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Spike Lee's "Oldboy" Start Moved Back + Casting Carousel Continues + Thoughts On Diversifying Cast

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act January 17, 2012 at 12:58PM

We've documented Spike Lee's casting troubles for his interpretation of fanboy/girl fave Oldboy, based on the original manga of the same name. 

We've documented Spike Lee's casting troubles for his interpretation of fanboy/girl fave Oldboy, based on the original manga of the same name. 

And now production on the film has been pushed back to late summer/early fall (early spring was the previously-scheduled start date) thanks in part to star Josh Brolin's press commitments for Men In Black 3, but likely also because the film's starring cast hasn't been sured-up yet.

Most recently, Clive Owen joined a short list of actors who were previously offered starring roles in the film but later rejected them for (in most cases) unspecified reasons; he was offered the main villain role, which was previously offered to Colin Firth and Christian Bale; obviously both also declined. I'm left wondering if these 3 actors who turned down the role did so because they are put off by the character (your garden variety self-righteous asshole, who does some utterly despicable shit, without giving away anything of the story for those who aren't familiar). Granted I don't know exactly what Spike's version will include, so this is all just speculation based on Park Chan-wook's 2003 film and the original manga.

There certainly could be other reasons for their rejections. So the hunt is back on for the actor to play that obviously pivotal role. 

Also Rooney Mara turned down the female lead role, which was then offered to Mia Wasikowska, but nothing's definite there either, as in whether she's accepted the part. I can see why Mara would turn it down, having just done Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; not that the roles are exactly the same, but after having to be completely vulnerable and exposed in the dark, brooding, violent Tattoo, she may not have wanted to be just as vulnerable and exposed in the dark, brooding, violent Oldboy - at least not-so soon afterward.

Josh Brolin has been the man all along for the lead role, and he's still attached; and as the search continues for an actor to play the villain, I'm wondering whether there are any non-white actors being considered for the part; why not mix up the casting a bit?

Being familiar with the material, there's really no reason why the villain can't be black, or from any other minority group. Sure, there'll likely be those dissenting voices within the black community lamenting the fact that the black man plays the despicable villain, instead of the *hero* (although I'm not sure that there are any real *heroes* in this). But I'd say that, as is often the case in cinema, the villain is a quite the meaty role for the right actor to really sink his teeth into, and even attract critical acclaim with. 

No, it's not glamorous; it's one hell of a *messy*, twisted, tragic story (going based on the manga and the first film), which partly explains its cult-dom. And I would welcome a black actor (despite the expected controversy that would come afterward) in the part; emphasis on the word "Actor;" Someone who could simultenoeusly pull off arrogance/self-importance (the lengths he goes to accomplish what he does and how much he relishes torment and anguish in his victims), and self-loathing (there's a lingering undercurrent of sadness and self-blame that you sense within him). 

The final showdown between villain and hero is an epic one, and will be a showcase of each actor's ability. 

So, for those of you who are familiar with the material already, if you were to cast a black actor in this as the villain, who would you go with?

This article is related to: casting, Things That Make You Go Hmm...

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