So the same friend who accused me of living under a rock for the past 10 years for not knowing about the Willow sequel has set me a new challenge. (People asking me to blog about things! This is like the heady days of G+.) This time, the task is to cast a film version of a book, and choose somebody to direct. To make it more interesting, you can choose living and dead people, from any stage of their careers.
I'm going to be deliberately perverse here and begin with The Lord of the Rings. The Peter Jackson trilogy has its moments, but ultimately left me a bit cold - but even if you like it, it's fun to imagine what it would have been like with different actors and director.
As director, I would go with Kurosawa Akira. His dynamic style would be perfect for the fight and battle scenes, and his penchant for axial cuts would really capture the drama and seriousness of Tolkien's vision. (Also, if I really have carte blanche, here, can you imagine a Japanified version of LOTR set in a kind of fantasy sengokujidai with samurai Aragorn and oni (or tengu) orcs?)
As Gandalf I would have Sean Connery, circa The Name of the Rose. I didn't mind Ian Thingy as Gandalf, but Connery has the kind of wry humour and twinkle in the eye that every good Gandalf needs, combined with the hard edge that lies below the surface of the character. (You could also go Alec Guinness, but he would really be too 'on the nose'.)
As Legolas I would have a young Yul Brynner - way more weighty and interesting than Orloondo Bland, and more other-worldly to boot. An elf should look like he isn't quite human and in fact comes from a vaguely superior species. Yul Brynner fits the bill.
As Gimli I would have Walter Brennan circa Rio Bravo, because come on.
Aragorn is harder because Viggo Mortensen really was inspired casting. Aragorn is too serious a figure to be played by a Harrison Ford-style leading man, and needs an undercurrent of melancholy. So I'm going to go with Peter O'Toole circa Lawrence of Arabia, who again often felt as though he belonged in another world.
Don't you think a young Michael Caine would have been great as Frodo? You would have to do some 'cinema magic' a la Elijah Wood to make him seem like a hobbit, but Caine's capacity for wide-eyed sincerity would be a great fit, and he also had the acting chops to pull of the darker stuff towards the end.
Sam - there is a part of me that wants a younger version of Barry from Eastenders in this role, but I recognise this may slightly alienate my non-British readers. I actually think Mackenzie Crook would be a good left-field choice, but ultimately you would have to say Martin Freeman wuz robbed when he never got the part in the first place and had to settle for Bilbo later on?
Boromir - I am tempted by Russel Crowe here - able to portray a douty warrior, threatening turncoat, and repentant sinner all in one. But I kind of want to go with Oliver Reed instead for his sheer brooding menace.
Pippin and Merry are harder because they are so interchangeable but a double act of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan - younger, of course, than their stint in The Trip - would be fabulous for this. Both would add a little lightheartedness when called for, but both are also capable of seriously good acting when required - and could bring some steeliness to the final chapters (which Kurosawa would naturally want to film).
You will, I daresay, express you own opinions in the comments!