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What's your Dream Cast?

HamletActors.jpgWhat's your ideal cast for a film? Who would be your favourite director or writer? Who, if you could make such decisions, would you choose for your ideal film and therefore create your dream cast?

I've been working on this feature for a long time, pulling together my idea of my dream cast. That is the list of directors, writers, and actors that I would believe could produce my ideal movie, if they could work together and the budget was no problem. Now I started off choosing any names from present and past, but then I had to limit it somehow realising my list was exploding, so I changed to current talent.

Funnily enough, although I've been working on the list for such a long time it has sat for ages without change because nothing lately that I've seen that has made me want to add anyone new. Why is that? Well I've found that my list has been pulled from specific movies in someone's career, and in each of the names from a string of consistent performances.

There are names that have almost made the list because of one or two performances or films, but I just couldn't justify their inclusion against a list that has given multiple strong reasons to be on here.

So without further ado - oh that's just made me think of another one - here is my dream cast, with some reasoning. Once you've had a look and read through, why don't you tell me where you do and don't agree and why. Or better still have a think about who you'd like in you dream cast - no need to wait until it's perfect, just start firing names in.

M. Night Shymalan
Oh I know this will raise some controversy as shown by the previous feature on the director himself, but I rate him incredibly highly. He's shown such amazing talent as a director and given us some excellently directed movies - whatever you think about the actual stories.

Remember that moment in Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, the feelings you had during the pool scene in that same movie, or the fear and claustrophobia you felt during Signs and yet he still injected humour right in the middle of these moments.

Clint Eastwood
I love the slow style of Eastwood's movies, and the utterly refreshing way he doesn't throw the camera about, make sweeping gestures and focus your attention on the filmmaking. Now that's not to say he doesn't do anything, he's subtle and does just enough rather than over work a shot or a scene, and he's utterly emotive, a compelling story teller.

I was really surprised by Unforgiven, Bridges of Madison County and then Mystic River. They all showed us something different but all with his fantastic style.

Michael Mann
Forgetting the Miami Vice series, Manhunter is what shouted at me about Mann, and through all his other films up until Collateral, Manhunter continued to stand out in my mind as one of those films I would never ever tire of. I returned to it so often it's probably the film I've watched the most out of all the films I've seen and owned. It oozes style and hits hard.

What spoke Mann for so long to me was In-a-gadda-da-vida playing as the slow motion kicked in and William L. Petersen racing towards the window as Tom Noonan loads his shotgun and prepares to deliver his wrath. Or what about giving us the first, and best, Hannibal Lecktor. A stunning film.

Recently both Collateral and Miami Vice have reminded me what a stylish and great action director he is.

Kenneth Branagh
Now there's a big condition with Branagh, he's only on the list if we're talking Shakespearean adaptations. I do like him as a writer, director and actor, but he really excels in his adaptations of the bard. The stunning Hamlet with every line from the original text, the superb Othello with Laurence Fishburne, or the amazing Love's Labour's Lost mixing the music of Cole Porter with the words of Shakespeare - it shouldn't work, but it does.

Much Ado About Nothing is also a superb piece of work, like Hamlet, with an incredibly diverse but wonderfully powerful cast. How could you not appreciate and love these films?

Paul Haggis
I was quite unaware of Haggis until Crash and Million Dollar Baby hit me like a ton of bricks. Then when he had my attention I realised that he'd been with me for a very long time. The Love Boat, Diff'rent Strokes, Mr Merlin, Thirtysomething and L.A. Law. Laugh and shake your head as much as you want, but these shows were a staple part of growing up, particularly Thirtysomething. This guy made my Saturday afternoons, and with Thirtysomething he managed to make me love television characters so much I couldn't believe. I felt every emotion they did, and ended up crying my eyes out so many times I can't remember.

Then he comes back with some stunning scripts with real people with such incredibly real voices and such incredibly sad hearts. He really can capture what people are and life is, all about.

Kenneth Branagh
Once again for the superb work he's done with the Shakespearean films.

Gene Hackman
Whatever I see Hackman in I am just pulled into his performance and his character because he's so incredibly real and natural. I can't actually remember the first film I saw of him, although I am pretty sure that I've seen many of his early films from The French Connection, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, Night Moves, A Bridge Too Far, and so on. I just can't remember which order I saw them in so the first film I saw of his remains a mystery. Perhaps it was Superman, Hoosiers, No Way Out, all three were fantastic performances, and his career is just filled with these amazing performances.

I once vowed to work my way through every Hackman film I could. Well I haven't yet, there's almost a hundred, but it's something I still hope to do. Now that I've noticed a few names on this list I think I might expand that to a few more names.

Kevin Bacon
I'm almost sorry to say this but I think it was Footloose, She's Having a Baby and He Said, She Said that marked the first films I saw Bacon in, and although they were all good fun, they're not really what I would class as real Bacon.

For me the real Bacon started with JFK, then A Few Good Men, Apollo 13, Sleepers, and Stir of Echoes. Since then he's produced some incredibly intense and exciting performances such as Mystic River, The Woodsman and Where the Truth Lies. He has become such a strong and consuming character actor, with such an on screen intensity he's mesmerising.

Sean Penn
Here's another actor that really grew from something totally different, and strangely ended up working with a few other of the names on this list. Taps, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, At Close Range, then we leap ahead to Colors, Casualties of War, and I think the career turning point Carlito's Way. Then there's just a continuing stream of fantastic performances littered with performances such as Mystic River, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, and many more.

He ranks so well alongside Kevin Bacon, and in his later years has matched his intensity and strong character driven performances. He's an incredible actor.

Sean Pertwee
Event Horizon and Dog Soldiers are Pertwee's best performances and show you why he's on this list for me. Another natural and believable actor in the mould of Gene Hackman. He's also British, and there just isn't enough recognition for strong British talent which tends to get sidelined and hidden away in some imposed pigdeon hole. He carries a strong screen presence, and an emotional and humourous aspect to him which comes through easily in the scenes he's in, he's a guy, one of the lads. Plus he's got a second career as a voice over artist, one of those instantly recognisable voices.

Kurt Russell
An actor that just commands the screen when he's on it and has found some great classics alongside John Carpenter in Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China and The Thing. Then there's Elvis, The Mean Season, Tequila Sunrise, Tango & Cash - it was fun okay? - Backdraft, Tombstone, Stargate, Soldier and not enough is made of his performance in Vanilla Sky. Look at that list of films, that's a great achievement just there and that's a small taster of his eighty one IMDB listed films. He also shares some of the qualitites that Pertwee does, his accessible humour and emotion is in every performance, particularly so in something such as Vanilla Sky. Fantastic actor and hopefully about to leap back to the fore in his career.

Ray Winstone
Talking of great British talent, Ray Winstone is another actor that carries an instantly recognisable voice and very strong screen presence. He can command a scene by saying nothing and just looking at the camera or a character. Robin Hood (TV) is where I first saw him, and he didn't make much of an impression then, but when he really struck me was in Births, Marriages and Deaths (TV) and then Sexy Beast. Face is another great British film in which he excels, and The Proposition is his latest fantastic appearance. He's also soon to be in The Departed, but he continues to look to smaller productions which really test his acting. He needs to be in more films, and Hollywood should take more notice of him.

Gabriel Byrne
Amazingly I just saw him yesterday as he walked past in the Filmhouse, and so that probably means I'm set to see him this evening at the screening of Jindabyne. Byrne is another great actor that touches on so many of the types of actors I've already talked about, he's got the features of the last three on the list, and can turn around a performance by just a look, and he can also give some great character performances. I think I first saw him in Defence of the Realm, although it seems hazy to me, however it was Miller's Crossing that showed me who he was and Point of No Return (The Assassin remake) showed me more until the uniquitious performance of The Usual Suspects.

Stigmata and End of Days were two more mainstream performances which were opposite ends of the character spectrum, and very enjoyable to watch. I think he does perform well when playing a bad guy in a commercial hit such as Assault on Precinct 13. I have to see him in less mainstream films though, and hence Jindabyne at the EIFF tonight.

Lucy Liu
Well isn't it about time I put some ladies on this list? It's interesting that there are a lack of leading ladies, and I think that's down to so many weaker parts being written for them and it either takes a strong actress to break through that, or a series of strongly written films with have the female as the main character going to the same actress. Frankly neither seem to string out for many actresses, and their talent tends to be diluted by weaker parts, so it is that there are a few names that don't quite make it to this list, but Liu is a surprising entry.

I'm going to avoid SSX Tricky (VG) and Ally McBeal, although both are what drew me to the actress, Payback, Charlies Angels, Kill Bill, Cypher, and Lucky Number Slevin are the films that made me stand up and take notice. There's quite a range there, and she carries them all, with Cypher and Slevin really hitting home for me how strong an actress she is. There could have been a tendancy to sit back on the McBeal character, but she's really managed to pull away from that and build her own identity. Here's to 3 Needles and Rise which I haven't seen yet. Oh, and she is strikingly attractive.

Jennifer Connelly
Now I'm seriously not choosing actresses because they are the pinnicale of beauty, oh no. I first saw Connelly, along with everyone else, in Labyrinth, but it was The Hot Spot that caught my attention, along with that of a co-star and another member on this list, Virginia Madsen. There were a few similar roles from there, but Mulholland Falls and the amazing Dark City really started to show what a diverse and intense talent she was, but Requiem for a Dream and House of Sand and Fog showed the extremes of emotion and character that she could go to, and she is utterly convincing in every role. There's a real sense of traditional Hollywood about this lady, and she's stunning in all ways on screen.

Joaquin Pheonix
8MM, Gladiator, Buffalo Soldiers, Signs, The Village, but there's only one film that needs mentioned, Walk the Line. Pheonix is well at the top of my personal list, an actor that I just love to watch. Another incredibly intense and emotionally rich actor who just draws you into his performances. At times he can be very disarming and natural, with some great comic timing, but when he takes on a role such as in Walk the Line, and makes you believe unnerringly in the character and what he's doing, how can you ignore him? There's so much talent in him and I really hope we don't see it falling to the pressures of Hollywood, it would be another tragedy.

Holly Hunter
A bit of self indulgence here, mind you what isn't on this list, Broadcast News and Always are two films that always stand out for me, and Always has a special place in my heart. There are plenty of other great performances on her list, but strangely these two films and the voice work in Incredibles stand out for me as Hunter. I'm sure she, and fans, would prefer that I chose some more dramatic roles, but there's just something about her in these two films that makes me come back to them again and again. A nieve charm, an open, innocent quality, and a flowing, natural performance.

I've seen her in some of her latest roles (not Incredibles) and she's taken on a harsher, real world style to some of her acting which is especially shown in Thirteen, and although it's a great performance for me I still love those two early roles as much as anything.

Virginia Madsen
As I said, I first saw her on The Hot Spot and she fuelled so many sexual desires I can't tell you. Sideways is perhaps the best performance I've seen her in to date, and she just looks so timelessly beautiful in that film - and I don't mean that in a she's older now type way. In that film, like so many other actors and actresses on this list, she's extremely natural and you get the impression she just turned up, said her lines as Virginia Madsen and left. There doesn't seem like there is any acting involved, and that's where the best performances are.

She's got a number of films on the go at the moment, and I'm eager to see what these turn up. Hopefully she's not going too Firewall (of which she was the strongest part next to Mr Jennifer Connelly) and we're going to see more performances like Sideways or Hot Spot.

Kim Bassinger
Okay, there is a running theme here, but it's just accidental! Actually I was referring there to the amazing beauty of all these ladies and then just realised something else, can you wait just a moment Ms Bassinger while I slide off on a tangent?

Lucy Liu born 2nd December 1968, Jennifer Connelly born 12th December 1970, Virginia Madsenborn (here's a stretch to the rule and not because of the year) 11th September 1961, Kim Basinger born (again forget the year) 8 December 1953. Richard Brunton born 3rd December 1970. That just struck me...

Now, Bassinger. Yes there's the obvious first film, but I'd like to say Batman which showed she's more than just an incredibly good looking lady, unfortunately though she was incredibly typecast for a while and then L.A. Confidential really brought her back to the fore and stamped acting talent on her CV. Think anything of 8 Mile as you wish, but look on that as another superb performances of a supporting actress pushed to the side. She was very strong in that film, and quite against character. Now I'm dying to see her in The Sentinel, and I'm really hoping that her career continues onwards, for me she's another Hollywood lady in the old style sense of the word.

Kenneth Branagh
Again I'm going to be quite specific with Branagh here and say only in his Shakespearean roles, my lord he was born 10th December 1960! Anyway, apart from Peter's Friends, Shackleton and Harry Potter, I have to say that his screen appearances haven't been that attention grabbing for me, but when he develops and acts in a Shakespeare play he's quite different. There's a change somehow, in most of the other roles I've seen him play he's weak and a victim, and his characters are never that strong in the film, but in Shakespeare his strengths come forth and he commands the screen during his key scenes.

Moritz Bleibtreu
Now here's a curve ball. I was really trying to make sure that I placed foreign actors on this list, but one of the big problems I found was that out of all the films I've watched the majority have been Hollywood and UK. It's unavoidable really considering no one in my family was really into films as much as I am and no one was a foreign film fan. Growing up didn't mean much in the way of foreign movies until Channel 4 starting playing them late at night. Yet one name did pop into my head, someone who's made a lasting impression on me in just the two roles I've seen.

Run Lola Run is perhaps one of my favourite films of all time, and when I'm showing someone new cinema outside of their usual watching, this is one I push them. He was superb in that film and gave an exhausting performance which just looked as though he was at the end of his tether. Then I saw Das Experiment. He plays Prisoner 77, in the two versions of the movie he's appeared in, and in the later 2001 version I saw, he again stole the show and gave a strong and intense performance.

Lately I saw he and Franka Potente reunited in the compelling German film Atomised. This was best performance to date, and there's such an incredible moment when he let's his sexual desires push him too far, and as he realises he begins to break down. These three films really define what he's about, strong, bold performances that are packed with emotional intensity.

It seems I'm not the only one that noticed, Paul Schrader has picked him to appear in The Walker alongside such names as Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe and Lauren Bacall. It looks like he's going from strength to strength, and deservedly so.

Sean Bean
Another great British talent that is swept to the side by Hollywood, and it's only here in the UK that he really does get the attention he deserves in the long running Sharpe series. That's where I first noticed him, in a similar mould to Pertwee and Winstone but with a bit more rough around the edges of his characters. Bean plays a superb villian, and then surprisingly pulls out some great good guy performances.

Patriot Games began his Hollywood typecasting, and GoldenEye helped compound it, although both were good performances. All the while the Sharpe series was going on and on, and showing the UK what a great talent he is. Ronin and Bravo Two Zero started to push that typecast away, and his performance in Lord of the Rings was just fantastic, his moments of redemption are some of the best scenes in the film, and don't tell me otherwise!

The Dark and Flightplan showed that other side to him, the fact that he can act as a good guy really well and Flightplan showed way more of that possibility. Both fortunately and unfortunately he's signed up to play The Hitcher, returning to the bad guy role, yet this is a classic and possibly career defining moment. Hitcher is a widely known classic and he's pitching against another actor who has made a name out of the bad guy character too, Rutger Hauer.

However there is light in sight, he's set to star in two movies which take classic authors texts as their basis, one Oscar Wilde and one Shakespeare - A Woman of No Importance and Come Like Shadows. Both will show that he's more than capable of acting a strong role outside of that mean, no feelings, baddie with an English accent.

So that's my list, and although it'll change from film to film and year to year, that's probably the best stab I can make at it right now. What do you think? Do you agree, disagree? What's yours and why? Even if you don't have a full list is there someone you'd specifically pick for a director, writer or lead?



Such an impressive list, and so thorough! I particularly share the admiration for Kenneth Branagh (such a genius), and Gene Hackman (so believable in anything he does).

Here´s my modest list:


Steven Spielberg: I saw Munich yesterday. This man is way ahead his contemporaries.

David Fincher: I share his dark vision of the world, and the way he puts it into screen is just compelling.

Martin Scorsese: He can put anything into screen with brilliance, lavish visuals, and knowledge. So great!


Paul Schrader: I am impressed by the intelligence of the man. He is a scriptwriter without parallels. Look at what he did with Dominion. He is a great director as well.

David Koepp: Because he has the rare tallent of making great storytelling, narrative scripts. His work may pass unnoticed, but it´s impressive.

Frank Darabont: The Shawshank Redemption is credit enough. This man is a screenwriter who happenned to find a camera,


Michael Caine: Such a long, umbeliaveble career. He is still umparalleled in his class.

Mickey Rourke: He is the man. The other day I watched a Prayer for the Dying and oh my God. Even if he does garbage, he makes it great.

Leonardo DiCaprio: He is the best young tallent of the generation. From the Basketball Diaries to the Aviator. His future is so shiny it blinds.

Morgan Freeman: My favourite black actor all time, he attracts sympathies because he is so real and moving.

Kathy Bates: The best actress of Titanic. The psycho fan of Misery. And she also contributes in Six Feet Under. Lots and lots of tallent.

Kevin Spacey: Superman Returns proved again why this man is such a great one. His cynicism, subtlety and wit are just amazing.

Naomi Watts: I forgive her for King Kong, because he made Mulholland Drive, and she has that rare combination of strength and fragility. She can do impressive things.

Tom Cruise: 10 print "He rules" 20 Goto 10 30 Run

First off, amazing amazing list. I agree with all of them. Secondly: thank god I have found someone else who appreciates Moritz Bleibtreu. The guy is frankly FANTASTIC: I loved him in Lola rennt, and he was just as great in Das Experiment, etc. Oh, and of course, his role in Munich. Not many people know about him so it's nice to hear some support for this wonderful actor.

Damn, I didn't realise how long this post was until I read it. Is it too long? Should I break it up into sections?

Peter you have some amazing choices in there, and many that were on my almost list. Spacey and Freeman are superb choices.

Queen - I saw him in Munich too, but his best performance has to be Atomised so far for me. Stunning, you really should see it.

My list is:

Director: Martin Scorsese. He's directed a few of my favourite films in Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver.


Jodie Foster: She's the best actress of her generation in my opinion.

Sean Penn: Any role I've seen him in I've totally believed him..

Joaquin Phoenix: I've enjoyed every film I've seen him in, especially Signs. He did both the serious and funny in Signs and did them both equally well.

Johnny Depp: He seems to be able to take on any role and deliver something a bit special.

Christian Bale: I first saw him in Empire of the Sun and he was outstanding even though he was still a kid. Add to that American Psycho, The Machinist and Batman Begins. He's one of my favourite actors.

Kathy Bates in the lead role, Steve Buschemi as a supporting actor and Monica Bellucci as eye candy.

that aside:
The question remains, can you mix too much talent in the same production and still have quality?

i.e. if you mix a big name director with a big name actor and a big name actress do you get a masterpiece or a bunch of finger paintings.

this is gonna be kinda wierd...but hey. all in good fun?

Director: Ridley Scott. Man there is SOMETHING about his shooting. It's almost like a polariod shot in its design. Almost 2 dimensional. And one of a kind. I don't know if he sold his soul to the devil ro something, but man he's got something others dont.

Orson Wells: He practically invented some shots that had not been used, mainly to play upon the light/shadow quality of black and white films.

Michael Bay: Yeah yeah yeah I know how bad people slam him. But hey. this is my list. the dude makes FUN movies. And doesnt' let little things like "plot" or "sensibility" get in the way of his sequences. His directing is alot like my writing style. Intense, dumb and perfectly executed.



Russel Crowe: such an asshole. such a kick ass actor. what gives?!!!

Scarlet Johansen: THE most goregeous woman in hollywood. And not half bad in front of the camera either.

Edward Norton: can surprise us with his diversity and scare us with his intense nature. One of the most underrated actors on the face of the earth.

So there you have it. My A-List. Sorry I couldn't fit Ewan MacGregor in there anywhere. I love that guy.

Pablo´s question is quite interesting. Certainly, it could be difficult to manage a huge cast of big stars and do it really well. I remember the catastrophe movies of the 70´s. The answer, I guess, is the script.

Give these stars a good script, and tell them what to do. That´s why a director needs to have a tremendous force of will, a strong character. I would be afraid to death to say Jack Nicholson what to do!

Soon we will see examples of movies with great casts, and we can check by ourselves what the results will be:

-All the Kings Men (Steven Zaillian)

-Bobby (Emilio Estevez)

-The Good Shepherd (Robert De Niro)

Look at the casting of these movies, it´s absolutely impressive. The fact is, cinema depends on a star-system, like it or not.

My dream Film/Cast.

Movie: Flash Gordon: Savior of the Universe

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Brad Shipston

Actors Flash Gordon: Ryan Reynolds

Dale Arden: Natalie Portman

Prince Barin: Clive Owen

Princess Aura: Keira Knightley

Dr. Hans Zarkov: John Malkovich

Prince Vultan: Kevin Smith

Klytus: Alan Rickman

The Emperor Ming: Bill Nighy

It's a dream but I think it works.

Steven Spielberg
Martin Scorsese
Francis Ford Coppola

George Lucas
Neil Simon
Charlie Kaufman
Akiva Goldsman
M. Night Shyamalan
Woody Allen

Al Pacino
Robert de Niro
Richard Dreyfuss
Jack Nicholson
Tom Hanks
Tom Cruise
Kevin Spacey
Russell Crowe
Leonardo diCaprio

Meryl Streep
Michelle Pfeiffer
Cate Blanchett
Winona Ryder
Rachel McAdams
Scarlett Johansson

The thing with some of the ones I mentioned above is that some of them have already worked together like Nicholson & Cruise in "A Few Good Men", Pacino and De Niro in "Heat", Crowe & Pacino in "The Insider", Spacey & Crowe in "L.A. Confidential", Spielberg, Hanks and Di Caprio in "Catch Me If You Can" and Scorsese, Di Caprio & Blanchett in "The Aviator".

Have you guys got a favorite acting ensemble?

Actually, Simone, Scorsese, Nicholson and DiCaprio are working together in The Departed! You will like that movie!

I forgot to mention Ian McDiarmid in my list. It´s a pity he will always be related with Star Wars, because, to me, he was a revelation!

Saying that I forgot to put his apprentice, Hayden Christensen, in my dream cast list! What a shame!

Here is my dream cast for the upcoming GI Joe movie....


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