Hollywood has yet to crack that proverbial egg known as video games. With the upcoming release of Assassin’s Creed on December 21st, fans are hoping for something resembling a decent action film. Outside of the Resident Evil franchise, most Hollywood adaptations of our favorite video games have been box office misfires. More recently there’s been Warcraft, Need for Speed, Hitman: Agent 47, and those are just some of the top-shelf, big studio offerings. There are countless more B-movie titles that are just cringeworthy.
One of the most popular and beloved video game franchises ever is Street Fighter, which also happens to be one of the earliest movie adaptations. The 1994 feature film, starring action icon Jean-Claude Van Damme, helped set the table for bad video game movies. From the weak plot, to the bad acting, the film’s become a cult title for all the wrong reasons. Hollywood’s second attempt is arguably worse with 2009’s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, though the web series Street Fighter: Resurrection has gained a bit of traction with the fanbase.
Casting is crucial in fleshing out and bringing life to a fighting game character. Putting on our producing hats, we take the reins on which talents would be ideal fits as the iconic combatants. With that, we gladly answer the question, What If Street Fighter Was Cast Today?
15 E. HONDA - ULAMBAYARYN BYAMBAJAV
Finding an actor to fill out the mawashi for a massive fighter such as Edmond Honda (E. Honda) is a difficult thing to do. Sure, there might be stuntmen out there that might have the height and muscles, but not necessarily the mass or look required to pull off the part. Stepping out of the acting world, we looked inside the sumo ring for the perfect candidate. Who better to play the role of a sumo champion than a real life professional sumo wrestler? At 6’1 and 350 pounds, Ulambayaryn Byambajav is our E. Honda.
While not having much major acting experience, Byambajav isn’t new to movies or television. He’s appeared as -- you guessed it -- a sumo wrestler in Ocean’s Thirteen and TV shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? Honestly, the role isn’t going to require heavy dialogue, so Byambajav’s Sumo background and presence is enough to bring the proper amount of intimidation to the role. With the help of a little CGI, he’ll be able to deliver Honda’s signature move: the Hundred Hand Slap!
14 DEE JAY - TYRESE GIBSON
Ever since he made his first appearance in 1993’s Super Street Fighter, the kickboxing musician Dee Jay has been known for his loud-mouth and flashy ways. Actor-musician Tyrese Gibson was almost born to play the role, considering his background and skills. Gibson can go from playing a tough, street-smart character -- as we’ve seen in Four Brothers -- to being funny and obnoxious, depending on the part. That versatility works well with Dee Jay, who loves to incorporate his upbeat Caribbean-cool swagger with his fighting style. There won’t be any big singing pieces, but Tyrese can also spit out some rhymes here and there to showcase Dee Jay’s love of music and dance.
Having played the fast-talking Roman Pearce in the Fast and Furious franchise, that character is a good indicator of the type of humor and attitude Gibson can offer as Dee Jay. Based on Tae Bo star Billy Blanks, the video game version of Dee Jay is from Jamaica. If Tyrese can do a Jamaican accent, great, but it’s not a make or break for creating a fun, live-action take on Dee Jay.
13 T. HAWK - MARTIN SENSMEIER
Looking at the large size and great hair that Thunder Hawk (T. Hawk) sports, one can’t help but think of Jason Mamoa. The soon-to-be Aquaman has been a popular go-to pick when warrior tribal roles pop-up, considering he put himself on the map as Khal Drogo. As much as we like Jason, it's a bit too easy, so we elected to go with an actor that could soon be the next Jason Mamoa. That person is Martin Sensmeier. Having most recently starred as the Native American Red Harvest in The Magnificent Seven, Martin delivered a solid performance as the no-nonsense bad-ass warrior. A variant of that role would create the flesh and bones version of T. Hawk.
Instead of trying to create T. Hawk’s game stats of being 7’7 and over 350 pounds, what’s more important is having an actor like Sensmeier that can be tough and fearless on screen. A Tlingit native, the 31-year-old has the ability to give a great performance with limited dialogue. For a large ensemble like Street Fighter, having supporting character actors like Martin is crucial in creating a good movie.
12 VEGA - PEDRO PASCAL
A Street Fighter II creation, Vega is the Spanish ninja known for his fighting skills, arrogance, sexuality, and love for the finer things in life. That description could also be applied to Prince Oberyn Martell, aka the Red Viper of Dorne, found in Game of Thrones. Pedro Pascal, the actor who brought Oberyn to life, is also the right talent to be the new incarnation of Vega. Pascal’s portrayal of the charismatic and hot-tempered Oberyn made him an instant hit with GoT fans, and that acting ability is precisely what this character needs.
Serving as a personal bodyguard to M. Bison, Vega is seen in a mask more often than not to shield his beautiful face. The 1994 version in the live-action Street Fighter, played by Jay Tavare, was faithful to the character. Even though the actor looked the part, the role didn't require much in the acting department. Pascal brings a ton to the table talent-wise, so he can add layers to the narcissistic villain that fans haven't yet witnessed. Having won rave reviews for his role as a DEA agent in the Netflix series Narcos, Pascal’s Vega would be more than a pretty face.
11 BALROG - OMAR SY
Is Balrog a Mike Tyson knock-off? Sure, but that’s hasn’t stopped him from becoming a fan favorite within the gaming community. Appearing as an unplayable boss in Street Fighter II, the deadly boxer with the personality of King Hippo has taken on a comedic sidekick role in the video game series. It would be easy to bring in a real boxer for the role, or an even more outrageous and fun pick would be WWE Superstar Big E. But if the live-action version of Balrog is going to be more than a goofball villain, we need a versatile actor to give him some edge.
Having already played the superheroic mutant Bishop in X-Men: Days of Future Past, actor Omar Sy would be an interesting pick to take on the role of Balrog. He’d have to pack on some muscle, but Omar’s got the size (he's 6'3) and presence to be an intimidating version of the dangerous fighter. Balrog is a key part of M. Bison’s Shadaloo organization, and Sy could really build the character, taking Balrog’s intense and sadistic boxing style from the games and making it look really slick on screen.
10 ZANGIEF - KEVIN DURAND
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, better known as Ser Gregor Clegane aka “The Mountain” on Game on Thrones, is the closest living human you’ll find that resembles the Russian giant, Zangief. But we need someone that not only looks the part but can deliver an entertaining performance for the big man. Standing at 6’6, Kevin Durand has made a career at playing tough guys and giants. From The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine to the vastly underrated character of Vasiliy Fet in The Strain, Durand gives these hulking roles personality.
Zangief, with that unforgettable beard and mohawk, was portrayed by Andrew Bryniarski in the 1994 film, who you might remember for playing Leatherface or Chip Shreck. That version of Zangief was pretty silly and dumb, making the character look like Baby Huey. With his size, Durand can easily handle the intimidation and physicality required for the role, but it’s what he’s capable as an actor that would make Zangief more than a lackey. One thing’s for sure, Durand’s Zangief wouldn’t be giving out a side-ways thumbs up for cheap laughs like in the first film.
9 SAGAT - IKO UWAIS
Next to M. Bison, Sagat is one of the most feared (and most popular) competitors in the game. He’s the Destro to Bison’s Cobra Commander, minus the comedy. Billed as the “Emperor of Muay Thai”, the eyepatch wearing fighter has video game stats comparable to The Hulk, standing at 7’4” tall. Our depiction of Sagat is more realistic but just as threatening, with action star Iko Uwakis stepping into the role. The star of The Raid and The Raid 2, who revitalized martial art movies in those features, has the fighting skills to make Sagat a deadly foe.
Wes Studi played Sagat in the original film, but he was more of a gangster than a fighter. Having mostly played the hero in films, this role would be a great chance for Iko to flex his acting chops by playing a cool bad guy. With the help of makeup and some camera tricks, Iko’s appearance can be weathered and made to be look larger than life. A master of the martial art Silat, we’re fairly sure Iko can do Muay Thai justice in fight scenes. That dream onscreen showdown between Sagat and his greatest foe, Ryu, would only be heightened by Iko’s skills.
8 DHALSIM - IRRFAN KHAN
The spiritual center of the Street Fighter world is the Indian yogi, Dhalsim. The stoic and humble man breaks his pacifist ways in order to help his village and to bring down the evil Shadaloo. With elastic limbs and the ability to spit fire, Dhalsim has a fighting style made for cinema. Veteran character actor Roshan Seth (Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom) played the character in the 1994 film, but it was a very different take. That version of Dhalsim was a mad scientist/doctor who created Blanka. The Street Fighter franchise is filled with hulking and savage fighters, so Dhalsim is a necessary breath of fresh air that serves to balance out all of that testosterone.
In staying more faithful to the video game version, our pick for the role is acclaimed actor Irrfan Khan, as he posseses an elegant demeanor but looks like he could handle himself in a fight. Irrfan's Dhalsim would be utilized very much like how Obi Wan Kenobi was the wise wizard of the original Star Wars trilogy. From Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi, to The Amazing Spider-Man and Jurassic World, Khan has the skills and experience to create a character that is an emotional and a seasoned fighter.
7 BLANKA - DAVE BAUTISTA
Not since Dawyne 'The Rock' Johnson has there been a smoother transition from professional wrestling to acting than what we’ve seen with Dave Bautista over the past few years. In his breakout role of Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy (and the soon-to-be-released sequel), Bautista showed that he could be menacing and funny at the same time. Due to his large muscular build, he tends to be cast as the baddie in films such as Spectre and Kickboxer: Vengeance. With the strongman’s experience working with green screens and being covered in makeup, he’d be an ideal pick to portray the feral Blanka.
Blanka, the green skinned, orange-haired beast that can generate electricity at will, is one of the most popular characters in the entire Street Fighter series. A mixture of The Hulk and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, the once human character that mutated into a ferocious beast would be a nice challenge for Bautista to bring personality and humanity to. Whether it’d be a motion capture performance or a full-on make-up job, Bautista could make him more than just an angry green monster.
6 CAMMY - LEA SEYDOUX
Had we’d been casting this role two years ago, Emilia Clarke would have been the top choice. But since that time, the Mother of Dragons' stock has risen dramatically, appearing as Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys and having recently been cast in a leading role in the upcoming untitled Han Solo Star Wars film. Moving forward, the actress best suited to don Cammy’s red beret is French actress Lea Seydoux, best known as the Bond girl, Madeleine, in Spectre.
Seydoux’s filmography consists of primarily French films and indie material like Blue Is the Warmest Color. With her natural beauty and that acting foundation to pull from, Lea has the ability to make Cammy into one of the most captivating heroines seen in any action film. With her strength and toughness, Lea has shown she can handle herself in a fight, as we saw in her throw down with Paula Patton in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Cammy, the former assassin turned MI6 agent that oozes sex appeal, is the role that could possibly propel Seydoux to true Hollywood stardom.
5 M. BISON: MADS MIKKELSEN
We’re tapping into that James Bond well once again (Casino Royale to be specific), this time enlisting the services of Mads Mikkelsen to play another villain. TV’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter has the right mixture of intensity and power to give a sinister but nuanced performance as the cape-wearing main bad guy, M. Bison. The dictator and leader of Shadaloo, M. Bison is the Darth Vader of this fighting world, known as one of the most recognizable and widely-imitated video game villains ever. Mads’ most recent role as the villain Kaecilius in Doctor Strange may not have given him much to work with, but that’s definitely not the case with Bison. A megalomaniac possessing the ability to control energy called “psycho power”, M. Bison is about as A-list as video game villains get.
Raul Julia and Neal McDonough portrayed the character in previous films, but both interpretations were weak (if occasionally delicious), and left video game fans wanting and waiting for a proper live-action version of Bison. With the ability to convey so much emotion without saying much, Mikkelsen’s appearance and talent could deliver the first true great cinematic villain for any video game movie.
4 CHUN-LI - KAREN FUKUHARA
In addition to being the first female character in a fighting game, Chun-Li is arguably the most popular and powerful female character in any video games (including fighting, RPG, and first person). The blue dress-wearing dynamo is an undercover Interpol officer seeking to bring down Bison and his Shadaloo empire in order to avenge her father’s death. She’s basically the Wonder Woman of the video game platform, but past live-action performances by Ming-Na and Kristin Kreuk have failed to deliver on the character’s potential.
In what could be a breakout role, we turn to the relatively unknown Karen Fukuhara to fill out Chun-Li’s hair buns. The actress' first big part came as the sword-wielding Katana in Suicide Squad. While that role gave her the chance to play a cool superhero type, she wasn't given the opportunity to say or do much in the film. That definitely wouldn’t be the issue if she were to play Chun-Li. Similar to how an unproven Gal Gadot was given a shot to play DC Comics' greatest female superhero, this role would allow Fukuhara the chance to showcase her acting skills and really create a heroine that fans can get behind and want to be. We have faith that the 24-year-old up-and-comer could do the character justice.
3 GUILE - JOHN CENA
As much as we’re fans of Jean-Claude Van Damme, his version of Guile in the 1994 film was a misfire on the big screen.
While wrestling fans have been chanting “John Cena Sucks!”, the face of the WWE has been building himself a nice collection of roles over the past couple of years. Early on in his career, Cena starred in B-movie action flicks like The Marine and 12 Rounds, but recently, he’s been a scene-stealer in big Hollywood comedies like as Trainwreck and Sisters. While some might scoff at his ability to take on a lead role like Guile, his natural charisma and physicality are an ideal fit for the character.
With Street Fighter being such a big ensemble, Cena wouldn't necessarily have to carry the film, as he’d be surrounded by quality veteran actors. Sure, a Hollywood studio could stick a “hot” actor in the role, but as we saw with Channing Tatum in G.I. Joe, that doesn’t always work out. From the muscular build, chiseled jaw, and camo pants, Cena is Guile. All that he has to do is work on growing out that tall flattop, and he’s ready to take Bison head-on.
2 KEN MASTERS - CHARLIE HUNNAM
Ken is the best friend and occasional rival to Ryu. The buddies are the Mario and Luigi of fighting games; the Captain America and Ironman of Capcom, if you will. A main protagonist of the series, Ken has appeared in all the of Street Fighter titles. While there’s no shortage of pretty boy actors with long blonde hair who may look like Ken, there’s only one who could put on the red sleeveless gi and be the character. Charlie Hunnam, better known to TV fans as Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy, looks like Ken jumped off the game screen. Hunnam also has the acting talent to create an entertaining performance, which, you know, helps a bit.
Charlie has become a Guillermo del Toro favorite as of late, having starred in the director's last two films, Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak. Even though he’s been in big Hollywood films, he still hasn’t quite yet reached that A-level category. Is the role of Ken in Street Fighter going to push him over the top? We’re not sure, but playing an iconic video game character in a big action film certainly wouldn’t hurt. Hunnam is a highly capable actor, one who could really delve deep into the cocky/unpredictable personality of Ken to create a complex fighter.
1 RYU - JOE TASLIM
The face of the video game franchise and one of the key figures in any feature film adaptation is Ryu. The humble warrior travels the world training to become the most complete fighter he can be. Pinning an unknown actor in such a marquee role is a risk some producers and studios might avoid. As we’ve already mentioned, an ensemble piece like Street Fighter brings with it the luxury of going with the right actor for certain roles over the big flashier names. Substance over star power. That’s certainly the case here, as we've tapped little-known Joe Taslim to take on the role of Ryu.
Outside of Asian territories, not many people know of this actor/martial artist. Having starred in The Raid: Redemption and with small parts in Fast & Furious 6 and Star Trek Beyond, Joe is poised to gain increased recognition in Hollywood as more filmmakers utilize his talents. Not only does Taslim look like Ryu, he’s more than capable of executing the fighter’s move-set, from the Hadoken to the Shoryuken. Playing Ryu could be the right vehicle to position Taslim as the next big action star!
What do you think of our casting call? Should Hollywood take another crack at a Street Fighter movie? Sound off in the comments.