5 Actors Who Just ARE Their Comic-Book Character
Everybody loves it when a character is played just right. When every nuance and whim made by the decision of whoever, be it the actor, writer, or director- when it comes together, it’s just fits.
Then there’s the actors who just are their character. Sure, they’re a superhero or exorcist or whatever, but everything they do is the actor themselves pretending to be a genius scientist, rather than fully becoming the character.
And while guys like Denzel Washington have made a career out of doing this, making a major character from a pre-existing franchise your own is something to be proud of, and it’s fun to watch.
Chris Pratt as Star-Lord
This shouldn’t be any kind of surprise. While few knew of Guardians of the Galaxy comic book before the film was announced, Chris Pratt and Peter Quill are now synonymous. From playing the comedic best friend in…well, most of his roles, Pratt’s chance at playing Star-Lord fits like a pair of Napoleon Dynamite space boots. Much like the actor, the character of Quill is a skilled “nobody” that you’re only able to dislike if you’re choosing to.
Guardians director James Gunn had to be dragged into a casting session with Pratt, who he saw as “the chubby guy from Parks and Rec” but knew within the first thirty seconds of meeting Pratt that he was the one for the role.
When asked if he had questions about the role, Pratt, who had been told virtually nothing, went on a rant about the myriad of inquiries and ended with “How long do you have?” To which Gunn responded, “That’s exactly what Peter Quill would say.”
Patrick Stewart as Professor X
While it’s all a matter of perspective, the never-aging, always bald wiseman known as Patrick may not be confined to a wheelchair, there really isn’t anybody else for the role. Of course, with the films going back and time as they have, it’s only natural to cast a younger actor that’s playing what basically a different character altogether.
But like Judi Dench as M in the Bond films, fans and non-fans agree there’s not really a better choice for the role. The bald sage seems to go so perfectly with the founder the school for mutant weirdos that Stewart’s life has been somewhat overtaken by it…even before he was cast-
“It came to a point where I had no idea where Picard began and I ended. We completely overlapped. His voice became my voice, and there were other elements of him that became me” … No director in Hollywood wanted to cast this grand, deep-voiced, bald English guy because everybody knew he was Picard and couldn’t possibly be anybody else. In the event, he effectively reprised the part as Professor Charles Xavier – a grand, deep-voiced, bald English guy – in the X-Men films.”
It’s interesting that while the others mentioned here are just themselves in over-the-top comic book situations, Stewart career and personal life have gotten so tangled up, even he acknowledges telling the two (or three) apart is difficult.
Wesley Snipes as Blade
Being a 5th dan black belt in Shotokan Karate and 2nd dan black belt in Hapkido, Snipes is hardly an actor that merely pretends to know the fighting techniques in his movies. He’s also versed in Capoeira, kung fu, and Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. What does all this mean besides that Wesley Snipes is not a guy to mess with? He has studied in the same fighting styles as his vampire hunting character, who also knows Jeet Kune Do and Ninjitsu.
Coincidence? Nope- the character was changed from being a loud and cocky afro-wearing vampire hunter…to the same character we see in the David Goyer-written Blade trilogy. He’d gone from this-
Snipes’ movements, lines (Notably, “Some Mother******s are always trying to ice skate up hill.”), and clearly the fighting styles all went into making movies based on characters most people didn’t know were a comic in the first place but quickly became Snipes’ own. This translates nicely as there isn’t much debate as to how the character was changed from page to screen because Blade and Snipes on screen, are one and the same.
To further the point, we’ve also seen what happens when a character is strongly linked with a single actor and then simply passed off onto another. Take rapper/actor “Sticky Fingaz” as Blade in the short-lived TV series. Some mantles just weren’t meant to be passed down.
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
While Blade II was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who clearly enjoys what he does, one comic book movie proved to be a transition to another for him and what we got was 2004’s Hellboy. In fact, it was only del Toro’s success with Blade II that allowed him to get Hellboy greenlit and cast the actor he’d always had in mind for the role- Ron Perlman, of course. Not a bad choice considering that the studio wanted Vin Diesel (and then for Abe Sapien. Apparently, when studios think Apocalyptic comedies, they just think Vin Diesel).
Having worked with Perlman on Blade II, he really was the most natural choice for the role. Huge chin, laid back with a sense of humor, and willing to spend hours in a make-up chair to hide his physical self, though his personality couldn’t be contained.
Compare Perlman not just to Hellboy’s bizarre looks but the blue collar everyman that Perlman embodies.
“I’ve always felt there were aspects of me that were monstrous, and you can either hide from it or confront it, embrace it and understand that those are aspects that make you unique and define you and motivate you. You can either overwhelm or overcompensate for them — but they truly define you as a human being.”
Is this not the mindset that anyone that looks like Hellboy would need to have. Playing a “freak” isn’t enough, but to play monstrous hero characters that know what they are and have to accept it isn’t far off from how anyone would need to view themselves facing the harsh truth that they’re not “model material.”
All in all, Perlman is perfect for Hellboy and is currently trying to get a third one going.
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
You saw this coming, didn’t you? While Snipes and co. took a character people weren’t familiar with, and Pratt’s crew made a cool character known, Downey Jr.’s casting as “billionaire genius philanthropist” Tony Stark took a character that had major potential but really didn’t have much to him past being a rich alcoholic.
Since the 2008 movie, the character in the comics didn’t have to be changed physically, as Downey Jr. and Stark looked enough like each other, but Stark’s personality in the comics went from arrogant rich boy to eclectic eccentric, which was a nice take on a character that had its history, but a kickstart was welcomed.
During the shooting of the first film, the script was entirely finished by the time they began shooting to RDJ would end up improvising many of his lines and to great effect as the results are…well…what they are. Gwyneth Paltrow evidently had a hard time keeping up though. What a surprise, am I right?
Director Jon Favreau wanted Downey for the role as he thought Downey’s own past involving substance abuse would be an advantage in understanding the character. Says Favreau-
“The best and worst moments of Robert’s life have been in the public eye. He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That’s Tony Stark. Robert brings a depth that goes beyond a comic book character having trouble in high school, or can’t get the girl.” Favreau also felt Downey could make Stark “a likable asshole”, but also depict an authentic emotional journey once he won over the audience.”
Seeing the results in the five films Downey has portrayed the character, it’s safe to say this goes a bit beyond the tired statements of an actor trying to “get the character” and into the realm where reality and fiction overlap.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
While others fit the role or the role fit them, Jackson’s character was literally modeled after him. Though the character of Nick Fury had been around since May 1963, the early 2000s Ultimate reboot had writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch modeling the character after the actor himself.
At one point, the identity of the actor and character completely collide as the Ultimate Avengers (Known simply as “The Ultimates“) are sitting around talking about who would portray them in a movie. And Fury, drawn in perfect likeness to Jackson states that Jackson would play him. Why? Because “The man has talent.”
Fast forward to the end credits sequence in Iron Man, of May 2008, and the fictional Fury’s dream had come true.
No DC characters, what gives? What about Heath Ledger’s Joker, at least?
The thing about DC characters in film or comics, is that their characters have always been larger than the actors portraying them. So if an A-lister or a no-name gets a hold of the character, they can really just do their interpretation.
No one thought Ledger could do what he did seeing as how great Nicholson’s take on the character was- but he did it. So from jokester to gangster…back to joking gangster, the character had been played in many different ways by several different actors, each doing their version. The above listed however, have taken the character and mixed their own DNA in permanently it seems.