I was digging through some old files the other night and ran across something I wrote that suddenly seemed noteworthy again in light of our most recent celebrity controversy... 

It was written in response to a lengthy discussion amongst members of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society concerning an article in the July 7, 1999 edition of Variety in which it had been announced that former actor, former governor and philandering husband Arnold Schwarzenegger was planning to star as Doc Savage in a new movie said to be in the works at the time [but which thankfully never got off the ground]. That article launched a great deal of interest among Doc Savage fans, many of whom began debating the merits of having a musclebound actor such as Schwarzenegger or Rocky IV co-star Dolph Lundgren star as the great pulp hero. 

When my buddy Win Eckert asked his fellow NWNMS members to offer their suggestions for the perfect "dream cast" for a Doc Savage film, the responses were varied; one NWNMS member went so far as to offer suggestions as to who would have been right for the various roles if a Doc Savage movie had been made prior to the 1975 George Pal/Ron Ely version. 

I was the last of the NWNMS members to offer my suggestions; as it happens, the one suggestion of mine that almost everybody seemed to agree with was that of Christopher Lee as arch-villain John Sunlight. The other suggestions met with various degrees of approval, disapproval, surprise, polite outrage and, in one instance - my suggested “retro-casting” of Olan Soule, the character actor who appeared in numerous episodes of Dragnet and The Andy Griffith Show and provided the voice of Batman in three different animated TV series [The Adventures Of Batman, The New Scooby-Doo Movies and Super Friends] - some degree of confusion; some of the guys were not familiar with the name, it seems. 

Now bear in mind that this is something I wrote over a decade ago; persistent rumors that yet another Doc movie project may be in the works will no doubt lead to another such bout of "dreamcasting" on the part of myself and fellow Doc fans. Which I suppose is another reason I thought it might be worth sharing this, just to give an idea of where my thinking on the subject was at the time and to perhaps provide a springboard for renewed speculation...

In any event, my e-mail offering my casting suggestions to the rest of the membership read as follows:

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MEMO: With regard to the possible casting for a new Doc Savage movie:

I agree that it would be preferable to find an unknown to play Doc himself, much as the Salkynds did when they hired Christopher Reeve to play Superman all those years ago now. But care must be taken on two counts:

1.) First, whoever plays Doc should be younger than his five aides. It's been pretty well established in the boooks that the men who would make up Doc's team of assistants - i.e. "The Amazing Five" - were well into adulthood (witness their various military ranks) when 16-year-old Doc met them during World War I. Given that Doc was in his late 20s or early 30s (depending on how close one chooses to adhere to Farmer's timeline) at the time of Dent's novel The Man Of Bronze, it occurs to me that someone in the Dain Cain/Brandon Fraser age group would be more appropriate than either Arnold or Dolph. (And no, I'm not suggesting either Cain or Fraser as Doc, just noting that they're closer in age to what Doc should be if the new movie takes place near the start of Doc's career.) 

Of course, if the producers do decide to go with Arnold or Dolph and portray an older Doc, a number of years into his career (which to me would be a mistake, but that's a whole different argument just now), it WOULD allow us to cast either John Malkovic or Christopher Walken (both appropriately creepy) as John Sunlight...

2.) Doc should be portrayed as a powerful-looking individual - but not as a bulked up weightlifter/ bodybuilder type. That's one place where the George Pal movie got it absolutely right, in my opinion; Ron Ely LOOKED like what I had always envisioned Doc to look like in my mind, physique-wise. It's just too bad he didn't have a better script to work with. (Somewhere in one of those "pocket universes" Farmer has written about, Ron Ely's acting credits include the title role in the film Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze - written by Lawrence Kasdan, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas...) Our new movie Doc should, in my opinion, be from the same basic mold as Ely.

As for Doc's aides, the "Amazing Five":

Ham - I was prepared to accept the previous suggestion of Bruce Campbell. Then a man on a flaming pie came down and banged me upside the head with my TV remote, changing the channel to a rerun of Frazier. And it was then that I saw the light - David Hyde-Pierce as Ham. Somehow it just seems right.

Johnny - Ted Raimi from Xena and SeaQuest looks the part in my mind. 

Long Tom - You're gonna laugh (heck, I laughed when the notion first occurred to me), but I remember seeing the film Independence Day and thinking that the scientist that Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation) played somehow reminded me a bit of a somewhat long-in-the-tooth and gone-round-the-bend Long Tom. 

Monk - I was having trouble thinking of anyone for this part at first. But then all the banter back and forth about Curly Howard made me think of Michael Chiklis, who played Curly in the TV movie about the Three Stooges. I think he'd be good in the part; he's proved he can do both comedy (Daddio) and drama (The Commish), which should make him perfect strictly from an acting point of view.

Renny - Don't laugh, but I keep seeing Brad Garrett - the older brother from Everybody Loves Raymond - in this part. He's probably too thin, but he's got the height and the voice (his real voice, not the exaggerated one he uses on the TV show), and he's a lot closer to having the fists than anyone else I can think of.

Pat Savage, Doc's cousin - Lucy Lawless, from Xena. I originally felt Charlize Theron might make a good Pat, but I've since changed my mind.

Now: Someone asked the follow-up question, "What actors from ANY time period would you like to have seen in the roles of Doc, Pat and the Five?"

My responses:

Doc - Ron Ely. I still think he was the right man for the job, but simply got saddled with the wrong script and the wrong approach. Of course, I've always regretted that the proposed 1960s film version of The Thousand-Headed Man never got made; Chuck Connors might have made a pretty good Doc, too.

Renny - John Wayne. I'm serious; if a Doc film had been made around the era of The Quiet Man, Duke woulda been perfect for the part. Or maybe - just maybe, mind you - Kirk Douglas as he appeared in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

Ham - Someone else suggested William Powell. I agree.

Monk - Lou Costello. Again, I say this in all seriousness; anyone who's ever seen tapes of the performances he gave not long before he died in episodes of the TV shows G.E. Theatre ("Blaze Of Glory," originally broadcast on Sept. 21, 1958) and Wagon Train ("The Tobias Jones Story," first broadcast on Oct. 22, 1958) knows he could have been a halfway decent dramatic actor if given the chance.

Long Tom - Jackie Cooper. The mannerisms of his Perry White in the Superman films (especially the very first one) always sort of reminded me of Long Tom's, for some odd reason.

Johnny - As I’ve noted before, I thought Eldon Quick in the original Doc Savage film was perfect for this role. But if we're going to go back in time for an actor from an earlier era... well, how does Olan Soule grab you?

Pat - Rita Hayworth. Or possibly a young Maureen O'Hara. (Especially if we go with John Wayne as Renny.)

John Sunlight - Christopher Lee in a heartbeat. Lee's the one I see in my mind whenever I go back and re-read Dent’s Fortress of Solitude or The Devil Genghis.

As for the suggestion offered by one of our number that so-called comedian Chris Elliott be cast in the role of Long Tom - well, with all due respect...


And one more thing while I'm thinking about it. One of our members recently offered the following suggestion for an "actress" to portray Pat Savage: "What about Pamela Anderson, I think although the film was kinda stinky, that she proved she could play a female action hero in Barb Wire."

Well, at the risk of offending some of her fans, it occurs to me that the reason the film Barb Wire was kinda stinky was because Pamela Anderson's acting is kinda stinky. And while I realize that her acting ability isn't exactly what draws attention her way, I just think whoever plays Pat should at least be able to act her way out of something other than clothes.

But, hey, that's just me...