Never one company to shy away from some casting controversy, Warner Brothers has retained a largely unknown cast to spearhead their DCCU. Warner Brothers has historically thrived on contentious casting decisions, so maybe it's not so surprising to see them continuing this trend. Needless to say this approach has aggravated a lot of people who were expecting to see an all star Justice League cast. So with all the whining lately regarding the casting, it made me wonder, is casting unknowns really that big a risk? Here's the Justice League so far...
Henry Cavill was pretty much an unknown when he was first cast as Superman in late 2010. Gal Gadot is known primarily as a model and as 'that chick from Fast and Furious'. Jason Momoa is well known to Game of Thrones fans, but to few people outside of that fan base. Ezra Miller is known for his role in 'We Need to Talk about Kevin' and very little else, and Ray Fisher is almost a total unknown. The only known actor Warner Brothers has cast in the Justice League that is a known name was Ben Affleck, and even that decision was thoroughly criticized.
Casting comic book movies is always a difficult process, trying to find that delicate balance between appearance, talent and charisma is not always easy, and it's never simple. There's a lot more flexibility when casting a screenplay or a book, because their identities are usually ambiguous, so there's a lot of room for interpretation there, not so much in comic books. I've written before about wanting to see these comic book characters as they have always been drawn (here), but for the most part, all the Justice League actors look the part. It's their 'star power' and acting abilities that's being questioned more than anything else. With that in mind, I thought I'd look at some of the other casting decisions made in the comic book genre.
These are some other 'unknown' actors that were cast in comic book movies.
Christopher Reeve was a complete unknown before he was cast in Superman The Movie, and I still think that Christopher Reeve embodies what it is to be a hero in the movies and in real life better than anyone else ever has. If the comic book genre as a whole was to have a face, it would be Christopher Reeve's, and I say that as someone who is not a huge fan of the original Superman movies. Lynda Carter was not considered an actress by any stretch of the imagination, yet her short but memorable stint as Wonder Woman has endured for generations.
Hugh Jackman was an 'unknown' before he was cast as Wolverine, yet he continues to play the role well over a decade later. Jackie Earle Haley had been around for a while, but he was an unknown as far as the public was concerned, yet his turn as Rorschach in Watchmen was a standout performance and was praised almost universally. Chris Hemsworth was largely unknown before he was cast as Thor as well. All of these actors, despite being unknowns at the time of their casting, managed to turn in some undeniably memorable performances. So much so that many people now find it hard to imagine anyone else in their role. If these guys and gals did it in the past, then so can Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher, maybe...
These are the actors who I refer to as the inbetweeners because they weren't exactly 'stars' before they were cast as superheroes, but they were semi-known actors, yet all of them managed to knock it out of the park in style.
Michael Keaton was primarily known as a comedic actor before Batman, but he wasn't what I would call a big star before Batman in 1989. Tobey Maguire has had a long career in acting, but he never had that breakout role before Spider Man. Christian Bale was known before Batman Begins, largely due to American Psycho, but he wasn't considered a 'star' until after he played Batman. Gerard Butler was kind of teetering around the movie scene for a while, but it was 300 that catapulted him into stardom. Chris Evans is similar to Tobey Maguire, both had been acting for a long time but neither became a big 'star' until after they donned the spandex. I think Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa could probably be considered as 'inbetweeners' before they were cast as superheroes as well, and this doesn't seem to be a bad place to be coming from either.
These are the big name actors that were cast in superhero movies, the actors who provided a lot of the star power and name recognition for their respective movies.
Wesley Snipes carved out a name for himself as a genuine action star before he was cast as the vampire hunting Blade, his name was well definitely well known. Patrick Stewart had been acting since before I was born and was most famous for his role in the Star Trek franchise. Tommy Lee Jones is another veteran of the industry, his name carries a lot of clout, especially after The Fugitive. Robert Downey Jr has had his ups and downs, as we all know, but he was always a big star, even before Iron Man. Michael Fassbender was another big star with a lot of name recognition before he signed on for Magneto.
Casting a 'known' doesn't = $$$
While casting a 'known star' can imbue a movie with a certain level of publicity and attention, that's not always a recipe for success either. These are some other 'stars' that provided their movies with their 'allure' yet all their movies really failed to hit the mark. I'm not criticizing the actors performances either, just demonstrating how making a successful comic book movie isn't as easy as throwing a few big names at it and expecting people to turn out in droves to see it just because they're in it.
I actually liked Keanu Reeves interpretation as John Constantine, even though I could probably be called a purist when it comes to things like this, and Nicolas Cage's turn as the Ghost Rider and Edward Norton's performance as the Hulk, but not so much Halle Berry's Catwoman and Ryan Reynold's Green Lantern. I guess my point is, if I even have one is this, a known actor doesn't guarantee success any more than an unknown actor guarantees failure. So just pump the brakes on all the criticisms about the unknown actors for the time being. They might turn out to be great, the very embodiment of the comic book characters that they're charged with bringing to life. Just give them a chance, and at the very least, they do look the part. When we see the movie, if they turn out to be terrible then hate away, but until that time comes, I'll try remain impartial with a shade of optimism.
Written by - The Sentry - 05/11/2014