After many years of speculation, it has now been confirmed that TriStar Pictures is moving forward with a sequel to the beloved children’s classic Labyrinth. The 1986 film had a veritable treasure chest of incredible talent behind it – director Jim Henson and his incredible Creature Shop, a screenplay by Monty Python alum Terry Jones, Lucasfilm managing the production, a future Oscar-winner in the heroine role, and music icon David Bowie as the Goblin King. While the film wasn’t a commercial success upon release, it built up a cult fanbase and is remembered fondly by 80s kids and Bowie fans alike.
Following Bowie’s death, news swirled that the sequel would be going ahead with Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy) on screenplay duties, a story which was denied almost immediately. Now, it seems that the studio is keen to move forward with the project, and have hired director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe) and screenwriter Jay Basu (Monsters: Dark Continent) to make it happen.
Labyrinth is a fascinating film. While many elements don’t work and it suffers from the trappings of the era, especially in the effects department, it remains a surprisingly sophisticated fable of the perils of adolescence and coming to terms with one’s own impending adulthood, and all the terrifying appeal it brings. Bowie’s performance – and his very eye-catching costuming – helped cement the film’s status, thanks to his androgynous allure and balance of seduction with something more insidious. Nobody could ever hope to replicate his chameleonic aura, although many have tried over the decades, so whoever is left with the job of filling his tight trousers must make the role their own. The film is currently being billed as a sequel, suggesting the creative team may want to stay within the Bowie-styling, but the Goblin kingdom is one filled with magic, and a drastic image change wouldn’t be out of the question.
We’ve compiled a list of potential Jareths, all with their own talents and appeal, each with an edge that could work for any number of ways the film-makers choose to take the sequel in. Light or dark, sweet or chaotic, fantastical or gritty, there are many routes Labyrinth could take, and our respective potential Goblin Kings would make the journey all the more enticing.
Few people in Hollywood had a 2016 as amazing as Janelle Monae. After years as one of the best musicians in the industry, Monae made the jump to acting with the kind of charm and skill it takes most people a lifetime to achieve. Her work in Hidden Figures and Moonlight (both big players at this year’s Oscars) demonstrated her command of the screen in very different roles. Fans of her music already knew of her magnetic presence on the stage, where her shows combine a myriad of influences – from James Brown to cyberpunk. Casting her as Jareth would keep the androgyny scales balanced (there would be plenty of room for Monae’s trademark suits) and bring a kinetic energy to those dance scenes. Keeping on brand for the role, like Bowie, Monae could also write her own songs for the film. Who wouldn’t love a Tightrope-style take on Dance Magic Dance?
One of Denmark’s most recognizable actors has found success on the big and small screen in America, thanks to roles in major blockbusters like Doctor Strange and his terrifyingly good performance as the eponymous Hannibal in the NBC adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novels. As everyone’s favourite cannibal Dr. Lecter, Mikkelsen channelled his idiosyncratic charm with intense subtlety and just a hint of manic glee, making one of the most popular villains in horror entirely his own. Mikkelsen admitted to playing the part as if he was literally Satan, and the idea of a darker Jareth – one who has grown bitter from his time trapped in the goblin realm and seeks a path for vengeance – would fit the actor to a tee. While his singing powers are untested, Mikkelsen is a trained ballet dancer, which would bring an interesting physicality to the role.
American singer-songwriter Annie Clark, best known as St. Vincent, has long been compared to Bowie thanks to her eclectic genre-bending music and dalliances with androgynous style. Her songs have appeared in a variety of films, including the Twilight Saga, although she has yet to try acting herself. Bowie was all about experimentation and taking chances on the unexpected, so what better way to pay homage to his legacy than to have Jareth be played by one of his musical descendants, herself a striking on-stage performer who could contribute wholly unique songs to the film?
Tall, dark and handsome, Pace seems like the ideal Hollywood leading man, yet he has eschewed such expectations and embraced quirkier roles in an array of projects big and small: From his endlessly endearing role as Ned the piemaker in Pushing Daisies to his barnstorming political turn in Lincoln to his fabulous time as elven king Thranduil in The Hobbit trilogy. With enviably long blond hair, expert cape action and a stare that could kill on sight, Pace’s Thranduil is a force of nature, even when the film around him is unworthy of such presence. For a more conventional sequel to Labyrinth, one that strictly follows in Bowie’s footsteps and the mood of the original, Pace would be an honorable choice, in line with familiar beats while making the role uniquely his.
By now, Swinton seems like the most obvious choice for the role. There are few actors who journey so easily from abrasive indies to crowd-pleasing blockbusters without losing an iota of their unique allure, yet Tilda Swinton keeps on surprising audiences with her unexpected choices and impossible to categorise style. Who else could go from dreamlike rockstar vampire (Only Lovers Left Alive) to Randian political clown (Snowpiercer) to brittle senior citizen (The Grand Budapest Hotel) in the space of 3 years? Swinton also has the Bowie seal of approval, having appeared alongside him in the music video for The Stars Are Out Tonight. It seems like such a cliché to suggest her for the role now, but it’s a cliché for a reason.
If there was any justice in Hollywood, André Holland would be one of its biggest stars. Alas, that major breakout role hasn’t come calling yet, but in the meantime, Holland’s work on stage and screen has been striking over the past couple of years, with standout work in Cinemax’s The Knick and Ava DuVernay’s Selma. His small role in this year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight is arguably the best in a competitive field. Those achingly beautiful close-ups that capture the most minute of expressions, telling the audience everything Kevin is feeling in such a short space of time, are the sign of an immense talent. Holland’s take on Jareth would be one of exceptional appeal, quiet and enigmatic, utterly alluring at every turn. The film industry shouldn’t miss out on his untapped potential.
At the beginning of 2016, shortly after Bowie’s death, industry reporter Jeff Sneider tweeted, “Many years ago, when I was at Variety, I remember hearing Alexander Skarsgård was the frontrunner to play Bowie’s role in a LABYRINTH remake”. While the Swedish actor has found recent acclaim in HBO’s Big Little Lies and has a dedicated fanbase thanks to his time on True Blood, his sharp-edged charm doesn’t quite feel like the right fit for Jareth. His younger brother, on the other hand, would be a fine choice. Most film fans may not recognise Skarsgård without his Pennywise make-up, but the actor has achieved critical acclaim for his work in Sweden and a minor level of recognition from Netflix’s Hemlock Grove and the Divergent series. Standing well over 6 foot and graced with a steely gaze, Skarsgard has a presence that skilfully toes the line between alluring and unsettling. A younger Jareth would also make the story’s themes of youthful sexual exploration much more urgent.
After a star-making performance in the deeply unsettling We Need To Talk About Kevin, Ezra Miller has worked hard to avoid being typecast as the troubled youth, and he’s excelled in roles as varied as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Madame Bovary, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Then there is the small matter of being The Flash, where he has commanded the screen during those short trailers for Justice League and warmed the hearts of even the grimmest DC sceptic. Miller’s appeal is rooted in his impish charm, easily swinging between smothering darkness and goofy glee. You get the sense that he could have incredible fun with the role of Jareth, taking it just seriously enough without descending into Bowie imitations.
We live in the Hamilton world, and Lin-Manuel Miranda has limitless freedom within it to do whatever the hell he wants. With an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Pulitzer Prize under his belt (alas, the Oscar eluded him this year), Miranda has become the most wanted man in Hollywood. He’s already preparing a variety of projects, including Mary Poppins Returns, where he takes over the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke. As a performer, Miranda is one of boundless energy and childlike enthusiasm, rapping at dizzying speeds while retaining a melancholic sweetness that grounds him in reality. A Labyrinth movie where Miranda stars and writes the music would be the dream of countless theatre fans, and a film guaranteed to do bank at the box office.
Sarah herself as the Goblin King? How could it be? Imagine a Labyrinth 30 years after the original, with the formerly naïve brat Sarah now the ruler of the realm she previously fought to escape: A striking woman of limitless allure and a steely gaze who knows all the tricks of the Labyrinth. It would certainly bring a fresh spin to the story while remaining in line with its canon, and offering one of our generation’s most underserved actresses an opportunity to take on a colourful role with real relish. The Oscar winning Connelly has languished in thankless helpful spouse bit-parts for too long and deserves better.
Who would you like to see take on the iconic role of Jareth in the Labyrinth sequel? Leave your suggestions in the comments.
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