Calling all Gods - Casting Hercules in Disney’s latest live action remake
To quote former Disney star Miley Cyrus, the studio can’t stop and won’t stop in its run of remakes: Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were billion-dollar successes after all, and the upcoming Mulan whiffs of a similar outcome with the growing influence of the Chinese box office.
Hercules is the latest to be announced, a largely underrated entry in the Disney canon. But who could take on the mantle of the loveable lunkhead? And will that be the characterisation they opt for? Or someone a little harder and dour in the face? Let’s look at some options and you can decide who fits the Hercules armour best.
It’s a clear choice. The film’s producers, Joe and Anthony Russo have worked with Hemsworth previously on the Marvel movies, as well as recent Netflix hit Extraction. Furthermore, Hemsworth has a CV rich with godly experience - literally, he’s become synonymous with the role of Thor, the God of Thunder, whose character profile could fit a more comedic take on Hercules.
Hemsworth will bring the physique, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, that oblivious hilarity he’s recently - and brilliantly - imbued into Thor. For a character who slowly discovers his strength over the course of the story, the Disney-fitting potential for comic relief in Hercules is ripe.
Also, Thor’s more tragic character moments reflect the epic nature of Greek storytelling: portraying Thor's suffering for familial loss asks for a very unique actor to make it convincing. If Hemsworth can sell this for Marvel’s audiences, he could deliver on both emotional and comedic fronts for Disney’s remake.
Another Thor cast member, Elba could bring an older, more rugged edge to the role, which would suit a grittier retelling. This isn’t beyond Disney after all. Look at Mulan, a remake that has done away with many of the overt fantasy elements that defined the original. If that film can make changes to the source material, why not bend the rules a bit and show Hercules in his prime, rather than his youth?
It’s ultimately his charisma that will do the heavy lifting. Elba is a gifted actor, but his presence is what defines him, a quality that befits the son of Zeus. Cast him alongside some acting heavyweights and Elba will still stand toe-to-toe, adding to Hercules’ half-human/half-God identity.
He can convince in the action sequences also. His recent turn in the absurd Hobbs & Shaw saw him grapple with superheroic powers - I’m sure it wouldn’t take much for Elba to harness that badass energy once more.
From veteran to apprentice, Nicholas Hoult offers the chance for a more youthful and accessible approach for Disney. But it’s also a role that fits Hoult perfectly anyway. After all, he can marshal feelings of both otherworldly wonderment (Jack the Giant Slayer) and fear in self-discovery (X-Men: First Class), both of which fall to the character of Hercules, who discovers a whole new world in Olympus (yeah, I had to) that he’s been a part of this whole time.
He’s not a stranger to Greek mythology either. While it is a side part, his role in the 2010 Clash of the Titans remake pitted him against the likes of Medusa and found him exploring the Underworld. Playing the demigod that goes against the King of the Underworld, and fights epic creatures such as the Hydra? Hoult’s experience ticks all of the boxes.
Having made an impression on Stranger Things as a tough, no-nonsense bully, it’s time that Australian up-and-comer Dacre Montgomery translated that sturdiness into a lead role.
It isn’t beyond the actor. Having starred in the 2017 Power Rangers adaptation, Montgomery is no stranger to colourful entertainment. More importantly, if he can convince in a skin-tight Red Ranger suit, then the embossed armour of Hercules will fit like a Friday night outfit.
But, as mentioned earlier, it’s his stint on Stranger Things that impresses most. Embodying the cocky, mullet-sporting qualities of a true 80s troublemaker, he commits himself to the project fully: like Hemsworth, Montgomery will fulfil the shape needed, but might be willing to take that extra authentic step to ensure that the Hercules fans know and love appears on-screen.
While it might be difficult to nail Henry Cavill’s availability down due to the success of The Witcher, he still suits the job description. Firstly, there’s Cavill’s dedication to matching the physical demands of the role, a quality that spotlights him as an ideal visual choice in faithfully recreating the animated movie.
But Cavill does bring a subtle comedic touch that might work better with Hercules, as opposed to Hemsworth’s heavier, at times slapstick approach for example. Take Cavill’s turn in the aforementioned Witcher series: it’s hard not to laugh when the deliberately deadpan Geralt of Rivia drops the f-bomb as a creature of the night breaks free from one of his traps. Language aside, Disney might prefer this style of low-profile wit if they plan to maintain and even accentuate Philoctetes’ role as the buoyant, bitter comic relief.
Oh, and did I mention he played Superman? Substitute Kal-El for Hercules and Cavill is already habituated with the discovery of power, the love for a human (assuming this remake keeps the animated film’s love interest, Megara) and the selfless nature of the character.
What about you? Who would be your pick for the role? However bonkers the suggestions may be, leave some feedback and let me know! Heck, if you fundamentally believe that Seth MacFarlane is the right man for the job, tell me why!
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