With this weekend’s announcement that a new Judge Dredd movie is coming, thoughts naturally turn to who might play the hardest law-enforcement officer in Mega City One. We offer ten suggestions here; if they’re mixed in character, it rather reflects the possibility that new Dredd might once again forego the rich vein of humour from the comics in favour of all-out action.
It’s the combination of satire and sci-fi that made Dredd unique in comics history, despite the fact that the strip took in influences (or just plain stole them) from every part of modern culture, but only the tone of the final script can dictate who’d be right for the part.
Stallone’s Dredd in Danny Cannon’s 1995 take on the comics legend shocked fans by taking his helmet off for nearly the entire movie (Dredd’s own face has never been revealed). There was a lot of debate at the time contending that keeping the helmet on was pointless, since a known actor would have to play the part. That particular can of worms is set to be opened again…
10: Christian Bale Will obviously be in the running, but is such a chameleon that he may not be the best choice; Dredd may need to go to an actor with an established personality in the zone of the original character. That said, Bale played a similarly uncompromising character in Equilibrium (and did a superb job) and another law-enforcement psycho in the Batman films.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: Zero. For that kind of money, they’ll want eyes.
9: Gerard Butler300 was practically an audition for Judge Dredd, and if Butler hadn’t done it I wouldn’t have particularly thought of him for the part. The ED-209 voice is there if needed and he’s got the stature and gravity for the role.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: 50/50. Butler is an actor that I have difficulty recognising in his movies; not just because he was utterly unrecognisable in 300 compared to his usual appearance, but rather that he loses himself in any part he plays.
8: George Clooney Clooney must be allergic to hero-costumes after Batman And Robin, but his combination of icy intensity and absolutely superb comic timing could fit the script perfectly, depending on what kind of slant it gets. If the writers really mine Dredd‘s legacy of satire, an actor like Clooney or Eric Bana would be far more suited to the role than a pure action star like Statham, whose comedic skills are rudimentary at the moment.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: 100%. If Clooney did it, he’d go for it. But he’s influential and affluent enough to be little-tempted by a pay check from a big action movie. He’d need a first-class script that suited his skills.
7: Brendan Fraser Again, the chin is there. Whether the writers eschew laughs for action or vice versa, Fraser has the physique and skills requisite for the part.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: Less than 20%, and I’m not sure he’d be keen on it either.
6: Sean Penn The chin is definitely there, and after Milk, there’s nothing this man can’t take on. But would he be willing to return to an action persona he has worked so hard to abandon? Age is no issue, anyway – Penn is 48 and Dredd is somewhere between 40-60.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: Surprisingly good, in my opinion. An actor willing to commit so much to the part would have no problem with this, and Penn has nothing to prove anymore.
5: Javier Bardem Bardem has the kind of presence that can elicit a chorus of gulps when he enters the room, and that’s exactly what you need for Dredd.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: For an extra 5 million, Bardem might keep the helmet on – a film like Dredd can fund a lot of projects that might be more personally challenging to an actor as intense as this.
4: Jason Statham I’m obliged under great sufferance to include this. Statham has won me over to his bone-headed style of action movie in the last 18 months, and his limited range is oddly suited to Dredd; but he can’t do accents (come on guys, you know this), and it would be the worst dialogue disaster since Bale’s ‘Batman voice’. Dredd may have been invented by a Brit, but he’s pure American. However if Statham is willing to spend 3-4 months breaking through that barrier in pre-production…okay.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: Absolutely none. That helmet will be off so fast that Statham will have burn-marks on his bald noggin. And it’ll stay off.
3: Josh Brolin A taste of the old west, Brolin is one of the best substitutes for Clint Eastwood, who was mooted for a Dredd movie from the late 70s right up until Danny Cannon’s film killed a potential franchise in 1995. The character of Dredd was based on Eastwood (mainly on Harry Callahan), and Brolin shares that insouciant double-Y chromosome directness.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: Practically zero, and I get the feeling Brolin wouldn’t be attracted to the part at this delicate point in his career unless that thing comes off regularly during the film.
2: Eric Bana Bana started out as a comedian, and his superb comic timing – so evident in Chopper – would be a great boon to a franchise that needs to remember that Judge Dredd was highly satirical right from the word go. This aspect was sequestered so completely by Robocop that it left 1995’s Dredd with virtually no way of expressing it without looking like a rip-off. The irony. But that was a long time ago, and someone who can play black comedy as well as Bana would be a great asset to new Dredd.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: Pretty good. Bana didn’t mind getting under latex for Star Trek, and tends to sublimate his own needs for the common good of the project. He’d ‘get’ Dredd quickly, and can buff up at a moment’s notice to boot.
1: Ron Perlman The most obvious piece of casting since Stephen Fry played Oscar Wilde. He has the chin, the height, the voice, the comic timing…he is Dredd. We’d like to thank everyone else for turning up, have a safe journey home.
Chances they’d let him keep the helmet on: Pretty good; Perlman is accustomed to being almost unrecognisable under make-up, what with years of Beauty And The Beast and two stints as Hellboy. Why should he care? You can’t cover up that much attitude…
Also consider:Thomas JaneAaron EckhartBruce CampbellClancy BrownBruce WillisVinnie Jones (after 10 years of acting lessons)
21st December 2008, 3pm GMT