Questions still remain regarding the live-action rights to Daredevil, after Marvel was reportedly willing to grant Twentieth Century Fox an extended period of time to develop a new feature film around the blind superhero. With Marvel interested in widening the audience for its upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film, the deal reportedly stated Fox could hold onto the Daredevil rights in exchange for Marvel being granted access to two of its key interstellar characters that Fox currently holds; namely, the purple-helmeted planet eater, Galactus and his shiny herald, the Silver Surfer.
What sounded like a good idea and a pretty fair trade would unfortunately prove fruitless, leaving Fox to briefly consider doing a gritty, ’70s-inspired reboot from The A-Team and The Grey director, Joe Carnahan. Besides Carnahan’s sizzle reel being met with something between mild enthusiasm and total apathy, the problem simply became the lack of time Fox had to get a quality project in production by the first part of October. And with that, it seems the rights to Daredevil are very close to being back in Marvel’s hands.
In the event Daredevil does wind up back at the House of Ideas, there’re many options available to the character. With Joss Whedon, developing not only a sequel to the billion-dollar grossing film, The Avengers, but a S.H.I.E.L.D. television series as well, maybe there is room for Matt Murdock in one of those. While that would be nice, we think The Man Without Fear could make for a great television series all on his own. Here’s a look at how the series might play out and our top choices to cast this little Marvel What If?
Image Credit: Paolo Rivera
The two primary aspects to the world of Daredevil essentially make the character ready for primetime. By television standards, Matt Murdock is the perfect alter ego to his crimson-clad crime-fighting persona. On one hand, viewers will be given a compelling legal thriller with Matt Murdock and his partner Foggy Nelson acting as advisors to a bevy of characters (criminal and otherwise) looking to represent themselves in court. On the other hand, the series has the inherent pleasure of presenting one of Marvel’s preeminent superheroes doing battle with all sorts of criminal scum in Hell’s Kitchen. Who in their lifetime hasn’t tuned in to at least one legal drama and thought it could be made much better if the lawyer was also a blind vigilante with augmented senses?
Image Credit: Alex Maleev
James Badge Dale – The well-rounded actor certainly has the chops to pull off Matt Murdock and Daredevil, plus he will be enjoying a whole new level of exposure with his villainous role in the upcoming Iron Man 3. While Dale has recently been seen taking on smaller roles in feature films like The Grey and Shame, alongside Michael Fassbender, he’s done some of his best work on the slow-burn AMC series Rubicon. With a history of quality television work and diverse film roles, James Badge Dale would make a convincing Matt Murdock.
Joshua Jackson – Jackson’s earned a sizeable amount of fans for his portrayal of Peter Bishop – possibly more than his role of Pacey Witter (at least with the male demographic), and with Fringe about to start is fifth and final season, that would leave the well-known actor free to explore other opportunities like playing Daredevil. While Jackson is not regularly seen in action hero mode, there’s no doubt that he could pull off the costumed antics of Daredevil, as well as he could the various aspects of Matt Murdock’s day job.
Liam McIntyre – Another actor with a popular show set to end soon, Liam McIntyre stepped into the sandals of the late Andy Whitfield and did a remarkable job of putting his own spin on role of Spartacus, while remaining true to the character. McIntyre certainly has the proper physique to play the role of Daredevil, but would be tested more in the role of Matt Murdock. However, considering he was primarily known for quieter, dramatic roles prior to being cast as the bombastic Thracian warrior, McIntyre definitely has the range to handle courtroom drama as well as the physical presence to convincingly flog bad guys in the streets with a billy club.
Equal parts ruthless businessman and brutal thug, Wilson Fisk rules New York’s underworld with an iron fist. Marvel’s interpretation of the criminal leader has always been one of excess – both in physical size and consumptive ferocity. On the big screen, the late Michael Clarke Duncan showed that the character needn’t be a carbon copy of the comic version to be a compelling villain; Fisk merely had to be portrayed as a dangerous man with deadly menace boiling just underneath his specially tailored suits. Foregoing the idea of a villain capable of hurling his opponent down a city block, and sticking to a more grounded criminal that is primarily a corrupt businessman, Kingpin can be tweaked ever so slightly into a modern villain unafraid to hire crazed killers to do his dirty work. That way, Fisk can keep his hands clean, but his fingers in as many illegal pies as possible.
Image Credit: David Finch
Robert Wisdom – Probably best known for his role as Maj. Howard “Bunny” Colvin in HBO’s The Wire, Wisdom has also recently been seen in The Dark Knight Rises and taking a more villainous turn in USA’s Burn Notice. No matter the role, Wisdom always presents a powerful presence, but does so with a disturbingly calm and cool demeanor (that is the kind of personality of a criminal who knows he’s untouchable). At home on the small screen or in summer blockbusters, Wisdom is easily a top choice for Wilson Fisk.
Dean Norris – One doesn’t simply give an outstanding performance on Breaking Bad and not expect people to want him doing the same on other programs. Besides, thanks to his Breaking Bad hairstylist, Dean Norris already has the look of Wilson Fisk down. Add that to Norris’ keen ability to convey a quiet sense of escalating rage and accurately portray a person comfortable in a position of what he believes to be unquestionable authority, and he could easily bring some much-needed intensity to the role.
Michael Rooker – What if Wilson Fisk were just a little unhinged, just a little more prone to letting the dangerous beast out of its cage, even though a certain situation calls for some decorum? If that’s the case, then who better to play Kingpin than the guy who has been menacing other characters in projects like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Mallrats and, of course, The Walking Dead? Rooker would be an interesting (but undoubtedly compelling) choice that would have audiences convinced of Fisk’s villainy by mention of the actor’s name alone.
As much as Daredevil is a thorn in Kingpin’s side, Bullseye is a knife to the heart of Matt Murdock. Blessed not only with the uncanny ability to use any common object as a lethal weapon, Bullseye is also a seriously deranged hit man with a penchant for killing those with whom Daredevil has been romantically linked. Whether it’s slicing a person’s throat with a playing card from across the room or simply taking their life with his bare hands, Bullseye manages to apply his notoriety to his advantage, rather than slink around in the shadows and use mystery as his ally. To that end, Bullseye should have an onscreen presence that is at once intimidating, but also prone to reckless bouts of egotism.
Image Credit: Mike Deodato
Tahmoh Penikett – Once you mumble your way past his name for fear of pronouncing it incorrectly, Tahmoh Penikett looks like a great fit for the role of Bullseye. Already deft at playing men of action, as he did for Battlestar Gallactica and as Paul Ballard in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, Penikett certainly has the appropriate physicality to take the role on, while being more than convincing with the martial arts skills.
James Ransone – A simple glance in Ransone’s direction suggests an actor proficient in playing characters unburdened by normal societal conventions. Probably best known for his portrayal as Chester “Ziggy” Sobatka in season 2 of The Wire, Ransone has since been seen in everything from Burn Notice to Spike Lee’s Inside Man and Red Hook Summer. While he’s hasn’t spent much time working in genre fare like this, Ransone is the kind of actor who would likely turn in an unexpectedly brilliant performance as Marvel’s villain who can’t miss.
Luke Goss – Sure, the guy may not have the best looking resume on the planet, but if he’s good enough to appear in two Guillermo del Toro films, then that’s certainly worth a shot at playing such a notorious Marvel villain, right? There’s just something about Goss that suggests he could effortlessly convey Bullseye’s love of the spotlight without ever having to mention it. Besides having proven himself adept at doing battle with other comic book heroes (Blade and Hellboy, respectively), Goss could make a chilling addition to this small screen adventure.
Mary Alice Walker is one of the more bizarre villains Daredevil has had to face. A one-time lover of Matt Murdock’s and favorite tool of Kingpin, Walker has limited telekinetic abilities, as well as pyrokinesis, but is mostly known for her tragic dissociative identity disorder, which brings about three additional and increasingly dangerous personalities. As her “Mary” personality, she is quiet, demure and uninterested in violence; as “Tyhpoid,” Mary takes on a more audacious, shameless and violent personality; and as “Bloody Mary,” she becomes a wicked killer who focuses her hatred solely on men. The role would allow for the actress to move wildly between playing a coy pacifist and a literal man-killer in the blink of an eye, but still be a character the audience can feel empathy toward.
Image Credit: Alex Maleev
Gina Carano – While the range of her acting ability has not yet been fully tested, Carano certainly has the physical stature and fighting ability to pull off the role of Typhoid Mary. Her role in Haywire introduced her to a whole new audience that may have been unaware of her MMA presence. Carano’s fame has risen exponentially since then (having landed a role in The Fast and the Furious 6), making her an interesting gamble to play the troubled villain.
Katee Sackhoff – With Fox matching her own interest in playing the role, Katee Sackhoff is all but a shoe-in for Typhoid Mary. Though she’s currently starring as a no nonsense deputy on the A&E series Longmire, the actress has made a name for herself by playing women whose personalities are a little more scattered. On Battlestar Galactica, Sackhoff turned in a wonderfully complex version of Starbuck and managed to turn the young actress into a standout amongst a large ensemble, a feat she repeated in more genre fare like the short-lived Bionic Woman reboot on NBC. Given her passion for the job and intense fan following, Sackhoff definitely has what it takes inhabit the role of this twisted villain.
Michelle Rodriguez – In addition to being the most prolific of the three candidates – having appeared in The Fast and The Furious franchise, Avatar and Lost – Rodriguez might also be the actress best suited to encapsulate the varying extremes of Mary’s personalities. Rodriguez is mostly saddled with playing characters who don’t exactly wear their emotions on their sleeve, so this would be a chance for the actress to branch out and display her range.
Foggy Nelson is not just Matt Murdock’s legal partner and best friend, he’s the guy who keeps The Man Without Fear grounded. With his keen legal mind, Foggy is no slouch when it comes to trying cases, but his occasional social ineptitude and awe of his friend’s way with the ladies makes him a great counterpart to Murdock’s more heroic stature. In the beginning, Foggy was primarily comic relief – which could certainly be a portion of his role here – but considering he’s been around just as long as Daredevil, Mr. Nelson has become a character Daredevil as a comic book, feature film or television show simply wouldn’t work without.
Image Credit: Paolo Rivera
Jason Biggs – Pie abuse notwithstanding, it doesn’t take much to see Biggs in the role of Foggy Nelson. Perhaps more svelte than fans might imagine Foggy being, Biggs makes up for his penchant for exercise and occasional shirtlessness by displaying an ability to move through humiliating circumstances with a certain amount of humanity. As seen on the sitcom Mad Love, Biggs’ comedic efforts are at home whether he’s in a feature film or on television.
Patton Oswalt – Known primarily for his bitingly funny stand up, Patton Oswalt is also an accomplished actor capable of handling roles that range from hilarious to tragic. Last year, Oswalt appeared in Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, and turned in one of, if not the most compelling performance in the film. As an added bonus, Oswalt is a known comic book fan and reader (yes, he actually reads them!), which means he probably knows more about Foggy Nelson and Daredevil than anyone else on this list.
T.J. Miller – Another stand-up comedian turned actor, Miller is probably best known for barely appearing onscreen, yet still being memorable as Hud in Cloverfield, as well as humorous roles in Our Idiot Brother and this summer’s Seeking a Friend For the End of the World. Though he’s put most of his efforts into comedic fare, Miller convincingly handled a range of emotions from behind the lens in Cloverfield, suggesting the actor is capable of more than simply displaying a kind of goofy, kindhearted demeanor – even though those qualities would suit the role of Foggy well.
Though a less ninja-centric Daredevil would be desirable for the series, there’s still plenty of room for the mysterious Stick to have a part in the show. Serving as Matt Murdock’s sensei after the accident that took his sight, but granted him his other heightened senses, Stick is the leader of the ninja clan the Chaste, and sworn enemy of rival clan, the Hand. While cutting down on the ninja factor would probably be a good idea, having someone with whom Matt Murdock can confide in and learn from – without a need to hide his identity and true abilities – would make for a compelling addition to the cast of characters and help to provide answers to just how Matt Murdock is able to do the amazing things he does.
Image Credit: Frank Miller
Peter Mensah – As Oenomaus in Spartacus, Mensah convincingly took on the role of Doctore (or teacher) and helped mold a near feral Thracian warrior into the man who would lead a rebellion against the Roman Empire. Given the humanity and depth Mensah brought to what could have been a simple stock character, he’d be an excellent choice to guide and shape Matt Murdock into the crime-fighting hero he will become.
Scott Glenn – Glenn has had a lengthy career in Hollywood, appearing in such films as The Right Stuff, The Silence of the Lambs and more recently, The Bourne Legacy. Glenn brings with him both instant recognition, and the ability to portray characters with the kind of calm demeanor befitting of a man like Stick. Glenn portrayed a similar character in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, but with luck, a role like this might have a little more meat on its bones for the accomplished actor.
Mark Margolis – DING! Few actors can turn in a memorable role simply by contorting their face into a mass of hate and anger, but Mark Margolis managed to make Breaking Bad‘s Hector Salamanca a standout amongst a whole host of unforgettable characters. But Margolis is more than just a twisted face and an incessant bell, he’s an accomplished character actor who is a favorite of Darren Aronofsky and, in fact, created a memorable mentor character of Sol Robeson in Pi. Margolis would also be a Daredevil veteran, having appeared in the 2003 film as Fallon.
As central a figure in Murdock’s life as Uncle Ben was to a pre-Spider-Man Peter Parker, Battlin’ Jack Murdock would offer some unique insight to how the role of Matt Murdock came to be Daredevil. Arranging Jack Murdock appearances in the show via flashback would offer a great deal of information on just how Matt would choose to take up crime-fighting, and, more specifically, organized crime. A boxer whose failed professional career led him to use his brutal talents as an enforcer for the mob, Jack Murdock isn’t exactly a saintly figure who guided his son with great advice about power and responsibility. Jack’s story is one of redemption and finding his lost integrity, which could make for a powerful background story that would evolve over time.
Image Credit: Reid Harris Cooper
John Barrowman – For starters, he’s John Barrowman, so he’d be welcome to any role of his choosing. In this case, however, playing Battlin’ Jack Murdock in flashback might be the role best suited for the actor who’s been on everything from Doctor Who, to Torchwood and will be appearing in the upcoming Arrow series on The CW. He’s a familiar face who could lend a lot of empathy to the reformed tough guy.
Holt McCallany – Since McCallany appeared as a boxer in FX’s brilliant, but short-lived sports drama, Lights Out, this one is kind of a cheat. Still, McCallany proved he could not only convincingly handle the boxing required for the role, but he was adept at the heavier, dramatic moments of the series as well. We’d hate to see an actor like McCallany be typecast as a boxer, but imagining him as Jack Murdock is simply too perfect.
Thomas Haden Church – An actor who is not widely known for taking on roles of a fatherly nature, Church somehow still exudes a unique sort of paternal quality that is blended with an effortless ablility to portray flawed, but likeable characters. The role of Jack Murdock would be one rooted in examining a man’s failings and his attempts to overcome them for the sake of his child. Church has shown he’s capable of doing so in his role as Sandman in Spider-Man 3, but with Daredevil, the end product might not be met with such derision.
If this list shows anything, it’s that there’s plenty of material ready for the right creative minds to make Daredevil into a compelling and entertaining television series. The character may not be Marvel’s biggest, but he’s certainly capable of drawing a devoted and passionate fan base.
Under the direction of acclaimed writer Mark Waid, Daredevil has recently taken on a lighter, swashbuckling (as it’s called) characterization that is at once entirely fresh, yet reminiscent of the character’s early days. The successful change from gritty, unsmiling vigilante to a more jocular, and whimsical hero proves Daredevil to be one of the most versatile characters in the Marvel stable. For us, a show adhering to that swashbuckling tonal shift – as opposed to the darker tone of the 2003 film – would be preferred for a series surrounding the adventures of Matt Murdock and his crime-fighting alter ego.
Undoubtedly, you’ve got your own ideas as to who should or could fill the various roles. Feel free to sound off in the comments below.
Image Credit: Paolo Rivera