Andrei Freeman (lordandrei) wrote,
Andrei Freeman
lordandrei

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It took a while, but I found my casting... DaVinci Code

My undergraduate study (well one of them) was directing for stage. This of course was complimented by classes in Musical Theatre, Radio/TV Production, Film theory...

Directing is my first love. Once I get a cast into a rehearsal hall I am in ecstasy. I can pummel 15 minutes of a show for 3 hours and find driving emotions from a performer. I can buzz thru 45 minutes of material in 5 minutes and not lose the quality of a scene. It's all a question of focus.

But enough threats to people I will soon work with ;)

One of the things that is rare to most of us in theatre, tv, and non-professional film production is 'pre-casting.' Pre-casting is where one can take the media and say, "I want X to play the role."

I actually learned the process from my father (who had pretty much 0 contact with media). His favourite book was "The Stand" {i've never been able to make it thru anything by King}. He'd re-read the book every 2 years to then talk about 'who should be in the movie.'

Many people like to play the pre-cast game. Certain media begs for it. Among my favourites that are (were) continually pre-cast by the public are: "Wrinkle in Time", "The Endless/Sandman Series", "X-Men"... and so forth. (Note: I've given up on Annie Lennox playing Desire.. She's too old now. I guess I'll just have to go with Tilda Swinton)

Of course then you get into "Hell-casting" where you pick the worst coupling of Director and Media and then decide how they'd cast it. "Spike Lee directs The Music Man with Eddie Murphy as Harold Hill and Chris Rock as the annoying kid with a lisp that Ron Howard played."

Try a few of these Hell Castings if you like
Stanley Kubrick directs Pee Wee's Big Adventure
M. Night Shyamalan directs Gone with the Wind
Tim Burton directs Cats (hrmn.)
George A. Romero directs Rent
Oliver Stone directs The Crow
and of course
Steven Speilberg and George Lucas co direct Mary Poppins
But I digress.

DaVinci Code was a stickler for me. I knew before I even read the book that Tom Hanks was hands down the absolute worst casting ever done.

Well, this is if we define casting as "Who is the best actor to represent the character in the book" If we define casting as, "In the hollywood political substructure, which name will counterbalance our budget with a guaranteed return to make this an instant blockbuster in the first few weeks until the word of mouth kills our revenue flow"

But to be honest... I couldn't find an actor that worked for me. I was happy with one choice from the film. I was begrudgingly okay with another... but I wanted my perfect cast. Who would have made the film scream for me? When I do this kind of casting I do not think of budgets, name quality, politics. I put actor vs. actor based on what I've seen them do.

While ranting about tDvC last night I finally got my answers:

oh yes... and before you read...
Yes, virginia. There are spoilers.

I'm going to list the characters from what they did right to what they did wrong. This will actually put Langdon in the penultimate position because I think they did one thing horrendously wrong.
PictActorRoleComments
What they did right
Jean RenoBezu Fache Jean Reno was perfect casting before the book was written. Personally, I think Dan Brown was watching Leon (The Professional) while writing the story. There's little to be said here. Personally, I think Reno gave Fache more colour than he had in the book. Brown tried desperately to make Fache into an icon of investigative majesty but created a character that dripped of ineptitude. Reno gave an air of dignity that let you believe there was a crafted plan at work.
Where they got close
Alfred MolinaBishop Aringarosa Molina was proof that this film was cast solely on who was a valuable commodity at the time. Molina wins my award for the actor most underused in 2006 for the calibre of his abilities. Aringarosa is a waste in the book and a bigger waste in the film. Okay... we get end of the movie pathos... but come on... Do we really need the inspiring strength of Tevye Octopus to bring it home. Yeah.. Molina was great. But I really think it was a waste of budget to put him in. I'm not changing the casting here because in my world this would have been a minor actor for padding. Personally, I would have gone with Vincent Schiavelli if he weren't dead.
Paul BettanySilas
(The Ghost)
Credit to Paul Bettany keeping a rather one dimensional from being boring. And especially after the screenwriter basically hobbled the character. I mean we get instant exposition montage and then a lot of him skulking and bleeding. My complaints with Silas is that the screenwriters were so focused on HANKS' BIG MOVIE that they really just left Silas out to dry. Biggest mistake. He's a freaking albino. You have the budget, digitally pinkify his eyes for G-d's sake.
Anne ParillaudSophie Neveu Well, it's time for me to start recasting. At least they thought to use a French Actress. Digression: If Tom's ego and the budget really weren't on the line they probably would have grabbed Renée Zellweger and told her to abuse another accent. I like RZ, I just tend to think that the A-List machine really misuses her. Personally, I prefer Parillaud over Audrey Tautou. She always comes off as smart. And Sophie is far smarter than they play her in the film. I recommend Nikita and Innocent Blood to get a feel for her real range. I think she would be far more believable as a descendent of Jesus.
What they should have done
Michael ShanksRobert Langdon Big film requires a big budget. So of course it's all about making money on the Dan-Brown-Bandwagon. Everyone seems to agree that Tom Hanks wasn't Langdon. It took me a while because I wanted the perfect mix of believable college prof, a little on the cute side, and deer in the headlights look. Which Michael Shanks has pretty much been playing for 10 years in Stargate SG-1. Typecasting? Why the hell not? If he does it, and does it well... who cares if he's a Sci-fi TV star?
Bernard FoxSir Leigh Teabing Don't get me wrong. I love Ian McKellen. But he's not the only aging, yet stately British guy. I mean for heaven's sake there's John Cleese but I wouldn't cast him either. heck... why not Christopher Lee? Teabing is a pompous ass. The man is asking British-phile trivia to grant admit the guy he's pretty much framed in the crime he's orchestrating. Fox is best known as the slightly wily Major Ross on M*A*S*H and especially as Dr. Bombay on Bewitched. Yes, he's 12 yrs older than Sir Ian. But I think it brings out the infirmity that was basically played as "look I have crutches" in one scene. Fox's bombasity is the core of what made Teabing's character such an easy distraction from suspicion. Sir Ian has just played far too many villains. Waitaminute... you're Christopher Lee... You're the Bad Guy in this.. aren't you!?!?!


So this is my casting. The way I like it. The way I think it would have worked. Granted, I would have also preferred it be an epic that was 4 hrs with intermissions. But when people make mini-series the respect (and budget) get squeezed down to hiring the hollywood equivalent of a public defender as scriptwriter.

The film was based on a book that could have made a stunning film. But it was obvious that the money and the politics were all that were behind this film:
It's Hanks movie.
    They give him a new childhood trauma to overact
    They give him much of the knowledge that Sophie discovers
    Sophie is useless
    Aringarosa and Teabing won't compete for Tom's audience

Ron Howard has become an A-List producer
    The script is cleansed of most of the Pagan supportive imagry
    The cast is designed to make Hanks look good
    Special effects to make Langdon look like a god
    A package designed to deliver money not content.



Much like Dune, I wouldn't mind seeing another attempt at DaVinci Code into an epic mini-series.

I'm not going to go much further into the problems with the original text or the screenplay.. that's a post for another time. And I'm a director... not a writer.
Tags: casting, directing, media
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