Alright, so I just recently reread one of my favorite sci-fi novels, Dan Simmons’s Hyperion. There have been rumors of a film or TV series based on this book floating around for years, with SyFy supposedly planning to film it at one point, but that never materialized. It’s too bad, because this whole book series is just aching for a cinematic adaptation of some sort, especially the first book. As with the Dune film, if I were making this, I have some pretty specific people in mind for the key roles. Although most of these actors where not who I initially pictured, I have come to see them as the best choices if the film were to start shooting today. So let’s begin with . . .
The Consul (Hugh Laurie)
He’s the informal leader of the Shrike pilgrims and the last character to tell his tale, which involves a huge secret with respect to the Ousters which is vastly important in the scheme of the entire series. He’s a man with a lot of weight on his shoulders and as such he is bound to look haunted and haggard. Who better to portray him than Hugh Laurie, who may be the most haunted-looking man in Hollywood? Laurie, who is best known for playing Dr. House in the eponymous series, can grow his hair out a bit and put on about fifteen or twenty pounds and I doubt anyone would be more suitable to play this key role. And with Laurie set to appear in the upcoming Tomorrowland, I’m guessing he will have a built-in science fiction fan base very soon.
Fedmahn Kassad (Naveen Andrews)
Colonel Fedmahn Kassad is a member of FORCE and is definitely a badass. Middle Easterners don’t often get a positive portrayal in American media, let alone in science fiction, so Kassad is an interesting anomaly. One of the few actors I could think of who could fill those shoes is Naveen Andrews, who is actually of Indian descent rather than Palestinian like Kassad, but he’s probably the closest we are going to get out of Hollywood, because there are just not a lot of choices here. Nevertheless, I am confident that Naveen Andrews would do an amazing job as the clever and tough-as-nails soldier who vows to take on the Shrike single-handedly.
Lenar Hoyt (David Tennant)
This was actually one of the toughest choices for me. Who is fit to play a man who starts out as a humble, long-suffering servant of God and ultimately becomes one of the major villains of the later books in the series? There were several worthy candidates, but ultimately I had to go with Tennant, who sci-fi geeks will immediately recognize as the Tenth Doctor from long-running British science fiction series Doctor Who. I don’t know why but I just have a feeling that Tennant would knock this one out of the park. And let’s face it: you know you want to see Tennant play a pope, which, if the whole book series was filmed, you would eventually get to see.
Martin Silenus (Harvey Fierstein)
I have read Hyperion twice now, and each time I had either a vague picture in my head of most characters or had different people in mind each time. But one character has always been clear in my head as to who should portray him and always will be, no matter how many times I read it. That character is the poet Martin Silenus, and in my mind only one person can ever play him: Harvey Fierstein. Silenus is a rotund little satyr of a man (no, really–at one point he literally has himself surgically remade into a satyr), a snide, vulgar-tongued hedonist through-and-through, but also, as befitting a poet, a man capable of great insight and beauty. Simmons also describes him as having a deep and distinctive voice, which is what initially made me picture Fierstein, and the more I thought about it, the more perfect this particular actor felt to me, to the point where now it would seem a great travesty if he wasn’t cast as Martin Silenus!
Brawne Lamia (Gina Carano)
Brawne originates from the high-gravity world of Lusus, and Lusians tend to be muscular and powerful thanks to the additional g-forces they are subjected to. Meanwhile, Carano originates from the high-badassity world of mixed martial arts, but she has also done some acting, most notably in Fast & Furious 6. I have no doubt that she has what it takes to play Brawne, a private detective who gets in over her head when she takes on a case that turns out to have strong connections to the TechnoCore, a bunch of super-advanced AIs, some of whom would like to help humanity become extinct.
Sol Weintraub (John Landis)
Okay, Landis is primarily a director, but he has done some acting as well, including in such genre classics as Death Race 2000, Darkman, Spider-Man 2 and (a cameo appearance in) Stephen King’s The Stand television miniseries. He’s smart, he’s Jewish, he’s the right age and most importantly, he looks exactly the way I picture the scholar from Barnard’s World in my head. Can’t you just see him cradling baby Rachel in his arms like in the illustration above? I know I can!
Het Masteen (Ian Anthony Dale)
Simmons describes the Templars of God’s Grove as being extremely tall and thin and having Asian features. At six feet tall, I’d say Dale is immanently qualified. If they need additional height for him, there are plenty of camera and CG tricks for that. Het Masteen is captain of the Yggdrasil, one of only four treeships (which are made from actual gigantic trees!) in the Hyperion universe. He is quiet, stoical and mysterious, and he’s the only one of the seven pilgrims who doesn’t get to tell his story in the novel; for spoilery reasons I will not go into the reason why here. Anyway, Dale has done a few films, but he is mostly a well-established presence on television.
Paul Duré (Jeff Bridges)
Father Paul Duré is not a Shrike pilgrim, but he is the subject of Lenar Hoyt’s tale and a fascinating character. At the time Paul Duré is on Hyperion, he is a representative of a Catholic Church which is almost extinct, but he will play an important part in its eventual resurrection (almost literally) thanks to his discovery of the cruciform, a cross-shaped parasite that integrates with its host’s body and brings them back to life whenever they are killed, though every time they come back they are a little less human than before. And that’s not the cruciform’s only downside. Duré, who is essentially an exile on Hyperion, is a fairly tormented fellow to start with, but things only get worse for him. Much worse, in fact. In the second book, Simmons describes Duré as an older man who is tall and thin but who conveys power. I’ll be damned if that doesn’t describe Bridges. Well okay, maybe he’s not so thin anymore, but if he was offered the right role . . .
Meina Gladstone (Sigourney Weaver)
Meina Gladstone is CEO of the Hegemony, making her the most politically powerful person in the Hyperion universe. Although she doesn’t play as large a part in the first book as she does in later ones, it would be essential to cast the right actress early on. Gladstone is described as an attractive older woman with short-cropped gray hair. Because of the hair, one may be tempted to go with, say, Jamie Lee Curtis or Judi Dench for this role, but I had someone else in mind while reading the book. Gladstone is a shrewd, tough-as-nails politician. Weaver has practically built her career on playing shrewd and tough-as-nails women like Dian Fossey from Gorillas in the Mist, Dr. Augustine from Avatar and, of course, Ellen Ripley from the Aliens franchise. Maybe it’s a bit of typecasting on my part, but I can’t help it: in my imagination Meina Gladstone has the face and voice of Sigourney Weaver.
Moneta is the mysterious woman who appears to Kassad while he is engaged in virtual combat practice and becomes his lover within that virtual domain. She is a woman of aggressive passion and sensuality. Okay, there’s no one in that picture, I know. Originally I did have someone here–Emilia Clarke–but there’s a very important reason why it can’t be her (or really anyone) that isn’t revealed until the second novel, The Fall of Hyperion. So basically, my idea is that, if the film is to stay true to the books, they pretty much have to avoid showing Moneta’s face at all.
Johnny Keats (Daniel Radcliffe)
Daniel Radcliffe may seem like an odd choice to play Romantic poet John Keats (or rather an AI-created facsimile of him called a cybrid), but hear me out. First off, Keats was English, and so is Radcliffe. That’s a small thing, I know, but consider that the real Keats was a really short man: exactly five feet in height. Now, Radcliffe isn’t that short, but at only 5’6″ he is one of the shorter actors working right now. And have you seen him in Horns? If you haven’t, you should watch it immediately. Seriously, go watch it right now, it’s a great film. The rest of this article isn’t going anywhere.
Rachel Weintraub [age 26] (Natalie Portman)
The daughter of Sol Weintraub is an important character in Hyperion, even though she appears mostly as an infant. It is because of her that Sol ultimately becomes one of the Shrike pilgrims. She is a young archeologist studying the Time Tombs when she is struck by the bizarre illness that causes her to begin aging backwards, and Sol and his wife are stuck with the heartbreaking task of watching their only child regress through her youth and childhood years, unable to remember what happened the day before every time she wakes from sleep. Although Rachel’s face was initially pretty vague in my mind, I later came to see her as a bright and attractive young lady of Jewish heritage with dark hair and dark eyes: in other words, someone exactly like Natalie Portman.
Rachel Weintraub [teen] (Mackenzie Foy)
When casting a younger version of a character, I would try my best to get someone who is not only talented but also looks like the older version of the same character. I know people can change a lot once they go through puberty, but few things irk me more than seeing a film or TV show where a child or teen version of an adult character clearly looks nothing like their older self. It takes me right out of the story. Which reminds me: hey casting directors, you really need to do a better job of casting older and younger versions of characters, and even characters who are blood-related. Anyway, Mackenzie Foy. Most people probably know her best as little Renesmee from Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2, but we won’t talk about that. Besides, nothing that was bad about that film was Foy’s fault. And, with the help of some colored contact lenses, she could certainly pass for a younger version of Natalie Portman.
Melio Arundez (Diego Boneta)
Melio Arundez is Rachel Weintraub’s co-worker and eventual lover. I have never had a particularly clear image of him in my head save that he is handsome and has a short, well-trimmed beard. I chose Diego Boneta mainly for his outstanding performance in the musical Rock of Ages. It’s not a particularly good film, but it has a certain over-the-top spirit and joyfulness which makes it fun to watch anyway, and it has an incredible cast, including this young man who plays one of the leads.
Merin Aspic (Jack Quaid)
One thing I considered when thinking about who could play Merin Aspic, the Consul’s grandfather (whose story is told to the other Shrike pilgrims by the Consul) is, what kind of guy would a wide-eyed native girl from an out-of-the-way, sparsely populated tropical world fall for? The answer: probably a guy like Jack Quaid. He has that broad, open face that seems to project qualities like honesty, sincerity and trustworthiness. Plus, being the offspring of Dennis Quaid, he has more than a touch of that same goofy charm that his dad made famous in films like Great Balls of Fire!, Postcards from the Edge and Everybody’s All-American.
Siri [young] (Saoirse Ronan)
For Siri, the native girl from the planet Maui-Covenant who falls for FORCE:space recruit Merin Aspic, I can think of few actresses who could sell that part like Saoirse Ronan. She is absolutely one of my favorite young actresses working right now, and I can only foresee great things ahead for her. Hanna is now one of my favorite films, and that is based in part on the strength of her performance. Before that she was utterly fantastic as 13-year-old Briony in the film Atonement, and as Lina Mayfleet in City of Ember.
Siri [middle age] (Helen Hunt)
An interesting aspect of the Consul’s grandparents’ story is watching them become estranged due to the effects of time dilation. When Merin and Siri meet, he is 19 and she is 16–he is a full three years older than her and a little wiser. But while Merin is off in space for mere months, every time he returns to Maui-Covenant Siri has aged years, and her frustration with his naivety becomes more and more palpable. Again, I tried to come up with someone who could believably pass for an older version of Saoirse Ronan as well as someone who could convey the complex emotions the older Siri experiences in the conflict between her love for Merin and her hatred of what he stands for. For my money, Helen Hunt is pretty much the perfect choice.
Siri [old] (Vanessa Redgrave)
Two words: Vanessa. Redgrave. That is all.
Sad King Billy (John C. Reilly)
Sad King Billy is a strange character. He is part of Martin Silenus’s story, and as a man who holds himself partly responsible for the slaughter of an entire city at the hands of the Shrike, he is a haunted and pathetic figure. Reilly is a versatile actor who has played a variety of different roles, many of which he has been nominated for, but to my knowledge he has never won any of these awards. That’s a damned shame. But Sad King Billy is exactly the kind of supporting role that, in the right hands, could be transcendent, even Oscar-worthy.