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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

dream cast: Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ (to give him a boot in the ass)

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for another installment in the semiregular Dream Cast, in which we take a classic movie, TV show, or — NEW! — book, perferrably something with Xer appeal that we can either trash or have fun with, and cast a production or recast a hypothetical (or sometimes not so hypothetical) remake with actors working today. This week: The Hobbit, the Peter Jackson-produced, Guillermo del Toro-directed prequel to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film series, which we just learned yesterday doesn’t actually have a finished script yet, and hasn’t actually been greenlit!

(If you have a suggestion for show, movie, or book we could play Dream Cast with, feel free to email me.)
Oh, it’s true, as MTV Movie News reported yesterday:

‘The Hobbit’ Not Yet Green-Lit, Peter Jackson Says

‘Unless we can write a script that the studio likes and present a budget that they like, there won’t be any ‘Hobbit’ film being made,’ producer says.

And so there cannot yet be a casting decision made on the role of Bilbo Baggins, of course:

“You never go offering a role to an actor until you have a script that they can read, and you also need a schedule so you can tell what dates you need them to work,” said Jackson…

Also, at Comic Con, David Tennant completely denied he knew anything at all about his playing Bilbo Baggins in any movie:

“The Internet is a curious place, isn’t it?” Tennant told MTV News.

“I think someone sits in their bedroom in Saskatchewan and comes up with an idea and they post it. And within minutes it’s around the world and I’m getting phoned up by journalists and friends of mine saying, ‘When are you off to shoot with Guillermo [del Toro]?'” said Tennant. “It’s not something I know anything about.”

“No one’s talked with me,” he added.

While Tennant’s no stranger to special effects, he doubted even the most impressive computer’s ability to bring him down to Hobbit size.

“I’m a bit tall, aren’t I?” he joked. “I know they do things with CGI now, but I’m 6’1″. Hobbits are little. I do have quite hairy toes, though.”

(There’s video! Not of naked toes, however.)

So it falls to us to, finally, cast the damn movie and get it moving.

Here’s my dream cast:

Bilbo Baggins: Michael Sheen
Gandalf: Ian McKellan
Thorin Oakenshield: Peter Sarsgaard
Smaug: Alan Rickman
Elrond: Hugo Weaving
Gollum: Andy Serkis
Beorn: Clancy Brown
Bard the Bowman: Gerard Butler

(I wish there were some roles for women…)

Who’s in your dream cast?

Concerning hobbits:



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  • My dream cast for Teh Hobbit:

    Bilbo Baggins: Sean Pertwee
    Gandalf: Ian McKellan (obviously)
    Thorin Oakenshield: BRIAN BLESSED
    Smaug: Ben Kingsley
    Elrond: Hugo Weaving (Obviously)
    Gollum: Andy Serkis (Obviously)
    Beorn: Clancy Brown
    Bard the Bowman: Daniel Craig
    The Monstrous Trolls: voiced by Tom Baker, Anthony Hopkins, and Christopher Lee

    As for no women in the cast, they *could* always revamp one or two of the Questing dwarves as women (they ALL have beards, after all).

  • Victor Plenty

    Gender-switching some dwarves is a brilliant idea. I still remember the paroxysms of nerd rage that swept across the Internets when the first leaks came out that Jackson had given a more physically active role to Arwen. That’s the kind of publicity money just can’t buy.

  • Ben

    So you wish there were women to cast? I am interested to know why? Do you wish this was the case simply because then you could name some women actors, or because you have a specific idea for how adding women to the cast would improve the story?

    I mean, it just seems a bit of an odd thing to say. Sure, perhaps it would have been nice if the original story had had some good females characters (although, do you think Tolkien really could have written good women?) but do you think a post-modern insertion of them would actually be a benefit to this particular movie? Hmmm perhaps Bard could be female?

    I mean, do you wish there were women soldiers storming the beach in all those WW1/WW2 movies?

  • Payton

    Bilbo Baggins: James McAvoy
    Gandalf: Ian McKellan
    Thorin Oakenshield: Harvey Keitel
    Smaug: Javier Bardem
    Elrond: Hugo Weaving
    Gollum: Andy Serkis
    Beorn: Russell Crowe
    Bard the Bowman: Eric Bana (maybe)
    Thranduil: Always thought Sam Neil would have been good but he too aged for the role now.

  • @ben: i have to ask — what century are you living in? women comprise 50% of the human race (actually, more like 51%)… it would be nice to see them represented as part of the important events of The Hobbit (both the original fiction by Tolkein and any current movie project).

    as for women not storming the beaches at Normandy — that is a historical fact (as far as we’re aware), not a fantasy setting. but there have been plenty of women soldiers in modern times who have fought and died for their countries. (what i’d really like to see is *no one* storming beaches and fighting bloody wars — but then, we’re back on fantasy ground again.)

  • allochthon

    Alan Rickman as Smaug! Brilliant!

  • Michael

    No, Alan Rickman needs to be Thranduil. Rickman’s too snively to be Smaug. If he hadn’t already played Saruman, I’d suggest Christopher Lee for that role.

  • Ben

    @ Bronxbee

    Sure, as I said it would have been nice if there were good women characters in the Hobbit (if they had improved/added to the story – and given Tolkien’s history with writing women that is perhaps doubtful). As with the movie, if a female character (or characters) were added and improved the story, great.

    What I was asking is how exactly would the addition of a women main character help? What do you see them bringing to the core story?

    Representation isn’t an addition to story (there were also no blacks, no asians, no kitty cats, no gays, no west nile crocodiles represented).

  • Bilbo – Bob Hoskins (in book, Bilbo is not young)
    Smaug – James Earl Jones

  • Bluejay

    It may seem a small thing, but I wish folks would get his name right: McKellen, not McKellan.

    We all deserve to have people make the effort to get our names right, both in speech and writing.

  • James Earl Jones as Smaug???

    SMAUG: Bilbo… *I*… am your father.
    BILBO: NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Wait. EWWWWWWWWWWW.

  • Yeah, I don’t think you’re allowed to play the voice of two major iconic villains.

    Ron Perlman as Smaug, though? I can get behind that… plus with del Toro directing, it’s very likely a shire thi… um… sure thing.

    (yes, that last bit there was an actual typing error, I kept it in because it is awesome)

  • @ben: “What I was asking is how exactly would the addition of a women main character help? What do you see them bringing to the core story?”

    that’s a fair question, and i am really thinking it over. it would require some serious reworking of storylines and i have to say, i honestly don’t know what could be done about it that wouldn’t change the original story. so, for the moment, i have to say, i don’t know, but i’m mulling.

  • Mirene

    Bilbo must be played by Elijah Wood!Only!!!

  • MaryAnn

    @ben: “What I was asking is how exactly would the addition of a women main character help? What do you see them bringing to the core story?”

    that’s a fair question, and i am really thinking it over. it would require some serious reworking of storylines and i have to say, i honestly don’t know what could be done about it that wouldn’t change the original story. so, for the moment, i have to say, i don’t know, but i’m mulling.

    Actually, I don’t think this *is* a fair question. The assumption behind Ben’s query is that it’s neutral and natural and normal when a story features all male characters, but that women have to bring something beyond themselves as people to a story. Why do we need a “good reason” to include female characters in a story? Isn’t the fact that they are people in the world a good enough reason?

    How would the “core story” of *The Hobbit* be changed in any way at all were a woman to be cast as Bilbo? Everything we know about hobbits suggests that there isn’t a lot of differences beyond the obviously biological ones between male hobbits and female hobbits. They’re all homebodies, they all like food and drink in abundance, they love the outdoorsy life of the Shire. In what way would it be different if a female hobbit overcame her homebody-ness to embark upon an adventure?

    Unless a role specifically involves things only a woman can biologically do — like give birth to a child, or breastfeed, or… well, that’s probably it — or only a man can biologically do — like father a child, and that’s probably it — AND if the story is not specifically about matters of sexism, there would seem to be little reason beyond ingrained sexism that that role couldn’t be played by an actor of either gender (or any race, or sexual identity, etc). See *Alien,* for instance: Ripley was written as a man, but not one word was changed when Sigourney Weaver took the role.

    Of course, in the case of *The Hobbit,* there is the matter of the character being male in the books, and so it’s not likely to happen that the role would be gender-switched. But let’s not be dishonest about this: the story would not be different if that were to happen.

  • Ben

    Right, well if your reason for wanting a female is purely “they are people in the world” then I can’t argue with that.

    I just wanted to know if you thought having one would improve the story or not? I mean that is why I personally watch movies, to have a great story. I don’t really care if it is told through the use of woman, man or pigmonkey hybrid from alpha beta six. As long as its a good story.

    I never claimed the film would be different with a woman (although bronxbee perhaps thought it would be), I just wanted to know if you personally thought it would be different, and specifically if it would help or bring something more to the story? But apparently if I am reading your answer correctly, the gender-swap (or addition?) wouldn’t bring anything other than representing 51% (last time I checked) of the population.

    I was interested in your motivation and now you have (assuming I read right) fulfilled that interest.

    However I would argue that the casting of a woman as Ripley did alter the story of Alien (and the films that followed). I would say it improved the film. With a male character it would have perhaps just been an average Sci Fi horror film (although perhaps the design of the Alien may have made it rise above).
    As it was the use of a woman character is reported to have changed the story for many of those watching to add an element of surprise that it was, “Gasp!”, a woman that was the main hero (rather than, the more traditional the time, choice of a male such as Captain Dallas). Not to mention enabling pages and pages of analysis of Alien and the Alien movies as a male domination/rape fantasy etc to be written (although again Giger gets some credit there too)

    For me personally, when I first saw Alien, I was already of the generation that had no problem with a female lead (at least I hope other members of my generation feel the same way) so there was no surprise. However, and perhaps this is just hindsight bias, but I can’t imagine the film being the same without a female lead – even though there is no breast feeding (there was childbirth, but a male actor did that well enough – see they can cover that role as well :D)

  • Ben

    Ok, I can’t resist asking. But if it is because of representation that you want females in the film rather than because you believe it will add to the film in some way…

    Why did you not also say “I wish there were some roles for Asians…” since Asians make up about 2/3rds of the worlds population (last time I checked).

  • CB

    Why did you not also say “I wish there were some roles for Asians…” since Asians make up about 2/3rds of the worlds population (last time I checked).

    Because you can’t mention every possible injustice in the world that is related to the one you did mention, simply to demonstrate that you sincerely believe in the principle behind said injustice. :P

    Because MaryAnn’s chosen cause is women in film, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Because being such a British tale, it does at least make some sense that the actors would tend to be white, rather than follow the demographics of the world at large which The Hobbit isn’t based on… yet even in Middle Earth, about half the population is female. :P

  • CB

    Because you can’t mention every possible injustice in the world that is related to the one you did mention, simply to demonstrate that you sincerely believe in the principle behind said injustice. :P

    Because MaryAnn’s chosen cause is women in film, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Because being such a British tale, it does at least make some sense that the actors would tend to be white, rather than follow the demographics of the world at large which The Hobbit isn’t based on… yet even in Middle Earth, about half the population is female. :P

  • Ben

    Well actually since Middle Earth is supposed to be Earth but far back in mystical time Asians would presumably still be a significant demographic. Other peoples are suggested to exist by Tolkien (they just don’t appear).

    But if woman are being mentioned because it is a cause, then that is another motivation for the statement. Which is what I am interested in. Cool :)

  • Bluejay

    … yet even in Middle Earth, about half the population is female. :P

    Prove it! Where in the Red Book of Westmarch does it say that? ;-)

  • Bluejay

    …And remember, all the Entwives are missing too. ;-)

  • Ben

    Prove it! Where in the Red Book of Westmarch does it say that? ;-)

    Also because of the whole female dwarf issue the common perception is that there are less females in general in the world ;-)

  • Bluejay

    On the other hand, when I saw the special features on the extended DVDs, I thought it was cool that many of the Rohan riders were actually women in costume beards. (And I think some of the body doubles for the four main hobbits were female too.) Nice that the cast was more fairly gender-balanced, even if the story itself wasn’t.

  • CB

    Other peoples are suggested to exist by Tolkien (they just don’t appear).

    Well there you go. :P

    The Asian actor can get the role of the aptly named “Sir Not Appearing In This Film”.

    Also because of the whole female dwarf issue the common perception is that there are less females in general in the world ;-)

    Is this the same “dwarf issue” as in the Discworld novels, where the females look identical to the males and it’s considered highly inappropriate to make it known that you are female?

    That would present a problem for the Middle Earth census.

  • CB

    On the other hand, when I saw the special features on the extended DVDs, I thought it was cool that many of the Rohan riders were actually women in costume beards. (And I think some of the body doubles for the four main hobbits were female too.) Nice that the cast was more fairly gender-balanced, even if the story itself wasn’t.

    That’s fascinating… In the book, Eowyn was able to ride with the Riders of Rohan by dressing up as a man. This was discarded in the movie mostly because they couldn’t make it believable (see: every film version of Twelfth Night ever), but still…

    Is it possible that special feature showed not women actors dressing up as male characters, but women actors dressing up as women characters dressing up as men? Could it be that women dressing up as men to serve in the Rohan cavalry was a fairly common method of circumventing their sexist policy?

    Could it be that the Rohan military was tacitly aware of the women in their midst, and had a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy regarding women with costume beards?

  • Paul

    I’m flashing back to “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” now, with all those women buying beards so they can get around the religious law against women at stonings to go throw stones at someone who broke religious law. And a lot of those women were played by men. Makes my head spin.

    But I don’t want to see any more of that Discworld joke about dwarven women with beards pulled into LotR. The only thing that really annoyed me about those movies was how he made dwarves the butt of his jokes. So beware letting those guys bring more women into Tolkien; you may not like what you get.

  • Bluejay

    In the book, Eowyn was able to ride with the Riders of Rohan by dressing up as a man. This was discarded in the movie mostly because they couldn’t make it believable

    Well, hang on–she did disguise herself in the movie, didn’t she? She had the uniform and the helmet and all. Sure, Merry recognized her right away (unlike in the book), but I thought it was obvious she was passing herself off as male to join the battle. And when she pulled off her helmet and said “I am no man!” it was clearly meant to be a surprise to the Witch-king, and was a surprise to Theoden as well.

    Re: DADT in the Rohan military–LOL!

  • CB

    And when she pulled off her helmet and said “I am no man!” it was clearly meant to be a surprise to the Witch-king, and was a surprise to Theoden as well.

    Yeah, you’re right. I was just going by something I read/heard/whatever Jackson saying as to why he didn’t try to make her look like a man, so I guess that was at best just a matter of degree as far as difference from the book. Maybe it was only a secret for those blinded by their prejudices: Theoden by love and fear for his daughter while also underestimating he; Witch King because evil is dumb and sexist? :)

    Seriously, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from literature it’s not to trust some oracle or ancient prophecy that says something mysterious that wants to sound like “you’re immortal” but is really just a description of the highly improbable and deeply ironic way that you’re going to die if you buy into that bull-plop.

    Re: DADT in the Rohan military–LOL!

    Thanks. :)

  • Bluejay

    Seriously, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from literature it’s not to trust some oracle or ancient prophecy that says something mysterious that wants to sound like “you’re immortal” but is really just a description of the highly improbable and deeply ironic way that you’re going to die if you buy into that bull-plop.

    Yes, like the witches’ prophecy in Macbeth. I’ve read that LOTR was influenced by and was partly a response to Macbeth, with Tolkien trying to improve upon Shakespeare’s plot (in the case of the prophecy regarding the Witch-king, and the march of the Ents).

    If you’re academically inclined, here’s an interesting paper about it:
    http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/C/Janet.B.Croft-1/bidthetree.htm

  • MaryAnn

    Why did you not also say “I wish there were some roles for Asians…” since Asians make up about 2/3rds of the worlds population (last time I checked).

    Well, as has been noted and is worth repeating: We know there are women in Middle Earth.

    That said, I did also make reference to the fact that most roles could be played by actors of any race/ethnicity, too. All the same arguments apply: Why is anything other than a white man in a role reduced to “representing”? Why are white men “neutral” and everyone else “representing”?

  • Ben

    MaryAnn you are putting words in my mouth. I never said white males weren’t representing. They are.

    I only used the word “representing” because its a short cut for your explanation of “exists in the world” as a reason to cast someone. e.g. they exist in the world, and therefore casting them represents that existence. Or is there another reason you think women should be cast?

    While we are on whys… why Martin Sheen for Bilbo? Because old men exist in the world? ;D – seriously though, Martin Sheen is a great actor, but in my mind he doesn’t seem right for Bilbo. Not ordinary and homely enough in manner/appearance… or perhaps I just haven’t seen Martin Sheen in enough movies. I think I would rather the rumors come true and Tenant be cast (but that’s probably the Dr Who fan talking).

    it was clearly meant to be a surprise to the Witch-king

    That whole “not by the hand of man will he fall” is an interesting prophecy because in Middle Earth there are a lot more races than “man” (when “man” is used to mean human as it is in Tolkiens writing – except in this case of the prophecy were it actually means only “male human”, since a male hobbit is also able to harm the Witch-King). It wouldn’t make me that confident really if some elf said that about me. But as CB says… never trust prophecy that claims your unbeatable in some way…

  • Paul

    Now I’m flashing back to a demon villian from “Angel” saying, “I’m not a man. But clearly masculine, you get that right?”

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