After years of speculation and a few bumps in the road for Ryan Reynolds's career, Fox's Deadpool smashed expectations and became one of the highest-grossing films of 2016. Made on a budget comparatively lower than the average blockbuster, the R-rated action-comedy was a breath of fresh air amid a release slate crowded with safer superhero movies, and opened the doors for more adult-oriented explorations of the genre. While that hype didn’t translate to Oscar nominations as many had hoped, expectations for the sequel have reached new heights. Director Tim Miller has been replaced by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde), Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) has joined the cast as Domino, and Reynolds has promised the film will retain the essence of what made the first film such a surprise.
Now, all eyes are on Cable: The mercenary mutant child of X-Men's Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor (clone of Jean Grey) who was regularly paired with Deadpool across the Marvel-verse. Potential casting for the role included Brad Pitt and Michael Shannon, but the ultimate choice was Thanos himself, Josh Brolin.
Brolin is no stranger to the world of comic-book movies. In addition to his tenure as the big baddie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (although his appearances so far have been pretty brief), the Oscar-nominated descendent of Hollywood royalty (his dad is James Brolin, and his stepmother is Barbra Streisand) played the eponymous Jonah Hex and took on the role of Dwight McCarthy in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. We've yet to really see what Brolin as Thanos can do in the MCU, and Jonah Hex is not remembered fondly (if at all), but could he be the perfect fit for the role of Cable?
In his earlier roles, he's primarily stuck to a grizzled persona that's part Tommy Lee Jones, part bulldog, with varying results. Brolin excels at a classic style of on-screen masculinity, as best demonstrated in his work in the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men. While he’s best known for such work, he’s also flexed his comedic muscles, from stern-faced straight man to cringe-inducing goofball. There's his recent work in Hail, Caesar! where, as Golden Age Hollywood fixer Eddie Manix, he dealt with the most ludicrous of situations with a dry wit, and his hysterical turn in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice (which required some very unsavoury moments with a chocolate covered banana). Oliver Stone's W, a fascinating if wildly uneven biopic of George W Bush, offered Brolin the chance to embody one of modern history's most famous figures with equal parts empathy and comedy. The performance that got him his Oscar nomination - the role of politician-turned-assassin Dan White in Gus Van Sant's biopic Milk - is a nuanced portrait of a pathetic figure haunted by his own demons, and easily some of the actor's finest work.
Brolin’s talents have never been in doubt, but can he pull off Cable? The role is one that could easily be played too broad or sink quickly into tough guy caricature, and sometimes even Brolin can find himself swamped under by weak material or just going for the simplest route. In a film where Ryan Reynolds is front and center, hogging most of the great lines and memorable moments, there’s the possibility that Cable could be a mere straight man for Deadpool to bounce off, giving Brolin little to do in return.
At his best, Brolin is a director’s actor - ready to be molded into the perfect character by the right pair of hands. His most striking roles, so varied in their range and styles, come from some of the industry’s brightest talents: Stone, Van Sant, Anderson, the Coens, and even Richard Donner, who introduced audiences to teenage Brolin in The Goonies (another excellent display of his comedic chops). David Leitch doesn't quite have that level of experience, but he is an immensely skilled stunt-worker with a tight control over old-school action pieces, which Brolin has worked well with in the past.
Everything lies with the script: Deadpool isn’t short of action, but without its machine-gun pacing of one-liners and filthy screwball dialogue, it would quickly fall apart at the seams, so whatever contribution Brolin can bring to the role of Cable, he will need the appropriate material. If all goes well, Brolin and Reynolds could be the ultimate double team of control versus chaos, bantering to the backdrop of madness. Of course, it would also be a too-good-to-miss opportunity for Reynolds to crack a few gags about Marvel’s Mad Titan and his past with Deadpool – love triangle with the female embodiment of Death, anyone?
What are your thoughts? Do you think Josh Brolin was the right choice for Cable? Let us know in the comments!
- Deadpool 2 (2018) release date: May 18, 2018