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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Which historical figures should we plunder as action heroes (and who should play them)?

Someone it had escaped my notice that a bunch of historical figures are in the process of getting rebooted as movie action heroes, often with supernatural elements tossed. Seen at Cinematical last week:

In an age where we lack action heroes and recognition factor is key for franchiseability (a new made-up word), Hollywood is turning to history for new characters. In addition to all the King Arthur stories that are brewing, Leonardo DaVinci, Marco Polo, and Harry Houdini are quickly being reworked into the 21st century’s Indiana Jones or Sherlock Holmes.

As Eugene Novikov reported earlier today, Warner Bros is looking at making the actual Leonardo DaVinci into the star of his own DaVinci Code type of movie. Last week, Variety reported that they’ve also hired Francis Lawrence to develop an action movie starring 13th century adventurer Marco Polo.

At first glance, this is all the height of silliness and desperation. Is Hollywood so desperate for ideas, so eager for name recognition that they’ll pillage dusty shelves and do a bit of graverobbing in order to concoct a hero for a new age? Why can’t anyone write a new Indiana Jones without basing him on Leonardo DaVinci? Isn’t it insulting to the real figures and their accomplishments to re-imagine them as pulp heroes?

The answer may be yes to all those questions. But it might also be not really. In all honesty, civilization has a long history of reworking history and mythology in the name of entertainment. The Greeks loved spinning myths into new stories and poems; playwrites took stories of the Trojan War cycle and reworked them into epic, terrifying works that could stand alone of Homer and myth.

Fair enough. Which historical figures should we plunder as action heroes (and who should play them)? Feel free to riff on the casting possibilities of Marco Polo and Leonardo Da Vinci, too…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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