Need to check out the cast list? Find both updated versions here.
Why Good Omens? Packed with nine essential vitamins and Gaiman and Pratchett‘s trademark twisted whimsy, it’s a Brit humor cornucopia. We wanted to cast it because it’s in some stage of development somewhere in the tar pits of Hollywood, and yes, you guessed it–it’s so far been in a sorry state, indeed. In fact, when I first presented this DreamCast to The Neil himself back in 1998, Gilliam had not been announced as director. When The Neil asked me who we had down for director, and I told him, his response was “I can neither confirm nor deny Gilliam’s involvement with this project.” A shining moment in DreamCast history. Anyway, if somebody could just fund Gilliam, he’d make the movie. I personally think Gilliam’s idea of raising money for films via the Internet is a damn good one. I’d throw some serious coin in a tip jar for a Gilliam movie done right, wouldn’t you?
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Why an all-Brit cast? Warner Brothers at one point wanted to turn this into an Americanized monstrosity, but we’re going in the completely opposite direction just to spite them. As we want to do with all things.
Directed by Terry Gilliam First of all, in defense of my All-Brit mentality–if there ever was an honorary Brit, it’s Gilliam. At one point, I considered Mr. Mike Newell But my amigos here at the site, and this is before it was revealed that Gilliam was the guy, simply reminded me of the manic genius of Brazil, Time Bandits, and many others. Gilliam does that have sense of fantasy/reality given a spin in a blender that this book seems to have.
Aziraphale. Gary Oldman was a choice that I basically had to pull rank on. My fellow insomnia technicians weren’t convinced, and they threw out other decent suggestions, such as Hugh Grant, or maybe even Richard E. Grant. But still, I couldn’t get Gary’s potential interp out of my head. I think the problem is we’ve seen him in so many films playing the villain, we’ve forgotten his range. Just imagine his Rosencrantz character from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead but on the other end of the intelligence scale, perhaps with some glasses perched on his nose, thumbing through a bunch of ancient tomes. Come on, you can see it, right? Of course you can. He was able to pull off Gordon in Batman Begins, wasn’t he? He can play normal. Just trust me.
Alec Guinness for our ultimate Aziraphale was an easy choice. Set aside for the moment that you probably know him best as Kenobi. Instead, go back and watch his range. I’m talking about stuff like the Ealing comedies, or like his work as George Smiley, or hell, even Murder By Death. The man could do pretty much anything he felt like doing, and it’s not too hard to stretch to imagine him as a divine lover of books, is it?
Crowley. Alan Rickman. For some reason, it’s hard to picture Rickman listening to Queen music. But consider this: it never seemed to happen by choice in Crowley’s case. Rickman is another great villain, so it seems only natural to cast him as a demon who’s been causing mischief since the beginning of time. Imagine his Sheriff Nottingham character, but a bit nicer, without the penchant for spoons, and in a good movie instead of Prince of Thieves. He was my choice from day one. Richard E. Grant was also mentioned here as well.
Peter Sellers. Sellers is another one where he can do anything you want, pretty much at the drop of a hat. He can certainly do a slightly slimy friendly guy. I just imagine him walking up to the cemetery to meet Hastur and Ligur, all smiles and eager to tell them about his mobile phone stunt. And I just love the idea of watching him and Guinness play off each other directly, like they only did sorta in Ladykillers and not really at all when they appeared together in the ensemble Murder by Death.
Newton Pulsifer. Okay, let’s talk about both here. In the original DreamCast of this, we had indeed tapped Noah Taylor for the role. Because we think he rocks and I still maintain that he should have been nommed for Shine. But anyway, let me speak for a moment about our thought process behind both Newton and Anathema. We wanted people who could act, naturally, and were good for the part, but we wanted people who weren’t, if you understand the phrase, “Beautiful People.” Note the capitalization. Young Kate Beckinsale is good for Ultimate Anathema, but now that she is Sexpot Wears Lots of Black Leather And Blows Shit Up Kate Beckinsale, she’s not really right anymore, even if she wasn’t just flat too old. I would like to point out here that we have a great fondness for S.W.L.o.B.L.a.B.S.U. Kate, so please don’t think we don’t appreciate her contribution to…*cough*…society. But you know what I’m saying, they look more ordinary and less Grown in a Celeb Vat. So we had to try and find some young actors who could take the place of Taylor and Beckinsale and move those two to the ultimate list. Because, hell, it’s been almost ten years since we first did this list.
So now we have to figure out who to take their places. This was difficult. I went back to the original text and reminded myself that Newton is about 23, Anathema about 19. I’m sure if I watched more British television than I do (or at least watched more than the quiz panel shows) I could probably have come up with some TV actors who could foot the bill nicely. And maybe some of you Brits who read this can help me out. However, I’m perfectly pleased with our choices. For Newton, I was positively thrilled to see that Jamie Bell (who was outstanding in Billy Elliott) is 21. Close enough. And he even looks like what I imagine Newton to be: good looking, but still awkward. The scene that they have to play in my head is on the phone (and in the “headquarters”) with Shadwell.
Anathema Device. So what’s the story on Anathema? We’ve already talked about her Ultimate version, where the young Beckinsale (again, a bit awkward but can certainly be headstrong) is her. (And Ken suggested a young, circa-Beautiful Creatures Kate Winslet–and I was tempted, but I stuck with my first choice.) But we needed to find a young actress for today’s cast. It was a pain in the ass to try and find somebody 19 who I thought would work. But we cast our net a bit wider and remembered Leonidas from Mirrormask. She was terrific in that, has worked with Gaiman before in his whimsical world and could play the part, we think.
Shadwell. The first time around we did this, we had Anthony Hopkins as Shadwell. This is partly because his version of Van Hesling from Dracula was silliness personified. “SHE IS THE DEVIL’S CONCUBINE! WHA-HAH!” Pure. Genius. I had considered Bob Hoskins when Cat had told me to go even sillier, and we wound up with Hopkins. But for this new cast, Ken suggested Jacobi. I think this is partly just to see what the hell he would do with it. He can be Serious Actor guy and he can then turn around and play a small role in something like Nanny McPhee. So giving him something like this to screw around with would be excellent. I must admit, and maybe this is because I’ve been listening to the audiobook, and the guy’s Shadwell sounds a lot like Billy Connolly, honestly. So I’m this close to throwing it to Connolly, but for now, Sir Derek is the guy.
As for the Ultimate Shadwell, my mind went to a slightly younger Peter O’Toole just because he too can do anything you want on the spectrum of serious and funny. I’m thinking something like a very tired cross between Henry in Lion in Winter and Alan Swann in My Favorite Year. I just want to see him calling Madame Tracy all these terrible things like Harlot of Satan or whatnot. I think it would be brilliant.
Hastur and Ligur. The whole idea with both sets of actors on this one was to get a very formidable type paired with a humorous type. And, naturally, usually the really serious ACtors make for the best comedians because timing is everything. Case in point: I think Jeremy Irons should do more comedies. No shit. But anyone, when it comes to a Heavy (and Hastur is quite heavy), the obvious choices from the first version of this DreamCast stay the same: pair Malcolm McDowell with Rowan Atkinson. When we started thinking about Ultimate versions, we tried to think: take what we’re doing with our first two picks, and think about who you could get along those same lines, if you weren’t restricted to just today’s selection. So that’s why we went with Peter Cushing and Marty Feldman. Cushing from the 1970s, when he was doing all of those wonderful, crazy films like Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. And Feldman from any damn time you please.
DEATH. DEATH has always been a CG-creation in all of these Casts. However it occurs to me we never really cast a voice. It also occurs to me, instantly, that DEATH must be, on both Casts, Christopher Lee. No question in my mind.
Scarlett/War. Okay, the Ultimate Cast first, because it was just perfect the first time around. Joanne Whalley from Willow is perfect. Red hair, right attitude, rather hot. Yes. But War is around 25 and she’s always been 25 in the book. So to stay as true as possible, we needed somebody in the present day regular DreamCast who could play the role. So we cast the net out, and we came back, finally, with Eva Green. She can have the right attitude, she is rather hot, and I’d love to see her as a redhead. “Wait, Widge! She’s French!” Yes, well, I’m willing to make this one exception not only because the actress is right for the part, but also because I think the Brits will appreciate the joke of War being played by a French actress.
Dr. Raven Sable/Famine. Jonathan Pryce gets the pick for both Casts. Now, just for the record–I went back and checked and nowhere did it say that Famine looked like a stick. He just made other people want to look like sticks. But here’s what sold me on Pryce the first time and then made me cast him for our All-Star cast: the scene where the half-dead stick model comes up and wants her copy of his book signed. Pryce is good at many things but he can be cree-py. And there’s nothing creepier than being a celebrity for making people slowly kill themselves…and then relishing that celebrity while signing a book. Pryce could do all that with a smile. And a Gilliam movie without Pryce is like five minutes without a Red Bull.
Mr. White/Pollution. Well, David Bowie makes for a remarkable Mr. White just because he can look like anything you want (have you ever seen a slideshow of his various personas throughout his musical career–impressive), he can act his arse off (Last Temptation, anyone?), and well, frankly, the boy can be quite, quite pale at times. However. Mr. White is in his 20s and Mr. Bowie is not, so we’ll have to throw Bowie into the All-Star Ultimate cast for when he was younger and go back to the drawing board for today’s cast. Looking like “Victorian Romantic poets looked just before the consumption and drug abuse really started to cut it,” I started to cast around for somebody. Rhys-Meyers came to mind, but I had never seen him with long hair. Then I caught this. White up the hair and I think we have everything under control.
Agnes Nutter. Maggie Smith has the role sewn up for both casts. And again, I try to imagine the actors playing certain key scenes from the book. Cat originally had this idea, and we must ask ourselves: can we really see Maggie Smith turning herself into the witchy equivalent of a homicide bomber? Can we really see her pissed off because her executioners are late? Yes. Yes I think we can.
Metatron. The Metatron is the Voice of God. And originally I had conceived of him as a slick looking bureaucrat, despite the fact he shows up later and is all golden and glowing and such. So. A slick looking glowing bureaucrat it is. This gives Cleese a nice cameo in our regular cast, but I would go with Peter Cook if I could.
Madame Tracy. A combination spiritualist and disciplinarian who would really like to hook up with Shadwell, the poor dear. Joanna Lumley is still our pick for her in the regular cast, but who to have for the All-Star Cast? Well, after some consideration, I went with a slightly younger Eileen Atkins. If for no other reason that I think she’s marvelous and has played such a wide variety of roles, again, like with Jacobi, I’d just want to see what she would do with it.
The Chattering Nuns. Julia Sawalha stays as Sister Mary Loquacious in both casts, just because she could play both the younger version of Sister Mary and the older one who runs the paintball conference center with equal gusto. As for Sister Mary Voluble, I thought having the late Joan Hickson, b.k.a. Miss Marple, in a cameo would be a nice turn as far as the Ultimate Cast went. As for the casting of Julie Andrews in the regular cast: let’s all face it. Julie Andrews in a cameo as a satanic nun = huge points.
Mr. Tyler. Richard Briers was my first choice for the concerned citizen and all-around complainer that everyone runs into near the army base. Cat suggested David Warner, but the more I thought about the character the more I wanted Briers to have this role, which amounts to a nice little cameo. As for who to pick for the Ultimate Cast, a Beatles-era Victor Spinetti would be perfect. The man’s got lovely timing.
Mr. Young. Michael Palin simply is Mr. Young. He has been from the word jump. Even the first time I read the book, Palin was playing the part in my head. So I will brook no arguments.
A delivery man. You know, of all the characters in the book, it’s this guy I feel sorry for. Every time I come to his final delivery, I just sort of wince. It’s funny, but I wince anyway. Kind of like listening to late-era Bill Hicks. I wanted to get Mayall in here somewhere, and I thought he could do the rapid friendly talking bits without being annoying. And it would be fun to have a Young One on board. As for the Ultimate Cast, the more I watch Time Team the more convinced I am that a young Tony Robinson would be good in that part as well.
All right, the Them, including Adam. While there’s a lot of great British child actors running around, I think it’s important that the Antichrist not be recognized as “That kid from Finding Neverland or Nanny McPhee or some such.” Go with unknowns for the whole lot, and that way we can all be pleasantly surprised.