Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Casting Coup 1953: The Robe

Re-casting the 1953 Best Picture lineup along with Walter (The Silver Screening Room) as we both prepare for the 1953 retrospective n June. Now on the 1953 biblical drama The Robe. How does it look in 2014?

…a young woman in a Palestine village saved by Jesus who sings…
Originally played by Betta St. John
Played here by Anika Noni Rose
Miriam is a character who should appear pious enough to be a true Christian but with the undertones of someone you could see being very unhappy before. And she gets a big song. Anika seems like a perfect fit, she's dappled in playing very pious women to more sinister ones and she'd nail that mournful religious number.

…our hero’s father who does not understand his brashness, or his eventual Christianity…
Originally played by Torin Thatcher
Played here by Charles Dance
Dance seems like the perfect fit for the father who tries, mostly unsuccessfully, to bridge the generation gap dividing he and his son.

…the head disciple of Jesus, and the film’s Jesus-figure…
Originally played by Michael Rennie
Played here by Damian Lewis
In keeping with my decision to ignite the film with racial tension (White Romans, Iranian Greeks and Black Palestines) I wasn't sure who to cast as Peter. I ended up going with Lewis because Peter is almost Jesus-like in The Robe and I'd buy Lewis as a Jesus figure even if it's unlike the roles he usually plays.

…a leader in a Palestine village who believes in Christianity…
Originally played by Dean Jagger
Played here by Sidney Poitier
I went older than the film to my benefit, I think. Justus is the ad hoc leader of the village and must command respect without appearing to be too autocratic or controlling. Poitier would nail that easy sense of suggesting someone we should defer to.

…the Emperor of Rome, sympathetic to our hero…
Originally played by Ernest Thesiger
Played here by Anthony Hopkins
Like with Poitier, Hopkins seems an obvious choice for Tiberius. Someone who  has seen the world and is wiser than those around him but willing to humour them in their follies.

...who replaced Richard Burton and Jean Simmons? Who plays Caligula? More below the jump....

…the new Emperor of Rome, uppity and arrogant…
Originally played by Jay Robinson
Played here by Michael Pitt
Caligula as a spoiled brat is how I decide on Michael Pitt. I considered going older or more well known but it makes sense, I think, to have a younger actor who suggests youth - even immaturity - to play Caligula whose entire ideology seems based on egregious childishness.

…Greek slave to Marcellus who become a follower of Christianity…
Originally played by Victor Mature
Played here by Ramin Karimloo
Karimloo is a theatre actor but I don't doubt he could make the transition to film. Demetrius, although not the lead, must be electric enough to control our attention when he's on-screen. It's a quality I think Ramin has that would serve him well on the big scree.

…our hero’s childhood sweetheart, unofficially pledged to Caligula…
Originally played by Jean Simmons
Played here by Carey Mulligan
To be honest I don't feel this role is worthy of Carey, but no one else seemed to work in it. Diana is too much a tool of circumstance instead of a character with purpose, and yet Carey seems like the only one who could make Diana's occasional purposelessness work without making her seem askance in the film.

…notorious ladies man who eventually transforms from crazy man to Christian hero…
Originally played by Richard Burton
Played here by Tom Hiddleston
Right? I considered going younger briefly but Hiddleston works for many reasons. He is believable as a ladies man, and I'd relish the opportunity to see him lose his mind. It's a role that demands gravitas and although (oddly) he has not headlined a feature film, as yet, I'm confident he'd make it work.


Walter L. Hollmann said...

Oh my God Hiddleston is SUCH a good choice! I almost went with Hopkins, but at the last minute switched my choice. And uh....we definitely have one cast member in common.

Andrew K. said...

walter casting marcellus is so hard, though. burton has all that gravitas (and so young). doesn't it seem like actors in those days came to "maturity" (or at least projecting it) much younger than ones today?