Today on the Casting Couch, we’ll be tackling one of those “Wait, how did we not cast this already?” books in the form of Jeff Smith’s “Bone.”
A pivotal series that belongs on the shelf of every self-respecting comic book collection, “Bone” is one of those books that has been in development hell for years. It’s understandable why “Bone” would make a good film, really; I’d be lying if I didn’t say I came across “Bone” for the first time in Disney Adventures Magazine of all places. One of the most accessible and frequently published books, though, “Bone” is one of the few times where I feel it’s generally OK to say, “Yeah, I love this book — but seeing it animated would be pretty incredible.”
Just picture it: Jeff Smith’s drawings actually coming to life in a classically animated feature. How cool could that be?
So let’s give it some voices, and let someone else take care of the rest.
Fone Bone – Jesse Eisenberg
Fone Bone is a likable guy; he’s smart, but not too smart, and he’s pretty archetypal in terms of how he fits into the grand scheme of heroes in literature or mythology. So to voice Fone Bone, it feels important to have someone that conveys a bright character with a warm heart in a way that doesn’t feel too snobbish, and honestly, Jesse Eisenberg has been playing that role (with some variance) for years.
Eisenberg certainly put himself in a bit of a type-cast place when he began performing as Young Woody Allen Impersonator in various films, but lately he’s really evolved into a much better place as an actor. If anyone can make Fone Bone as likable as he really is while matching the qualities of Jeff Smith’s writing in the voice, it’s Eisenberg.
Phoney Bone – Sam Rockwell
Phoney Bone is a bit of a jerk. Right? I mean, he’s greedy, he’s manipulative, and even though he’s funny and likable in his own way, he’s definitely the worst Bone (until he, you know, eventually redeems himself). And I mean this only in the best of ways when I say that’s perfect for Rockwell; picture his performance as Zaphod Beeblebrox in Hitchhiker’s Guide and you’ll see exactly what I mean — a funny guy, but someone who’s a bit of an ass and very clearly wily and conniving. Rockwell would play against Eisenberg very well.
Smiley Bone – Charlie Day
Charlie Day is the only person that came to mind for this. It’s a bit of a typecast, I’ll admit, but Day is perfect in the role of an unassuming “wacky” sidekick, especially when he over-emphasizes his verbal inflections. Think Benny in Lego Movie, or even Art in Monsters University; Charlie Day makes for the perfect actor to play an unassuming role that often steals the show, and in many ways that’s Smiley’s lot in life. Everyone discredits him, but Smiley is one of the best, and when he comes in and does something that matters everyone feels it. That’s Day.
Thorn Harvestar – Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke is certainly best known to most people for her role as Daenerys Targaryen, and that’s fair. If anyone has taken a great character and only elevated her role with the performance, it’s definitely Clarke. And in many ways, Thorn is in a slightly similar place; she starts out in a very unassuming role, but grows exponentially throughout the story as the focal point of importance. Clarke plays Dany with a sense of earnest love and honesty towards being a role model, and that she does it so well with a clearly conflicted character balancing the light and dark of her heart says to me that she could bring that same sense of growth and beauty to a character like Thorn.
Gran’ma Ben – Angelica Houston
Gran’ma Ben, in all her understated importance, is difficult to cast. It has to be someone that can play well against our Thorn/Clarke pairing, and someone who can seem both sweet and motherly while also being — lets be honest — not a great person all the time. Gran’ma has made some less than great decisions, and is very much hiding from them. SO for this role, I’m actually reminded of Angelica Huston’s various performances in Wes Anderson movies — someone relatable, someone perhaps even a bit quirky, but a strong matriarch regardless, even when making decisions that aren’t the best. And while Huston has certainly been cast in that type of role before, whether as the head of a household or even some kind of royalty, Huston is a very powerful and commanding actress who could certainly bring Gran’ma Ben to where she needs to be when “Bone” transforms from “lighthearted adventure story” to “Lord of the Rings epic.”Continued below
Lucius Down – Jeff Bridges
Lucius Down is kind of secondary to Gran’ma Ben in many ways, and as such we’re bringing in Jeff Bridges to play against Angelica Huston. Bridges is the kind of guy who can play both the lead and the supporting role very well, and that seems to fit well for Lucius; his role is incredibly important, but he never fully takes the stage away from anybody else. And while he’s big and burly and imposing, he’s still someone that you warm up to fairly quickly, which Bridge’s intonation and habits in films very much match and deliver.
The Great Red Dragon- John Goodman
Not going to lie: didn’t even think of anybody else for this role. The Dragon was the first character cast, and it was always Goodman — because Goodman has that voice that’s so perfect. It’s warm, it’s friendly, but it’s booming; when Goodman gets angry, that anger is becomes almost legendary. In terms of a dragon, especially the Great Red Dragon who weaves in and out of the book throughout, Goodman is the perfect choice.
The Hooded One – Sigourney Weaver
Essentially the Big Bad of the story (though there is technically a Bigger Bad lurking back there), the Hooded One is the character that arranges everything in the book. And given the reveal of who the Hooded One is by the end of the story, I feel it’s important to bring in someone here with an incredibly iconic voice — which is where Sigourney Weaver comes in. In the past few years, Sigourney Weaver has placed that Background Manipulator Trope in a couple places, often cast in roles because there’s just no one else more perfect for it other than Sigourney Weaver (Paul, Cabin in the Woods, WALL-E). The Hooded One in “Bone” seems to me to very much be that kind of role, and perhaps with some vocal modifcations done in post-production, Weaver could put on another incredibly iconic performance onto her IMDB résumé.
Kingdok – Richard E. Grant
Richard Grant is one of the best actors that always gets forgotten, and that’s such a shame. From Withnail and I to his recent roles on Doctor Who or even Girls, Grant is someone that has such incredible charisma to him that he brings to his roles time after time after time. Kingdok is a big, big monster, one that to me sort of recalls a character like Scar from Lion King, and in between his liaisons with the Hooded One, his brutish interactions with other rat creatures or even the attacks he leads on others, Grant seems like the perfect person to bring out all the best qualities in Kingdok.
Of course, it’d be dishonest not to mention that Grant makes the perfect Kingdok specifically because of our casting of the two recurring stupid, stupid rat creatures…
Those Two Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures – David Mitchell and Robert Webb
Because come on, how perfect would that be. I can hear Richard Grant yelling at Mitchell and Webb as they bumble about in my head right now, and it’s incredible.
The two rat creatures that hound Bone throughout the narrative should very much be a comedic duo that already plays off each other well together, no doubt about it. Think of Key and Peele appearing in Fargo; those roles were great, but they were made that much better by the fact that it was Key and Peele. The same goes for Mitchell and Webb — while they already voiced a comical evil duo that should’ve been smart and vicious but were just kind of clunky and goofy (those two robots on Doctor Who), Mitchell and Webb would be the perfect pair to make a silly role like this as memorable as the characters are in the comics.