“Archer” has never been shy on guest stars, including this week’s visiting voice from Kumail Nanjiani. From Jeffrey Tambor pairing up with Jessica Walters for an “Arrested Development” reunion in Season 1 to Kenny Loggins checking in last year, “Archer” knows what talent to bring in as well as who to avoid. But other than the major get of grabbing Burt Reynolds to play himself in Season 3 — and the minor acquisition of Christian Slater last year — the FX animated series is light on big name action stars.
Clearly, Archer himself is a movie fan, as his consistent references to obscure cult classics of the ’70s and ’80s denotes. So we at Indiewire came up with a wishlist we think Codename Duchess would approve of, trying to avoid anyone who doesn’t fit the show’s mold or who may be a little bit less than “spy” material (sorry fans of Sly and Ahnuld, that means no blunt force beefcakes). The key attributes include: actors who have played famous spies, macho actor icons and a distinctive voice and/or personality. Take a look and tell us who you think we left out.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: It appears both Sterling and “Archer” creator Adam Reed are at least fans of “Top Gun,” if not the rest of Cruise’s action oeuvre. The team put together this homage to Cruise’s breakout film before Season 5 after years of “Danger Zone” quoting that lead to Kenny Loggins guest starring as himself. Given Cruise’s rise to prominence in the late ’80s and Archer’s approximate age at the time, a teenage Sterling would have been a big fan of the courageous and charismatic star. Cruise even played his first spy in ’96 as Ethan Hunt in the first “Mission: Impossible” film, making for the perfect dark-haired role model to a developing secret agent.
“Their Mission, Should They Choose to Accept It”: Setting aside our lead character’s inherent glee, Archer and Cruise would have to team up in a collaboration with the Impossible Missions Force — which totally exists — in order to survive their greatest challenge yet: retrieving the NOC list from a mole inside the IMF who may or may not be the team’s new commanding officer voiced by Jon Voight. Archer, of course, would be a bit of a (meta) dick and point out the blatant similarities between their “new” mission and Cruise’s 1996 franchise-starting film, while Cruise claimed this kind of repetition was simply par for the course in the action genre. In the end, Archer would discover the IMF was a fake entity made up by The Church of Scientology to keep Cruise’s adrenaline junkie needs in check, but convincing him of as much proves the truly impossible mission.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: Manliness is measured by more than just the length, thickness and personality of one’s…foot. A mustache has a lot to say about the matter. No one this side of Ron Swanson has a more glorious mustache than Sam Elliot (though Tom Selleck’s sure ain’t bad), and the actor has more than made a place for himself in the lore of macho moviemaking with roles in “Road House,” “Tombstone” and “The Big Lebowski.” He’s best known for being in boots with the spurs, but Elliot also appeared on the “Mission: Impossible” TV series back when Archer was but a wee lad.
“Tombstache”: Some father issues may crop up, but that’s not enough to deter ol’ Sterling from saddling up with Sam. Though not a prominent genre on “Archer,” the Western is befitting of our star. Drinking, gunplay, gambling and sex all play a prominent factor in both shows, and, if nothing else, Archer would be envious of Elliot’s incomparable mustache. Send Archer, Lana, Cyril and Ray out west — perhaps to a small town in southwest Texas — searching for an ex-CIA agent who’s holed up in hiding and refusing to return to service. While down there, they’ll discover Cherlene performing at a local watering hole with devout groupie Pam in tow.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: Archer’s a shouter, not a growler, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t appreciate an opportunity to commune with one of the most legendary action heroes of the 1980s. Indiana Jones AND Han Solo, all in one man? It’s Archer’s favorite day (that isn’t Burt Reynolds’ birthday).
“Air Force Pun”: Archer gets assigned to protect the President during an international mission of goodwill — and flips his shit, because the president is Harrison Ford (as himself), proving more than capable of kicking terrorist ass when the time inevitably comes. Of course, then Archer drinks all of President Harrison Ford’s scotch, for which President Harrison Ford punishes him by drop-kicking him out an exit door without a parachute. “GET OFF MY PLANE,” he growls. And then gets his ear pierced again.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: Whether they would admit it now or not, every woman alive had a crush on Mel Gibson between 1979 and roughly 2005. Thanks to smash hits with alluring romantic subplots like “Lethal Weapon” and “Braveheart,” Gibson became a go-to multi-demo lead with the physicality to carry an action franchise and charisma to woo the ladies. He was even named People Magazine’s first ever Sexiest Man Alive in 1985. In short, he’s everything Archer wants to emulate: the guy all men want to be, and all women want to be with.
“Air Archer”: In search of some unneeded R&R, Archer slips away on a flight to Laos only to discover the rest of the crew had the very same idea and is onboard with him. Our hero is not pleased, but the gang’s vacation-spoiling attendance comes in handy as the plane is hijacked by Mel Gibson’s Aussie husband, father and ADF Commander. Gibson puts on a political sideshow, claiming he’s taken over the plane for ransom, but really it was the only way he could make it back to his estranged family. Lana is a little too understanding in the end, and Archer is forced to be the (*gulp*) responsible one.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: In spite of his chauvinistic behavior towards women, Archer, to his credit, recognizes — perhaps even secretly appreciates — the existence of strong women. In all seriousness — how many times has Lana saved his sorry ass? Too many to count.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: Before Kilmer had a three-quarter-life crisis and started imitating Mark Twain, the blonde-haired L.A. native was the Iceman to Tom Cruise’s Maverick. Sure, Barry played him in the aforementioned video, but that doesn’t mean Archer dislikes the actor in “Tombstone,” “The Saint,” “The Salton Sea” or even “Batman Forever.” His portrayal of Doc Holliday is enough for any man to worship at the alter of Kilmer, and he earns bonus points for being freakin’ Batman (and a spy). ’80s icon + “Top Gun” + Batmobile + fake spy = one of Archer’s favorite actors.
“The Ghost and the Archness”: Kilmer also appeared in the cult classic “The Ghost and the Darkness” as a hunter of demonic lions alongside Michael Douglas. The film deserves more attention, thus making it an ideal premise on which to base an episode of “Archer” (Reed and his writing staff love referencing obscure films). We all know Sterling is a big fan of dangerous game — remember his ocelot? — especially when he’s hunting it — a favorite pastime — so why not let Kilmer play the veteran hunter and Archer his wild sidekick on a mission set in Africa?
Next page: “The Natural,” “Predator” and a special in memoriam inclusion.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: Like Burt Reynolds but with a substantial career post-1989 (don’t even think about saying “Boogie Nights”), Redford is the classiest, smartest and most independent-minded action star on this list. But to Sterling Archer, he’s just three men: Jeremiah Johnson, Joseph Turner and Roy Hobbs (and maybe the Sundance Kid). Sure, Redford has won an Oscar for directing “Ordinary People” and started the most prominent film festival in North America. None of that compares to “Johnson,” “Three Days of the Condor” or “The Natural,” films for which Archer has already pledged allegiance to in one way or another.
“Spy Game”: In a flashback to Archer’s training, we meet Thomas Muir (voiced by Redford), a veteran spy who teaches Archer his tradecraft. In the present day, Muir needs to be bailed out of a Chinese prison after botching a job and Archer is called in to save him — off the books. Beauty battles between the two would undoubtedly ensue, and Archer’s long-standing suspicion of everyone banging his mom would undoubtedly complicate things. Still, Redford’s wisdom and level-headedness would prove an ideal foil for Archer’s tomfoolery.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: This one’s a close call. Like at least one other actor on this list, Rourke has done a few things to provide himself a somewhat unflattering public image. Archer, however, is no saint himself, and — like most ’70s babies — probably remembers the young Mickey over the old Rourke. The actor broke out in classic ’80s films like “Body Heat,” “Diner,” “Rumble Fish” and “The Pope of Greenwich Village,” proving his acting chops before retiring from acting to take up professional boxing. Archer has to like that, as well as his affinity for risque situations with the ladies.
“Two Dames to Kill For”: In this homage to “Sin City,” Archer arrives in the mostly black and white world of Frank Miller, filled with booze, violence and mostly-naked women. An unrecognizable Rourke shows up and claims he’s on a mission to rescue a the love of his life. Archer says that must be why he’s there, too, as he can’t remember why or how he got to Sin City in the first place (not an unusual situation for the heavy-drinking spy). The two fight and trade barbs, with many directed at Rouke’s plastic surgery and bad films — the latter of which Mickey is more than willing to discuss. Later, Archer will awaken and realize it was all just a dream, cracking a timely joke in the hopes “Sin City 2” was part of his “nightmare.” It wasn’t, sadly for the rest of us.
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: Archer’s love of iconic mustaches would make him keenly invested in meeting Magnum P.I. himself, if only to compare the man to his forever rival, Burt Reynolds. It’s not a competition, though. Both men bring something special to the facial hair game, and Archer’s just the man to appreciate the distinction.
“The Low Road to China”: Archer might team up with Selleck imagining a high-octane adventure, but Selleck would slow things down quickly, offering the super-spy a cigar and some gentle but wise life advice. Why? Because Selleck might be the one man who could teach Archer there’s more to life than awesome turtlenecks, bourbon and shooting things. (There’s also women and Ferraris.)
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: Archer is a man’s man, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t enjoy a pointer on how to execute the perfect handshake. And that’s something Carl Weathers can help him out with, as he demonstrated in the opening minutes of the classic film “Predator” (an afore-referenced favorite of the not-so-secret agent). It’s a handshake so manly it can destroy worlds. You know Archer wants in on that.
“Action Archer Jackson”: Archer teams up with Carl Weathers for special training, which he discovers after the fact is actually special acting training. Learning valuable lessons about performance, character building and just how much meat needs to be on a leftover chicken bone for it to be viable stew fuel, Archer’s experience working with Carl actually proves really inspiring. They’re just two grown adults, getting their stew on.
Every Actor to Play James Bond Ever Other Than Timothy Dalton
Why Archer Would Be a Fan: “Archer” wouldn’t exist without the Bond franchise, so bringing in the actors who played the original hard-drinking, womanizing secret agent is a no-brainer — except for Timothy Dalton. Sean Connery is the standard and Pierce Brosnan is the closest thing we have to an Archer clone. Roger Moore was still chivalrous and his tenure lasted throughout Archer’s youth; therefore, he would not take kindly to seeing another man take the reins, especially when he only lasted for two films. Though many Bond aficionados were pleased with Dalton’s performance, Archer is more likely to buck the trend than follow it — which is why we like to pretend he’s a big fan of the one-and-done George Lazenby.
“Archer. Sterling Archer.”: Never one to back down from a challenge, Archer would do his best to hang with the big boys of ODIN — who all look a lot like 007 (or at least the different versions of him) — as he races to solve an in-house mystery at the “superior” spy agency. Someone is leaking documents across the pond, and Archer suspects its one of the Brit-sounding ODIN agents. He spends most of the episode interrogating one via car rides, drinking sessions, bating babes and shooting contests, but it’s not until he’s helped out with a fancy lie detecting gadget that he’s able to discover which agent is ordering doubles.
In Memoriam: Steve McQueen