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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

dream cast: hypothetical ‘Real Genius’ movie

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to remake an 80s classic TV show or movie with an all-new cast. This week: Real Genius, the 1985 comedy about science geeks, college life, and the military-industrial complex.

(This Dream Cast was suggested by reader John. If you have a suggestion for an 80s TV show or movie we should play with, feel free to email me.)
The original cast included:

Chris Knight: Val Kilmer
Mitch Taylor: Gabe Jarret
Professor Jerry Hathaway: William Atherton
Jordan Cochran: Michelle Meyrink
Lazlo Hollyfeld: Jon Gries

Oh my god, don’t hate me, but I’ve never actually seen Real Genius, so I’m gonna have to sit this one out. Well, sort of. If I had to pick a young Val Kilmer for today, I’d probably go with Michael Cera. I feel I’m constantly picking Cera for teen stuff, but he’s really really charming and authentic and adorable. For a 2010 William Atherton (“Dickless” in Ghostbusters), I might have to go with, oh… how about Mad Men’s John Hamm?

This is apparently an unreleased trailer for the film, via a site called Clipser that I’d never even heard of before and am delighted to have discovered. It reeks of being fan-produced and not actually a lost trailer (that voiceover has a weird edge to it), but, whatever:

“Lasers are cutting-edge technology”? Oh, you wacky 80s, you!



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  • Ryan H

    For once, Cera is the wrong choice. To really do the part you need someone with a degree of world-weary cynical detachment.

  • JoshB

    Cera would be ideal as Mitch.
    Justin Long can pull off Chris Knight’s fast talking zaniness.

  • Kathy A

    MaryAnn, you haven’t seen Real Genius yet?!? Get thee to a rental copy ASAP! It’s one of my favorite comedies ever, is one of the few movies I can think of that actually has believable intelligent characters in it and doesn’t spend time mocking their geekiness (well, not overly), and has one of the quirkiest women I’ve ever seen on the screen.

    Michelle Meyrink is brilliant as Jordan (and if you read Ebert’s review of the movie, you can tell he has a crush on her), and her off-the-wall-ness isn’t a handicap to her as a love interest for the movie’s protagonist.

  • MaryAnn, you haven’t seen Real Genius yet?!? Get thee to a rental copy ASAP!

    Yeah for serious, it’s a Gen-X staple!

  • PaulW

    You have to see it. It’s a moral imperative.

    If I had to recast it, I’d make it:

    Chris Knight: Zach Tyler Eisen
    Mitch Taylor: Haley Joel Osment
    Professor Jerry Hathaway: Anthony Heald
    Jordan Cochran: Kat Dennings
    Lazlo Hollyfeld: ME! >:) Hey, I am *living* burnout, baby!
    Kent (the evil geek): Shia Lebeouf, because he deserves to suffer. >:)

  • PaulW

    Whoops: switch Chris Knight to Osment and Mitch Taylor to Eisen. Sorry…

  • Jester

    Geez, Kathy A is right: get thee to your Netflix queue or a rental place, MAJ.

    Your education is sorely lacking in a dozen or more GenX references, notably the best recipe for popcorn that will ever be conceived.

    When you first made your “100 formative movies” list, I thought it was such a great idea that I decided to make my own. Real Genius got a prime spot on my list.

  • themidnightrider13

    remake the entire cast… no problem…. but you must recast John Gries as Lazlo Hollyfield…period end of story. And of course u must use the entire original soundtrack…ie Tears for fears!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • themidnightrider13

    Shia Lebeouf, as Kent… come on…stop hating! The kid is funny…Shia Lebeouf as Mitch is a great fit!
    Chris Knight – Ryan Reynolds
    Mitch -Shia Lebeouf
    Kent – ??any blonde a-hole will do
    Lazlo Hollyfeld- John Gries…again baby!!!! Long live Ronnie from Get Shorty and the werewolf from the monster squad!!!!
    Prof. Hathaway- Kevin Spacey
    Jordan- Natalie Portman

  • Jester

    Mitch: Shia Lebeouf (have to agree, this is a great fit)
    Chris Knight: ?
    Jordan: Zooey Deschanel
    Lazlo Hollyfeld: Jason Lee
    Prof Janice Hathaway: Kathy Bates (gender change!)
    Kent: Jay Baruchel

    Spent the weekend thinking about this, on and off. The Chris Knight part is the hardest to cast. Michael Cera is wrong, but only just. It requires someone who can pull off sounding like the smartest person in the room, but in a cynical, self-deprecating way. I can’t think of anyone born after 1977 or so that could pull it off. Maybe cynicism went out of style or something.

  • Jester

    I think JoshB might be on to something. though. The more I think Justin Long as Chris Knight, the more it works for me.

    It’s a bit too close to the role he played in “Accepted”, though.

  • Jfinks

    I don’t know how old these posts are but as someone who saw Real Genius at 14, i have to chime in.

    Michael Cera could play the Mitch Taylor role, but he has done that way to many times, it should be a newcomer, but it’s someone who has that dorky, clueless innocense. The character of chris knight was modeled after the likeable wiseass character that Bill Murray perfected in the late 70’s early 80’s(before he went on anti-depressants and started doing depressing roles in Wes Anderson films). Vince Vaughn from swingers would have been good, but he’s too old now. Ryan Reynolds is another guy who 7 years ago would have been perfect. You know who would be perfect, James Franco. James Franco has the looks that Val Kilmer did and he is a damn funny guy. He is the only one who could play Chris Knight now and not have it seem like he’s doing an impersonation of Vince Vaughn.

  • Dianna

    Real Genius = GREAT MOVIE! It would be hard to recast this movie because the original actors were perfect, but I’ll give it a try.

    Mitch-Jacob Zachar
    Chris-Jason Dohring
    Jordan-Kay Panabaker
    Kent-Ben Foster
    Prof.-Tim Daly
    Lazlo-Val Kilmer or Gabriel Jarret or Jon Gries or Jason Lee

    It would be great to bring the cast back to make a new movie, which a couple years ago Val Kilmer said he was interested in doing a sequel…

  • HEYYA

    I total agree with Jason Dohring is is the only one perfect enough to pull it off as chris knight

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