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 come as a shock that somebody decided to make a Barbie movie.
Yet, what the Barbie movie has become is somewhat shocking. While there’s a lot that we still don‘t know about the plot, the fact the film is being directed by Oscar-nominee Greta Gerwig, based on a script co-written by her and her longtime writing partner Noah Baumbach, immediately shifts the perspective of Barbie from a “popcorn movie” to something that could perhaps mean a great deal more. And that’s before we get a look at the absolutely A-list cast that is now making up the movie, including Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Let's start off with the lead actress.
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 is now slated to take the lead as Barbie. Robbie is probably best known today for her role of 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 will be taking on the role of Barbie’s boyfriend. Not knowing what sort of movie this will be, it’s hard to guess what sort of Ken the actor will be, but Gosling has been a romantic lead in The Notebook, a sci-fi hero in Blade Runner 2049 and an endearing buffoon in The Nice Guys, so whatever Barbie asks of him as an actor, he can certainly provide.
While Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling have played comedy and drama in equal measure, a few of the other casting announcements from Barbie have a decidedly comedic slant, giving us perhaps an idea of the sort of movie we will get. None among them exemplify this more so than Will Ferrell. While the actor’s character has not been officially announced, word is that Will Ferrell will be playing a toy company CEO that might be Mattel, the company that owns Barbie, or perhaps it's a competitor or a fictional company based on Mattel. Either way, it appears to add some sort of meta-narrative to the plot, which really opens up what this movie could actually be about.
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 will go from Kim’s Convenience to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to Barbie, and while we're officially in the dark about who Liu is playing in Barbie, the current rumor is that he will be playing another Ken. It’s clear that Liu’s stock has jumped significantly thanks to his recent work with Marvel. It's also been revealed that Liu's role in Barbie will involve a dance sequence.
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. She was most recently part of the Apple TV+ limited series WeCrashed, which co-stared Jared Leto and the almost-Barbie Anne Hathaway.
Kate McKinnon is set to join her Bombshell co-star Margot Robbie, as she will also be part of the Barbie movie in an as-yet unknown role. 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. McKinnon will next be heard as Lulu the hairless guinea pig in DC League of Super-Pets.
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. His most recent role is in Life & Beth on Hulu alongside the woman who was once Barbie, Amy Schumer.
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. She’ll be seen next in Emily, a film about the life of author Emily Brontë.
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. While we don't know officially who Gatwa is playing, the word is he is playing Ken, just like both Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu.
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 also appeared in the 2020 Jane Austin Adaptation Emma, and he’ll next be seen in the BBC’s SAs: Rogue Heroes.
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. Prior to being seen in Barbie, she’ll appear in Space Oddity, the feature film directorial debut from Kyra Sedgewick.
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 will she be appearing in the high-profile Barbie movie, but she’ll also be voicing the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Rae's role in Barbie has not been officially confirmed, but the word is that in the same way Simu Liu and Ncuti Gatwa are playing additional Kens, she will be playing Barbie along with Margot Robbie.
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 will likely become an even more recognizable face very soon. Likely before the Barbie movie hits big screens, the actor will be seen 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. Will she be “young Barbie” in the Barbie movie? It’s certainly possible.
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. As far as know, Perlman will appear in the flesh in her Barbie role.
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. Now she'll be taking part in Barbie.
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.
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.
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, but her role in the Barbie movie is potentially significant as she, like Issa Rae, will be playing an additional Barbie.
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."
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.
Ana Cruz Kanye
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.
With a cast this extensive and utterly impressive, the movie based on a plastic doll is one that should not be overlooked. Considering that the movie may actually include multiple actresses in the title role, as well as multiple Kens, of different ethnicities, we could see a Barbie movie that's looking to not simply cash in on the iconic name but say something significant about what Barbie means to the larger culture.
Whether Barbie will live up its potential, only time will tell, but there is no question that the potential of this one is nearly limitless. Barbie will be released on July 21, 2023.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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