For the love of Yul, please re-cast the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN remake

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by Matt Zoller Seitz
May 22, 2012 12:25 AM
16 Comments
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So apparently Tom Cruise is going to "star" in a remake of The Magnificent Seven, which itself is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

What does "star" mean? The Variety story doesn't say. But you have to wonder whose shoes Cruise he going to fill, or try to fill. Yul Brynner's? Steve McQueen's? Charles Bronson's? James Coburn's?

I can't get my mind around any of those possibilities -- not just because John Sturges' first remake is still vivid in my mind, but because Cruise basically played man-boys until he was pushing 40, and it wasn't until very recently that I got used to the idea of him playing a character with any gravitas at all.   But what the hell, let's play the casting game. Let's pretend Cruise isn't attached (unless you want him!) and that you run the studio bankrolling the picture. 

Me? I'd prefer Bruce Willis/Brynner and Woody Harrelson/McQueen. True Blood's Chris Bauer in the Bronson role. Joel Kinnaman from The Killing in the Coburn role -- or for a splash of color, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Cruise might be effective as Robert Vaughn's dandy of a gunman; the pathos inherent in that part might catch people by surprise. George Clooney would be fun, too; Mag Seven newbies might be so thrown by his star wattage that they'd be, er, taken aback by the arc of his character, he said, treading lightly around spoilers for a 52-year old movie. Any plausibly Latin newcomer could play the Horst Buchholz part, and would surely do more with it than Buchholz did. Brad Dexter's character should be played by somebody as big (or big-seeming) as Dexter, I think. I rather liked seeing Dolph Lundgren in The Expendables -- he's a better actor than his typecasting as stony-faced killers indicates -- so maybe he's the right guy. The hammy bandit Calvera is henceforth marked "property of Benecio Del Toro," who would be even harder to understand than usual with all those shreds of scenery lodged in his teeth. Now it's your turn.

Matt Zoller Seitz is the TV critic for New York Magazine and publisher of Press Play.

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16 Comments

  • Reggi | March 14, 2013 1:46 PMReply

    Here it is: Yul/Clooney Mcqueen/Damon Coburn/Definitely Pitt Bronson/Cheadle Vaughn/Goseling Dexter/Brody Buchollz/? Wallach/Benicio plus his cohorts Benjamin Bratt, Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales

  • Jason Bellamy | May 22, 2012 9:25 PMReply

    Some good ones there, Matt. But here are mine: Stepping into Yul Brynner's role as Chris is Liam Neeson, because like Yul he has a singular accent and because he makes for a good, strong straight man (Willis has too much charm). Stepping into Steve McQueen's role as Vin is Michael Fassbender (who could actually do nicely with the Robert Vaughn role, too), because he oozes cool. Stepping into the Charles Bronson role of Bernardo is your pick for Calvera, Benicio Del Toro, because his natural awkward distance will make the payoff of his emotional softening all the more rewarding. James Coburn's role as Britt is a great chance to go female -- so why not Rosario Dawson or Michelle Rodriguez or any actress ready to be badass. For Robert Vaughn's role as Lee, I think you want to cast older than the original, suggesting a man who has lost confidence with age, so I like your Clooney pick a lot, but I think it would also be cool to go with Kevin Costner here, in a nod his many Westerns; he's not the dandy that Vaughn was, but something tells me he could bring the demons with the right director. As for Brad Dexter's Harry, I like the OTHER guy from The Expendables: Mickey Rourke, because you want that guy to be instantly charming and not too concerned with details, and that's Mickey. As for Horst Buchholz's Chico, I couldn't do better than your take: "any plausibly Latin newcomer." As for Calvera, here I go with Javier Bardem or Edgar Ramirez. And I want Quentin Tarantino to direct the thing, because his Leone allegiance and love of character development would give the Western enough of the "classic" feel of the original without sacrificing the modern blockbuster excitement that Hollywood would require. But we're not done yet: Remember that when The Seven ride into the town, they find a jolly old man there who laughs at the farmers and tells the hired guns what to expect. I've got an idea for who can play him: Eli Wallach.

  • Matt Zoller Seitz | May 22, 2012 9:37 PM

    The all-DEADWOOD version is so much fun to imagine.

  • Jason Bellamy | May 22, 2012 9:31 PM

    BTW: It's kind of fun to try to cast The Seven using Deadwood actors. Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant could deliver that coffin to the cemetery together as Chris (Brynner) and Vin (McQueen). Keith Carradine could play Britt (Coburn). Garrett Dilahunt would be Lee (Vaughn). Powers Boothe would be Harry (Dexter). John Hawkes would take Bernardo (Bronson). That leaves us with Chico (Buhholz) ... and there's no natural there, but Sean "Johnny" Bridgers could nail the bumbling part just fine.

  • Brian Hatfield | May 22, 2012 5:24 PMReply

    If the characters are going to follow the same path that they do in the original, I nominate Donal Logue for Harry, as he has the right amount of bluster and weasel to pull it off, including his sacrifice. I wish I could agree with you on Bauer, but I think we need someone a little harder as Bernardo, so I'll say that could be Ejiofor, or maybe even Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Kinnaman is a great call, though he would be bigger than almost everybody. Maybe Josh Brolin? I think Willis might make a better Vin than Chris based on his wiseass nature, but otherwise those two are perfect. I think Neal McDonough would make a killer Lee, and for the relatively useless Chico I nominate Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I'd love to see him play someone who has to earn our trust and admiration instead of having it built in.

  • Brian Hatfield | May 22, 2012 5:26 PM

    I see someone below me already suggested Brolin. I think that settles it!

  • Deborah Lipp | May 22, 2012 10:37 AMReply

    I don't care who he plays, Anthony Mackie has to be in this. Because Anthony Mackie has to be in *everything*.

  • Michael Mirasol | May 22, 2012 8:53 AMReply

    Idris Elba's got to be in there somewhere.

  • Maryann | May 22, 2012 8:57 AM

    Genius!

  • Maryann | May 22, 2012 4:25 AMReply

    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7245/7247682348_f54ccd33a6_b.jpg

  • Andrew | May 22, 2012 2:47 AMReply

    Woody Harrelson's too old to be McQueen. I'll just make two suggestions for everybody:

    McQueen: Colin Farrell, Ryan Gosling
    Vaughn: Timothy Olyphant, Matthew McConaughey
    Brynner: Tommy Lee Jones, Denzel Washington
    Bronson: Woody Harrelson, Val Kilmer (if he loses a few)
    Coburn: Jim Caviezel, Josh Brolin
    Dexter: James Woods, Michael Keaton

  • Andrew | May 22, 2012 2:51 AM

    There was supposed to be a new line for each character. They appeared that way when I was typing them, but they all got grouped together after I hit submit, so sorry for how terrible that looks.

  • Matt Zoller Seitz | May 22, 2012 2:43 AMReply

    @Adam: Cruise can be intense, sometimes scary, but never coolly authoritative in the Brynner/McQueen vein. I never bought him in that mode, even in early movies such as TOP GUN and DAYS OF THUNDER, where he seemed to be wearing a persona too big for him. The MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movies were a much better fit for him. He seemed in charge there not because of inherently cool quality, but because he was just so damned supercompetent, the senior class president as super-spy. The moment in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL where he instantly drew a police-artist-quality perp sketch on his hand might be the summation of his career as a leading man. You couldn't help but laugh at it. It's like, "Well, he's Tom Cruise, of course he can draw that well!"

  • Matt Zoller Seitz | May 22, 2012 2:38 AMReply

    @Rocco: Read away.

  • Rocco Sardoni | May 22, 2012 2:30 AMReply

    I think its hilarious, Matt, that you think the Robert Vaughn character, the most self-absorbed, into-himself, preening gunslinger of the original "Seven", is the one most suited to be portrayed by Tom Cruise. I'm trying not to read too much into that. I'm desperately trying, actually.

  • Adam Zanzie | May 22, 2012 2:25 AMReply

    I dunno, Matt... I still kind of like the idea of Cruise playing the lead in a TMS remake. It would certainly restore for him some badly-needed dignity to a career that's been severely damaged in the last five years, particularly since Cruise (arguably) hasn't starred in a great movie since he and Spielberg parted ways in 2005 (I actually blogged about this issue a month ago: http://iceboxmovies.blogspot.com/2012/04/tom-cruise-no-longer-bankable-hollywood.html).

    And as far as Cruise not having any "gravitas" until recently... didn't you think he had gravitas in Born on the Fourth of July? Or Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Minority Report, Collateral or War of the Worlds? I mean, Cruise may be a dubious guy in real life, but I wish people wouldn't let his private life blind themselves to the fact that he's still a highly gifted actor, especially when saddled with the right directors.

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