You don’t need to peer into the Eye of Thundera to know that Hollywood would love to build a franchise around the ‘80s cartoon hit, Thundercats. Having already mined properties like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and even Jem and the Holograms (what a disaster), it’s surprising that studios or production companies haven’t been able to get a live-action adaptation off the ground. The series has been stuck in development hell with various directors and actors rumored to be attached at several points. Even talents like James McAvoy have expressed interest in starring.
We recently did a refresher on Thundercats for old school fans, but for those of you that aren’t familiar with the series, the show follows cat-like humanoid aliens fleeing their dying planet. The group of Thundercats arrive on Third Earth, a planet inhabited by mutants, monsters, robots, pirates and an ancient evil villain known as Mumm-Ra. Of course, coming from the ‘80s, the cartoon had a successful toyline that helped build a massive fan-base.
With the trailer for Transformers: The Last Knight premiering last week, that got us wondering what a live-action version of Thundercats would look like. To get the ball rolling for Hollywood, we selected actors best suited to bring life to the characters for our Dream Cast For A Live-Action Thundercats!
Let’s start things off with Vultureman, the high flying member of the evil mutants found on Third Earth. Vultureman is the brains behind the muscles and ugly the rest of the members provide. He’s the resident inventor and mechanic that’s usually busy creating potions to defeat his enemies or working on vehicles and weaponry such as his SkyCutter air crafts. He’s Slithe’s go-to every time the lizard leader needs a weapon or machine.
With the humanoid appearance of a giant vulture, Vultureman’s design - just like the other mutants - would be difficult to make look good using a rubber costume. Our version of the character will be done via motion capture and the right actor to bring this crafty villain to life is The Walking Dead’s Lennie James. Most people would be surprised to learn that the man behind Morgan Jones is British, but that just goes to show how good of an actor Lennie is. Besides hiding his accent well, James’ ability to camouflage himself into any role he does is what’s made him an in-demand actor. The type of characteristics we’d like to see James bring to Vultureman would be similar to his performance as an inept criminal in Snatch.
Having played memorable characters like Hellboy and the Beast (TV’s Beauty and The Beast), Ron Perlman’s been able to deliver compelling performances even when his face is covered in extensive prosthetics and make-up. That experience along with his unique and intimidating stature is the perfect combination to play Thundercat turned bad guy, Grune.
In the original 1985 series, Grune, or Grune the Destroyer, was once a respected and revered Thundercat warrior that fought alongside Jaga on Thundera. His thirst for power led to a failed rebellion against King Claudus. Exiled into space, Grune eventually makes his way to Third Earth where he’s resurrected to seek his revenge on the remaining Thundercats. The 2011 incarnation of Grune is basically the same except that he starts out as a friend to Panthro instead of Jaga.
Known for his distinct and powerful voice, one can easily imagine Perlman snarling out lines as the saber-toothed tiger Grune. Having most recently played biker-gang leader Clay Morrow on Sons of Anarchy, a good indicator of what Perlman’s version of Grune would look like is his role as Reinhardt in Blade 2. Ron’s final battle with Wesley Snipes is a taste of what we’d get as Perlman’s Grune battles Snipes, our pick as Panthro.
You’re probably thinking “Luke Skywalker as an angry mutant ape?” It might seem like an out of left-field pick but the mutants of Third Earth, including Monkian, will be motion captured creations. Think Davy Jones and his crew in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest or the apes in the new Planet of the Apes franchise. With the mutants large and overly muscular builds, a studio would be casting build over acting ability, which is never a good idea. We want wonderful performances and Mark Hamill’s prolific work as a voice actor, brings that in spades to this role.
Monkian is a member of the evil mutants, who also serve as foot soldiers to Mumm-Ra. In the original series, Monkian is all brawn and low on brains. He’s imposing until he speaks with a voice that includes ape “Ooh ooh’s” in between lines. Known for his role as the voice of The Joker in most animated versions, Mark Hamill has become a voice talent legend. Instead of having an idiot version of Monkian that most fans have become accustomed to, Hamill’s dynamic voice and acting ability can inject the character with menace we haven’t seen before.
Fanboy favorite Simon Pegg has pretty much done it all in the genre world. From battling zombies, to being a member of USS Enterprise and exploring the Star Wars universe as an alien, the man has hit the geek jackpot. As great as Pegg’s human on-screen roles have been, he’s just as good off, delivering great voice and motion capture performances like in The Adventures of Tintin, Ice Age and The Boxtrolls. At this point in his career he might as well add evil mutant - in the form of a jackal - to his resume.
Ever the opportunist, Jackalman uses his cunning mind to aid himself and his evil ways. A member of the evil mutants, when not battling Lion-O and his group, Jackalman is always questioning and undermining Slithe’s leadership role in effort to assume it for himself. In a motion capture role, Jackalman’s personality would mesh well with Simon’s dry and sharp humor. The actor could really let loose and play a villain that is both funny and sinister through his interactions with both good and bad characters.
If we’re enlisting Simon Pegg to be in a live-action Thundercats movie, we might as well have his longtime collaborator and best-friend Nick Frost join the fray. Nick would slip into the slimy role of the lizard Slithe, leader of the evil mutants. Even though Nick’s round proportions and stocky build could work for a prosthetics driven take on Slithe, this will be a motion capture role as well.
While Pegg gets most of the headlines, Nick’s a vastly underrated actor that really hasn’t had the opportunity to play a truly evil and disgusting character like Slithe. From his work in Attack the Block, to the special-effects heavy role as the dwarf Nion in Snow White and the Huntsman, Frost’s versatile and talented enough to sink his teeth into a meaty villain role.
The main baddie at Castle Plun-Darr, Slithe’s your basic cartoon villain, always scheming and failing to defeat the heroes. The feature version would be positioned more ruthless, as a credible, dangerous threat to our heroes. With Nick’s energy and presence, his version of Slithe could end up being a standout in very much the same way Tobey Kebbell’s Koba was in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
People either really dislike Snarf or they find the small furry creature adorable. Serving as nurse-maid to the child Lion-O who instantly grows into adulthood, Snarf is a part pet, part den mother to the leader of the Thundercats. Sure, Snarf can be annoying and a bit of a buzzkill but you always need a loyal and resilient friend like him around. Every blockbuster can use a goofy yet memorable sidekick and while some people could see it as a throwaway part, we disagree.
For those of you that haven’t seen the comedy series Key & Peele, you’re missing out on probably the funniest duo currently in all of entertainment. Jordan Peele one half of the sketch-comedy pair, is arguably the modern day “Man of a Thousand Faces.” Sorry Lon Chaney. Not only is he hilarious but the man morphs into hundreds of characters, each with their own mannerisms, accents, and personalities. His commitment to a role doesn’t get the credit it should. Peele’s Snarf would be utterly entertaining and interesting, just to see where he would take the character. If he can make the catch-phrase “SNARF-SNARF” work, we’re all in!
Beasts of No Nation is a powerful yet brutal film to experience as we follow kid soldiers in a West African country. While Idris Elba is the biggest name in the film, hands down the star of the movie is newcomer Abraham Attah. Seeing Attah’s fine work as a sensitive yet scarred boy living a nightmare of an existence, solidified the young Ghanaian actor as a talent to watch. For a nice change of pace, Attah’s first big Hollywood blockbuster is set to be next summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, in a yet unspecified role. Attah certainly has the dramatic acting chops down, so he might want to show-off his playful and mischievous side as Wilykat.
Wilykat and his kid sister Wilykit, are the youngest members of the Thundercats team, often referred to as the “Thunderkittens.” Like any adolescents, they’re always getting themselves into trouble while looking for things to do around Third Earth. Wilykat tends to be the more cautious of the two but he gets to ride around in a cool space-board which would be an amazing visual to watch on screen. Attah’s a capable actor and his natural playful innocence would make Wilykat a fun character to root for.
Some of you might be already moaning about how can we have Millie Bobby Brown be Wilykit if Abraham Attah as Wilykat isn’t Caucasian like her?! That’s the beauty of movie magic. All of the actors playing the Thundercats will be under prosthetics and heavy make-up so ethnicity doesn’t matter when playing a humanoid-cat alien. Remember, cats in a litter don’t all look the same.
Coming off the hottest TV Show of the summer, Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown is one of the most in-demand young actors in Hollywood. She’s set to reprise her breakout role of Eleven again in the second season, as Brown gave a layered performance, conveying many emotions in a subtle way even though she had minimal amounts of dialogue. Having shaved her head for the part, we know Millie is fearless which is exactly the type of personality needed for Wilykit. As the risk-taking, adventurous one of the siblings, Millie as Wilykit will be unrestrained. The duo of Millie and Abraham could position their characters as the Merry and Pippin (The Lord of the Rings) troublemakers of the Thundercats world.
Jessica Park Kennedy may not be a household name and face, but the beautiful and talented actress is steadily amassing a collection of quality roles in television. Currently you can find her on the Starz pirate series Black Sails, where she plays the seductive and strong Max, a Madam running a business in a pirate infested port town. Kennedy’s portrayal of Max has made her a favorite of the show and risen her stock in Hollywood. Thundercats would be the big blockbuster feature that her filmography is lacking, giving her a platform to showcase her acting skills.
Standing alongside Cheetara and Wilykit, Pumyra is one of the few females on the show, that is more than capable holding her own on the savage world of Third Earth. Cheetara may have the speed but this Thunderian has amazing leaping abilities and a pretty cool whipcord as a weapon. Pumyra’s talents as a healer and skill with medicine is what makes her a strong member of the team. Being a smart, independent woman, Kennedy could really have fun in fighting scenes as Pumyra, that she hasn’t yet gotten on Black Sails.
It’s no secret that the elder Thundercat Jaga is a rip-off or “inspired-by” Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. Both Jaga and Obi-Wan are former great warriors that mentor their respected young heroes in blue spirit form after their physical passing. Since the great Sir Alec Guinness is no longer with us, the best modern day pick to wear that mantle of sage master is the always enigmatic Ian McShane. Even though he’s acted since the 1960s, McShane has enjoyed a late career resurgence following his role on the acclaimed series Deadwood as Al Swearengen. Since then he’s starred in countless movies and TV series such as Ray Donovan, Pirates and The Caribbean, and Hercules.
The supporting role of Jaga would be minor but critical in the development of Lion-O as an adult and leader to the surviving Thundercats. If Jaga’s going to appear sporadically throughout or in flashbacks, we need an actor with commanding presence that the audience can instantly connect with. McShane is surely that man, having played variations of the grizzled mentor in recent films such as John Wick, Snow White and the Huntsman and an appearance on Game of Thrones.
There’s many different directions a studio can go in trying to cast the role of Tygra. The wide range of actors could include rising stars like Black Panther himself Chadwick Boseman, to YA genre favorite Sam Claflin – who’s also a possible pick of ours to play Green Lantern. While any of those type of actors could do a solid job in the role, the selection that makes the most sense is Garrett Hedlund. This leading man has teetered in being a marquee name for years now, having starred in Tron: Legacy, Unbroken, and Four Brothers. Admittedly he hasn’t had a breakout role just yet but the guy keeps putting out quality performances regardless of the overall product ala Pan.
Hedlund is a gifted actor that is just as comfortable in big commercial films, as he is with smaller indie, darlings. Taking on the role of Tygra, the second in command to the Thundercats and a big brother type to Lion-O, could be the star-making part for Hedlund. His willingness to play complicated and sometimes troubled characters, shows he’s an actor that enjoys the process. Besides having the physical look for Tygra, Hedlund could make the character an emotional anchor that the story needs.
Chances are if you grew up in the 1980s your first true celebrity crush was on the animated feline known as Cheetara. The female warrior with the super-sonic speed of a cheetah, is one of the most popular Thundercats, with fandom that includes fan fiction, vast amounts of art and cosplayers. Finding an actress to fill out Cheetara’s iconic one-piece orange leotard is tough considering all of the amazing choices out there. Ultimately we decided to go with the stunning Alexandra Daddario. If Cheetara was a childhood crush for many, then Alexandra Daddario is the adult equivalent for the same fans.
While Daddario is famous for her curves as seen on the HBO series True Detective, the actress has a natural charm and likeability factor that would go well with Cheetara’s personality. Rumored to be in the running for the Wonder Woman role before it went to Gal Gadot, Alexandra would finally get her chance to be an action hero, as Cheetara is one of the most experienced and skilled Thundercat fighters. With starring roles in Texas Chainsaw 3D, Percy Jackson, and San Andreas, as well as the upcoming Baywatch film, Alexandra’s star is on the rise and becoming the kick-ass warrior Cheetara would be a win for her and fans of the series.
If you’re putting together a checklist of Panthro’s key abilities and characteristics they would have to include being a seasoned martial artist; emotionally and physically strong; skillful with nunchucks; and having a loud boisterous laugh. Veteran action-star Wesley Snipes checks off all of those points as the man is basically the human embodiment of the character.
Best known as the badass vampire hunter Blade, Snipes is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to acting. It doesn’t matter if it’s an action movie, comedy or drama, the man can do it all. With a background in Karate and Hapkido, Snipes has been able to show off his training and physicality in roles in Demolition Man, Passenger 57, and Rising Sun. Some of you might think he’s too old but as we saw in Expendables 3, the man’s still got it!
After the death of Jaga, Panthro becomes the oldest Thundercat (well until Lynx-O is later introduced) serving as a mentor to the other cats. Back on Thundera, Panthro was a great warrior and loyal soldier to King Claudus, father of Lion-O. While popular actors like Vin Diesel may look the part – as seen in some fan trailers – the life experience and cool factor that Wesley Snipes would bring to the role, can’t be beat!
We call upon the Ancient Spirits of Evil to transform the form of Sharlto Copley into Mumm-Ra, the ever-living! A little cheesy we know but when you’re dealing with a mummy that transforms into an incredible Hulk-sized villain, anything goes! Actor and human chameleon Sharlto Copley is an actor capable of playing both the fragile corpse-like being of Mumm-Ra and the transformed giant muscular version of the menace. Obviously the muscular giant version would be done via motion capture, while the cloaked, mummy version would be done with make-up and costume.
Having made a name for himself in the genre world in movies like District 9, Chappie and Elysium, Copley is one of the few actors that completely morphs into the characters he’s playing, almost unrecognizable at times. He can go from playing a feeble weak character like in District 9, to a sadistic evil villain like in the Oldboy remake. Alongside Cobra Commander and Megatron, Mumm-Ra is one of the most popular and feared villains from ‘80s cartoons. To play such a famous and visually cool antagonist, Copley would bring an intensity and attitude that could make Mumm-Ra a great cinematic villain.
Hollywood being Hollywood, predictably a producer would turn to one of the Hemsworth boys (Chris & Liam), or a Jake Gyllenhaal level actor to fill out the role of Lion-O, leader of the Thundercats. While they’re capable actors, those are uninspired choices. A large ensemble piece like Thundercats opens the door to cast the main role with a lesser known talent. Just look at Daisy Ridley in The Force Awakens or Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Slipping on Lion-O’s claw shield in this live-action version is Irish actor Jack Reynor.
Having already been part of an 80’s adapted cartoon franchise with Transformers: Age of Extinction, Reynor is a young charming actor that has leading man appeal. Even though Transformers didn’t do much for his career, Jack shined as the rebellious older brother in the indie hit Sing Street. His boyish qualities mixed in with natural swagger is why he was on the shortlist to play the young Han Solo in the upcoming Star Wars movie.
Lion-O has a 12-year old’s mind in an adult’s body, due to aging rapidly in a suspension capsule. Reynor could convey that mixture of emotions and adolescence trapped in the body of an adult warrior. Calling out “Thundercats HO!” Reynor’s the actor to deliver a crowd pleasing performance that would be better than the cartoon version.