About a zillion years ago—1998, when I first started this site–I came up with the bright idea of asking people who should play various private eyes in television or film. I tossed out a few ideas:
- Robert DeNiro as Mike Hammer?
- Harrison Ford as Travis McGee?
- Bill Murray as Shell Scott?
- Tom Selleck as Spenser?
- Or Burt Reynolds and Diane Keaton as an older Spenser and Susan Silverman?
- Glenn Close as V.I. Warshawski?
- Danny Glover as Easy Rawlins?
- Victoria Jackson as Honey West?
- Bruce Willis as Race Williams?
- Marisa Tomei as Stephanie Plum?Anyone who’s seen her in My Cousin Vinny knows she could pull it off.
- Roseanne Barr and Tom Hanks as Bertha Cool and Donald Lam? (They weren’t the “stars” they are back then)
- Demi Moore as Sharon McCone?
- Diane Keaton as Kinsey Millhone?.
- John Candy as Nero Wolfe? With John Cusack as Archie?
- And, on the tube, how about Steve Bochco or David Simon and Tom Fontana producing Joe Gores’ DKA novels and short stories as a Hill Street Blues-type television series?
Of course, even then, some of those actors were getting a bit long in the tooth for those roles, so I challenged readers to come up with their own. Unfortunately, as Albert Hammond said, “Time will do a number on us all,” and some of those choices, especially as time has rolled on and the sliding scale of popularity has waxed and/or waned, some of those picks just seem wrong. It’s compounded by the fact I never dated the suggestions.
But here are some of the suggestions and comments that trickled in for the first few years of this site…
- Burt Reynolds as Brock Callahan?
- “My choice for a hypothetical hero would be Brian Dennehy and/or Peter Strauss. These two gentlemen are very talented actors…and they are very strong type of men.”
- Tom Berenger as Ben Perkins?
- “Personally, my dream is to see a big-budget, period adaptation of Spillane’s One Lonely Night with Michael Madsen as Mike Hammer.”
- Danny Aiello as Nameless?
- “Harrison Ford as Travis McGee? Not bad, but my own casting for that is Kris Kristofferson as Travis, with Willie Nelson playing Meyer… better hurry though, they’re getting old like the rest of us! As for Tom Selleck as Spenser – NO, NO, a hundred times NO!!! Actually, I did read an interview with Parker some long time ago (early 80s) in which he said his ideal Spenser was Robert Mitchum when younger (but then again, Mitchum was born to play almost all these characters…) – Joan Parker has said her picks would be Harrison Ford, Nick Nolte or George Clooney. All of which seem to me viable, depending on what aspects of the character you’re going to highlight… Personally, I’d like to see a Nolte version. I started reading the Spenser books before the TV series existed, and in my mind Spenser bore a VERY strong resemblance to Burt Reynolds! (and Hawk was Lou Gossett Jr).
- Robert Davi as Fred Carver?
- “How about Harvey Keitel as Amos Walker?“
- Joe Mantegna as Toby Peters
- “I especially like the idea of Kris’n’Willie as McGee’n’Meyer, though I keep having this idea of ’em taking the Busted Flush out to sea in search of jettisoned bales of grass…”
- “Johnny Depp as Elvis Cole and Gerald McRaney as Joe Pike?”
- “Mickey Rourke as Andrew Vachss’ Burke (the other possibility, of course, is James Woods…).”
- “Michael Rapaport as Nate Heller?“
- “YES! YES! YES! I’ve always thought Burke was a bit of a head case, and Rourke wouldn’t even have to act much. What a great casting suggestion!”
- “The more I read Matt Scudder novels, the more I see Don Johnson in the part. I agree that Harrison Ford would do a fine job, but I think Johnson could look and feel the part more. Most people who watch Nash Bridges would disagree with me, but based on his performance in “Dead Bang” (which is a lousy movie, truth be told), he plays a world-weary cop, and he does it damn well.”
- “How about Nick Nolte as Matt Scudder and Brian Dennehy as Mick Ballou? Although now that Scudder’s cleaned up his act, Nolte might be a little “rough” for the role…
- Robert Patrick as John Francis Cuddy
- David Duchovny as Al Nudger
- Albert Brooks as Albert Samson
- William Hurt as David Brandstetter
- Ming-Naas Lydia Chin and Mark Harmon as Bill Smith
- Tom Skerritt as Al Darlan
- Dennis Farina as Milan Jacovich?
- Kevin Costner as Repairman Jack (one of the very few parts he might be good at)
- “Speaking of the crowd at DKA, how about Mark Valley (Boston Legal) as Larry Ballard, Ving Rhames as Bart Heslip, Paul Guilfoyle as Patrick Michael O’Bannon, Natasha Henstridge as Giselle Marc and Ed Asner as Dan Kearney? Alas, Lawrence Tierney isn’t available for that last one…”
BUT THAT WAS THEN, AND THIS IS NOW…
Most of these picks reached their expiration dates years ago, and several of the choices have shuffled off this mortal coil, so it’s time for a fresh crop. With much recent gnashing of teeth about the casting of 70-year old Liam Neeson as Philip Marlowe (in a film NOT based on a novel by Chandler!), and continuing rumours (threats?) of yet another remake of The Maltese Falcon, it’s clear Hollywood hasn’t a clue, so it looks like, more than ever, it’s up to us.
And thanks to the wonders of WordPress, it’s easier than ever. Got an idea who should (or shouldn’t) play your favourite dick or jane? Just hit LEAVE A REPLY down below, and let the world know…
Original suggestions by Martin Ross, James G. Edwards, Janell Williams, Chris Mills, Bryan Schingle, Jan Long, Duke Seabrook, Nathalie Bumpeau, Keith Logan, and Nick Allen.
4 thoughts on “The Casting Couch”
I always thought a younger Ben Affleck would have done well as a younger Spenser, with Idris Elba as Hawk.
Myron Bolitar could have been one of the Hemsworth brothers with Tom Hiddleston as Win – this might seem stunt casting, but think about it. It might grow on you.
I’m not yet sure about Alan Ritchson (Reacher is a kind of PI, is he not?) except to say he is better than the stunted casting of Tom Cruise.
And I’ve always wanted to see someone, anyone play Kinsey Milhone. It has changed over the years as actors have aged out of the ideal; mid to late thirties. Cobie Smulders was the last one I thought of until she essentially played the part in Stumptown. Maybe Heida Reed from FBI International, or pick an actor in her 20s so she has a chance to make a lot of them like Saiorse Ronan?
I thought that Robert B. Parker’s ideal choice for Spenser was a young Rock Hudson. There’s even a Black Mask collection (from the 80’s) with a Spenser story inside and a very Rock Hudson looking Spenser on the cover. Then again, I guess Parkers choice could have changed on occasion.
I truly feel Jon Hamm would be a perfect modern Marlowe in a GOOD Long Goodbye, and that normally creepy Zachary Quinto as Spade in that theoretical Falcon remake of which you spoke. Morris Chestnut as Ivan Monk, Chloe Grace Moretz as Sunny Randall, and Stephanie Hsu as Lydia Chin.
How about Matt Damon as Spenser
Ryan Gosling as Elvis Cole
Nicholas Cage as Alo Nudger
Jason Statham as Fred Carver
Gerard Butler as Matt Scudder
Chris Hemsworth as Mike Hammer
and Tom Hanks, as the older, Nameless?