This Dec. 25th Quentin Tarantino’s venture into westerns drops on movie-viewing audiences everywhere when Django Unchained (the D is silent) opens in a theater near you.
Django Unchained is to be a loose remake of sorts to the classic 1966 Sergio Corbucci film Django. Starring Franco Nero (who you’ll remember as General Ramon Esperanza from Die Hard 2) Django was reputed to be one of the most violent films ever produced up until that point. It’s no wonder that of all the spaghetti westerns which have obviously helped to shape Tarantino’s vision as a film director that it would be Django he opts to remake.
Starring in the remake are Oscar-winner from his work in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009) Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson (of course) and Jamie Fox – to name but a few. It is Jamie Fox who will be inhereting the eponymous role of Django in the remake.
Since remakes are all the rage in Hollywood these days, this got me to thinking: what if the greatest spaghetti western ever made, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), was remade? How would it be cast?
Well if I had my way, the casting call would go something like this…
“Frank” – Originally played by Henry Fonda
The classic antoganist archetype of ‘Frank’ was played to perfection by Henry Fonda. Of course Fonda’s being cast as the main villain in the film came as somewhat of a surprise to movie audiences everywhere. Henry Fonda after all once played Abe Lincoln. Fonda was certainly no stranger to westerns before making Once Upon a Time in the West, he had previously starred in a number of classics in the genre – but he was always the good guy. Dressed in black and just being an all-around evil asshole (you know killing kids, forcing women whose husband he’s killed into bed with him and kicking around the handicapped, that sort of thing) was a major departure for Fonda. So if ever a remake was made another actor with tremendous range who’d be the last person imaginable to play such a villain should therefore be tapped to play this ultimate western douchebag, naturally. The actor I then choose for the part is: Tom Hanks.
Hanks is as accomplished as any actor we have today – He’s about the right age (Harrison Ford would have been a good choice as well, but ten years too old) and indeed is the last person you’d expect to ever be cast in this sort of role. He’s already been compared to Jimmy Stewart in the past, another classic good-guy-everyman of the same ilk as Fonda. Well here’d be Hanks’ chance to really break the mold.
“Cheyenne” – Originally played by Jason Robards
Despite being the unconventional sidekick to the main protaganist Harmonica, Cheyenne has a lot of scene to chew. Cheyenne is probably one of the most complex characters ever written for a western. The great Jason Robards was the original Cheyenne, who brought to the part a necessary pathos to the multifarious nature of this character. Cheyenne probably has the most, and the best, dialogue of all the characters in the film – therefore this role would warrant the very best character actor acting has to offer. As such, for the role of Cheyenne I would cast: Daniel Day-Lewis.
Day-Lewis’ accomplishments are second to none – and we’ve already seen him play a similar type character in a period piece before: as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York (2002). Cheyenne and Bill the Butcher are two characters cut from the same cloth – only one was bloodthirsty, diabolical and completely lacking in humanity (I’m speaking of Bill the Butcher here) where as the other has empathy and a strong sense of irony. It would be interesting to see Day-Lewis slip back into that Bill the Butcher character again and this time instill some of the altruistic traits of Cheyenne and see what comes of it. Or maybe he’d have something else in mind for the character. Either way, just like everything Day-Lewis does it would undoubtedly be awesome.
“Harmonica” – Originally played by the baddest mother fucker of all, Charles Bronson
When you talk Hollywood bad asses there is one actor who stands atop the mountain over all others, and he is of course Charles Bronson. This role however, is a little different. In Once Upon a Time in the West Bronson plays the part of the mysterious unnamed protagonist – given the name Harmonica due to his playing a harmonica in place of dialogue throughout the film – and is perhaps the most vulnerable character Bronson has ever played. Harmonica is a difficult role to cast if for no other reason it’s extremely difficult to see anyone else in this role after the impression Bronson leaves. In which case, I think the best option to play the part in a remake would be: Viggo Mortensen
Viggo is the type of actor who carries with him that sense of wonder even the greatest of actors sometimes lack. Harmonica is the type of character that requires a delicate quiet sensibility on the players part. That’s what Viggo can bring – and therefore the best option available, imho.
“Jill” – Originally played by the succulent Claudia Cardinale
If you ever find yourself in a discussion pertaining to the hottest most desireable all-time actresses one would ever hope to nail – and let’s be honest, we’ve all had that convo at one point or another – you’d be missing the boat entirely if Claudia Cardinale doesn’t enter into the mix. Oh, and by the way, she was a really good actress too. As the widow Jill in OUaTitW Claudia’s character finds herself unexpectedly in the eye of a storm which threatens her in every conceivable manner. And as complex as Cheyenne’s character is he’s not even the most complex character in the film – because that title goes to Jill. Her methods and motives are sometimes of a nebulous nature throughout the majority of the film. For a remake an actress of equl beauty, mystery and quality is required. The actress I cherry pick for this part then is: Monica Bellucci.
Like Claudia, Monica is a native European. Like Claudia, Monica is a very underrated actress. And like Claudia, Monica is extremely hot. Even their cleavage is on par with one another. I rest my case.
“Morton the Railroad Baron” – Originally played by Gabriele Ferzetti
Morton the Railroad Baron is the crippled industrialist who dreams of bringing the railroad west, as he longs to see the Pacific Ocean. Morton is also an unscrupulous tycoon who has hired Frank’s gang to make sure he has no problems in terms of way being made for his railroad. Despite being the wealthy financier of this massive undertaking Morton is vulnerable due to no longer being able to walk – and as such he seems to have developed a sense of morality that most characters of his type typically lack. An understated character in the film, Morton still requires an actor with skill. But a remake to Once Upon a Time in the West is ripe for an ensemble cast – therefore taking up Ferzetti’s mantle as Morton – I would cast: Sylvester Stallone.
If there is one actor who can appreciate an ensemble cast it is Sly. This would be an entirely new type of role for Stallone – one I can see him succeeding in. People discount Stallone as an actor of quality, butthis is a mistake. I like the idea of seeing Stallone perform from a wheelchair as a weak feeb throughout a film. Sylvester Stallone has impeccable acting skills and in a supporting role of this nature I think he’d surprise a lot of people.
“McBain” – Originally played by Frank Wolff
Ah, McBain, the character whose actions set the stage for the passion play that is Once Upon a Time in the West. Despite the fact he appears (and belongs) in one single scene – it’s the most pivotal sequence of the film. McBain is the shrewd and strapping red-headed Irishman, in a short but memorable performance by Frank Wolff, who owns the mysterious patch of land he dubs Sweetwater – a very significant patch of land to say the least. McBain would require an actor who you can believe would be able to survive in the middle of a desert with his family for years at a time, but also an actor who you’d love to see beat his red-headed ginger children. Therefore, is there a better choice for this role than: Chuck Norris?
The answer is no. There isn’t. Chuck Norris would be perfect for this role for so many reasons. If you’re familiar with the original – and the legend of the name McBain – they’d be more apparent to you.
Once Upon a Time in the West is a sweeping opus of mythical proportions and stands as the masterpiece of Sergio Leone’s career. Very few westerns reach the transcendent level this film achieves. A remake of this classic is totally and completely unnecessary, but so were remakes to Total Recall, Red Dawn, Psycho, The Pink Panther, I can go on and on… and on – Django too, for that matter. This is all in hypothtical fun.
At least, I hope it’s hypothetical.
(source: LICK NYC)