Wherein I Dream Cast A Buffy The Vampire Slayer Reboot That Wouldn't Make Me Gag
I recently got one of my best friends, and roommate/comic collaborator, to finally give Joss Whedon's much-beloved, and much-misunderstood-by-those-who-haven't-yet-given-it-a-shot, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" a shot. We finished season two this weekend and I think he's in it for the long haul now, so we can potentially add another to our ever growing ranks of wannabe Scoobies. But I've seen the show so many times now that during heavy stretches of Monster of the Week episodes my mind tends to wander, and I began thinking about who else could say these lines and wield these stakes. There's been talk for years since the show ended that there could be a reboot of the franchise in film form, most recently without any approval or content control from creator Joss Whedon. Thankfully, the most recent iteration of the project sank back into the aether, but don't for once let your guard down. Because someone somewhere will try again to bring Buffy back to the big screen, and that person may just be successful.
That said, as much as we Pajibans love us some "Buffy" (and we really, really do), I don't think a reboot, or a new adaptation on the previous material, is necessarily a big bad thing. As Whedon has said himself, he hoped the character would live on beyond him, like Batman has far outlived Bob Kane. Of course, the man is still very much alive and it wouldn't sit well with anyone if he got Alan Moore'd or Dan Harmon'd out of his creation's future. But what if, now that the man is a proven Hollywood player, he could get the rights to his main character and bring Buffy back to cinematic life? The question isn't whether he should or would, but if he could. What then?
He probably couldn't do a continuation of the TV series ala the Star Trek films, because many of the actors have said they're done and the story is already continuing in the comics. And just like Star Wars, the "expanded universe" isn't something that warrants adaptation, though the bigger budgets of a major motion picture could easily do some of those larger set pieces justice. But is Buffy really about an army of slayers fighting the forces of evil and shadowy governments, or is Buffy about a teenage girl who meets her monster hunting destiny with friends, medieval weaponry, and barbed wit? Whatever happens next with the character(s), unless nothing happens at all, it will assuredly happen in a high school constructed over a Hellmouth. So in that vein, and emulating Jill Pantozzi's "Star Trek: The Next Generation" dream cast over on The Mary Sue, I've attempted to re-cast our favorite little show that could into a big budget, blockbusting film.
Remember, it's all in fun, so don't get too venomous until you've had a chance to pick up what I'm laying down. Enjoy!
Jennifer Lawrence as Buffy Summers
You wouldn't be wrong to cry foul here, what with Lawrence already tackling two franchise leading roles with Katniss Everdeen and Mystique in Hunger Games and X-Men, respectively, it seems like someone else ought to get a chance to become a breakout star. But, hey, if Christian Bale can be Batman, John Connor, and (sort of) Bob Dylan then why can't J-Law get three high profile characters to play around with, too? As a convincing kicker of asses, immeasurably gorgeous, and legitimately hilarious in real life, she also happens to be perfect for the role that made Sarah Michelle Gellar and (sort of) Kristy Swanson household names. Don't lie, you know you want to see her dust, like, all the vamps.
Channing Tatum as Angel/Angelus
For someone Pajiba once unlovingly dubbed "Charming Potato," he's proving himself to be quite the Hollywood renaissance man. He may never be the best part of anything he does, but he's quickly becoming not-the-worst and somewhat more than only a slab of beef, and for that his tuberous nickname has become a term of endearment. It's actually eerily reminiscent of David Boreanaz's original take on the character, who became far more interesting and more interestingly portrayed when the actor was given a chance to loosen up and have fun. At the very least, Tatum's attempt at an Irish accent certainly couldn't be any worse, though Tom Hardy might be the actual correct pick.
Tom Hiddleston as Rupert Giles
Unlike most of the rest of this dream cast, Hiddles would be playing older than his real age (he's 31, J-Law is 21, and everyone else is in their mid-to-late 20s) in order to bring Anthony Stewart Head's wise middle-aged man to cinematic life. But, without pilfering from the casts of "Doctor Who," Hiddleston is clearly the best choice for the part: equally believable as half-stuffy British librarian who would bristle petulantly about manhandling an ancient tome and an ex-Punker cabable of clobbering Angelus with a fiery club in the very next scene. He is Buffy's Watcher, after all, and if anyone besides her ought to be able to throw a decent punch, it's him. Plus, we know he can sing and play the guitar, which is more important than one might think.
Jena Malone as Willow Rosenberg
Generally I've tried to prevent choosing multiple overlapping cast members from other big Hollywood franchises here, but at the moment Jena Malone isn't yet a co-star in Catching Fire, the Hunger Games sequel. She will be, but until then (and even after) she's the only actress I can conceive of taking over the role of Willow from Alyson Hannigan. I considered several gingers at first to keep it traditional (Jane Levy, Rose Leslie, Karen Gillan), but Malone offers the range necessary for the characters total arc from nerdy, scientific wallflower to dangerous, empowered witch. And if hair color really matters that much to you, don't worry, Malone can also rock the redhead.
Andrew Garfield as Xander Harris
Garfield is just coming off playing Spider-Man, so why would he take a demotion to being Buffy's third banana? Well, in my mind, this movie is as big as The Avengers and every character gets mostly equal screen time with only the titular vampire slayer getting more than the average. Regardless, so many of the things that make the actor work as Peter Parker are what's necessary to flesh out Xander, which is why Nicholas Brendan would have made a fairly decent webslinger back in the day. And if you haven't, check out The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus for proof that Garfield can handle Xander's dickish moments without coming off totally unlikeable, which is the reason both Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg were eventually ruled out.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Cordelia Chase
Originally, I considered Megan Fox for the part of Buffy's high school nemesis and eventual full-fledged member of the Scoobies, but I realized during a recent re-watch of some early episodes that what made Charisma Carpenter so great -- and she was (so, so great) -- was that even when being a total bitch, she was charming. Fox can handle the one, but not so much the other. However, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has shown she can do both in movies like Sky High, Death Proof, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The biggest difference between the big and small screens would probably be that Carpenter's Cordelia was unwittingly smarter than she knew/let on, but Winstead's would probably own it far sooner. Sounds like an acceptable sacrifice to me.
Donald "Childish Gambino" Glover as Daniel "Oz" Osbourne
I know, I know, Glover is my go-to actor for almost everything, but it's only because he should be in everything. I toyed with slotting him in the Xander role, because I still want him to play Spider-Man some day and by the transitive properties of thespianism, that means he'd probably
kill slay as Xander, too. Then I realized that the performer's civilian identity is actually less like Troy Barnes and a bit more like Seth Green's Oz than, and that we can simply change the character's spot as lead guitarist in Dingoes Ate My Baby to being a burgeoning MC named Dingo Baby-Eater. Or something more better, like his inevitable cover of the theme song by Nerf Herder for the soundtrack would clearly be. As a bonus, Glover playing a werewolf would totally be a meta-reference to "Community."
Elizabeth Shue as Joyce Summers
Yeah, yeah, I know I said I didn't want overlapping casts, but here I am picking another actress who has/will have acted opposite Jennifer Lawrence. I haven't yet seen House at the end of Street, but as soon as I heard Shue would play Lawrence's mother, I knew the casting director was onto something. So, I'm going to say that background is actually beneficial here, giving the two women a history and a certain level of comfort that might also be evident in their performances. And, again, I can't help it if she just happens to be perfect as Buffy's cool-but-concerned mom. Not to put too fine a point on it, but her flirtations with Tom Hiddleston's Giles would be legendary.
Bradley Whitford as Principal R. Snyder
Since this is a Joss Whedon joint, there's got to be some crossover talent with the writer/director/producer's earlier work. I initially considered Clark Gregg, who's Agent Coulson is one of the best parts of the entire Marvel movie smorgasbord. But, ultimately, I think he's just a bit too grounded to play the deliberately cruel and vindictive Principal Snyder than Armin Shimerman could do in his sleep. That said, with The Cabin in the Woods, Bradley Whitford is a recent addition to the Whedonverse and can do that in his sleep -- while also baking a pie and standing on his head. He's the kind of actor who play an irreedeemable asshat and still be the most entertaining thing happening on screen. Just imagine his character from Billy Madison, but aged 20 years and never having learned a thing.
Natalie Tena as Drusilla and Dominic Monaghan as Spike
These were both the hardest and easiest roles to cast. On the one hand, Juliet Landau and James Marsters created two of the most indelible characters on the 1990s TV landscape and so seem more irreplaceable than any of the other actors (no offense meant to SMG and the rest), playing the eternal incarnations of Sid and Nancy. On the other hand, Natalia Tena (as Tonks in the Harry Potter series, Osha in "Game of Thrones") and Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings' Merry, Charlie Pace on "LOST," the only legitimately great part of "Flash Forward") seemed like absolute no-brainers once my mental rolodex reached their names. In fact, the main reason I didn't scrap this article as being too fantastical to take seriously is because I now desperately want to see Monaghan and Tena play these parts somehow, some way. As the Big Bads for a theatrical Buffy reboot would just be too awesome to ignore.
So, that's who would populate the first movie in a potential Buffy the Vampire Slayer trilogy with Joss Whedon's approval and control, if I had my druthers. I would imagine it would cover the major beats of seasons one and two, replacing the Master with Spike and Drusilla so Angel could become Angelus around the midpoint and glossing over any monster-of-the-week stuff. Oh, and at some point Ron Perlman would make a cameo as the Judge. Obviously.
More than likely, Kendra wouldn't make the cut due time constraints (but if she did, I nominate Zoe Saldana) and Oz would take a bit of a backseat until the second movie, which would adapt the third season Mayor plot and keep it mostly intact. For poops and chuckles, here's who I'd pick to fill out the most important roles in the first sequel:
Adrianne Palicki as Faith Lehane
As memorable as Faith is, Eliza Dushku doesn't exactly leave the biggest shoes to fill, but the character is essentially all attitude, anyway. But the character is important for the development of Buffy and having someone a little older and little more obviously capable of handling themselves, in the alluring form of the once and never again Wonder Woman, Adrianne Palicki, could make that work in a single film's running time. She would also be an easy answer as to why nobody seems to care that there's a homeless teenager wondering the halls of Sunnydale High -- she graduated already and is "hired" by Giles to be his assistant. It doesn't hurt that Palicki and Lawrence have vaguely similar looks, making the good/bad slayer dichotomy that much more resonant.
Daniel Radcliffe as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce
When you've got a new slayer, you naturally need a new Watcher and Alexis Denisoff's Weslie is precisely what one would expect Giles to be. All prim and proper and very awkward, and exceedingly English. That's not exactly how Radcliffe portrayed Harry Potter, but it's not very far off and since he's more age-appropriate his budding failed relationship with Cordelia would play less creepy-stalkery and more goofy-potential stalkery. I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait for the Angel movie spin-off movie.
Bryan Cranston as Mayor Richard Wilkins
Henry Groener's Mayor Wilkins will probably stand the test of time as one of the best TV and pop culture villains ever. The performance, with equal parts Mayberry and menace, is Top Ten material everytime. But some of that is due to the writers really giving him a lot to work with, which is why, frankly, I'd love to see another actor take a bite out of the part. Mayor Wilkins ought to be Iago or the Joker, in terms of actors getting their shot. Bryan Cranston, who can do modern Mayberry ("Malcolm in the Middle") and god damn menace ("Breaking Bad") with equal aplomb was the first and last name to pop into my head, and he's the second reason after Dominic Monaghan and Natalia Tena that I wanted to finish this piece. By Jove, this could be the greatest villain performance ever seen in a multiplex. Now that I've thought it, I can't unthink it.
The third and final installment could gloss over most of seasons four through six to focus on the First Evil from season seven, but it would also be interesting to see the story conclude after the graduation in mostly unexpected ways. Whatever happens, Buffy needs to die onscreen at least twice in the course of the series.
So, how did that work out? Do you still want to chase me down with pitchforks and torches, or could you possibly, one day, maybe imagine a less brutal world wherein a rebooted Buffy the Vampire Slayer wouldn't be the worst thing to ever happen to anyone in history? More importantly, who would you cast, and who that I left out do you think just has to be there or it's all moot?
The floor is yours, just try not to mop it up with me. Pretty please...
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He almost said that Donald Glover's Oz should change his nickname to Wiz, but that would be streets behind.