I started this column looking at the “brilliant” idea Hollywood has to remake Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. I figured I’d have a few months, at least, before the next round of studio execs picking random old movie titles out of a hat would happen. Alas, it was not to be. Via Deadline and ComingSoon.net, 20th Century Fox has greenlit a remake of the 1955 musical Guys and Dolls, and they already have casting! I’ll mention who the studios are looking at to fill in the roles, but let’s explore my possibilities. Feel free to agree, disagree, or bemoan the state of Hollywood in the comments.
The plot: Best friends Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson make a bet that Sky can’t woo cold missionary Sarah Brown. The winner, gets $1000, which Nathan desperately needs. As Sky works on gaining Sarah’s trust, Nathan must avoid Miss Adelaide who wants to marry him.
It’s been a long while since I saw the Joseph Mankiewicz directed adaptation. In a nutshell, it’s a fun experiment for Marlon Brando who thought doing a musical would be a great idea. Keep in mind, whoever is cast in this remake NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO SING. I refuse to see another Les Miserables or Mamma Mia! where the execs believe you can train a non-singer to carry a tune. With that, I’ll be recasting Nathan, Sky, Sarah Brown, and Miss Adelaide. The fantastic Pat McDonnell of 100 Years of Movies has also sent along suggestions for some of the lesser characters. Outside of the two actors the studio is hoping to secure, there’s no discussion of director, screenwriter, or whether we’ll be in present day or not.
Originally Played by: Frank Sinatra
My Suggestion: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Okay, so he is the choice that Fox is courting and it is a good one. Gordon-Levitt doesn’t have a Broadway voice, but his rendition of “Make ‘Em Laugh” when he hosted Saturday Night Live is fantastic, and he even did the physical comedy whilst singing. In a time where singing ability is negligible, at least where musical adaptations are concerned, he has talent that could be refined and not trained anew. He’s got a swagger that is vaguely Sinatra-esque and, dammit, he’s solid casting.
Other Possibility: I’ll throw out Ryan Gosling because I know someone else will, but sadly I don’t see him having a strong enough voice. He can sing, but I don’t think he has enough range for this.
Originally Played by: Marlon Brando
My Suggestion: Tom Hardy
I’m throwing out a wildcard here with Tom Hardy; I’m not even sure the man can sing but he can act circles around who the studio thinks could handle the role: Channing freaking Tatum! I get that Brando wasn’t a singer when he did the film, and it shows because he’s all sorts of awkward singing and dancing, but he could act enough to make you believe him in the role. Hardy could do that; Tatum could die trying! Also, Brando’s bulk and general awkward bearing worked to make him intimidating and made him a dynamic character, all of which Hardy possesses. I will say that Hardy is a bit hard to buy in the romantic comedy angle, but still…he’s better than Channing Tatum!
Other Possibility: I have a bizarre desire to see Christian Bale return to musicals and think he would also have that blend of awkward intimidation that could work.
Originally Played by: Jean Simmons
My Suggestion: Amy Adams
Sarah Brown is a demure prude to the men, but a strong-willed philanthropist with a song in her heart. If you’ve seen Adams in Enchanted or The Fighter, you see she can play the sweet and the sour. Adams also has a beautiful voice that would bring a melodious quality to the movie, and she’d look gorgeous next to either of the two men above.
Other Possibility: Anne Hathaway’s been bandied about, and while I don’t see that happening – the woman might be sick of musicals – she does have that sweet lilting tone and bearing that would work for Sarah Brown. I could see her standing outside asking for donations.
Originally Played by: Vivian Blaine
My Suggestion: Megan Hilty
Miss Adelaide is a brassy, Jean Harlow type who hounds Nathan out of love. She loves him, but he refuses to marry her. Hilty is a Broadway darling whose received a fair share of comparisons to Marilyn Monroe due to her work in Gentleman Prefer Blondes on-stage and on the television show Smash. If you’re well-versed in this movie you should know that Monroe was considered for a role, although as the demure Sarah Brown (the studio execs didn’t believe it was possible to have Monroe not play a sex symbol). Hilty could play the tough-as-nails, determined Adelaide and she could belt the hell out of any songs you give her. It might also help Broadway audiences get behind the project if you have one star of the Great White Way.
Other Possibility: Kristen Bell. She’s got a big voice as well and could easily play the spunky Adelaide.
Pat McDonnell included possible suggestions of Jonah Hill as Nicely Nicely, Emma Stone (he cited the character as Abigail and I’m assuming he meant Adelaide, correct me if I’m wrong Pat), and Jay Baruchel as Benny.
Who do you think would work in this remake? Feel free to leave me comments in the comment section or on Facebook and Twitter. Have a movie that you want me to recast, pass it along!
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.