With the announcement this week that Constantine is in development at NBC (based on DC/Vertigo's Hellblazer comics), there was an immediate burst of conversation on the Web around who, exactly, should play the character.
After all, it's not as though the casting for the feature film version was exactly what people always wanted and expected. The acerbic, blond Brit was replaced by a quiet California boy with black hair and a penchant for air guitar. Had it worked, that would have been Heath Ledger-level inspired casting...but since the film was widely panned and a financial disappointment, a lot of the blame fell back on star Keanu Reeves.
So--who would we cast in the next iteration of Constantine? We've got a few ideas below, but first a few ground rules, in the hopes of coming up with some candidates who might actually end up in the job:
- No A-listers. The odds of Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston (or even Idris Elba) electing to leave their blockbuster movie careers behind to be the lead in a network TV series that could very well be cancelled after a year is pretty much zero, and so a list that just rattled off "famous Britons I know" would be about as useful going to a random page on IMDb and saying, "That guy!"
- Nobody who has another TV series right now. We'd love to put Jonny Lee Miller on here, but so long as Elementary is going strong at CBS, he's every bit as impossible to lure away as Tom Hiddleston.
Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer has so much in common with John Constantine that it's going to be hard to avoid people drawing comparisons from Marsters's most popular character and a guy who will be actively cast in Hollywood over the next few months.
Does that give Marsters the inside track? It's hard to say; he could very well not want to be pigeonholed into that kind of role for the rest of his life, but as a lot of people said when the possibility of Christian Bale's Batman returning came up--just because you're going to get turned down doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't ask.
The bigger problem, though--at least arguably--is his age. Marsters is 51, and while he looks pretty good for that age, sooner or later the smarmy young turk thing isn't going to look good on him. If they hope for the series to have a long life, and/or to tie into the prospective Dark Universe movie (which, by extension, would potentially put him onscreen with Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill), they'll probably want a younger Constantine.
About a decade younger than Marsters, he doesn't necessarily look it--but there's something about the Da Vinci Code villain that seems a bit tortured and exhausted--his age carries in a way that we could see working for Constantine.
He also wouldn't have to work as hard to cultivate the English persona; Marsters, of course, is an American actor who's just best-known for playing a Brit. Bettany, meanwhile, is the real deal.
His biggest drawback? His biggest gig.
Granted, he's not exactly A-list material, and we could totally see him taking the lead in a network sitcom (he almost took the lead in Showtime's Masters of Sex back in 2012 before exiting the pilot)--but his day job is decidedly A-list...and might specifically preclude him from working with DC Entertainment.
For those who don't know, Bettany provides the voice of Jarvis, Tony Stark's personal assistant/AI, in the Iron Man and Avengers movies (plus, now, the iOS app inspired by his character). It wouldn't be entirely surprising to find that Bettany and other Marvel Studios regulars are precluded from taking a gig in a DC Comics adaptation.
You might know this British comedian from his turn on Spy or his recent appearance in The World's End, but it's his time as Richard Macduff on the short-lived Douglas Adams adaptation Dirk Gently that convinces us he could swing Constantine.
He's got an strong build but isn't so muscular as to seem like an action hero; he can carry off being gruff and menacing or wry and witty with ease. That right there, along with being blond and from the U.K., is quite a bit of what people would like from Constantine in a nutshell.
And as you can see from the image at right, he can rock a suit/trenchcoat combination. Generally speaking we see him a bit more haggard than that image, but a five o'clock shadow is something that can come and go pretty easily so we're not worried about him looking too clean for the part.
He's got a history with American network drama, having starred on Lost, and Monaghan also has a history with Warner Bros., having starred in Lord of the Rings. Nothing wrong with bringing friends closer together.
And while he doesn't really feel substantial enough to be Constantine in many ways, that could lend itself to a somewhat different performance.
And, yes, he turned in that kind of affable, damaged rocker thing in Lost, so maybe he can capture what so many fans thought were missing from the Reeves version.
Certainly he's worth considering, especially because he's one of only a few British actors truly recongnizable to an American audience who have nevertheless appeared willing to appear as a regular on a network TV series.
Nobody particularly wants Constantine to be an American, but let's say, for the sake of argument, that's the way NBC is interested in going.
Why not Roday?
As the leading man on USA's Psych, he has spent the better part of the last decade playing a smarmy detective/con man who's generally about as well-scrubbed and takes things about as seriously as Constantine. Shawn Spencer has a bit of Constantine in him--at least as much as his middle-aged English counterpart, The Mentalist's Simon Baker.
In fact, one of the producers on Constantine is reportedly going to be The Mentalist's creator--which may actually hurt Roday's chances, since he's had--ahem--a little fun at the show's expense...
"A virtual carbon copy" can't be the kind of thing your showrunner likes to hear...!