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Reasons to Recast

In films and television, people always get cast according to how they look. Short people are angry/pushy/talkative. Slim young women are feisty. People with kindly faces are kind. Old people of colour are wise. Attractive women are the reliable, trustworthy gals you would like to shag, or the double-crossing, duplicitous vixens you would like to shag. Take note of the clever way ‘creative’ people keep you on the edge of your seat in that last example: beautiful women are either very good or very bad, but not somewhere in between. Being an overly-avid watcher of Star Trek, I have observed how Hollywood can take this to its logical and ridiculous conclusion. In Star Trek, especially the later series, there are countless alien races who look much like people, except there is something stuck to their forehead or their ears or their nose. When a new alien race is introduced, you can pretty much tell how they will behave just from the way they look. If they look very human, with a few dabs of henna to represent tiger stripes running down the side of their neck, or only have altered ears, then that race will either be good, or the type that seems good but turns out to be devious and dangerous. Foreheads that look like armour plating and pointed teeth are sure signs of aggressive tendencies. Any make-up where you have no idea what the actor underneath looks like, and you can guarantee that race will be difficult, and before long somebody will be threatening to fire torpedoes if they do not get their way.

Real life, unlike television and the movies, has no casting filter to match a person’s qualities to their looks. Bad people may look kindly, and old people may be fools. Short people may be shy, and attractive women may be dull but harmless. Of course, we may be daft enough to allow how somebody looks to influence our judgment of people, so every time a redhead gets angry, it confirms our knowledge they are a temperamental lot, but every time a redhead turns the other cheek when provoked, we fail to notice. Thanks the halo effect, good-looking people will be assumed to be intelligent, even if they are not, and ugly people will be assumed to be stupid, even if they are brainier than Einstein.

Thinking of the conjunction of Star Trek and miscasting, I started wondering what television and movies would be like, if all casting logic was outlawed, or if actors were given jobs based on a lottery. Recasting every movie since the dawn of time would take longer than I have time to do here, so instead I will focus on a genre where characters tend to be heavily stylized: science fiction. Here, in no particular order, is my list of ideal recasts, and enjoyable miscasts, of major and minor science fiction characters from through the ages (plus a few other random characters to keep you on your toes). If you know your sci-fi, it may give you a few giggles. If not, then try recasting a few of your own favourite films and shows, and imagining what the results would be like.

Imagine a universe where…

Jerry Seinfeld is Doctor Who
Thom Yorke is Wolverine
Jackie Chan is Chewbacca
Judi Dench is Laura Roslin
Daniel Craig is Buck Rogers
Oprah Winfrey is Wonder Woman
Christian Bale is Bender Bending Rodríguez
John Travolta is HAL9000
Cameron Diaz is Darth Maul
Sidney Poitier is Fox Mulder
Stephen Fry is Scruffy the Janitor
Victoria Beckham is Lady Penelope
Tom Cruise is Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur
Richard Pryor is Colonel Tigh
Madonna is Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People
Gary Coleman is Mini-Me
Chuck D is Riddick
Lindsay Lohan is Number Six
Bob Hoskins is Bilbo Baggins
Humphrey Bogart is Rorschach
George W. Bush is Zapp Brannigan
Patrick Stewart is Agent Smith
Bette Davis is Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Gary Oldman is Captain Nemo
Hong Kong Phooey is the Kwisatz Haderach
Gordon Brown is ‘Crash’ Gordon
Patrick McGoohan is Gaius Baltar
Milla Jovovich is Turanga Leela
David Bowie is David Brent
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Lemmy Caution
Brangelina is a teleporter accident
David Duchovny is Commander John Koenig
Paris Hilton is Jabba the Hutt
Gérard Depardieu is Jean-Luc Picard
Diana Rigg is Lady Jessica Atreides
George Lucas is Guido
Ricky Gervais is The Blob
Tommy Lee Jones is Dixie Flatline
Ricardo Montalban is Commander William Adama
Hugh Grant is Doctor Manhattan
Natalie Portman is Servalan
Steve Martin is Ming the Merciless
Eva Green is Tank Girl
Isaac Asimov is Hari Seldon
Queen Latifah is Lieutenant Commander Uhura
Harrison Ford is Arnold Rimmer
Peter Sellars is James T. Kirk
Britney Spears is Kaylee Frye
Leonard Nimoy is Dr. Horrible
Bono is Roy Batty
Barack Obama is Harry Tuttle
Kathy Bates is Lieutenant Saavik
Richard Branson is J.F. Sebastian
Gwyneth Paltrow is Captain Mal ‘Tightpants’ Reynolds
Bill Shatner is Klaatu
Halle Berry is Dr. Susan Calvin
Timothy Olyphant is Jango Fett
Ian McKellen is Kerr Avon
Eleanor Roosevelt is Ellen Ripley
Salma Hayek is Princess Leia Organa
Burt Reynolds is Han Solo
Roseanne Barr is Barbarella
Nathan Fillion is Arthur Dent
Beyoncé Knowles is Zefram Cochrane
Elizabeth Taylor is Pris
Chris Rock is The Master
Sharon Stone is THX 1138

and…

Bill Hicks is President of the United Federation of Planets

It might take a lot of CGI, but that would be a movie I would gladly pay to see!

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