Friday, April 11, 2014

But Vincent Price is dead...!

As I mentioned the other day, I thought the two credits-sequence teasers attached to Captain America: The Winter Soldier were pretty lame: The first just gave us a glimpse of two characters everyone who cared already knew would be in Avengers 2, while the second just re-over-emphasized something The Winter Soldier itself made abundantly clear.

The biggest and most exciting tease of things to possibly, maybe, someday come was the mention of the name "Stephen Strange" in a rattled-off list of potential threats to be preemptively obliterated, threats generated by an Arnim Zola-created algorithm for the Hydra-pretending-to-be-SHIELD agents. I'm not sure why they left off the "Dr."...Strange didn't go to medical school all those years for nothing, you know. But anyway, comics-readers pretty readily noticed the throwaway reference and got a little excited about the prospect of Dr. Strange in the Marvel movie-verse.

And it is something to get excited about! The prospect of all those crazy dimensions and planes of existence that artist Steve Ditko set so many of Dr. Strange's adventures in being something that Hollywood artists have to wrestle with and make into a movie would be a fascinating struggle to watch, whether or not they succeed (In much the same way the Thor movies were exciting in large part simply to see how directors, set designers, prop masters and costume designers would go about turning Jack Kirby's designs into something more "realistic" for film-goers).

There is one big, immediately problem with the prospect of a Dr. Strange film, of course: Vincent Price is dead!
While I don't know for sure that Ditko based his character design on the actor, nor do I think anyone has been able to ask Ditko that in a very, very long time, given the fact that he's not exactly the easiest comics creator to land an interview with. But what I do know is that Vincent Price began acting in 1938 and was well into his five-and-a-half-decade film and television career in 1961, when Marvel's Dr. Strange debuted, and that Dr. Strange looks like Vincent Price in a weird cape and spotted gloves.

But Price passed away in 1993, meaning he won't be available to play Strange (Marvel Studios has had some success in casting the actors who inspired the designs of their characters in the past; Bryan Hitch drew Ultimate Nick Fury as Samuel L. Jackson in an eye-patch, and when the time came to cast a Nick Fury for the Marvel films, who did they end up casting but Samuel L. Jackson?).

So who could fill in for Price? Well, I got to thinking about this the other day, and one way to handle casting someone for a role that would under different circumstances be played by Vincent Price would be to look at actors who have played roles first played by Price himself. So I went to Price's page and started sifting through his 7 million or so credits for films that have been remade with different actors playing the roles he once played.

Here's what I came up with.

In 1948, Price played Cardinal Richelieu in that year's version of The Three Musketeers. One of the all-time-great villain roles in film history, it has been played repeatedly by a long list of charismatic actors known for playing villains, with Tim Curry (1993) and Stephen Rea (2001) Ben Cross (2001's Young Blades, among them. Of those still around and young and fit enough to play a middle-aged, two-fisted Sorcerer Supreme, I think Christoph Waltz from 2011's awesomely anachronistic Three Musketeers is by far the best candidate.
Candidate #1: Christoph Waltz

In 1953, Price starred in horror film House of Wax, playing Professor Henry Jarrod, a talented sculptor who is badly burned and driven rather mad when his partner burns down their museum to collect the insurance money—with Jarrod still in it. It was remade in 2005, and was a pretty terrible movie, of which I remember little more than the fact that Paris Hilton was in it, and that it had a pretty striking poster.

The remake is so loosely based on the original that Price's character doesn't actually appear. The villain/s of the piece are played by Brian Van Holt, though.
Candidate #2: Brian Van Holt

In 1958, Price co-starred in classic sci-fi/horror movie The Fly, playing the brother of the scientist who turns himself into a part-man, part-fly monster while working on his "disintegrator-integrator" teleportation device. He returned in this role in 1959's Return of The Fly, in which his nephew gets turned into a fly/human hybrid. Now, David Cronenberg's 1986 remake doesn't include the Price character, but it does star Jeff Goldblum as the scientist character. While not a straight Actor-Who-Played-A-Role-Price-Did example, Jeff Goldblum would probably make a hell of a Dr. Strange, wouldn't he?
Candidate #3: Jeff Goldbum 

Also in 1959, Price starred in House on Haunted Hill, a well-liked William Castle haunted house movie that was remade in 1999 as the first offering from Dark Castle Entertainment, named after Castle. In the remake, Geoffery Rush played a new version of Price's eccentric millionaire character, now named "Steven H. Price" and sporting a thin, Price-like mustache.
Candidate #4: Geoffery Rush, all Vincent Price-d out for House remake

In 1963, Price appeared in The Raven, one of his several collaborations with director Roger Corman on an Edgar Allen Poe-inspired picture. When John Cusack appeared in a film with the same name in 2012, he was playing Edgar Allen Poe himself, not the Dr. Erasmus Craven character Price portrayed in his The Raven. Still, John Cusack as Dr. Strange—what do you think?
Candidate #5: John Cusack, shown here with appropriate facial hair

Finally, in 1964, Price played the title role in The Last Man on Earth, a film adapted from Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend. The book was adapted two more times, first in 1971 as The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, and then in 2007 as I Am Legend, starring Will Smith.

Smith seems like he might be out of Marvel Studios' price range, but it's worth noting that casting Smith would give the Marvel movie-verse a black, headlining superhero (Right now, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America all have black friends, none of whom are on the Avengers, where the only man of color is green); there's nothing inherent to Strange's character that dictates that he has to be white; and Smith can grow a fine little mustache.
Candidate #6: Will Smith

Whoever they end up casting as Dr. Strange though, I hope the process involves calling in many famous actors to do readings for the part, and for the line "By The Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!" to be one of he lines they have to read.


When I mentioned to a co-worker that Vincent Price was dead and therefore I had no idea who Marvel could get to play Dr. Strange, she thought for about two seconds before saying, "James Franco?"

I could see that. And hey, if they let Chris Evans play Captain America after first playing The Human Torch, I see no reason why they can't have the guy who played Harry Osborn go on to play Stephen Strange.

I've also heard Johnny Depp's name suggested a lot, but, like Will Smith, I imagine he's too expensive, and too...popular to play a Marvel superhero at this point. Like, Depp has become one of those actors who basically plays Johnny Depp in all his movies now, so it's hard to imagine him wearing a big red cape with a funny color and running around casting spells in a Marvel Studios production now. Although he does look great with little mustaches, doesn't he?
Just picture an absurd collar behind him, and the Eye of Agamotto right where his shirt is unbuttoned.
I'd probably cast Luke Evans, if someone asked me to handle the casting on this movie, as he seems to be a capable enough guy comfortable in crazy-ass roles (He's played Zeus, Appollo, a Musketeer and been in a Fast and Furious movie; Dracula and The Crow are among his next roles) and comfortable in mustachioed roles, with the intensity and gravitas to play the role straight. Dr. Strange is a character Marvel hasn't had a ton of luck with when it comes to making comics with, but he's basic origin story is practically ready-made for a film or three. I'm not sure how charming a leading man they'll need though, as I imagine much of the first film will require him being kind of an arrogant a-hole, and then all sad and angry, before getting his super magic powers, and then maybe growing into an acid and arch character able to quip like a Joss Whedon-scripted Avenger.


The real tragedy of a film Dr. Strange though is that Marvel Studios may have the rights to making films featuring both he and The Hulk, but 20th Century Fox currently has the rights to The Silver Surfer and Universal Pictures has the rights to Namor, making a Defenders movie about as likely as a Champions movie at this point. (Actually, I think NetFlix is using the team name "Defenders" for a team-up of several stars they're supposedly building TV shows around, like Daredevil, Iron Fist and Luke Cage).


Anonymous said...

No, no, no, no, no. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the Stephen Strange we need.

BK said...

always thought ditko based starnge on peter wyngarde

Diabolu Frank said...

I never noticed any strong resemblance between Price and Strange, though if anyone could credibly speak Stan Lee's sorcerous doggerel, it's Vincent Price. That link to Peter Wyngarde stills was convincing, I should add.

Of the choices offered, I like Jeff Goldblum best, just because he's got the right off-center but still sharp and attractive vibe. None of the others felt remotely right to me. I'm especially sick of Luke Evans coming up, or as I tend to see him, Deep Discount Colin Farrell.

I'm not a huge fan of swapping races on mainstream super-heroes, but Doctor Strange was clearly Asian in his first few appearances, then whitewashed thereafter. I'm tired of all the important Marvel cinematic heroes being white guys, so I'd like to take the Master of the Mystic Arts back to square one. Of all the options, I really like John Cho best. Besides, Chiwetel Ejiofor is our Black Panther.

SallyP said...

Stephen Colbert. He has the quizzical eyebrow. Slap a pencil-thin mustache on him, and it would be perfect.

Anonymous said...

@Diabolu Frank:

Respectfully disagree. Chewie would bring the appropriate gravitas to Strange. AND he could rock the goatee / whitewalls combo.

It's Idris Elba that's more suited to Black Panther. But since he's already in Thor, howzabout Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje? (Yeah, we've already used him in Thor, but no-one will recognize him without the makeup.)