Ignorance Is Bliss, Or The Perils Of Casting Iconic Characters
Well, now we have our new movie Superman, and like Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh before him, he’s a relative unknown. It’s a good thing, too, because that way it’s easier to feel optimistic about the final movie. When it comes to on-screen translations of our favorite fictional characters, ignorance is bliss. It’s a little something I call the Michael Cera rule.
I admit it: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything with Henry Cavill in it… or, if I have, he made so little an impression that I don’t remember him, which we’ll chalk up to bad luck, if true. But that’s probably the best case scenario for Warner Bros, who can announce him for the dual role of Clark Kent/Superman and rest assured that the majority of the reaction will be “Who? Well, the photos look all right.” For contrast, think of the reaction when Anne Hathaway was announced as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, and the internet broke into factions to argue whether she was sexy enough, whether someone who’d been in The Devil Wears Prada was worthy of a Christopher Nolan movie, and just how long they’d been waiting for her to put on a rubber catsuit (Okay, maybe not that last one. Although, you never know). Or, to use my own prejudices against me, Michael Cera in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Here’s the thing: I really, really like the Scott Pilgrim books. And, for that matter, I really, really like Arrested Development. But, when Cera was announced as Scott in Edgar Wright’s movie Pilgrim, I was horrified: How could the awkward, nervous George Michael come up with the kind of stupid, unearned confidence and boldness that made Scott Pilgrim who he was? Also, he was too skinny and his hair was wrong and and and, I kept coming up with more and more reasons why Wright’s choice was just plain wrong and would, of course, ruin the movie as a result.
As anyone who’s seen Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World knows, I was pretty much as wrong as wrong could be. It was a great film, and Cera nailed the role. But withholding judgment until seeing the movie isn’t what we do these days, especially not on the internet, so in place of that, managing expectations by essentially confounding them — How many people are really going to go and rent The Tudors just to see Cavill’s performance? — really might be the best way to avoid complaints about creative decisions creating bad buzz ahead of time. Here’s another case in point: Christina Hendricks is rumored to be a possible Wonder Woman in NBC’s upcoming pilot (although she’s said that she knows nothing about it, and claims it’s the result of fan excitement more than having any basis in reality), and everything about that seems wrong to me. Again, I love Hendricks as much as anyone who’s seen Mad Men — which is to say, a lot — and think that she’s in many ways the heart of the show, and a talented actress who knows how to underplay her scenes to the best effect, but I have become so used to her as Joan that I really can’t imagine her having the… I don’t know, openness and lack of predatory nature, I guess, that I expect Wonder Woman to have.
I’m not necessarily saying that familiar characters should only be played by unknowns — Because, hi, Robert Downey Jr. killing it as Tony Stark — but unless producers are ready to risk the almost guaranteed wrath of the internet, or else have some ideal, impossible perfect casting, it might be the best option for all involved.
… Of course, now wait for Angelina Jolie or someone to be announced as Lois Lane …