Bringing to life any character from the pages of a comic book can be quite daunting, but it typically results in some serious workout sessions for an actor. In the case of Death Note and casting a "demon wearing glam rock clothing," on the other hand, it can be a little trickier. Director of the live-action adaptation of the manga Adam Wingard revealed he had previously wanted either David Bowie or Prince to play the demonic Ryuk, before they both tragically passed away.
When speaking with io9 about the adaptation, Wingard explained, "Well, as a matter of fact, David Bowie was actually originally who I wanted to [be the voice of] Ryuk—but then David Bowie died." He continued, "And then the second person on my list was Prince, weirdly enough—and then he died. And I was like, we got to stop, we're literally killing them off. Which is really morbid, but it was true."
The director detailed his initial motivations after describing the character by saying "there's not a ton of precedent in American live-action films [for] a demon wearing glam rock clothing and leather pants and stuff."
Bowie had a reputation for playing bizarre characters, ranging from the Goblin King in Labyrinth to Philip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
The role ultimately went to Willem Defoe, an actor capable of portraying a variety of creepy and eccentric characters in his own right.
What if you had the power to decide who lives and who dies? We suggest you obey the rules. Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone's name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.
Death Note will be available to stream on Netflix beginning August 25, 2017.