Maybe there really should have been only one, but the Highlander franchise seems to be Immortal. Cut off its head and someone else absorbs its power, and the whole thing keeps right on going. At least this time, they're dropping the sequels and starting over. Summit is planning a Highlander reboot (more details here), directed by Fast & Furious helmer Justin Lin. They're restarting the Highlander mythos from scratch and they're going to need an all new cast.
Now it's Summit, so odds are they'll spare us all to death by handing the Twilight cast swords and letting them look longingly at each other while they hold them. But I'm a Highlander fan, and I think we've suffered enough. Summit, before you cast Dakota Fanning as The Kurgan, take a look at the cast I have in mind.
Connor MacLeod is a Celtic warrior born in the Scottish Highlands in 1536, and he's still alive. He's brooding, haunted, and tends to keep to himself. The actor cast in the part must be of medium build and comfortable wearing a kilt. That doesn't mean he has to be Scottish, in the original film he's played by Frenchman Christopher Lambert attempting a vaguely strange Scottish accent. Still as long as we're doing this over why not do it right and go with a native. The temptation here will be to go with a big star, someone whose name they can put on the posters to sell it. On the other hand Summit Entertainment has some experience creating a sensation out of unknowns, they did it with Twilight and maybe we can talk them into doing it again with Highlander.
Right Choice: There's really only one man to play Connor. His name is Kevin McKidd. If you know him at all, you probably know McKidd as one of the dreamy doctors on Grey's Anatomy or as the sensitive time traveler on television's short-lived Journeyman. But he's also capable of picking up a sword, as he did on Rome, or strapping on a kilt and playing a tough as nails Scotsman as he did in, believe it or not, Made of Honor. McKidd was born in Elgin, Scotland so he won't have to fake the accent, he's been around the occasional sword, he has the right build, he's about the right age, and most of all, he can act. McKidd's been right on the cusp of blowing up for years now. This is the perfect role for him and rumor has it that Summit agrees. McKidd claimed back in 2008 that he'd been approached about the role.
Hollywood Choice: Should they be tempted to go with a “name” they can flash in the credits, don't be surprised if they go after Gerard Butler. Or there's always Viggo Mortensen and Karl Urban. The Scottish actor default more often than not, seems to be James McAvoy but it's hard to imagine the star of Wanted playing a burly Celtic warrior. I can live with any of those as long as it's not Orlando Bloom or worse, since it's Summit, Robert Pattinson.
Ramirez is a much older Immortal who discovers Connor and takes him under his wing. He's the movie's obligatory mentor character. Originally played by Sean Connery, Ramirez styles himself as a Spaniard even though he was actually born in Egypt in 896 BC. That of course, doesn't explain Connery's Scottish accent. He also carries a Japanese dragon head katana which he eventually passes on to Connor. The character's multi-cultural, quirky, somewhat elderly, overweight, and has a wicked sense of humor.
Right Choice: Should Summit actually cast Kevin McKidd as Connor they'll be even more tempted to go with a big name here, but I'm going to make this plea anyway: Cast Mandy Patinkin. Imagine an elderly version of Inigo Montoya instructing Connor in the ways of the Quickening and you'll get what I'm going for here. Granted Ramirez isn't actually a Spaniard, but he's patterned himself after one and who better to teach Connor MacLeod swordplay than someone who dedicated his entire life to becoming a swordsman. Granted, Patinkin isn't exactly in fighting shape these days. He's gotten fat and old and saggy, but that's ok. He's playing the elderly mentor character here and Connery wasn't exactly fighting trim when he played the part either. If for some reason they can't get Patinkin consider Billy Connolly. His comedic brand of insanity is a perfect fit for Ramirez's tough love sensibility.
Hollywood Choice: You just know they're going to want to cast Liam Neeson. He's the mentor character default for any movie, particular those which involve swordplay. Neeson would almost certainly, knock it out of the park, but he's played so many of these Ramirez-like characters by now that it's a horrible cliché. Time for something new.
The Kurgan is Highlander's bad guy, a physically imposing barbarian warrior born into an ancient tribe known primarily for tossing its children into pits full of starved dogs to watch them fight for their amusement. He's not a nice man. The Kurgan shows up ancient Scotland to scar Connor forever and he's there at the end as the final remaining Immortal who Connor must fight and defeat to win the elusive “prize”. In the original film he's played by Clancy Brown, a 6'3” American actor with a deep voice and physically imposing presence.
Right Choice: I'm going to take a complete left turn here and suggest they forget trying to find a Clancy Brown clone and instead go a completely different direction with the character. Bring in a John Malkovich or if you really want to think outside the box, consider casting Shirley Manson. She's been playing a cold-hearted bitch killer on television's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and barbarian badass isn't much of a stretch from that. In the original Highlander women were relegated to nookie girls but it's 2009, so why not give the girls something more to do? Let her kick Connor MacLeod's ass.
Hollywood Choice: When Hollywood thinks physically imposing badass, they think Gerard Butler. If they go with McKidd for Connor maybe they'll blow their Butler wad here. Besides, he's sort of due to play a bad guy. If they're short on cash though, don't be surprised to see Summit cast some horrible wrestler. John Cena anyone?
Freddie Mercury isn't actually in the movie but Queen wrote and performed the soundtrack and, as much as any of the actors in the film, it went on to define and shape Highlander's aesthetic. Their music is a key component in what made Highlander such a cult phenomenon. Songs like “Don't Lose Your Head” and “Who Wants To Live Forever” went on to define an entire generation of sword-swinging, mullet-wearing, metal-heads.
Right Choice: Rock is dead and so is Freddie Mercury. If he's smart director Justin Lin will still find a way to work in a few songs, either the classic Queen version or the odd remake of them. But bottom line they're going to need someone else and a generic John Williams soundtrack just won't do. As long as they've got Shirley Manson it might make sense to bring in Garbage but odds are Summit will want something at least a little more trendy. This is the Twilight studio after all. That only leaves Muse, the closest thing Queen has to a modern successor. They've got the right kind of underground indie sound and while they don't necessarily perform drunk (come on pick up a bottle you assholes) they're rumored to have the same kind of over the top live show energy Queen had on stage. Give them a call. Anything but Dragonforce.
Hollywood Choice: These days when Hollywood wants a rock soundtrack they invariably hire Linkin Park. Brace yourselves, it'll happen.