Hello everyone! I recently reported that #JohnWick co-director Chad Stahelski had signed on to direct Lionsgate/Summit's long gestating reboot of the sci-fi/action cult classic film, #Highlander. After many directors have come and gone over the eight years since Summit acquired the rights to make the reboot, the hiring of Stahelski is finally a breath of fresh air to Highlander fans that the new film is finally set to be under way.
Stahelski is the perfect choice to helm the reboot because, not only is he fan of the original source material, but he's also a great action director with the ability to blend gut-wrenching emotional drama into his stories (as evident by John Wick) and a terrific stunt coordinator. The latter example will be especially important with turning out the intensity of the action required for a modern take on the Highlander franchise.
With a solid director firmly in place, now comes the fun part of anticipating who will star in the new Summit sci-fi/action franchise. Obviously, there's no guarantee that Stahelski will do a straight remake with all of the original characters. He may opt to adapt Gregory Widen's story into his own fresh take. However, when fantasizing about the perfect reboot cast one has to look at the original material. So with that, below are my Fan Cast choices for the perfect reboot of Highlander that Stahelski and Summit may be smart to, at the very least, consider for their new film.
RYAN REYNOLDS as CONNOR MacLEOD
Ryan Reynolds was actually previously attached to the project to star as Connor MacLeod a few years ago. He dropped out due to the long gestation of the film during rewrites and the search for a committed director. However, he's still a great choice for the role and since Stahelski's partner, David Leitch, is set to direct #Deadpool2, perhaps he can be lured back. Reynolds is a money-making franchise player that could definitely lead this new film towards a wider, contemporary audience. He has the appeal, the action experience and the comedic wit to bring a lot of depth to the role. It would also be great to see Stahelski lead him to more dramatic levels, akin to his role in The Ammityville Horror, to spread his wings as the talented actor he is (something that would have greatly benefited Green Lantern).
ALEXANDER SKARSGARD as THE KURGAN
The Kurgan, as portrayed by the great Clancy Brown, is one of the most popular sci-fi/action/fantasy villains in film. He was one of the few villains to have some wit and depth to a character archetype mostly known for being incredibly two-dimensional. What wasn't best captured on film, however, was the character's background. The Kurgan's barbaric tribe came from what is now Russia, so we need an actor that can really capture that sense of Eastern European intensity. Alexander Skarsgard has come a long way in recent years with a fan favorite role in HBO's vampire drama #TrueBlood and a starring role in the hit blockbuster reboot #TheLegendOfTarzan. The Swedish actor definitely has the star power and acting range to bring the modern version of this classic villain to life.
ADRIANNE PALICKI as BRENDA WYATT
The present day love interest of the centuries spanning immortal warrior was a fiercely independent and strong-willed female role model of the late 80s — even if she wasn't as appreciated as she should have been. To play her today we need an equally strong-willed and fiercely independent actress to embody the qualities she portrayed. Adrianne Palicki has done all of that in spades with empowering roles in such works as #AgentsOfSHIELD and #GIJoeRetaliation. She also had a breakout performance as a hit woman in Stahelski's John Wick. Plus, her undeniable sex appeal and the chemistry she is bound to have with Reynolds would really help seal the deal with audiences.
FARAN TAHIR as RAMIREZ
One of the great ironies of the original Highlander was that they cast a famous Scottish actor in a film about a Scottish warrior as an Egyptian in service to Spain. While Connery's performance was the best part of the film, it was a bit of an odd move on the studio's part. However, what the new Highlander has a great opportunity to achieve is to be a champion for diversity in "new" Hollywood. Tahir, an LA born actor of Pakistani descent, has done great work in recent years, such as the villain in Iron Man, the Captain of the Kelvin in the reboot of Star Trek and as a prominent Fulcrum agent on TV's Chuck. He has an impressive background of fan favorite films and shows that would help audiences accept him as a more culturally appropriate successor to Connery's version of Juan Ramirez.
ROSE LESLIE as HEATHER MacLEOD
Heather MacLeod, originally played by Beatie Edney, was Connor's wife in his early years after being exiled from his village. She's a character that embodies most of the love in his heart and the drama of his eternal life. She's a character so popular to the franchise that she even resurfaced for a brief role in the franchise's fourth film, Highlander: Endgame. To play her, you need someone of tremendous talent and beauty to capture the innocence and affection that the character held. Plus, an opportunity for a Scottish actress to take on such a prominent Scottish role wouldn't be a bad thing for cultural appropriateness. Therefore, Rose Leslie is an obvious choice for the role. The actress has gained a lot of fan popularity lately thanks to a star making role in HBO's #GameOfThrones as well as a tremendous turn in the surprise action/horror hit #TheLastWitchHunter.
LAURENCE FISHBURN as LT. FRANK MORAN
Actor Alan North's Lt. Frank Moran was the chief investigator in the spree of decapitations plaguing New York City in the original film. While not a huge, fleshed out character by any means, bringing in an actor with a lot of depth and compassion to add to the by-the-numbers cop routine is one of the areas that the reboot can exceed its predecessor. Laurence Fishburn has shown such depth and compassion in everything he does and his role as Perry White in Man of Steel can especially mirror the relationship that his character here would have with Palicki's Brenda Wyatt. Ethnic swapping has caused a lot of controversy in recent Hollywood blockbusters, but it's something that can easily be encouraged and accepted in such non-ethnic specific roles like Frank Moran. Laurence Fishburn would nail it hands down. Plus, his relationship with Stahelski is already in place, having worked with him on The Matrix and soon to be seen directed by him in John Wick: Chapter 2.
CHRISTINA JASTRZEMBSKRA as RACHEL ELLENSTEIN
The character of Rachel Ellenstein (Sheila Gish), like Heather, is one of great importance and drama to Connor MacLeod. Rachel was a young Jewish girl that Connor found hiding in Nazi Germany during World War II and took her as his adopted daughter. She had a minor, yet important role in the original Highlander and was brought back for a dramatic death scene in Highlander: Endgame. The World War II origin story is still a valid and powerful one, which would call for an older actress in today's modern setting. That detail would also help add some profundity to the drama of MacLeod's immortality as his adopted daughter would now be towards the end of her natural life. For Rachel, I chose actress Christina Jastrzembskra, whom has had many film and TV credits — most recently with appearances in #Warcraft, DC's #LegendsOfTomorrow and a similarly themed role in Summit's #TwilightNewMoon as Kristen Stewart's Grandma/Old Bella.
DAYO OKENIYI as SUNDA KASTAGIR
Not much was known about Sunda Kastagir in the original film. Just that he was a long time friend of Connor MacLeod's who was summoned to New York City for the climactic Gathering of immortals. To me, the Eastern African character could best be portrayed by the Nigerian born Okeniyi, who has recently shown a lot of promise as an actor — including some action chops in Summit's blockbuster hit #TheHungerGames. While the role may not be huge one, if fleshed out properly, it would be another great opportunity for the young actor to shine with mainstream audiences.
JOHN LEGUIZAMO as DET. WALTER BEDSOE
I have already chosen two actors previously associated with [director] Chad Stahelski (Adrianne Palicki and Laurence Fishburn, in case you weren't keeping up). I'm going to pick a third one now, but for a few good reasons. It's common for directors to work with the same actors often. Case in point: Christopher Nolan. It helps foster strong relationships between actor and director to bring about the best work possible. Also, in the case of Leguizamo, it would be an opportunity to add some additional comic relief to the story to take some of the pressure off of Ryan Reynolds — whom could then focus more effort towards the drama and action. Also, Leguizamo could add more ethnic diversity to an already incredibly diverse new franchise film. I'm also just a huge fan of John Leguizamo in anything that he does (including Super Mario Bros.) and would love to see him do justice to a role previously performed by the late and great Jon Polito.
GERARD BUTLER as ANGUS MacLEOD
Concluding this fan cast is the role of Angus MacLeod — previously played by James Cosmo, whom you may also recognize from that other Scottish warrior flick, Braveheart. Angus was Connor's clansman and the only one who showed him any kind of respect and dignity after he was branded a witch for surviving his "death" in battle. While the character was a minor one in the original, he did help show some familial depth to Connor's past and an expanded role would not be out of the question for the reboot. To bring such a character back to life would be greatly achieved by Scottish born action star, Gerard Butler, who has obvious warrior action chops — as seen in 300 — and strong range as a dramatic actor to show some of those softer moments in flashbacks to the highlands. It would be a great role for the actor and one that could persist in flashbacks of numerous sequels.
So there you have it, my choices for a great cast to head up the reboot of Highlander. What do you think? Did I do a good job or do you know of anyone better? Sound off in the comments below.
And don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@ThisIsJamesT) for all things rant and ravey. Or if you just want to chat Highlander, I'm always up for doing that.