If video game fans thought that the early pandemic years were huge for video game legend Hideo Kojima, 2023 and beyond are shaping out to be even more impressive. The imagination-oozing storyteller only just recently delivered a holiday surprise in the form of confirming Death Stranding 2's existence with a teaser, and now he's revealed a film adaptation of Death Stranding will be the first feature project for his company Kojima Productions. I know I'm not the only one with a growing list of questions, such as "Will the movie maintain the game's all-star cast, as led by Walking Dead star Norman Reedus?" (We all say "as led by" in our heads, right?)
A game that has already drawn mass (though certainly not universal) acclaim for its already cinematic scope and narrative, as well as its varied cast, Death Stranding will still no doubt be a challenge to adapt into a format with a limited frame and runtime. It’s unclear just how deeply involved Kojima will be in the creative process at this early stage, though it’s noted that he will “develop and produce” the project through Kojima Productions alongside Alex Lebovici and his Hammerstone Studios banner. (Lebovici was an EP on the Stephen King-approved and crowd-stupefying horror Barbarian, which is a good sign.) So it’s likely the Metal Gear mastermind will be in charge of figuring out the story’s main beats, if not the entire screenplay.
The Death Stranding feature is reported as being “on the fast track” and is in active development. The game’s specific plot will remain a mystery for the time being, though it’s already been confirmed that the adaptation will introduce new characters and elements into the branching universe. And since new characters means new actors, let’s talk about the game’s stellar cast and whether or not it’s feasible for everyone/anyone to return.
For a quick rundown of Death Stranding's lead and recurring cast members:
- Norman Reedus
- Mads Mikkelsen
- Léa Seydoux
- Margaret Qualley
- Lindsay Wagner
- Tommie Earl Jenkins
- Troy Baker
- Guillermo Del Toro
- Emily O'Brien
- Conan O'Brien
Interestingly enough, some of the on-screen talent such as Guillermo Del Toro and Nicholas Winding Refn were only recorded through motion-capture, while their characters’ voices were provided by other actors. (Anyone familiar with Del Toro or Refn’s voices no doubt felt a shock upon hearing what came from their digital mouths in Death Stranding.) But for the biggest and most-present characters, the actor and their voices match up.
Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen would arguably be the must-get actors here, with Reedus’ Sam Porter Bridger the lonely protagonist to Mikkelsen’s militant antagonist Clifford Unger. Which isn’t to downplay the importance of Margaret Qualley or Lindsay Wagner’s characters in the slightest, or anyone else, but considering Death Stranding’s story largely keeps appearances from non-Sam characters to a minimum for much of its playthrough time, it’d be easier to explain away other casting changes.
Reedus is currently in France filming the Walking Dead spinoff series Daryl Dixon, and has presumably already filmed the next season of his AMC series Ride (with Keanu Reeves as an upcoming guest star). He was recently revealed to be joining the cast of the John Wick spinoff Ballerina, and Death Stranding 2 is also presumably taking up some of his time. Assuming the Death Stranding feature takes a bit to come together behind the scenes, Reedus could possibly make room in his schedule to bring Sam out to deliver an endless line of cargo across the Knot Cities that form the post-cataclysm United Cities of America.
Meanwhile, Mads Mikkelsen will soon be seen opposite Harrison Ford in the cast of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and was recently announced to be reteaming with Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller for the horror film Dust Bunny. He’ll also be seen in the upcoming Nikolaj Arcel drama The Bastard, Similar to Reedus, an opening in his schedule should make it easier for the actor to take on Unger in live-action, should he so choose.
I can’t wait to hear more about how Death Stranding will change up its story for adaptation purposes, which will likely amount to way more than the alterations made for the Director’s Cut release. Now if we could just get that long-awaited announcement from Kojima Productions about P.T. coming back from the digital grave, that’d be swell.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper. Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.