Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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Casting Coup Tuesdays: Earthquake (a DISASTERPIECE)

Released the same year as The Towering Inferno, Earthquake is perhaps one of the most surprising entries in the DISASTERPIECE canon. Instead of focusing on a trapped handful, it's a sprawling ensemble. The star wattage isn't as bright as films like Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. And the cinematography is just...it's just flat and ugly. And the ingenue has this big-ass afro that proudly announces, "Here I am! I am...THE 70s!"

Yet it all somehow works. Credit the strong screenplay by George Fox and Mario Puzo, who actually create engaging characters with real relationships. Or credit director Mark Robson, who gets far better performances from his actors than some of their characters warrant. Actually, credit that ensemble, giving their all without going over the top (except for Ava Gardner, gob-smackingly cast as Lorne Greene's daughter!!!). Ooh, or credit the editor, Dorothy Spencer, who keeps the film moving at an exciting pace without losing any sense of what's happening to whom -- and all at two hours! Maybe we should also commend John Williams, who has a good, sexy time with the score.

My point being, of course, that Earthquake is a fine film. So why even bring up a new cast for a remake? Because: (1) earthquakes in Los Angeles are always great fodder for drama; and (2) the original is SO 1974 -- remember Victoria Principal's afro? But most of all, it's (3) come on, that's not LA. Maybe it's just the specific areas of town they happened to be in, but the LA I've been in for two months is far more diverse than a single Richard Roundtree. I think my cast is more representative, however relative that may be. And I'm pulling Oscar winners, television personalities, and hot young stars into it. It's the old and the new.

So let's shake things up (yuk, yuk)! Let the title lead the way....

DEATH TOLL: 4 (leads only)
ROMANCES: 1 (leads only)

Who is He: The overworked doctor who takes charge in the underground shelter improvised for survivors of the quake at the mall. Vance attends to everyone of the dying and injured, trying his best, sometimes unable to help. A good doctor with a great bedside manner.

Originally played by:
Lloyd Nolan (Peyton Place, Airport)

My Choice: Academy Award Winner/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Year of Living Dangerously)
Linda Hunt (Stranger Than Fiction, "NCIS: Los Angeles")
No, it's not another gender-bending role for Hunt, but I hear women can be doctors nowadays. Hunt's voice I find to be a soothing one, one I wouldn't mind hearing in my ear as all the dust, smoke and asbestos I inhaled slowly suffocated me. She has an authority about her.

Who is He: Junior staffer at the California Seismology Institute. Somehow, he is able to do what no one on earth has ever done: predict an EARTHQUAKE. He wants to warn the public, but his superiors are doubtful as to the accuracy of his claims. And then an EARTHQUAKE hits.

Originally played by:
Kip Niven (Magnum Force, New Year's Evil)

My Choice:
Tom Felton (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Come on, Hollywood, break him out of those snotty brat roles! He's a good actor, people know and love him, he can do things! Let him play a know-it-all who tries to save Los Angeles!

Who is He: Acting supervisor of the California Seismology Institute. He hesitates when his young colleague claims to have predicted an EARTHQUAKE, fearing the backlash that could be caused by panicking and rioting...for nothing. Still, Stockle is a cautious man, and he warns the mayor, the National Guard...after all, what's the point of having prediction technology if he's not going to use it?

Originally played by:
Barry Sullivan (Pat Garret & Billy the Kid, Oh God!)

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Godfather: Part III)
Andy Garcia (Ocean's Eleven, Smokin' Aces)
One of those actors who could perform Shakespeare and the Yellow Pages with equal conviction. A great ensemble player, Garcia always delivers, no matter how big or small the part. In the patented Disaster Film Egghead role, he can give us exposition without it getting tedious. Hurrah!

Who is He: Business partner of daredevil Miles, brother to Rosa. He helped construct the stunt track Miles tries out when the EARTHQUAKE hits.

Originally played by:
Gabriel Dell (When the Girls Take Over, Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?)

My Choice:
Harry Shum, Jr. (Step Up 3D, "Glee")
Likable and not distracting, Shum's star is inexplicably blowing up. He's primarily a dancer, not an actor, but Sal is both big enough and unassuming enough a role for him to credibly play the part. Besides, Shum shows he's great at chemistry with his co-stars, something required for scenes with Sal's sister and his best friend/business partner.

Who is He: Daredevil motorcyclist...well, so he hopes. He can do it, he just needs to impress the public with better stunts than amateur hour allows him. Fortunately, his awesome skills on the bike are put to good use when it comes to navigating the frightening maze of a devastated Los Angeles -- even saving the life of a child in the process.

Originally played by:
Richard Roundtree (Shaft, Speed Racer)

My Choice:
Aaron Yoo (The Wackness, Friday the 13th)
I like Yoo, and he's enough of a THAT GUY to get some recognition from the audience. But aren't you tired of seeing him play the sidekick? He's funny, very comfortable on the screen, and just seems like a cool guy. Yes, get him on a motorcycle and let him play the hero for once.

Who is He: A grocery store manager who also serves with the National Guard. He's a shy, quiet guy, one teased by his "macho" neighbors because he has bodybuilder photos up in his room; they think he's pathetic. When the chips are down, though, Jody is the one in uniform saving lives...then using the lawlessness of the aftermath to execute his enemies and try to rape a local girl. Jody has issues.

Originally played by:
Marjoe Gortner (The Food of the Gods, Mausoleum)

My Choice:
Johnny Galecki ("Roseanne", "The Big Bang Theory")
Popular among the television crowd, Galecki is funny, fun to watch, and seems like someone you'd want to introduce to your sister. Or make friends with. Which is why he would work so well as the quiet Jody. The role requires someone who could bring sympathy before he goes all nuthouse on everyone. I have faith in Galecki. He's pretty cool.

Who is She: Sister to Sal, a beautiful young woman who is at the movies when the EARTHQUAKE hits. Separated from her brother, lost amid the wreckage, she doesn't consider it looting when she goes to get something to eat from a destroyed diner. Jody, who she only knows as her local grocery store manager, catches her, and while he won't turn her in, he is a bit rapey. Winds up somehow becoming a relatable heroine, not just a hot number.

Originally played by:
Victoria Principal (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, "Dallas")

My Choice:
Jamie Chung (Dragonball: Evolution, Sucker Punch)
I like Sucker Punch, certainly, and Chung's star seems to be rising more and more. She's beautiful and an absolute delight on screen. Also, it seems like she likes to have fun, and where better to have fun than in a DISASTERPIECE?

Who is He: Father of Remy, father-in-law/boss to Stuart. Royce is a fair-minded guy, I guess, valuing Stuart's skills enough to offer him the job of company president despite knowing that the marriage isn't working. When the EARTHQUAKE hits, Royce works to make sure all his employees make it to safety first, even improvising an escape using a fire hose and a chair. Then he has a heart attack and is rushed to the shelter, where he is tended to by Dr. Vance.

Originally played by:
Lorne Greene ("Bonanza", "Battlestar Galactica")

My Choice: Academy Award/SAG Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Million Dollar Baby), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy (Driving Miss Daisy), Indie Spirit Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Street Smart)
Morgan Freeman (Outbreak, Deep Impact)
The very picture of supporting actor selflessness. He'd class up the joint a bit.

Who is She: Daughter to the above, wife of Stuart, a jealous, unhappy alcoholic. Wealthy and spoiled, she wants Stuart's attention, even as she appears to simultaneously hate him. Frequently fakes suicide attempts, complains to her father, and shops. But seriously, if your husband was always visiting a beautiful young widow, wouldn't you be jealous?

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Mogambo), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actress (Bhowani Junction, On the Beach, The Night of the Iguana), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress - Drama/Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Night of the Iguana)
Ava Gardner (The Killers, Seven Days in May)

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee/Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress - Musical/Comedy (What's Love Got To Do with It?)
Angela Bassett (Malcolm X, Meet the Browns)
If the character is to be more serious, less hammy, Bassett is the actress who can ground Remy in reality. If the character is to be the over-the-top Gardner performance, Bassett is the actress who can bellow and gesticulate with abandon. She's got IT in spades.

Who is She: Actress and widow, her husband was killed -- I don't know, somehow -- and since then his best friend Stuart has been keeping her and her son company. They have also fallen in love, consummating their attraction during his lunch break. Alas, she is not with him later that afternoon, instead looking for her bike-riding son...and soon fears for his life when comes the EARTHQUAKE.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee/Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress [Drama] (Anne of the Thousand Days)
Genevieve Bujold (Coma, Dead Ringers)

My Choice: Indie Spirit Nominee for Best Actress (Lift), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Ray)
Kerry Washington (The Last King of Scotland, Night Catches Us)
Strength, vulnerability, beauty, warmth, a real Screen Presence. Yes, I need that for my heroine. Oh, and she just so happens to have it all! Excellent!

Who is He: Police sergeant on temporary suspension. Why? Simple: while pursuing a stoned car thief who hit a six-year-old girl without stopping, Slade ruined Zsa Zsa Gabor's hedges and upset an LA County sheriff. Then he punched the guy. Disillusioned with the injustice of the law, Slade is thinking of drinking his troubles away...until Mother Nature shakes up LA. Then it's off to Best Character in the Movie Mode for Slade, as he bravely helps others get to safety, saves Rosa, and teams up with Stuart.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Cool Hand Luke), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Cool Hand Luke, Airport)
George Kennedy (Airport '75, Airport '77)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Saving Private Ryan)
Vin Diesel (Find Me Guilty, Fast Five)
How has he not done a Disasterpiece yet? He's a fine actor, a kick-ass action star, beloved by all ages. I need an actor who can be both a cop who punches other cops and a sympathetic hero. Someone we all know from the bar or next door. Diesel is that guy.

Who is He: An architect (I think), though he may soon run the company. Employed by Royce, married to Remy, in love with Denise -- though he didn't mean to be, it just started to happen. Stuart saves Remy from falling debris, gets Royce medical help, teams up with Slade to save the world. When those staying in the underground shelter are trapped, with an aftershock threatening to flood them, Graff leads the rescue. Alongside Slade, of course.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Actor (Ben-Hur), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama and Musical/Comedy (The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, The Pigeon That Took Rome)
Charlton Heston (El Cid, Planet of the Apes)

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor [Drama] (Hotel Rwanda), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture (Crash), Indie Spirit Winner for Best First Feature (Crash), SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (Traffic, Crash)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, The Guard)
Don Cheadle needs more lead roles. He's such a great actor.


Andrew K. said...

Never paid much attention to The Big Bang Theory, it seemed silly, and then I saw Galecki on Entourage and immediately loathed him. It's inexplicable really...I just wanted to slap him (after I took all the gel out of his hair). Okay, that's random.

TomS said...

A nostalgia blowout...Where do I start??

First, I would like your opinion, in response to your very funny statement: "I am...THE 70'S!" Thirty or forty years from now, who do you think will embody the worst of the 2010's style? Who will we look back at with embarrassment?

Too bad you missed "Earthquake" in its first run. There was a glut of Disaster films at the time, so this one was made possible by a gimmick called Sensurround. Theaters were equipped with high-powered bass speakers which played a loud rumble that vibrated the seats. You would have loved it!

Marjoe Gortner was a Child- Evangelist-Preacher-turned-Actor. There was even a Documentary about him (in theaters!) called "Marjoe" (his name was a mash-up of Mary and Joseph...Really!!) Knowing that, it would have been a hoot to cast Kirk Cameron as Jody Joad!

I am loving Vin Diesel as the modern-day George Kennedy!

Not sure about Don Cheadle...he's too "sensitive" to fill Heston's NRA-lovin', granite-jawed shoes. How about Tom Selleck?

Ava Gardner was hilariously cast. If only for the absurd age factor, I would die laughing if Cicely Tyson was cast as Morgan Freeman's "daughter".

I had forgotten that Mario Puzo co-wrote the screenplay. That alone is worth giving the original another look. But I would be first in line to the premiere of your re-cast extravaganza!

Anonymous said...

I was at Universal when "Earthquake" was being filmed.
Here's some crazy info: I knew kip Niven when he was there. Mark Robson made "Valley of the Dolls". Dorothy Spencer edited "The Snake Pit"...speaking of editing, watch when Richard Roundtree (Miles Quade) re-does his bike-stunt again... he is never shown going around in that loop, it is the same clip of film showing what it's like moving in the loop! You see NO ONE completing the loop!
Universal made "AIRPORT" with an all star cast (as Ross Hunter desired) and it was a HIT! "Earthquake" had an all semi-star cast and was made for just $7million. It would Probably cost $50million to make the same movie now! Oh, and Kip Niven was also in "Airport '75".