downright laughable until contemplated, at which point
they just become horrifying. Ruby Dee was spot on as Mother Abigail in ABC’s miniseries and there
is absolutely no reason not to bring her back for the exact same performance in the big screen
adaptation. Plus, she’s now even closer to the role, being seventeen years older than when she
last performed as God’s prophet, at the age of 87, you’re going to be hard pressed to find anyone
still acting who can pull it off as convincingly.
To play one of the most iconic villains in modern fiction, a character devoid of humanity, a string-pulling psychopath who can melt a man’s brains just by looking at him, you need someone who is adapatable, chameleon-like and above all, someone who excels at being a villain. That being the case, there is only one candidate for the role of Randall Flagg and that is unquestionably Gary Oldman. You know it just makes sense.
When the events of The Stand begin, Lloyd is a petty criminal making his way across the country with fellow con Poke on a murder rampage. Despite this, Lloyd insists that Poke was mostly to blame and that had he not feared for his own life, he would’ve stopped long before things got as far along as they did. There is something in Lloyd that makes it possible to believe that when the plague hits, he could have reformed his ways and made some kind of amends. Unfortunately, he is saved by Flagg from his jail cell and enlisted into his service as Flagg’s right-hand man, running much of the day-to-day operations in Las Vegas. Despite his low estimation of his own intelligence, Lloyd becomes a dab hand at running the dark man’s city, and while loyal to Flagg to a fault, he never stops fearing his crazed master. Sam Rockwell would be perfect for this man who could have gone either way but was forced onto the path of darkness, ably showing that Lloyd is not just the dumb hick he appears to be but bringing out his clearly underestimated intelligence as the story unfolds.
Substitute: Walton Goggins
Trashcan Man is already a half-crazy arsonist and pyromaniac before the super-flu hits, but when the world ends he goes all the way off into the deep end without a backwards glance. A stumbling, shuffling pitiful creature, ‘Trash’ is perhaps the most prominent example of an outcast in The Stand, and when he finds himself taken into Flagg’s service, his mind is broken for good and all. That kind of desperate lunacy is something Andy Serkis would be pitch-perfect for, having dabbled with it before as Gollum in The Lord of The Rings trilogy and more recently given perhaps the first Oscar-worthy motion-capture performance (seriously) in Rise of The Planet of The Apes. There’s no question he has the acting chops for it, and this would be the perfect role for him to hit the screen with his own face without the CG.
Substitute: Rhys Ifans
The Kid doesn’t have a big part, but he does play a significant one and his misadventures with Trashcan Man make for some of the best sections of the book. The Trashcan Man may be batshit crazy but The Kid is on an entirely different plane of insane. Described as looking like a young Elvis Presley, The Kid is a maniac who threatens death at the spillage of beer and frequently asks if you “believe that happy crappy?”. When The Kid’s around you actually feel sorry for Trashcan Man and his role is one well worth including in the movie. Perhaps he’s a little old for the part, but I think given how crazy he’s pretended to be in the past couple of years, Joaquin Phoenix would be the perfect choice for The Kid.
And there you have it, a full line-up for what will hopefully become a massive blockbuster trilogy based on one of the greatest stories ever told. There are some other minor characters that haven’t been listed here, but all the major players are taken care of. What do you think of the casting choices? Got an opinion of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
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