James Franco as Henry Fonda? More Biopics Casting

You probably know by now that I’m a big fan of the great movies and movie stars of days gone by. But I also appreciate the genuinely great stars and films of today. Not so long ago, I wrote an article about possible biographic films that might feature current stars as stars of old. The following is a sequel to that original piece…

James Franco as Henry Fonda

1. James Franco as Henry Fonda

Don’t you think James Franco comes across as a decidedly reasonable facsimile of Henry Fonda? Much like Fonda, he offers a calm, understated, direct, and natural approach. I can well imagine Franco as a Fonda type western hero or sadly harried husband. And I have no doubt he would be absolutely perfect as the monstrously evil gunman Fonda embodied in Once Upon A Time in the West. James Franco may have been the wrong man to play the Wizard of Oz, but if I were casting a bio-pic of Henry Fonda, he definitely gets my nod.


2. Owen Wilson and Jonah Hill as Laurel and Hardy

I have no doubt that you wouldn’t immediately think of Owen Wilson and Jonah Hill as Laurel and Hardy, but hear me out. Stan and Ollie were great slapstick comedians who had the ability to display genuine emotion. Besides the fact that Hill and Wilson often perform Laurel and Hardy style comedy in their films, much like Stan and Ollie, they are also very good actors. To my mind, it’s about time someone finally made a film about the incomparable Laurel and Hardy. Assuming Jonah Hill can do a Southern accent and Owen Wilson can do cockney British, I think they are the perfect candidates for the job. And if necessary, a piano could be moved “way out West” for their audition…


3. George Clooney as George C. Scott

Be seated, now… I want you to remember that George Clooney is one of the best actors in Hollywood today. That said, no actor ever won a war in the movies by dying on screen for his country (except, I suppose, John Wayne). He won it by giving great performances like the one and only George C. Scott in the Oscar winning Patton. Clooney demonstrates the same dramatic intensity that Scott routinely offered in countless films. It’s an intensity that often required no more than a glance or a smile. It certainly would be fun to see Clooney recreate the dimwitted General Buck Turgidson from Dr. Strangelove. But there’s just one thing I want you to remember…regarding the casting of Mr. Clooney as the man who brought “Old Blood and Guts” to life: I don’t want to get any messages telling me that I’m holding the wrong position. If it’s wrong, I’m not holding anythingI let the dumb do that!


4. John Goodman as Sydney Greenstreet

During the 1940’s Sydney Greenstreet coveted a small diamond encrusted statue known as The Maltese Falcon. He also verbally sparred with Humphrey Bogart in a place called Casablanca. In the process he made himself the most successful character actor of his day. Truly compelling, who could possibly play him other than the equally compelling John Goodman? As Greenstreet might say, Goodman is quite a character. Moreover, much like Greenstreet, Goodman has the uncanny ability to make a bad movie good (The Monuments Men), and a good movie great (he stole the show in The Artist). To say the least, the time has come for Sidney Greenstreet to finally receive his due. And it sure would be fun to watch John Goodman play opposite Matthew McConaughey’s version of Humphrey Bogart, don’t you agree?


5. Sandra Bullock as Carole Lombard

When it comes to light romantic comedy, Carole Lombard was certainly the greatest female movie star of the 1930’s. Her typical screen character was beautiful, crazy, outlandish, and tremendously lovable. My Man Godfrey perfectly illistrates everything that made Lombard so appealing. Who else could possibly fill Ms. Lombard’s shoes but the equally beautiful, and equally lovable, Sandra Bullock? Jill Clayburgh did a decent job playing Lombard in a film called Gable and Lombard, but I believe Bullock is a far better choice. To understand why this is true you simply need to imagine Carole Lombard in The Proposal and Sandra Bullock in Godfrey. Get it? No matter how you slice it, they match-up perfectly. Let’s face it: Sandra Bullock was quite literally born to play Carole Lombard.


6. Angelina Jolie as Mae West

Reasonably attractive though she may have been, she was hardly the most beautiful woman the world had ever seen. So…how exactly did Mae West transform herself into an actual sex symbol? It’s really very simple… Attitude! Sexy voice. Fluttering eyes. Suggestive mannerisms. Of course, Angelina Jolie isn’t just a better actress. She’s also a great deal more attractive. Since this is the case, why should she play the woman who asked every gigolo to come up and see her some time? Well, you see, much like Mae West, Angelina is hot! Her voice. Her eyes. Her mannerisms. It’s a matter of attitude! From Mae West to Angelina Jolie, the movie queen sex symbol lives on. And that of course, is as it should be.


7. Brad Pitt as Steve McQueen

Movie stardom was a total lark for Hollywood bad boy Steve McQueen. Basically, he got paid to have fast action fun in front of a camera. He was also emotionally explosive. He never seemed to be able to calm down or relax. This also perfectly describes Brad Pitt.  Every character the two actors have portrayed seems to inhabit worlds of infinite danger and excitement (especially when McQueen possessed a motorcycle or sports car). If you think about it, there isn’t a single character McQueen ever played that Pitt couldn’t perfectly re-create. So… if they don’t cast Brad Pitt in a biopic about Steve McQueen, why not use him for a remake of Bullitt? Wouldn’t you love to see that?


8. Johnny Depp as Paul Newman

Johnny Depp and Paul Newman truly are two peas in a pod. Initially described as a matinee idol, Newman surprised everyone with his dramatic ability. This also perfectly describes Johnny Depp. Now…I know that they really don’t resemble each other, but to my mind, that isn’t terribly important. You see, Depp has proven that he can truly play just about any character under the sun. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that Depp actually has a wider range than Newman. In any case, can’t you just see Depp as Hombre, Harper, or even Fast Eddie? After all is said and done, casting Johnny Depp as Paul Newman is a no-brainer.


9. Mark Ruffalo as Edward G. Robinson

This next one would stump any casting director who is unaware of Mark Ruffalo. Of course, he’s the only actor who could possibly portray Edward G. Robinson. Snarl for snarl, sneer for sneer, Ruffalo is the spitting image of “Little Caesar” himself. Of course, Robinson wasn’t just a mean and angry gangster. He was often very calm and gentle on screen. This is also true of Mark Ruffalo, especially when he plays Bruce Banner (as opposed to the Hulk!). Bad guy or good guy, Robinson never gave a bad performance. Neither has Mark Ruffalo. So…if we want Little Caesar to magically reappear, we need only give Ruffalo an overcoat, fedora, and a 32-caliber gat. In the process, I’m sure he would make Edward G. Robinson very proud.


10. Vince Vaughn as Robert Mitchum

I’m absolutely certain that no one will agree with my opinion of Robert Mitchum, but I don’t care. His characters always appeared to be sleepwalking. At the very least, it’s certainly fair to say that his work was plainly understated. At the same time, he definitely made more than a few truly memorable movies. Well…when it comes to understated performances in this day and age, Vince Vaughn comes across as Robert Mitchum’s clone. Doubt me? Vaughn’s interpretation of Norman Bates in the underrated remake of Psycho is a prime example of truly effective quiet menace. It was precisely the sort of menace Robert Mitchum perfected. Therefore, there is just no question about it. Vince Vaughn must be cast in a movie about Robert Mitchum.

And on that note, I’ll take my leave for now. In the meantime, I await your thoughts regarding which Hollywood star of today should play a specific star of yesterday. So have at it. You just never know. A big time film producer just might take you up on your suggestion.

Blair Kramer is a widely published writer for various publications, including “Velocity: Chicago,” “A Guide to Art in Chicago,” “Comic Book Collector Magazine,” “American Metal Magazine,” and the “Jewish American Historical Society.” He also dabbles in screenplays and comic books. There are only two things in his life that he loves more than good movies. They are his wife and family.