The Tom Zone Presents Casablanca: Lent in Casablanca Night 9

Noted Tom Zone neighbor, Steve Betz–the only person I know who has used the words “my post-doctoral studies” legitimately and not just to pick-up nerdy chicks–brought up an interesting point.

Last night, I discussed the ill-fated 1983 “Casablanca” tv series, specifically how amazing the film’s cast is,  but whom would we cast if we were remaking “Casablanca” today?

Tough question. 

Steve said he could see George Clooney as Rick. 

Oh, sure.  Clooney seems a little friendlier than Bogart, but they’re both amazingly cool, and I think Clooney could make Rick work.

For Ilsa, Steve suggested Kate Winslett.  I would endorse either Kate, or Marion Cotillard.  Ms Cotillard would bring that sultry continental vibe Ingrid Bergman oozed, but I’m convinced Kate Winslett could play anything.

Best of all, if we use Kate Winslett for Ilsa, that would leave Marion Cotillard free to play Yvonne the barfly.  Marion has shown me that she can play the crap out of crazy (ref: “Inception”), and I’m sure she already knows the words to “La Marseillaise.”

So what of the rest of the cast?

I’d pick Colin Firth as Victor Laszlo.  Mr Firth has that perfect staid, slightly awkward suavity that Paul Henreid had in the film, and he could play off Clooney’s effortless charm quite easily.

For Captain Renault, I first thought I’d choose Colin Firth’s archnemesis, Hugh Grant.  He can be glib and charming, then turn and be ironically deferential to the Nazis.  After a little consideration, I’m thinking Kevin Spacey–especially the way he played Sgt Jack Vincennes in “L.A. Confidential”.  He can be funny or serious, as need be, which is perfect for Renault.  Also, since Clooney is less bitter than Bogart, Spacey could camp it up, which would be a joy to see.

Major Strasser? Since resurrecting Klaus Kinski is out, I’d pick Alan Rickman or Gary Oldman.  Hell, both of them–we’ll just add another mean Nazi character.  Gary Oldman has played so many “nice” roles of late, that I think he’d be just itching to be evil again, bless him.

Signor Ferrari? I think Stephen Fry would be wonderful as Signor Ferrari.  He’s a little thin, but I can see him showing the same joie de vivre  Sidney Greenstreet did in the original.  Ferrari isn’t a comedic character–he’s the head of all criminal activities in Casablanca, ffs–and he doesn’t joke around that much, but the man in the fez enjoys the hell out of his life.

Ugarti? Hmm.  I think Johnny Depp would be fun to watch as Ugarti.  The guy has acting chops, and–like Gary Oldman–I think he’d really like a nice dramatic role, especially as a weasel who isn’t at least 50% animation or makeup.

Sascha the bartender? Simon Pegg.  In addition to writing funny films, Simon Pegg is an actor of substantial depth. I think he could even do a Russian accent, and make it like a slice of fried gold.

Sam? Well, since Scatman Crothers is out–he played the role in the tv series, and has been dead for exactly one Basher (ie, 24 years, since Ashley was 11 months 3wks old)…

I’d love to see Jamie Fox as a sighted Ray Charles play Sam.  The original Sam character annoyed me as being far too deferential.  If Sam’s this super-famous entertainer, so popular that Ferrari offered to double what Rick pays him, I like to think he would have a pair.  Not be all smiley and “No suh Mister Richard.” Really.  In my remake, you know Sam would have groupies and a little bit of a ‘tude.  Since Ray Charles has ascended into Musical God Heaven, Jamie Fox playing Ray Charles playing Sam is the next best thing.

Carl? In the original,  S.K. Sakall as Carl actually had more screentime than Peter Lorre or Sidney Greenstreet, so this is definitely a good-sized role.  Jim Broadbent could be fun as Carl; Lord knows he can do both comedy and drama with equal aplomb.  John Goodman might also rock it, although he’s still a bit young to play Carl.

Annina the Bulgarian newlywed girl? Annasophia Robb.  She’s an excellent actress, who can still project innocence, plus Ana-Sofia Vargas insists that Ms Robb be included.

Annie the Soapmaker: Ellen Page.  Without a doubt.  They look similar, but Annie the Soapmaker=Juno+Ariadne/2.  Same voice, same smartass intelligence, same huge collection of Chucks, only Annie’s eyes are blue, not brown.

Wait.  Annie the Soapmaker isn’t actually in the original.  After her beatdown of Ilsa, though, she should be.

This is the kind of list where I’m sure I’ll end up changing my mind about some character or another, remembering a perfect actor, etc. 

Please let me know your thoughts: whom would YOU cast in “Casablanca?”

Happy Friday.

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10 Responses to “The Tom Zone Presents Casablanca: Lent in Casablanca Night 9”

  1. Excellent choices!!

    I especially like the idea of Marion Cotillard as Ilsa. It’s so hard to come up with an actress in this over-exposed world that can still create an air of mystery.

    I was thinking Brian Dennehy for Ferrari. He’s got the physical bulk, but can easily be both physically and mentally scary.

    Also — I really like Spacey as Ugarti!

    oh — and the problem with dazzling the girls with science talk is that once you start talking about the endocrinology of uterine tumors, it somehow kills the mood…

    • Brian Dennehy is PERFECT!

      I don’t mean he’s empirically perfect, but he’d make a perfect Ferrari. (The guy has two Tony Awards, for cryin’ out loud) He’s one of those actors who makes films better with his presence, like the late JT Walsh did, or James Cromwell does.

      I’ll still have to find a spot for Stephen Fry. Hmm.

      As far as nerdspeak, “the endocrinology of uterine tumors” is pretty mood-killing, I admit, but less so than identifying taxonomically the mosquito biting your cookout date. “Don’t swat her, yet! Ohhh. Psorophora ferox. Swat away.”

  2. So, I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t like Casablanca when I watched it. I guess I’ll have to give it another go, you know?

    That said, I’d totally watch a remake involving Colin Firth and Simon Pegg! You should sign up as director! 😀

    Also, feel free to shame me for not liking the most classic movie of all time. I’m gonna force myself to watch it again someday…

    • DIDN’T LIKE IT!?!?!?

      Christina, you’re dead to me, and I don’t even know you… 😉

      • I shall consider Christina duly shamed, but she’s awesome, so don’t make her dead to you. 😉

    • To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t blown away by Casablanca the first time. I think I had just heard about what a classic it is, that I was a little underwhelmed. Also, I found myself just listening for the classic lines. I’m glad I stuck with it, and I hope you’ll give it another shot, because it really is a remarkable film.

      As for directing the remake…that would be fun, although between them the cast I proposed has 8 Oscars and a handful of Tonys, so they would not work cheap. (Bogie only made $2200 a week for Casablanca)

      But, it’s fun to dream.

  3. This casting would make a remake worthwhile. I agree with Steve that Dennehy would make a better Ferrari. But the Clooney, Firth, and Spacey casting are phenomenal.

    • What about Ellen Page as Annie the Soapmaker?

      • I thought that was a given.

        The thought of Clooney and Firth at odds makes me all wibbly. And Clooney vs. Spacey would be a delight.

    • I love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but seeing Simon Pegg as Scotty in the JJ Abrams Star Trek, that’s what nailed him as Sascha.

      I keep finding myself being disappointed when Ilsa leaves Rick at the Roi de Lingerie market stall. The vision of Annie the Soapmaker scolding Ilsa is just too precious. In the Afterworld, this scene would be included.

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