Movie studios are always looking for ways to hedge their financial bets and to guarantee, as much as possible, that any film project will be a success. Anything with name recognition is fair game, which is why so many movies are sequels to previous hits or films based on comic books, video games, or even board games. Knowing this, it probably shouldn't have come as a shock that somebody decided to make a Barbie movie.
Yet, what the Barbie movie has become is somewhat shocking. Barbie was directed by Oscar-nominee Greta Gerwig, based on a script co-written by her and her longtime writing partner Noah Baumbach. From the moment that became known expectations of Barbie as a “popcorn movie” shifted to something else entirely.
What we got was still a fun summer blockbuster, but one that had a lot more going on. It clearly resonated with fans as Barbie went on to become the second film of 2023 to make $1 billion at the global box office. One assumes Barbie will be just as big a hit now that it has arrived on Digital platforms. While the filmmakers behind the camera deserve a lot of the credit, one cannot overlook the incredible cast.
You can’t have a Barbie movie without Barbie, and while the film previously had Amy Schumer and then Anne Hathaway attached in the title role at various points, Margot Robbie was the Barbie that got the movie made. Robbie was probably best known today for her role as Harley Quinn in three DC movies, including 2021's The Suicide Squad. She’s also a two-time Oscar nominee for her supporting role in the Fox News drama Bombshell and her lead role in the dark comedy biopic I, Tonya.
Barbie needs her Ken, and while Hollywood has no shortage of actors who could pass for a live-action Ken doll, Ryan Gosling took on the role of Barbie’s boyfriend. Unlike the character's namesake doll, the Barbie movie was as much about Ken as it was Barbie, with Gosling's character functionally playing the villain, if a hapless one. It was an incredible performance that actually has people talking about an Oscar nomination for Gosling.
While Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling have played comedy and drama in equal measure, a few of the other casting announcements from Barbie had a decidedly comedic slant. None among them exemplified this more so than Will Ferrell. Will Ferrell played the CEO of the toy company Mattel, the company that owns Barbie. While Ferrell's character was as silly as the actor usually is, he's also one of the few people who knows what's going on when Ken and Barbie cross over to the real world from Barbie World.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Simu Liu was a moderately famous person in a well-received comedy, but now he’s a Marvel hero and a global superstar. Simu Liu went from Kim’s Convenience to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to Barbie, where played another Ken, a sort of foil for Gosling's character, as both competed for the affection of Robbie's Barbie, even if they didn't really understand why.
Fans of the NBC comedy Superstore or the cult hit ABC series Ugly Betty will require no introduction to America Ferrera. On the big screen, she was a member of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as well as the voice of Astrid in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise from DreamWorks Animation. In Barbie, she plays one of the key human characters, who inadvertently causes the problems for Barbie that lead her into the human world.
Kate McKinnon is set to join her Bombshell co-star Margot Robbie, as she will also be part of the Barbie movie. McKinnon is, of course, best known for her long run on Saturday Night Live. On the big screen, she appeared in the Ghostbusters reboot, but has also done a significant amount of voice work in animated films and TV, from Pixar’s Finding Dory to Netflix’s The Magic School Bus. As "Weird Barbie" McKinnon suffered the fate that so many children's toys often do, though that turned her into a sort of sage.
Michael Cera jumped onto a lot of people’s radar back in 2007 thanks to his roles in both Superbad and Juno. From there, he has appeared in cult hits like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and actual box office hits like The LEGO Batman Movie. He’s probably best known for his role as George-Michael Bluth in Arrested Development. In Barbie Cera played Alan, the only male resident of Barbie Land who was not Ken. He's designed to be second fiddle, but he steals every scene he's in.
One potential surprise in the Barbie cast came from a character who was heard, but never seen. Hellen Mirren narrated the first Barbie trailer, but that wasn't a one-off deal. She actually narrated the entire film, and also had some of the best jokes in the movie, including a hilarious Barbie F-bomb that was cut from the script.
Emma Mackey is something of a newcomer with only a handful of credits to her name to date, but in a short time, she has become a pretty big star. She’s one of three cast members from Netflix’s Sex Education to join Barbie, and she was recently part of the star-studded cast of Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile. Mackey portrayed yet another Barbie.
One of Emma Mackay’s co-stars on Sex Education who will be part of Barbie is Ncuti Gatwa, and while Barbie will no doubt mark the young actor’s biggest role on the big screen to date when it is released, it’s clear Gatwa has a bright future. He's been cast as the new Doctor in BBC’s Doctor Who, taking over the role from Jodie Whittaker. Gatwa will be the first person of color to lead the series, and the second Black actor to play The Doctor following Jo Martin's recurring run as the Fugitive Doctor. Gatwa played yet another Ken from Barbie Land.
Connor Swindells finishes out the Sex Education cast trifecta. We don’t know anything more about his role in Barbie than we do his other two cast-mates, so whether or not any of them will even cross paths is a mystery. If nothing else, it’s a testament to the casting of the Netflix series. Swindells appears in Barbie as Aaron Dinkins, a Mattel employee who has the unfortunate task of informing the company that Barbie has gone rogue.
Marvel fans know Alexandra Shipp for playing the younger version of Storm in the last couple of X-Men movies produced under Fox pre-Disney. More recently, she played Susan, the love interest of Andrew Garfield's Jonathan Larson, in Tick…Tick…Boom! for Netflix. She appeared in Barbie as yet another Barbie.
Issa Rae is a successful writer, producer, and actress, and her name has only become more recognizable since the success of HBO show Insecure. As big a name as she has become, however, 2023 is getting ready to be perhaps her biggest year to date. Not only did she appear as a Barbie in the Barbie movie, but she also voiced the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse the same summer.
Kingsley Ben-Adir is an actor you’ll recognize if you’re a fan of Peaky Blinders or if you happened to catch the short-lived High Fidelity series on Hulu. His highest profile role was playing Malcolm X in the Oscar-nominated One Night in Miami, but Ben-Adir is probably a lot more recognizable now. At the same time that he played a Ken in the Barbie movie, he was also in Marvel’s Secret Invasion series on Disney+.
Ariana Greenblatt is one of many young stars to get her start at the House of Mouse. She had a regular series role on the Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle. Since then, she’s made a somewhat unusual habit of playing the “young” version of several major franchise characters, like young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War, young Velma in Scoob and young Nina in In the Heights. Greenblatt played Sasha, the daughter to America Ferrara's character, who once played with Barbie, but has since grown out of the dolls.
Rhea Perlman will always be known first and foremost for her role as waitress Carla on the hit NBC sitcom Cheers. If you feel like you haven’t seen her in TV or movies as much recently, it’s possibly because you’ve heard her much more. Perlman has done a lot of voice-over work, including the voice of Cid in Disney+’s animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars spinoff The Bad Batch. Perlman had a small but vital role in Barbie as Ruth, and if you don't know more than that, we're not spoiling it.
Of all the actors who play Ken in Barbie, John Cena is perhaps the most entertaining. He only appears in a couple of brief scenes, but the fact that he plays a merman version of Ken is hilarious in itself. It becomes that much funnier when we learn Cena was apparently just in the neighborhood, and filmed a cameo for fun.
Emerald Fennell is best known today for her work behind the camera, particularly as the Oscar-winning writer of Promising Young Woman, as much as she's known for her acting. Fennell has nearly two dozen acting credits to her name, including playing Nurse Patsy Mount in Call the Midwife and as Camila Parker Bowles on Netflix’s The Crown. She played Midge in Barbie, a discontinued member of the toy lineup.
With more than 60 acting credits to his name in less than a decade, Jamie Demetriou has been a quite prolific performer, and his breadth of appearances is such that you have almost certainly seen him somewhere. He's had roles in everything from Disney’s Cruella to Paddington 2 to Hulu’s The Great. Most recently, he played the role of Walt on Apple TV+’s hit series The Afterparty. He appears in Barbie as one of the Mattel executives.
Ritu Arya has had roles in the BBC’s Sherlock and Doctor Who, but she’s become a more familiar face to US audiences thanks to a pair of appearances on Netflix. She played Inspector Urvashi Das, the character chasing after Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds' characters, in Red Notice, and she’s also Lila Pitts on The Umbrella Academy. She joined the parade of Barbies in the movie.
Hari Nef has more than two dozen acting credits to her name including appearances including Amazon's Transparent and Netflix's You. She had a role in the pilot of the L.A. Law reboot that we'll now never see. She appeared in Barbie as another of the Barbie characters.
Sharon Rooney will look much more familiar to audiences in the UK, following turns in series like My Mad Fat Diary, Brief Encounters and Two Doors Down. U.S. audiences will know her best from the live-action remake of Disney's Dumbo, where she played the role of Miss Atlantis, the woman who sings the iconic song "Baby Mine." She appears in Barbie as Barbie. But not that Barbie, the other Barbie.
Scott Evans spent two years on the soap opera One Life to Live on ABC. He's also played small roles in a number of TV shows and movies including appearances in Law & Order, Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, and White Collar. More recently, he played Oliver in Netflix's Grace & Frankie. He's part of the army of Kens found of Barbie Land.
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Ana Cruz Kayne will be reuniting with Greta Gerwig when she appears in the Barbie movie. Kayne previously appeared in Little Women. She'll be appearing soon in Painkiller, a limited series starring Mathew Broderick focusing on the birth of the opioid crisis. She is yet another Barbie.
With a cast this extensive and utterly impressive, we knew Barbie was likely to be a lot of fun. However, there was no way to know what a massive hit the film would become. The story resonated was audiences in a bit way, on its way to incredible box office success. This is the sort of movie that audiences are going to want to own, so we can expect the Blu-ray sales to be equally solid when Barbie arrives on physical media.
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