There are many films that shouldn’t have been remade, and the backlash many of them received came from their old fanbase. Nostalgia is a tricky market. Do it right and it’s big bucks. Do it wrong and you’ll piss off a lot of people.
Once you grow accustomed to character, it’s like having an old friend who you never had the chance to meet. The human condition becomes a lot more fun, knowing that we are able to view these people’s life on the screen anytime we want.
Whether you’re rooting for them, laughing at them, or crying along with them, they are the testament to the magic of cinema. Nobody could have imagined that things would work out so perfectly. Like the greatest things in life, sometimes things just work out.
There are only 10 people on this list, but surely there are many more. Expect many names to be mentioned in the comment section, all of them likely valid. Some will call the author a criminal for not having mentioned this name or that name. None of these names are in order; maybe you like the tenth choice better than the first one. It doesn’t matter, however; these are just 10 great examples of perfect casting.
In the future, kids will grow up knowing that the names of these characters are synonymous with the actor playing them. And as the future seems rife with all sorts of apocalyptic prospect, it’s good knowing that some things will never change.
10. Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson in “Fargo”
It’s a man’s world, and it always has been. But more and more, things are starting to change. Hollywood is a prime example of the revolution taking hold; the market has been growing for the fairer sex, and our peddlers of cinema have no choice anymore but to respond to the demand. Hollywood might be a safe haven for all kinds of sin, but the godless as well as the devout all listen to the same thing: the sound of money.
It’s true that there have been strong female characters all through cinematic history, but there’s no denying that the majority of their roles seem to serve a patriarchal ideal. Now women can be just as goofy as men without having to be an adult role model. They can be spies without having to be mere sexual conquests. They can lead a multi-million dollar franchises, as is the case with the latest “Star Wars” film.
However, the problem with that character – Rey played by Daisy Ridley – is that while she might be a strong character, like her supporting cast, she isn’t a ‘real’ character but rather an action hero. To look at one of the best female characters in cinematic history, we will have to go back to 1996 to one of the Coen’s finest films: “Fargo”.
The film is packed with great performances, from the hilariously desperate William H. Macy, to psychotic Peter Stormare, to the funny looking Steve Buscemi, but the heart and soul of the film belongs to Frances McDormand, who played the immortal Marge Gunderson. Many actresses would have overplayed the accent, but she manages to blend in perfectly with the environment.
At times both endearing, other times so beautifully plain – watch how natural she is in the scenes involving her husband – and other times heartbreaking. After capturing one of the suspected killers, having apprehended him in the moment when he’s woodchipping his partner, she wonders to him: “And for what? For a little bit of money? There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”
In the end, her innocent perception is broken after witnessing the evil that lurks within man. She remains hopeful, however, as she comes home to the warm embrace of her husband, cradling her pregnant belly, knowing that she will have to protect her child for the evils to come, but knowing that whatever happens, this home, for as long as it remains, will still be a safe place.
9. Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
Randle McMurphy is one of cinema’s iconic faces of freedom. Exemplary faces are needed to represent the human spirit triumphing over their imprisonment and luckily we’ve had plenty; Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption”, Paul Newman as Luke in “Cool Hand Luke”, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in “12 Years a Slave” are all amazing examples of this. None of these characters, however, can match the anarchic splendor of Jack Nicholson’s face.
Nicholson might not have the solid looks of the likes of Newman, but his star quality was of a special nature; he might not have the perfect face or body, but he doesn’t need it. Once you see him in action, you’ll never forget about him.
Nicholson was at his best playing someone close to himself; one beautiful exception would have to be “About Schmidt”. The case that Nicholson likes a little madness in his life is well known, thus a more unhinged character was Nicholson’s forte. Even though he might not look like McMurphy from the novel, he certainly embodied the spirit. His life represented the freedom that McMurphy always aspired for and which was sadly taken away from him.
The film might be littered with great performances, but it’s his face on the poster and you can’t think of the story – even the novel – without seeing Nicholson’s face smiling down at you. He is the movie, he is McMurphy. There’s only one Jack.
8. Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction”
“Pulp Fiction” is known for reviving John Travolta’s career, resurrecting his coolness after selling his soul for those ”talking baby movies.” But it should also be known as the film that made the great Samuel L. Jackson a star. Having already been a shining support in movies directed by the likes of Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, and Tony Scott, it was “Pulp Fiction” that made it clear to everyone that he was an acting force to be reckoned with.
The role of Jules Winnfield had almost gone to Paul Calderon, yet it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this character. Jules seemed to be tailormade for the Kangol-wearing actor; dialog full of profane beauty, both menacing and at times hilarious. The coolness factor he has belongs to only him and someone like Al Pacino; enough chances to scream, lose control, and let himself go in furious anger.
This role marked his career for the rest of his life and for good reason. He outshone everybody, becoming a legend shortly thereafter. Even though he had various fantastic performances through his career, it’s Jules Winnfield that defines them, the bible-quoting hitman finding redemption walking the earth somewhere.
Lots of theories have popped up whether Jules’s character became Rufus in “Kill Bill Vol. 2”, or if he was the bum who Jesse Pinkman gave money to in “Breaking Bad”. Wherever he is, we will never forget him and he’s always welcome back.
7. Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in “The Godfather”
Francis Ford Coppola is one of the greatest warriors against the studio system. If he hadn’t been as faithful to his vision, we would have lost many of the masterpieces we hold dear today. During the making of “The Godfather”, the studio didn’t want Marlon Brando as the titular character.
In some ways they had a point; Brando had a history of being difficult, and he was a genius artist who was often diminished by personal demons. Most of the time, creatures like that wouldn’t be able to find themselves on Hollywood Boulevard, but somehow Brando made it. While filming “The Godfather”, Brando had been perceived as washed up and having pushed his luck with the system.
Yet one only has to look at his bright and shining moments in cinematic history to know that this is not a talent one should waste. Unfortunately, Brando couldn’t follow in the footsteps of his fellow stars, having little respect for the world that surrounded the acting craft. He would waste his talents for decades after, only returning to the fold every now and then.
The character of Don Corleone would be parodied numerous times, and that alone is reason enough that nobody else could have played it like Brando. But, just because it was often spoofed, doesn’t mean the performance was a farce; watch the regret in his eyes, the painful realization that he isn’t a good man at all.
He’s the good man turned evil, stuck in a system in which he can’t escape. It’s the classic arc of the mobster character, and the soul of Don Corleone will stick with mobsters forever, both inside and outside cinema.
6. Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”
If only Neil Simon could have lived through the beginning of the 21st century, then maybe he could have seen how pathetic the former stars in Hollywood would become. But maybe he saw all he needed to see, because the message of “Sunset Boulevard” is still as prevalent today. The switch from silent film to talkies would haunt former star Norma Desmond, and her character is the spirit that haunts the stars of Hollywood.
Hollywood represents our most narcissistic dreams, to receive all the attention, to be talked about, to be wanted. Simon saw this coming and the casting of Gloria Swanson was one of brilliance, as a former silent movie star who transferred to talkies with similar difficulty as Norma Desmond.
In a way, Norma Desmond represents Swanson herself, if her mind had taken a different path. Her casting was a giant critique of the soul of Hollywood, one so painfully real and self-referential long before postmodernism would wriggle into commercialism.
We cannot talk about cinema without Norma Desmond or Gloria Swanson. Both give us cause for the discussion nobody in Hollywood really wants to start, because that would mean they would look inside themselves, and that’s going to cost way too much money. It’s simply not bankable.