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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

dream cast: not-so-hypothetical ‘Magnum, P.I.’ movie

I feel like I’m flogging a dead horse keeping up with Dream Cast, but I’m willing to give it a few more weeks to prove itself either vital or a goner. This week: Magnum, P.I., the 1980-88 CBS action detective series starring Tom Selleck as a former Navy SEAL and Vietnam vet now working as a private eye in Hawaii.

(If you have a suggestion for a classic TV show or movie we could play Dream Cast with, feel free to email me.)
Last April I noted with alarm a news story suggesting that a Magnum, P.I. movie was in the offing, with the repulsive Matthew McConaughey in the lead role. More than a year has passed and no more news has come along on this front, and neither the actor’s IMDB page nor the one ostensibly for this movie bear any indication that the movie is actually happening, or if it is, happening with McConaughey onboard. So I consider it fair game.

The original cast featured:

Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV: Tom Selleck
Theodore “T.C.” Calvin: Roger E. Mosley
Orville Wilbur Richard “Rick” Wright: Larry Manetti
Jonathan Quayle Higgins III: John Hillerman
Lt. Yoshi Tanaka: Kwan Hi Lim

My dream cast for a movie (stealing some of my own ideas from the post linked above):

Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV: Will Smith
Theodore “T.C.” Calvin: Josh Holloway
Rickie Wright (gender swapped): Maria Bello
Jonathan Quayle Higgins III: Ewan McGregor
Lt. Toshiko Tanaka (gender swapped): Lucy Liu

Magnum and TC would now be Iraq war vets, of course.

Who’s in your Dream Cast?

I dare you not to hum along with this:



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  • Will Smith is definitely the new Cool… unless we cast Sam Jackson, instead…

  • Victor Plenty

    Interesting that you’d choose another Chinese actor to play a Japanese character. It’s a strange legacy, this idea that all the East Asian nationalities and ethnic groups are freely interchangeable for Hollywood’s purposes.

    This rather odd practice shows few signs of abating, considering that a Korean actor has been selected to play Sulu (probably for any number of additional Star Trek movies, if they continue to be as successful as the current one).

    But I suppose it’s an improvement over the old idea that movies could simply use Western actors with “Oriental” makeup, a practice that survived at least as late as the 1980s, with Joel Grey playing as a Korean in Remo Williams.

  • Ryan H

    @Victor Plenty
    To be fair, Hollywood has a long and glorious history of not giving a damn what anybody’s actual nationality or racial background is. Sure, they are happy to use any ‘asian’ actor (or even the occasional white actor) for any ‘asian’ roll. They are also happy to use any ‘white’ actor for any roll that it is even remotely similar to. Actual accents, appearance or background be damned.

    Go watch ‘The Hunt for Red October’ then tell me that Hollywood is more picky about who they cast in ‘white’ parts than they are about who they cast in ‘asian’ parts.

  • Victor Plenty

    Ryan H, with all due respect to your obvious good intentions, your observation strikes me as heavily oversimplified.

    Hollywood’s “long and glorious history” is much more complex than what you describe. A harshly defended hierarchy between broad racial groups has dominated much of that history.

    Within that system, as you point out, “white” actors enjoyed the most freedom to cross boundaries. A leading star could freely play roles from all European backgrounds, as well as nearly any non-European role with the aid of makeup. Many people today know of “blackface” makeup, but fewer know that “yellowface” makeup was also a term of art in the industry, or how much it limited the chances for actual Asian actors to get good roles.

    By contrast, in the same system that gave “white” actors such a broad menu of roles to play, heavily restricted opportunity has been the rule for “non-white” actors until very recently. Even today, there are still limited roles available for minority actors, below the top tier of A-level stars.

    The point I’m making here is not about whether Hollywood has ever been “picky” to get an exact match between every actor’s and every character’s national origins. It’s about recognizing some lasting influences on our whole culture from the era of open racial discrimination.

    Among other things, the phrase “you people all look the same to me” has very rarely had any power as an insult against people of European backgrounds, but still has a deeply painful resonance for many Asians.

    This is particularly important to remember in the context of a show like Magnum, P.I., which is set in the Hawaiian Islands, where a comparatively high percentage of the population has Asian ancestry.

  • PaulW

    The thing is, I never perceived Magnum as “cool”… in some cases he was slightly klutzy, never really two or three steps ahead of anybody when it came to solving mysteries and stuff, so a Will Smith wouldn’t really work for me.

    Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV: Nathan Fillion (Yeah he’s cool but he can play clueless at times)
    Theodore “T.C.” Calvin: Terrance Howard
    Orville Wilbur Richard “Rick” Wright: Luke Wilson
    Jonathan Quayle Higgins III: Colin Firth (Ewan??? He’s too… well I hate to say young, but he’s retained a kind of youthful charm that doesn’t seem right for this role)
    Lt. Yoshi Tanaka: Cary Tagawa, yeah I know I cast him in everything…
    Ashlyn Nightingale Higgins, niece visiting from the British homestead: Rosanna Lavelle
    The Viper, movie arch-nemesis looking to steal Higgins’ prized Chatty Cathy doll from that Brady Bunch sequel: Tom Hanks

  • Victor Plenty

    Although often lacking the skills to play the game, I wouldn’t want to see Dream Cast go away forever, so it’s time I tried to make a relevant contribution.

    PaulW, your choice of Nathan Fillion for the lead role here is inspired, and I’d love to see what he’d do with the character. Your choice also inspires me to dare the following:

    Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV: David Boreanaz

    Theodore “T.C.” Calvin: Mekhi Phifer

    Orville Wilbur Richard “Rick” Wright: Alan Tudyk

    Jonathan Quayle Higgins III: James Callis (clearly capable of genuine gravitas alternating with ego desperately in need of deflation)

    Lt. Yoshi Tanaka: Masi Oka (even Heroes can’t last forever)

  • My post got relegated to moderation… or moderated to relegation, I don’t know. Strange, because it had no links in it and I’ve been online-acquainted with MaryAnn since the early days of the Cinemarati Roundtable. Let’s see if this one goes through.

    Magnum: Dominic West
    T.C.: Terrence Howard (ack, PaulW stole my thunder)
    Rickie: Anna Faris
    Higgins: Tom Wilkinson

    I like the idea of gender-switching Rick. Makes it less of a sausage-fest. Allows for a bit of flirty cross-gender teasing friendship vibe. There’s plenty of male-bonding brothers-in-arms stuff in the Magnum & T.C. relationship, Anyway.

  • doug

    Will Smith as Magnum? Not the most original idea since he was cast as James West in Wild Wild West. I don’t think that worked too well. One of the worst movies I ever saw and that casting mistake was one of the reasons. I don’t think you can cast against the iconic image of the original lead without alienating the audience. I am a Will Smith fan, so if you want to do a detective movie with him, I would watch, but to see him play Magnum would be kind of like what is the point?

    I think the actor that could pull off the aura of Selleck’s Magnum would be George Clooney. Unfortunately, the dude from Dodge Ball has control of this project, so I think he is going to ruin it.

  • Freddy Mercury

    The original cast need to be the cast for the new movie. I say keep the characters the same and just have them 20 years down the line, Magnums still a PI, Higgins inherited the Estate, TC owns a little airline, and Rick became a mafia boss with morals.. I could dig that more than all the updated remakes that have come out of hollywood. Look at the Miami Vice remake. It just didn’t have that same feel..

  • David

    Here’s my dream cast:

    Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV: Tom Selleck
    Rick: Larry Manetti
    TC: Roger Mosely
    Higgins: Jonathan Hillerman

    The original cast made this show a classic and it’s the original cast that we want to see in the movie. Anyone else and the movie is a non-starter.

  • BrentR

    OK, since we are not going with the originals, I guess I will reluctantly give a list of more “bankable” stars.

    Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV: Vince Vaughne
    Theodore “T.C.” Calvin: The Ro…..er I mean Dwayne Johnson
    Orville Wilbur Richard “Rick” Wright: Steve Buscemi
    Jonathan Quayle Higgins III: Michael Caine
    Lt. Yoshi Tanaka: Ken Watanabe
    Oh, and don’t forget Ice Pick: Christopher Walken

    PaulW was bang on when he said Magnum was not cool, and Nathan Fillion is a great choice, I just don’t think he is tall enough. T.C. was big, muscular, good with kids, and a former football star. Johnson is just too obvious. Rick, a bit older, connected to but not in the mob, not as good looking as the others. That, plus I want Steve Buscemi in every movie. Michael Caine as Higgy Babby…who else? Ken Watanabe is a really cool actor, he looks the part, and he is actually the right ethnicity. Finally, like Steve Buscemi, I want to see Christopher Walken in everything. One last thing, maybe Tom Selleck could be the voice of Robin Masters, or would that be insulting?

  • mikehartley

    You’re an idiot. Dont fuck this movie up with gender swapping. Vince Vaughn or Matthew McConaughey as TM and Snipes as TC, Steve Zahn as Rick and Higgins could be played by Ricky Gervais or Nick Nick Frost. If you have anything to do with the movie industry at all…please quit. Remakes aren’t your forte’, as all you would do is ruin the integrity of a classic show. My God…you’re a fucking idiot for that cast suggestion

  • Dylan

    My Dream Cast for a MAGNUM P.I. film:

    “Thomas Magnum” – Josh Brolin
    “Higgins” – Stanley Tucci
    “T.C.” – Terrence Howard
    “Rick” – Chris Pratt

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