Monday, February 2, 2009

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Casting Coup Month: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

When the Month of Oscar arrives, we here at dbarrymoresbeau -- and when I say we, I refer to myself and best friend Philip Baker Hall (let me dream) -- like to take a trip down memory lane. And when I say trip, I mean revamp.

Casting Coup Month officially begins!

We begin in the early days of Oscar. Picture it: Ambassador Hotel, 1932. It's the fifth Oscar ceremony ever. The nominees look very different than how they will in twenty years. Actress, Actor, and Director have only three nominees each, and there is no supporting category. Oh, and eight movies are nominated for Best Picture. Odd, isn't it? What else is odd? One of these categories ended in a tie. That category was Best Actor, and poor Alfred Lunt (The Guardsman) had to console himself with being the only loser in the category. The winners were Wallace Beery for The Champ (a film that also won original screenplay) and Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I first saw Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when I was in elementary school. And I was shocked. This was pre-code, and I had yet to see movies from that period. Imagine my surprise when a prostitute showed up, then faked an injury to get Dr. Jekyll into her room. Then put his hand between her naked thighs as she clasped him to her nude chest. It was SHOCKING, I can tell you, as were the special makeup effects. This was around the time of evolutionary theory going mad, and so Mr. Hyde was designed after the Neanderthal Man. An interesting idea, that, with the savage side of Jekyll being literally devolved from the man. Of course, I didn't get this at the time, as I was eight. But still, it's quite fascinating.

For March, it was vindication. The studio did not want him in the lead, since at that point he was best-known for his Oscar-nominated role in The Royal Family of Broadway -- a comedy. Comedy and drama just did not mix in those days. Nevertheless, director Rouben Mamoulian insisted that March was the only actor who could play both Jekyll and Hyde, and so March got the role and the Oscar! He would be nominated thrice later -- A Star is Born, The Best Years of Our Lives (WIN), and Death of a Salesman.

Though nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy Heath, losing to Bad Girl by Edwin J. Burke), it had less to do with the credited work of Robert Louis Stevenson, and more with T.R. Sullivan's stage adaptation. It was here that the idea of two women, both fighting for Jekyll's soul, was first introduced. It was here that Sir Danvers Carew, a random murder victim in the novella, became Jekyll's future father-in-law. Utterson, the protagonist of Stevenson's story, is reduced to a cameo role. And so on, and so forth.

Several versions have been made of the tale, including a popular Broadway production, music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. There have been a number of rumors and ideas about the film adaptation of the show, but nothing has ever really come to fruition. So, I think it's about time that someone give more than just a partial bit of an idea. My remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would be an adaptation of the musical, Jekyll & Hyde, but I think it would be neat to employ the same makeup effects.

Who is He: A pimp, and proprietor of The Red Rat. One of those nice guys that beats his women and threatens their lives when they show up late.

Songs: Facade (Reprise 87)

Quote: "If you live around here,
Lotsa people, I fear,
Will make promises
They will not honour, my dear,
An' the truth is,
You end up getting scarred!"

Originally played by: Actually, this is a character that has no real equivalent in the original film. But, he does get a solo piece.

My Choice:

Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Kinky Boots)
The person in question needs a sleazy persona, the kind that Frost showcased in Kinky Boots. They would also need to be a bit intimidating, and look at that guy. If he got angry, you would be dead. No question. But can he sing? Well, it's the Spider. It doesn't matter.

Who is He: Jekyll's loyal butler.

Songs: None! Haha!

Originally played by: Funnily enough, he originated the role onstage!

Edgar Norton (Top Hat, Son of Frankenstein)

My Choice:

Benjamin Whitrow (Poirot: After the Funeral, Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice)
Fortunately, Poole doesn't sing, so I don't have to find a real singer. Whitrow is known and respected in England, but he's somewhat of an unknown here. So, a big enough name to get some people in, but small enough so that no one's wondering why he's just the butler. Also, he's a pretty great actor. I mean, shit, he did Poirot.

Who is He: Secretary of the Board of Governors of St. Jude's Hospital, he fully supports the Board's decision to no longer fund or support Jekyll's theories or practices. It must be ridiculous, right? That man is not one, but two? Crazyness. Oh, also, he does not care for Jekyll because he tot's wants a piece of his fiancee.

Songs: Emma's Reasons

Quote: "Emma Carew,
Can this be you?
What kind of man
Is this you've taken?
Can you not see
The kind of life
That this would be?
You are mistaken!"

Originally played by: Well, there's not really an equivalent for him in the original, but the closest we get is a colleague of Jekyll's who remains skeptical: Dr. Lanyon.

Holmes Herbert (Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Invisible Man)

My Choice:

Eddie Izzard (Across the Universe, Romance & Cigarettes)
Have you ever seen Izzard in a drama? The guy's serious work is equal to his stand-up: The Riches, The Cat's Meow, Valkyrie, etc. He's not the best singer, but it's one little snippet of a song, and he can act it, and Rex Harrison had a whole career in musicals, so I think it could work.

Who is He: Chairman of the Board of Governors and father to Emma, making him the future father-in-law of Jekyll. He is a gentleman, loving but protective. In the film, he is beaten to death by a crazed Hyde. In the musical, he lives! I don't know why, but it happens.

Songs: Letting Go, Your Work--and Nothing More

Quote: "I am only trying to protect you!
What else would you have your father do?
I think I would die,
If any harm should come to you."

Originally played by:

Halliwell Hobbes (Dracula's Daughter, You Can't Take It With You)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man, The Return of Captain Invincible)
Look, people, Lee has to do a musical at some point. I mean, he did Captain Invincible, but come on. Have you seen it? It just barely counts. He's played the Criminologist in Rocky Horror on stage before. He's at that age where he seems warm and inviting. I think it would be fun to see him in such an "against type" role. Where he can sing.

Who is He: A solicitor, Jekyll's best friend.

Songs: Pursue the Truth, Your Work--and Nothing More

Quote: "You have your work
And nothing more!
You are possessed -
What is your demon?"

Originally played by: Curiously enough, the most important role in the novella, the second male lead in the play, is reduced to an uncredited cameo in the film.

Arnold Lucy (All Quiet on the Western Front, Sherlock Holmes)

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor (The English Patient) and Best Supporting Actor (Schindler's List), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Schindler's List), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Drama (The English Patient) and Best Supporting Actor (Schindler's List, The Duchess), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actor (The English Patient) and Best Ensemble (The English Patient), Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Duchess)

Ralph Fiennes (The Prince of Egypt, Bernard and Doris)
Have you seen The Prince of Egypt? If you have, then you remember Ramses? The pharaoh? Yeah, that was Ralph Fiennes, and he does his own singing. Because Ralph Fiennes can sing. His deep, authoritative voice works for the role of Utterson. But he's also friendly enough so that we can believe that he and Jekyll are palsies.

Who is She: Jekyll's fiancee, a proper lady of society.

Songs: Emma's Reasons, I Must Go On, Take Me As I Am, Letting Go, Your Work--and Nothing More, Once Upon a Dream, In His Eyes, Finale

Quotes: "Love meaning me,
Love meaning you,
We'll make that one dream come true!
You know who I am...
Take me as I am."

Originally played by: In the film, her name is Muriel Carew. I hate the name Muriel. It's ugly.

Rose Hobart (Tower of London, Ziegfeld Girl)

My Choice:

Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls, The Family Stone)
This is her. This is what she would look like: innocent, fragile, blonde. Married Life was a fantastic demonstration of her talents, as a girl in love with a man who behaves abominably. Like, say, Jekyll? HMMM?

Who is She: The star of The Red Rat, she falls for Jekyll when he shows her kindness, but becomes entangles with the abusive and possessive Hyde.

Songs: No One Knows Who I Am, Good 'N' Evil, Sympathy, Tenderness, Someone Like You, In His Eyes, Dangerous Game, A New Life

Quotes: "Look at me,
And tell me who I am,
Why I am
What I am.

Will I survive?
Who will give a damn,
If no one knows
Who I am?"

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Becky Sharp), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Heiress)

Miriam Hopkins (The Children's Hour, Fanny Hill), but in this version she was known as Ivy Pearson, a name I prefer.

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Good Will Hunting), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Good Will Hunting) and Best Ensemble (Good Will Hunting)

Minnie Driver (GoldenEye, The Phantom of the Opera)
Driver is a bit older than Rachel McAdams, and I want to stress that. It hints at how long she's been doing this, at the idea of a life that's been shitty for forty years. And it sucks. I think it will pack more of a wallop in "A New Life", especially with the scene that comes after.

Who Are They: Jekyll is a good doctor with radical theories pertaining to the good and evil inherent in all men. And women. Hyde is his evil alter-ego, a murderer and rapist with no morals or conscience. Jekyll hates Hyde, but is addicted to the freedom the transformation gives him.

Songs: Lost In The Darkness, Pursue The Truth, I Must Go On, Take Me As I Am, Now There Is No Choice, This Is The Moment, First Transformation, Alive, Your Work- And Nothing More, Alive (Reprise), Murder, Murder, Obsession, Dangerous Game, Confrontation

Quotes: "All that you are
Is a face in the mirror!
I close my eyes and you'll disappear!

I'm what you face
When you face in the mirror!
Long as you live, I will still be here!"

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Actor (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Best Years of Our Lives), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actor (Death of a Salesman, Executive Suite, Inherit the Wind), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor in a Drama (Death of a Salesman)

Fredric March (The Desperate Hours, The Iceman Cometh)

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Kate & Leopold)

Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Australia)
Jackman is a fantastic singer, and he has the Tony to prove it. He can be manly and sexy and polite and a gentleman. But he can also be animalistic, cruel, manipulative, and a monster. Jackman is an incredible actor that would do wonderfully here. But could he repeat history and get the Oscar nom, much less the win? Interesting question...

Best Actor -- Hugh Jackman
Best Actress -- Minnie Driver
Best Supporting Actor -- Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Lee
Best Supporting Actress -- Rachel McAdams

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