Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apocalypse What?

James O. Born

The other day I watched a few minutes of Francis Ford Coppola's classic Apocalypse Now. To see a relatively young Martin Sheen wrestle with his conscience about how he will deal with the legendary soldier Col. Kurtz played by the legendary actor Marlon Brando, is a treat to any cinema buff. But it got me thinking who would play those roles if the movie were shot today?

The question exposed my lack of knowledge about today's crop of new actors. I have certain favorites like everyone. I think George Clooney is a pretty good actor who makes entertaining films. I think Quentin Tarantino is a very good director. But there is no way I believe Tarantino could direct a film like this or that Clooney could play either of the roles.

The one actor that came to mind for the Martin Sheen role was Edward Norton. This modern chameleon never fails to entertain and amaze me from stupid comedies like Death to Smoochy to complex dramas like American History X, Norton is a master of subtlety and intensity. He can pull off the Martin Sheen role. There are a number of actors that could fill in the supporting roles (Except for Robert Duval's Cavalry Colonel). But the one that escapes me, the big gap in my modern cinema knowledge, is who could play Col. Kurtz?

It wasn't only the dark brooding intensity that Brando brought to the role but his whole aura as one of America's greatest actors. He was bigger than life (almost literally as well). He was a great actor. And his musings and unscripted rants made his role in the Vietnam war movie that much more interesting. No matter how much I think about it, I cannot come up with one current American actor with the same qualifications. This is not an insult to the actors. At least not an intentional one. But it is a question I would like answered.

What actor could you see in the challenging role that Brando made his own? Anyone who answers Brad Pitt will earn a verbal smack down from me as well as Paul Levine.


  1. I've always been a great fan of William Hurt. He's just strange enough to pull it off, even though his choice of roles lately has been suspect. I just think he is a fantastic actor (think Kiss of the Spider Woman, Broadcast News).
    Another highly under rated actor is Jeff Bridges...
    I've always loved playing casting director for movies, or should I say "re-casting." i.e. Armaund Assante as Tony Soprano.
    Great Post...

  2. Jeff Bridges probably could pull it off, now that you mention it.

    Morgan Freeman?

    Oh, I don't know. I like to cast against type. How about Johnny Depp as the Sheen character and Jack Black as the Brando character. :)

  3. Ed Harris, maybe?

  4. Jeff Bridges can do virtually anything, but I wonder if he's ever done anything quite so dark.

    I think William Hurt is an inspired choice. So little said about him now that he's lost his hair and gone into character actor mold.

    Duvall, yes. Ed Harris, too. (All three a little long-in-the-tooth, but what the hell).

    I hope that smiley face meant Mark Terry (with whom I never disagree with anything) was joking about Jack Black.

    What about Tommy Lee Jones or Denzel Washington?

  5. from Jacqueline

    I'd watch Tommy Lee Jones in just about anything ... so he's got my vote straight off the bat!

  6. Paul Giamatti or, if he can't do it, Steve Buscemi.

  7. James O. Born9/10/2009 2:27 PM

    My friend Mario Acevedo here in Denver said Jack Nicholson. Brilliant.

    These are all some good choices.


  8. David,
    Paul Giamatti, not enough my opinion.

    Steve Buscemi, not enough gravitas.

    Quirky is good, but the role requires heft.

    Jack Nicholson, it seems to me, is both too obvious and too old. (Damn few 72-year-old officers in the bush).