Monday, 26 May 2014

Casting Coup 1953: Julius Caesar

Look who’s blogging again?

Walter (The Silver Screening Room) is preparing to head back to 1953 to peruse what Oscar was enamoured with that year, and as a prelude to his excursion we’re recasting the Best Picture line-up. As Walter and I head into1953 there’ll be some specific focus on various categories (the Picture line-up is a curiosity in its own way, as is the Actress line-up). For now, though, it’s all about casting – in alphabetical order, but for the winner From Here to Eternity which we’ll get to on Friday.

The first film is Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s adaptation of Julius Caesar (which despite its title, you may recall is not focused on Caesar). Like many of Mankiewicz more successful films this one is star-studded, an excellent roster of notable actors of the era throughout the cast. Shakespeare adaptations are not quite as trendy as they used to be but with Macbeth to come and recent good pieces like Coriolanus maybe a Julius Caesar for 2014 would not be out of place. And what should it look like?

I tried to follow Mankiewicz's prototype of fairly well known actors throughout, but ones believable both in a Shakespeare piece and in ancient Rome.
Here are my suggestions.

...the wife of Brutus, worried that her husband is unwell and disappointed that he does not confide in her...
Originally played by Deborah Kerr
Played here by Naomi Watts
Portia only appears to question her husband about his condition, so the role demands an actor who can carve sensitivity immediately but not necessarily meekness. Naomi would be great here and she's different enough from Kerr for it not seem a retread. She'd be believably as a woman of the era, but not too fragile to be Brutus' wife.

...wife of Caesar who has visions of his assassination...

Originally played by Greer Garson
Played here by Catherine Zeta-Jones
Calpurnia has but one real scene to give us anything and its a role, in its slightness, that seems almost too theatrical. Zeta-Jones is someone that could make those laments about prophesying death work and would probably have fun chewing that scenery.

...he appears in only a few scenes, but is the titular character; the commander whom the people respect...
Originally played by Louis Calhern
Played here by Stephen Dillane
Dillane would be believably both as someone to root for and someone to root against. Caesar, as a character in the play, appearing in only five scenes isn't one we get to the root of so it would be depend on a performer who can suggest austerity but something potential more questionable underneath.

...more performers to tackle Shakespeare below the jump...

CASCA of the conspirators against Caesar he is most distrustful of Caesar’s ambition...
Originally played by Edmond O’Brien
Played here by Gary Oldman
Oldman is a great character actor. He'd take on a different persona than O'Brien's Casca, but he'd be fascinating. Maybe some of the guile of James Gordon, the tenacity of Sheldon Runyon and the braggart nature of Sirius Black.

...a friend of Caesar, young and brave and a great speaker...
Originally played by Marlon Brando
Played here by Dominic Cooper
I tried to shy away from casting a Marlon Brando and tried to focus on casting a Mark Antony, foremost. I had a physically larger actor in the role, but then Mark Antony, although a soldier is not necessarily one of brutish legend. Cooper is young enough to work as a follower of Caesar, but arresting enough to command an audience of mourners. And consider him my pet project - an actor who's been under the radar too long. He'd appreciate his moments and make the most of this role.

...the sly leader of the plot against Caesar, wily and wise but not malevolent...
Originally played by John Gielgud
Played here by Christoph Waltz
Who could duplicitous but avoid being smarmy? Believably play wily without being obnoxious? Waltz would be a good Cassius because his more memorable turns depend on him talking his way into our favour and Cassius' movement against Caesar depends on his power to convince Brutus with his words and his schemes.

...friend of Caesar and full of honour, but also increasingly doubtful of Caesar’s virtue as a leader..
Originally played by James Mason
Played here by Ralph Fiennes
I toyed with the idea of going younger for Brutus (and with him the entire cast) but no other actor felt right in the part. I've dreamed up Fiennes in a number of Shakespeare roles (imagine what his Macbeth could have been) and as he ages perhaps uncertain Brutus questioning his ideals as the years go by would be the ideal role for him. He'd be fine enough to make us forget Mason's indelible interpretation of the role.

Walter's cast should be up later in the day.

(A/N: I’ve not forgotten unfinished business from 2013. Soon.)


Walter L. Hollmann said...

Up now.

I, too, toyed with Oldman as Casca! Great minds and all that...

And GASP went I, as I saw Stephen Dillane, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Christoph Waltz. Yes! Of COURSE!

Andrew K. said...

walter waltz was the first person i cast. it was so easy because you know he loves talking birds off of trees.