Hello, and welcome to this week’s Casting Couch! With the announcement that DC is actually going to try and make a “Sandman” film with Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached to star, produce and possibly direct, I figured this would be an easy one to tackle. Really, the precedent had been set, right? Levitt is Dream, and that makes it all the more easy to form the rest of the cast.
Read on as I pick my contenders for a “Sandman” film, mostly based on the first volume ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ for obvious reasons.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
I like Gordon-Levitt. I think he’s a very talented individual, and I thought his film Don Jon was well made and actually rather thoughtful in the end. That said, I wouldn’t particularly like Levitt to direct, as I think a film like Sandman would need a bit more of an active imagination from someone who has proven to have a strong sense of mixing weird fantasy world’s within our actual realm; someone who can make something look very much look like a dream, and yet still feel very real.
As such, I think anyone who has seen City of Lost Children, Delicatessen or Amelie will agree that Jean-Pierre Jeunet can create an incredible blend of the real and unreal in a way that not many others can. While Jeunet has only really worked on his own productions (probably as a result of Alien: Resurrection, I imagine), I think it would be very interesting to see what he could do with a world like the one in “Sandman,” especially if Dave McKean is brought on as Art Director.
Dream: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
So, this one is the obvious pick because it is pretty much done for us. We know that Levitt is looking to star in the film, so there’s no sense guessing who else it could be. In fact, this only makes it easier to cast the Endless around him, if anything.
I’ll admit, though, that Levitt is not my first choice for the role for a variety of reasons (most of them fangirl-related), but I also think we’ve seen enough of his work over the years to know that he’ll do a good job. Levitt has evolved a lot as an actor from his 3rd Rock days, and he’s shown himself to be a rather nuanced and talented artist. I can only hope that Sandman decidedly pushes him out of his comfort zone, because I think the role very much calls for it.
He would’ve certainly been a front runner for Daniel, though, if that were an option.
Death: Tatiana Maslany
Arguably the most popular role in all of the series, the version of Death that appears throughout “Sandman” is easily the most affable character, but one who also has an obvious deeper and darker side given her role and the task she has to continually perform. And for those of you who have seen Orphan Black, I think it’s very easy to agree that Tatiana Maslany is one of the most talented young actresses in Hollywood, pulling off a variety of different characters all with unique voices and personalities within the spectrum of the show. A performance of Death, which seemingly combines aspects of all those characters and more, should be a walk in the park.
Destiny: Liam Cunningham
Most familiar as Game of Thrones’ Davos, Liam Cunningham is easily the most under-rated talent on that show. I might be biased as a book reader and a fan of that character, but what Cunningham has brought to the character in the show brings whole new depths to the role seemingly not given in the book. Plus, Davos has a strange sense of calm about him; he witnesses strange events and horrors but still manages to remain relatively composed. I would love to see what Cunningham could do with an even more reserved role, someone who knows what is coming and can’t/won’t do anything to change that.
Desire: Noomi Rapace
Desire was a tough role to cast as Desire is the only transgendered character in the series, and that something considered when picking an actor or actress who could do the role justice — a character that walks the line between good and evil, sometimes epitomizing both. But as a fan of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films and Prometheus (yes, you read that correctly), I think that Noomi Rapace is very much capable of embodying a range of emotions visible at different times from the character. Rapace can be both soft and innocent, but also dark and violent and fearsome, and these are qualities we need to be able to see in Desire as much as anything else.Continued below
Delirium: Mia Wasikowska
If you’ve seen Stoker, then I’m sure you already know: Mia Wasikowska is amazingly talented. One of the most unassuming films to produce intense and visceral performances from its cast, Mia absolutely centered the film, with her character’s mania sort of spreading outwards throughout the other characters with a gravitational pull. Imagine what she could do with someone as unbalanced, funny, sweet, insane and intense as Delirium?
Despair: Kate Mulgrew
The most difficult of the Endless to cast, Despair is a bit of a monster. However, fans of Orange is the New Black and NTSF:SD:SUV:: who are familiar with Kate Mulgrew will perhaps see why she could easily be our monster. Her OITNB character “Red” is perhaps the easiest way to see someone perform Despair: a hardened criminal who is not afraid or unwilling to the dirty work, but with a vulnerable side that comes out just as easily. Despair is an incredibly complex character, certainly easily manipulated by Desire, and I think that Mulgrew would be the one to pull that off.
As a note, Destruction is not cast in the film because, as readers of the series will know, his absence is a pivotal part of the story. It would make no sense to cast his role, even for a brief flashback or cameo (which I imagine the actual film will do, but we’ll stick with the book’s path).
Lucifer: Michael Pitt
Lucifer is arguably the second most important character in this film outside of Dream. That might be high praise to lob, but really, what other character got a full spin-off series that was as complex and essential to Vertigo’s identity as Lucifer? As such, while his role in this film may be smaller than it becomes later, it’s an exceedingly integral role, and we need to cast someone who can not only act as a mirror to Levitt but just as easily star in their own film about the devil playing piano. So with all that in mind, I’ve picked Michael Pitt for the role, a young and talented actor who has proven himself time and time again from Funny Games to Boardwalk Empire. He’d be a great foil to Levitt in many ways, and I think that dynamic could prove to create some of the best scenes in our fictitious little film here.
Matthew the Raven (Voice): Ron Perlman
There were two contenders for Matthew, a voice-over role that becomes increasingly important as the series goes on. For all intents and purposes we wanted someone who could be able to bring a blue-collar style voice while still being otherwise harsh enough to sound like it was coming from a crow — and when Jeunet took spot of the director, it only made sense to give collaborator Ron Perlman the role. I mean, I love Ron Perlman in just about anything so it’s a no brainer why he’d be good here, but that’s at least the logic behind it.
Lucien the Librarian: David Thewlis
This may sort of seem like typecasting because, really, when you look at David Thewlis now (particularly after the Harry Potter films), I think it’s easy to get a professorial vibe off of him. He’d just make a good librarian. And, sure, we can point to films like Naked as evidence of his talent, but I think with a character like Lucien, as much of a bit-character as he is, having someone talented enough to appear wise and knowing against a character that is eternal, it’s smart to have someone extremely talented as opposed to just a place-holder.
Cain and Abel: Gary Oldman/Michael Stuhlbarg
The most difficult of the ancillary cast to do, Cain and Abel are a tricky bunch. They’re sort of comedic, but then they’re also impossibly dark; Cain repeatedly kills Abel, and Abel is a bumbling buffoon. So for the pick of Gary Oldman and Michael Stuhlbarg, I pushed for talent from known performances in order to cast the duo as opposed to leaning on a pair that had established themselves with chemistry. In fact, I think pairing up people who frequently deliver polar opposite performances might make it more interesting — imagine Oldman from Leon (“EVERYONE!”) against Stuhlbarg from A Serious Man (“Sy Ableman?“), and you have what I think can result in a very interesting mix of talent in two very uncommon roles.Continued below
Merv Pumpkinhead: Dominique Pinon
Jean-Pierre Jeunet always casts Dominique Pinon in his films. How could I not?
Roderick Burgess: Malcolm McDowell
The first of our two villains for the film, Roderick Burgess is the character who kicks everything into motion by trapping Dream in the first place. Putting Malcolm McDowell in the role is probably the epitome of typecasting, but at the same time he’s kind of perfect for it. It’s practically a role McDowell was born to play, both in terms of his talent and just his general appearance; when looking at Burgess in the comic, McDowell was one of the first people to come to mind. We know he can play sinister incredibly well to the extent that you’d almost imagine McDowell as actually capable of trying to trap Death in order to live forever and bless us all with his unholy acting talent.
John Dee aka Doctor Destiny: Jackie Earle Haley
The more nefarious of the two villains, again, I’m sort of leaning on a typecast here. In different ways, Haley has portrayed a number of characters who could amalgamate to John Dee. But it’s that collection of his various performances that I’d like to see all put in one place. John Dee is horrible; that issue that takes place in the diner is incredibly disturbing, and it’s going to take an extremely talented actor to make that scene as deep-seated in horror as it needs to be. Haley can do something like that with his eyes closed, especially if you take the intensity of his portrayal of Rorschach and mix it together with the quiet but frightening intensity of Ronnie from Little Children. Those two alone are John Dee, and that makes Haley perfect for the part.