Monday, January 14, 2008

If I Cast It: Starship Troopers

The other day, Semaj over at Semaj Blog's your Blog happened to mention the upcoming release of a direct-to-DVD sequel to Starship Troopers, and well, we got to chatting about the casting of the original movie, and well, I thought it would be an interesting topic to look at, and this may actually be the start of a recurring feature.

If you are unfamiliar with this masterpiece of American cinema, it is a film based loosely on the novel of the same name by Robert Heinlein about an intergalatic war between a protofascist Earthican society and a planet of large insect-like creatures, who just happened to hurtle a meteor into Buenos Aires, which just so happens to be the hometown of the protagonists. The movie is supposed to be highly satirical (just look at other Verhoeven films like the original Robocop in comparison), but there was always something that bothered me about this movie.

You see, the movie begins in the aforementioned Argentinan capital, and three of the four major characters are supposed to be locals. But you wouldn't know that from the casting. It is like they set out to cast the whitest actors to play into the whole jingoist/fascist angle of the movie like somehow the descendants of former Nazis made up the majority of their background.

I mean, look at this guy:

I've seen more melanin in an albino. And Dina Meyers, while being really sexy and all, especially in that coed shower scene, doesn't really fit the role either, though she is perhaps the best actor in that love triangle.

But at least their fourth friend Neil Patrick Harris has an excuse. He is playing a guy named Carl Jenkins and as the movie goes on is dressed stunningly like a Nazi, and let's face it, Doogie had to play that role sometime. I mean, I think it was the stepping stone between being a teenage doctor and an ecstasy freak car thief.

And yes, while I write this, I do realize that a fair complexion does not a non-South American make, as the continent is truly a melting pot. Just look at say Julie Gonzalo or Majandra Delfino who seem to disprove my initial argument. However, the argument I am making is that the movie doesn't accurately display a certain diversity that the setting seems to be begging for.

Now, if Johnny Rico (Caspar Van Diem) and/or Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyers) had been played by actors who brought a little color to their roles, then maybe, maybe Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez) could have marginally passed the test as being Latin, but then, as both me and Semaj noted, she doesn't really shine in the role anyway.

So I thought, who would I have put into those three pivotal roles.

The rules I followed for this exercise:

1) The actor has to have been working on some level to be considered in my version of the casting before of during the year a project was shot
2) They have to be age appropriate.
3) They shouldn't be huge stars at the time.

And here is what I came up with.

In 1997, Shannyn Sossamon did a few guest shots on Mr. Show, so she was a working actress during that year, she was 19-20 years old, which means that she was also age appropriate for a role, and I think she certainly gives off a lot more emotional warmth than Denise Richards ever did as Carmen Ibanez. Yes, I admit that she isn't Latin, but she is certainly a lot closer to that ideal than Denise Richards.

Clifton Collins Jr. was working for about 10 years when Starship Troopers came out, including a stint in 1996's Sgt. Bilko, so I could easily see him just taking over a role like Johnny Rico. Collins' grandfather, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalaz was also a well known character actor. And yes, I will admit that his turn as Cesar in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas had an effect on my decision, but I still think he had the chops for the project.

And last but certainly not least there would have been Paula Garces as Dizzy Flores. Prior to 1997, she had appeared in Dangerous Minds, Like with Mikey and a few episodic guest starring roles here and there. Of course, I purposely chose a picture of her that was a little more businesslike, but I think she would have brought the sexy in those coed shower scenes and with Mr. Rico when the time was right. And since she was also born in Medillin, Colombia, well, I think that gives her a certain authenticity and by extension the movie would have benefited from that.

And for good measure, I would have cast Scott Caan instead of Jake Busey... just because I could.

I also have to say that if Starship Troopers had been filmed and released in say 1999 or 2000, well, rest assured Rosario Dawson would have definitely gotten the nod for one of those two female lead roles.


Semaj said...

Those are good choices.

I do like your rules. (2) They have to be age appropriate.) is probably the one that casting directors should follow the most. I still can't get over Heath Ledger in 10 Thing I Hate About You. He looks 26!

MC said...

Here's the funny thing about your example though... Heath was 20 years old when the movie was made, so technically, he was super age appropriate. His costar, Gabrielle Union was 27, which is the same age Clifton Collins would have been had I cast him in Starship Troopers, making him 1 year older than Denise Richards and 2 years younger than Casper Van Dien and Dina Meyers at the time.

Arjan said...

That'll be a starship troopers 3...
Because there already is a #2.

I liked #1 (watched it lots of times and my army from the Warhammer game I play is derived from the bugs, see my other blog for some pics)
, but I hated #2.

The entire movie was crap..I was saddened. I really hope they do better this time.

Semaj said...

wow, he was 20? Man, he looked like he was 26 in that movie.

Gabrielle Union has aged really well.

MC said...

Arjan: the Link that calls it a masterpiece also discusses the second movie, which the reviewer so eloquently describes as being filmed for 300 dollars and a bus pass.

Semaj: I think Stacey Dash holds a record for age one was when they played a somewhat believable teenager... she was 29 when Clueless was filmed and then she appeared on the television series of the same name until she was 33.

Anonymous said...

Frighteningly, I just had a conversation about this not that long ago. I had basically assumed that in the movie all of the non-whites had simply been eradicated, leaving only us sun-challenged types to populate Brazil.

SamuraiFrog said...

I can appreciate your choices, although I personally don't like any of the actors you picked (and in fact, Shannyn Sossaman just irritates me). I think Verhoeven was purposely going for the Aryan Archie Comics casting, though, which in itself is part of the satire. And I think part of that (at least on the screenwriter's part, and the same guy wrote RoboCop) is because he had to work with actors, whereas in Heinlein's novel you find out on the very last page that Johnny Rico is actually Filipino (he says something about the native language of his ancestors, Tagalog, now being a dead language). Heinlein's point was basically that nationalism eventually expanded, in the face of an alien threat, to include the entire planet under one government and actually unite everyone. But he also plays with fascism as a possible utopia, which Verhoeven doesn't do as successfully. That's all a very long way of saying that I think casting the whitest possible actors was part of the point of the film.

I like the post; I'd like to see more of them. I don't think I could do it myself, since I'd just want to stick Scarlett Johansson in every movie.

MC said...

See, I was expecting you not be ecstatic with my choices (especially Paula Garces), but again, it was my little exercise, so I get to play around with things in my mental workspace so to speak.

And to tell the truth, I thought that Sossamon was the weakest element of A Knight's Tale, so I am willing to concede that you do make a valid point about her. And the thing is, I do like seeing Dina Meyers in better movies(thus no Johnny Mnemonic), so I was playing against type in striking her from this movie as well.

See, the way I saw the movie was it was almost a parody of those jingoistic American war movies from 1941-early 1944 when victory in Europe wasn't yet assured which fits your interpretation of events. So I was OK with no accents, and everyone speaking English.. because in my mind, I put it into the context that America had sort of culturally overwhelmed the Western World, which is an entirely implausible concept... I mean, one country shipping its cultural norms around the entire world... that could never happen, could it? ;)

And I get what you are saying about Verhoeven's intentions, but the fun thing about this exercise is it is basically me suggesting a different vision for a project.

Thom: That would be a huge amount of people to have disappear... then again, a lot of people disappear in South America anyway, so maybe that is possible. Stranger things have happened after all... I mean, it is a movie about a war between men and bugs, so vast abductions of humans could have happened to ;)

Bob Andelman said...

You might enjoy this audio interview with actress Paula Garces, who is co-starring in the fifth and final season of "The Shield" and "Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay."