Even though it seems clear from the buzz that Lucasfilm and Disney hope to bring back the original cast for Star Wars Episode VII, there's no guarantee they'll be able to. Mark Hamill will not return without reservations, and while word is Harrison Ford is willing, that came from anonymous channels, not from the actor himself, who has long stated he's got no interest.
So in the interest of "what if" and also just for the fun of looking back at the original Star Wars, here's some ideas for who might play the roles of the iconic Star Wars leads if we had to cast it with people who are roughly age-appropriate now.
Again, this is all in fun. We don't need a mountain of comments that "the original cast can't be replaced" or "we want the original cast." Basically no one is arguing against Hamill and company coming back; we just wondered who might be cast, or who might be interesting to see in the roles, if the original movies were being made right now.
We're also making a conscious effort not to go with the route of Ryan Gosling-Anne Hathaway-Nathan Fillion-Don Cheadle because, let's face it, you're not going to get four A-list actors to tie up their whole resume for five years or so doing three movies. And besides, lots of people have already recommended them.
This is not only the most important piece of casting in the film, but arguably the hardest to nail down, too. A number of actors could pull off Han Solo, in no small part because his role became so coveted and emulated in the last thirty years that a number of actors (Ryan Reynolds, Nathan Fillion, etc.) have cut their teeth doing variations on the snarky badass.
Frankly, it would be nice to see somebody like Brandon Routh in the role; he doesn't look like an action star, but he's got the skillset as well as the doe-eyed innocence that he can call upon when necessary which makes him a passable farm boy. But he's already been in they key roles of Superman and Dylan Dog and failed to connect with audiences in either.
Of course, Justin Bieber's got the hair, but...nah.
Honestly Topher Grace could be inspired casting. He'd seem out of left field, but he's a huge Star Wars fanboy, and his attempts at drama have been sunk by the scripts, not his performance. Also, frankly, he's never sunk a major motion picture single-handedly like Routh (who, okay, didn't really do that but it's how a lot of fans feel and that's what's important).
The problem with Grace, of course (and Routh, too, for that matter) is that he's outside of the age range you want--but it's difficult to find genunine teen actors with the kind of oomph to pull off Luke Skywalker. This one we'd have to put a pin in, but if you asked us to commit to someone this minute, it'd be Grace.
One of the great things about Leia is that she's one of only a small handful of female leads in a huge pop cultural phenomenon like Star Wars who wouldn't need to be changed at all, or at least almost at all, in order to be sure she still resonates with a contemporary audience. That means you can essentially look at people who have played similar parts in other works for inspiration.
Our top pick, if we had to cast Leia today, would be Olivia Thirlby. Fresh off a performance as a bad-ass judge with mental powers in Dredd 3D, Thirlby has the delicate balance of power, humor and sex appeal that would make her a great Leia Organa.
Another tough character to cast; you want somebody who's just a little older than Luke and Leia, but who isn't so much older that it's a distraction. So some of the obvious choices (say, Josh Holloway) are probably out.
There's a school of thought that you could go with somebody like Stephen Amell, having proved his cool on Arrow but still a fairly unknown quantity, but he's never had any feature film success and while the franchise will go a long way, it seems as though the studio would want at least one of the "big three" to be a bona fide draw.
You also want somebody who can pull off the sexy bad boy thing that defines the character, which lands you in the area of a lot of other guys with TV experience. Suddenly you can find yourself looking at somebody like Joel McHale from Community or even Nathan Fillion himself, who would be great if he hadn't already done it--and if he wasn't enough older than the rest of the cast to make it hard to swing.
At the end of the day, if I were casting this flick, I'd probably land on James Franco. I wouldn't be positively thrilled with the call, but he certainly proved in his Apes outing that he can act and he's got the rest of the things we asked for above in spades.
This one's difficult because while there are a great number of aging, leading men with the kind of gravitas this role would require, there aren't that many who can convincingly pull off the action sequences demanded. In fact, whether Guinness really looked particularly at home in the brief action sequences he had to do is debatable.
Honestly, an ideal choice for this would be Sean Connery, but League of Extraordinary Gentlemen sent him scurrying for the hills, as it would most people.
Using that kind of model, though, perhaps you go for somebody like John Malkovich. Obviously when you look at RED, it showcases a bit of the action-hero aesthetic, and Malkovich is one of those great actors who will thrive in any role you give him. Gravitas isn't a problem for the man, unless he's doing nightclub singing on top of a piano.
Billy Dee Williams is probably still a perfect choice; he's aged pretty gracefully, isn't doing a whole lot else and just because he's old friends with Han doesn't mean they have to be in the same peer group.
If they decided to go a different way, though, it's tough. You want somebody acerbic, quick on their feet and able to command the room but many of the most famous African-American actors in Hollywood are typecast so often it's hard to tell if they can be acerbic without being broad or powerful without being threatening.
Certainly Donald Glover would be a fan-favorite choice, but until he's proved his chops in a drama, it seems likely he'll continue to be the fanboy choice who doesn't get picked for each of these big roles (he was reportedly seriously discussed as Spider-Man, even if it was just for a minute).
It's a smaller role, though, so maybe this is where you can sneak in a Will Smith. He's got all you need for the gig, and provided you keep the role small enough that he can do other things around it, it would be hard to say no to a franchise like this.
Another choice, and this sounds odd but his turn in Kick-Ass 2 will likely bear us out on this, is Donald Faison, who's a fantastic actor with a lot of range who gets criminally underrated, probably because his long stint on one of TV's best and most widely-syndicated sitcoms (Scrubs) gets him typecast in a lot of people's minds. Apparently they didn't watch more or less the whole second season of that show where Turk got stuck with a lot of the drama, few of the jokes, and Faison always nailed it.
Also, the graphic at right.
And does anybody object to Dennis Haysbert to voice Darth Vader?