What does “star” mean? The Variety story doesn’t say. But you have to wonder whose shoes Cruise he going to fill, or try to fill. Yul Brynner’s? Steve McQueen’s? Charles Bronson’s? James Coburn’s?
I can’t get my mind around any of those possibilities — not just because John Sturges’ first remake is still vivid in my mind, but because Cruise basically played man-boys until he was pushing 40, and it wasn’t until very recently that I got used to the idea of him playing a character with any gravitas at all. But what the hell, let’s play the casting game. Let’s pretend Cruise isn’t attached (unless you want him!) and that you run the studio bankrolling the picture.
Me? I’d prefer Bruce Willis/Brynner and Woody Harrelson/McQueen. True Blood‘s Chris Bauer in the Bronson role. Joel Kinnaman from The Killing in the Coburn role — or for a splash of color, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Cruise might be effective as Robert Vaughn’s dandy of a gunman; the pathos inherent in that part might catch people by surprise. George Clooney would be fun, too; Mag Seven newbies might be so thrown by his star wattage that they’d be, er, taken aback by the arc of his character, he said, treading lightly around spoilers for a 52-year old movie. Any plausibly Latin newcomer could play the Horst Buchholz part, and would surely do more with it than Buchholz did. Brad Dexter’s character should be played by somebody as big (or big-seeming) as Dexter, I think. I rather liked seeing Dolph Lundgren in The Expendables — he’s a better actor than his typecasting as stony-faced killers indicates — so maybe he’s the right guy. The hammy bandit Calvera is henceforth marked “property of Benecio Del Toro,” who would be even harder to understand than usual with all those shreds of scenery lodged in his teeth. Now it’s your turn.
Matt Zoller Seitz is the TV critic for New York Magazine and publisher of Press Play.