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Dream Casting: Animal Man

Contributed by
Nov 30, 2017

Dream Casting is an imaginative look at the casting process of potential Hollywood projects based on comics and other media. This isn't just about what is being made; this is about what should be made, and who we think should be the stars.

This week I'm looking at a groundbreaking DC comic from the 1980s: Animal Man by writer Grant Morrison and penciller Chas Truog. Across 26 issues, Morrison and Truog (and a few guest artists) told a superhero story unlike any that had come before.

Animal Man is a second-string hero and also a regular guy named Buddy Baker, who has a wife and two kids. As stranger and stranger events occur around him, he begins to understand the nature of his world — that he's a character in a story, providing entertainment for unseen observers. In the story's climax he seeks out and confronts the writer who controls his fate.

With so many superhero movies these days, it's the perfect time to adapt a genre deconstruction like Animal Man for the screen. I've cast many of the major roles, but I left out the two Baker children, because they're both under ten and ultimately you just have to have an open call for that sort of thing.

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Armie Hammer as Buddy Baker

Armie Hammer was almost Batman, but the closest he's come to playing a superhero is in the disastrous The Lone Ranger. But with the acclaim he's getting now for Call Me By Your Name, his career seems to have finally recovered, and plus he's proven he has the acting skill for the particularly complex superhero role that is Animal Man.

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Emma Stone as Ellen Baker

Ellen Baker needs to be someone who can hold her own in scenes with her superheroic husband, and Emma Stone (La La Land) definitely has what it takes.

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Andy Serkis as Crafty the Coyote

I considered casting someone from animation to play this Wile E. Coyote analogue who's been exiled to a more realistic world, but part of the point is that existing in Animal Man's world makes him seem like a creepy monster. The master of mo-cap acting, Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) will find his own take on a cartoon come to horrifying life.

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Brett Gelman as the Truck Driver

The unnamed truck driver who hunts down Crafty Coyote is a disturbed and sad figure, which is perfect for Brett Gelman (Stranger Things 2).

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Brian Cox as the Red Mask

The Red Mask is an aging supervillain who just doesn't have it in him anymore. Brian Cox (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) is particularly great at playing that kind of weariness.

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Zahn McClarnon as James Highwater

Zahn McClarnon (Fargo) is one of the best Native American actors working today and would bring a unique presence to the professor who's instrumental in Buddy coming to a larger understanding of the nature of his world.

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Ricky Whittle as Mirror Master

Mirror Master doesn't get all that much characterization in the comic, but with such a genre-bending superhero story, it's important to have one straightforward supervillain to contrast with the narrative weirdness. Ricky Whittle (American Gods) has an intensity that will work great in the role.

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Mackenzie Gray as Mr. Lennox

If you've watched Legion, you know how creepy Mackenzie Gray can be, and that's exactly what's needed for this bonechilling hit man.

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James McAvoy as Grant Morrison

I considered casting Morrison as himself, but this should really be a younger writer. James McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse) has the right look and his own Scottish accent, plus he's a strong enough actor to make the most of his one scene, which is really just a conversation with his creation.