Elisabeth Rappe December 22, 2010
It’s only been a year since Timur Bekmambetov decided he would hunt the great white whale known as Moby Dick. He recently told Empire that his version would involve extraordinary whalers and a supernatural beast, which fits with earlier reports that it would be “a graphic novel style version.” The world doesn’t even need to wonder what that actually means, as curving bullets have been mentioned. Flying whales have been mentioned. Surely, they can even work in a gratuitous sex scene.
But news has been appallingly scarce and slow about this production. We don’t even have whispers of interested stars, simply confirmations that Bill Collage and Adam Cooper are still typing up the screenplay. The delay is understandable. Reading and understanding Herman Melville is more perilous than the open sea. It’s going to take ages to not only read Moby Dick, but boil it down into something that looks awesome in a Comic-Con sizzle reel.
In the spirit of the holiday season — and because we here at Film.com really don’t know what else to buy the man — I’ve decided to help Bekmambetov out. I skipped ahead and cast Moby Dick for him. In the spirit of “graphic novel style,” I focused on lean, handsome, and young actors who will look best staring into digital rain, or splattered with digital blood. I also focused on box-office viability, so you can expect Mr. Taylor Lautner’s “Tashtego” to be more of a powerhouse on board the Pequod. And probably have superpowers. I didn’t even try to tackle what those might be, simply because I can’t compete with the idea of a flying, bullet-bending whale.
Despite that imaginative failing, I think I did OK. Thanks to my hard work, his screenwriters know who to write for and what to aim for. (Get Lautner wet. Give Isaac lots of speeches and a revenge plot.) Bekmembatove barely has to work with them. Now he can just concentrate on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This casting list is also the gift that keeps on giving for Film.com, as we can sleep at night knowing another property has dodged the casting list and rumor machine.
So, without further ado, here’s your cast for Timur Bekmambetov’s Moby Dick.
Ishmael … James Franco
Ishmael is a brooding and cryptic outsider, a man sailing under an alias. Melville’s original wasn’t out for revenge and explanations about his long lost father, but this Ishmael undoubtedly is. Our first pick — and the studios — was Leonardo DiCaprio, but he’s booked up until the end of time. In the 21st century, Ishmael needs to be chiseled and charismatic as he broods, so we’ve cast the king of the offbeats, James Franco. He too has a full slate, but he’s making room for this. Something about it being an art project, and not what people expect, and so on.
Captain Ahab … Jeff Bridges
Bekmembetov’s Ahab is going to be more of a charismatic leader than a madman, but here’s hoping Bridges can convince him to keep the bombast in. While this is a youth-oriented production, we need someone with cool gravitas to steer the ship, and no one has that more than Bridges. The actor is quirky enough to embrace offbeat projects, and brave enough to play a role made legendary by both Gregory Peck and Patrick Stewart. Few can invent catchphrases like Bridges. Prepare for “To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!” to become the next “Tonight we dine in hell!” or “Dude, here!”
Starbuck … Joseph Gordon-Levitt
A young and intelligent Quaker from Nantucket, first mate Starbuck’s main desire is to return to his young wife and son. He becomes so desperate to do so that he contemplates shooting Ahab with one of the captain’s own muskets, but ultimately feels bound by his duty and obligation to the ship and its captain. The audience needs to have their heart broken by Starbuck, who will be conscientious and romantic. Happily, Joseph Gordon-Levitt agreed he really embodied that wistfulness, and signed on to go down with the ship.
Stubb … Slaine
I needed a Boston boy to play this Cape Cod second mate, so I raided Ben Affleck’s directory and cast native rapper Slaine. Stubb has to be an articulate man who can rattle off a constant commentary while smoking a pipe. Slaine has proved his chops in Gone Baby Gone and The Town, and I’m delighted that he’s moving away from the mean Massachusetts streets and into the sea. He’ll be contributing to the soundtrack too. Remember, this isn’t John Huston’s Moby Dick. We need some hip-hop in the background!
Flask … Konstantin Khabenskiy
It’s a Bekmambetov film, so Khabenskiy has to have a part. Flask is a man who is personally affronted by whalekind, and sees harpooning them to be a point of honor. After being stuck with such a garbled role in Wanted, I think Khabenskiy deserves something grim, gritty, and determined. Flask is that part.
Queequeg … Kevin Alejandro
Queequeg is one of those awful native stereotypes that litter so much classic literature. (At least Melville made him part of a fictional tribe so he can’t offend anyone.) I’m not sure how much of the idols and cannibalism will make it into the script, but I’m willing to bet this is the first character to tap into superpowers. He talks to an idol, after all, and he’s a ripped powerhouse who is awesome with a harpoon. Alejandro has experience with the weird thanks to True Blood, and has impressed me on television again and again. I want to give him a big-screen break. Plus he will look fantastic all buffed and tattooed up.
Fedallah … Oscar Isaac
Fedallah is a really appalling Middle Eastern stereotype, described as having one tooth sticking out of prominent lips. Obviously, that will be cut. But he’ll remain a shadowy companion of Ahab who has his own agenda. Again, I suspect this is a character who will be loaded with mystical powers. He’s able to make prophecies in the book, so it’s just a tiny leap into a full psychic and telekenetic. The man for the part is Isaac, who gives the character sex appeal and will make him sympathetic, scary, and magical.
Tashtego … Taylor Lautner
A Native American harpooner. It’s an inevitable choice for the tween dollar. Since Tashtego is the ultimate hunter, expect him to be able to transform into a shark.
Pip … Jaden Smith
Pip is a smart young boy who is driven mad by being abandoned in the open water for hours. His words take on a strange mystical foreshadowing. In a supernatural take, it will be less “wise fool” and a direct connection with Moby Dick’s thoughts, which will first seem like bloodthirsty ravings. Dark stuff for young Smith, but he’ll get to practice his martial arts on a whale, so it will balance out just fine.
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