By Christopher Campbell
If Tyler Perry gets an Oscar nomination for his acting in “Madea Goes to Jail,” can a washed-up actress scold him for taking away female roles? Actually, could it just be Cuba Gooding Jr. in drag, à la “Boat Trip”?
Seriously, though, Madea won’t be up for any Academy Awards next year, but damn is Perry’s character popular. Enough that the sassy matriarch has now evolved from a supporting character into the star of her own vehicle (which gave the filmmaker his biggest opening yet this past weekend). Yes, it’s true that Madea is a central figure in most of Perry’s films and has previously been the main protagonist in his plays (including the one “Madea Goes to Jail” is based on), but in the movie world she was introduced as a secondary role in “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” So, now she belongs in that small club of supporting characters who’ve earned their own film(s); other members of which include Jay and Silent Bob, Bruce and Lloyd, Cousin Eddie, Marshal Samuel Gerard, the Scorpion King and Wolverine.
And Madea is one of the very few female characters to belong to the club, which is another good reason for an actress to scold Perry. But the problem also lies with the people who write woman characters, apparently, since in coming up with ten other supporting characters who deserve their own spin off, we managed to only include two females on our list. Perhaps if we’d permitted classic film characters there’d be more to choose from — though even then we might be more likely to include a Peter Lorre or a William Demarest role than a Thelma Ritter or Eve Arden.
Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), from “Changeling”
Angelina Jolie got the entire spotlight for this film, earning an undeserved Oscar nomination among other things, but the only person truly worth watching in Clint Eastwood’s period piece is John Malkovich. He’s not exactly good in the role, but he looks amazing (and more creepy than ever) with his Marcel Wave hairdo and little mustache. The radio reverend could continue in a series of films in which he helps out other characters with their problems while constantly going up against the corrupt LAPD.
Bust-Ass (Danny McBride), from “All the Real Girls”
Danny McBride is starting to become a household name thanks to scene-stealing roles in last year’s “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder” and his new HBO series “Eastbound & Down,” which he co-created with his Foot Fist Way collaborators Jody Hill and Ben Best. Yet his funniest performance is still arguably as Bust-Ass in “All the Real Girls”. So, even though that films’ director, David Gordon Green, has helmed episodes of “Eastbound,” we’d actually prefer the filmmaker go back and make a spin off to “All the Real Girls” starring the parka-wearing putz.
Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), from “No Country for Old Men”
We could probably select just about any supporting character from a Coen brothers film (here’s a related list, to get some ideas); most would be good for a spin off of their own. But the character that won Javier Bardem an Oscar seems the most easily appropriated to any number of new situations. While Hollywood might prefer to be consistent by ruining the character’s mystique with a prequel explaining Anton Chigurh’s background, we think it’d be more fun to see any one (or number) of the following unconnected tales: “Anton Goes to Jail;” “Anton Saves Christmas;” “Anton Takes Manhattan.”
John Givings (Michael Shannon), from “Revolutionary Road”
John Givings functions perfectly as a minor plot device for the Wheeler’s story in “Revolutionary Road,” and he probably wouldn’t work as well at feature-length capacity in a film all of his own. But he could at least serve the same purpose in other stories, the way that Silent Bob functioned similarly throughout a number of Kevin Smith’s films. Then, maybe after a few more titles in which he’s still merely a supporting character he can finally get his own co-spin off, which will costar an also-deserving Kathy Bates. Currently, we like the title “John Givings and His Mom Strike Back.”
Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), from “12 Monkeys”
Like Danny McBride, Brad Pitt needs to go back to his greatest performance, which was undoubtedly as the loony Jeffrey Goines, from Terry Gilliam’s underrated sci-fi masterpiece. A spin off (or franchise) would have to do away with the original film’s time travel angle, but it would still be interesting following Goines on other crazed adventures in animal activism. Plus, for Pitt it would mean another chance at winning an Oscar for his most deserved role, yet this time it could be for Best Actor (actually a number of actors on this list could do the Al Pacino-as-Michael Corleone Oscar promotion).
Garland ‘The Marietta Mangler’ Greene (Steve Buscemi), from “Con Air”
One of the problems of giving Hannibal Lecter a franchise, or at least an origin film, was that it watered down the iconic villain a bit. Fortunately for the similar serial killer Garland Greene, he’s neither iconic nor all that frightening, so showing his back story won’t ruin him for all those “Con Air” fans out there. And who wouldn’t like to see Steve Buscemi on a cross-country drive wearing a girl’s head as a hat? Considering Greene has a potentially life-changing moment halfway through the movie and also manages to get away at the end means there’s room for a subsequent spin off, as well. It might not be as bloody as the prequel, but it’ll still be interesting to see this mass murderer make it rich at the craps table and then attempt to fall into a more normal (albeit wealthier) lifestyle.
Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), from “Tropic Thunder”
One of the more politically incorrect things heard following the Oscars is, “Robert Downey Jr. should do Indian face now.” As wrong as that statement seems, though, it’s not really that different from what was already done. RDJr achieved something remarkable considering how PC America has been in the last twenty years. Could he break apart more taboos with his Oscar-nominated role as the Oscar-winning actor Kirk Lazarus? A franchise wouldn’t necessarily have to be racially based. For his next role, we see Lazarus taking the plot of “Tootsie” to the next level by actually getting a sex change in order to play a woman. It might end up even more successful than “Madea.”
Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), from “X-Men,” “X2: X-Men United” and “X-Men: The Last Stand”
After the X-Men movie franchise gives us origin spin offs for Wolverine and Magneto, it’ll be time to give one of the many female mutants her own film. Unfortunately, nobody really wants to see cinematic one-shots focused on Storm, Rogue or Jean Grey. Maybe there’d be interest in a Kitty Pryde movie starring Ellen Page, though her character really necessitates the surroundings of a team (Excalibur movie, anyone?). The main worry of an X-Woman-based prequel might be that previous female superhero spin offs have consistently been terrible (see “Supergirl,” “Elektra” and “Catwoman”). But “X-Men Origins: Mystique” would be very cool, because Raven Darkholme is such a fascinating villain. Her solo film should be set during WWII in her days as a spy and feature her lesbian partner, Destiny (or hetero partner if you subscribe to the theory that Mystique was born a man and has been disguising herself primarily as a woman “as the ultimate in transvestism”). Brian De Palma should probably direct this spin off, since it’ll kind of be like a cross between “Mission: Impossible” and “Femme Fatale.”
Pagoda (Kumar Pallana), from “The Royal Tenenbaums”
Like the Coen brothers, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and a number of other indie film gods of the 90s, Wes Anderson has a good lot of supporting characters to choose from for a spin off. But none of those characters would be as interesting as any of Kumar Pallana’s roles. And we’re not just thinking of him because a Pagoda spin off would cash in on the Slumdog-inspired India fetishism that’s likely to take over Hollywood for the next year or so. No, we always wished to see the origins of Royal Tenenbaum’s servant, friend, informant and attempted assassin. The only problem with wanting a film about the young Pagoda in his days as a killer in Calcutta is that Pallana is probably too old to play the part, yet nobody (not even his son, fellow Anderson player Dipak Pallana) could be his substitute.
Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch), from “Role Models”
We know what you’re thinking: a whole movie consisting of Jane Lynch talking about performing sexual favors for coke while doing her hilariously dirty hot dog trick? To which we answer: hell yes, please. But seriously, this is simply an excuse to propose Lynch get her own comedic vehicle in general. She could reprise her role as the head of the mentoring organization Sturdy Wings, or she could bring back her similarly inappropriate character from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” We’d also settle for any of her roles from the Christopher Guest films, just so long as she gets to star in a film of her own. Come on, Judd Apatow, enough of the boys club. The funniest member of your company of actors is a woman, and she deserves the spotlight, too!