Casting the Live-Action Samurai Jack Film
Samurai Jack is back. That’s right, everybody’s favourite time displaced samurai is returning to our television screens after nearly 13 years off the air. Created in 2001 by Genndy Tartakovsky Samurai Jack is the story of a samurai warrior lost in the future struggling to find a way home to defeat the evil Lord Aku. The cartoon has been praised for its artistic style and mature content winning multiple awards. Entire episodes feature little to no dialogue and the show pays homage to several classic films. We’re very excited by the prospect of more Samurai Jack so we thought we’d take a crack at casting our very own live-action adaptation.
The biggest issue with bringing Samurai Jack to the big screen is that the show is very episodic in nature. Each episode follows Jack on another adventure to find a portal back to the past, always unsuccessfully. There is very little continuity between episodes so forging an overarching story on which to base a feature film adaptation would be difficult. The most obvious choice would be an origin story starting off with Jack in the past. His confrontation with Aku and subsequent journey to the future forming the climax of the film’s first act.
The rest of the film would then be his struggle to find a portal to the past. The biggest choice the film makers would have to make would be whether or not we see Jack succeed in his quest. One of the most consistent aspects of Samurai Jack (besides the fact that Jack will always find a way to lose his shirt and hair clip during every fight) is that Jack always fails at finding his way home, but ends up helping people in the process. We’ve been rooting for Jack for over 15 years so of course we’d give him the ending he deserves, letting him return to the past and defeat Aku once and for all. Some fans might disagree though, Jack’s journey is arguably more important than his destination, with the people he helps along the way owing their lives to the wandering samurai.
Jack often travels alone, which is great for a serialized cartoon, but his silent demeanour might not work so well on film. That is why we suggest teaming him up with a partner to give him someone to work off (plus its great for character development). There is no-one we’d rather see join Jack on the screen than perhaps his greatest friend and ally: The Scotsman. First introduced in Episode XI, The Scotsman is the perfect folly to Jack, loud and abrasive he plays brilliantly off of Jack’s quiet and stoic nature. Pairing the two up would allow for some of the film’s greatest action and comedy set pieces.
With that said here are our choices for the cast of Samurai Jack: The Movie:
Canine Archaeologist (John Oliver)
Jack’s first heroic deed in the future is saving a group of Canine Archaeologists who have been enslaved by the villainous Aku. The Archaeologists are trying to uncover the hidden history of their ancestors but Aku has instead got them digging up crystals to power his robotic army. Jack agrees to help them, managing to fend off a seemingly endless wave of robots and freeing them in the process. In the cartoon the dogs speak in a quintessentially British manner and even sport monocles and pipes. Who better to play them then than the most British person in America: John Oliver. He has the comedic chops to play a group of talking dogs and the accent is already there. Perfect.
The Guardian (Ron Perlman)
The Guardian defends one of the many time portals Jack needs to return home. After exhausting many other options Jack finally fights his way through to one of the last portals left on Earth only to be confronted by the Guardian. He makes quick work of Jack and almost kills him before the portal itself begins speaking to him. The portal tells The Guardian that Jack is destined for greater things. Jack’s life is spared and he is sent away to try, once again, to find a way home. Ron Perlman would be a perfect choice for the brutish and over-powered Guardian. He has already donned similar eye wear in Pacific Rim and his work on Hellboy and Hellboy II shows that he’s not averse to jumping in the make-up chair when the role calls for it.
The Emperor (Tatsuya Nakadai)
Tatsuya Nakadai is perhaps one of Japan’s greatest living actors. Having collaborated with legendary directors like Akira Kurosawa and starring alongside legendary actors such as Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai is the perfect fit for the role of Jack’s father. Now in his early 80s he is the perfect age to play the ageing Emperor but his age might cause some problems if they decide to depict the origin of Aku as seen in The Birth of Evil two-part episode which featured a younger version of Jack’s father in a prominent role. Either way Tatsuya’s legendary status would being a sense of weight and gravitas to the role, even if it just for a brief cameo.
The Scotsman (Dave Bautista)
There are very few actors in Hollywood with the physique to match The Scotsman. A literal giant of a man with an even bigger personality the only person we think that has a shot at filling his kilt is Dave Bautista. Bautista is certainly the right build to play The Scotsman and his recent success as Drax in Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy shows that he has the comedic chops to bring the character to life. We’re not sure what his Scottish accent is like though, but that’s nothing a good voice coach can’t fix!
Aku (Greg Baldwin)
Our first choice for the voice of the evil Lord Aku would of been his original voice actor Mako but sadly Mako passed away in 2006. The only logical person to replace Mako’s voice on the big screen is the same person who replaced him on the small screen. Greg Baldwin took over many of Mako’s roles after the actors death including Iron on Avatar: The Last Airbender. Baldwin even voiced Aku in the in the video game Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall. It is unclear at the moment if he will be returning to voice Aku in the fifth season of Samurai Jack but if he does we can’t think of a better person to voice the character on the big screen.
Samurai Jack (Ichikawa Ebizō XI)
Jack is a prince, the son of The Emperor, so it is only fitting that the person who plays him comes from royalty as well. Ichikawa Ebizō XI is the 11th person to be given the title of Ebizō a stage name passed down over generations by members of the Ichikawa family who are renowned for producing some of the finest kabuki actors in all of Japan. He left the stage briefly in 2011 to play Tsugumo Hanshiro in Takashi Miike’s Ichimei a retelling of the 1962 classic Harakiri. Ichikawa plays a leaderless samurai (ronin) out for revenge against the fuedal lord who killed his son-in-law. He has since returned to the theatre but if he is looking for his international big screen debut then he could do worse than bringing a beloved cartoon character to life.
Those are our picks. Agree or disagree? Who would you cast in a live-action Samurai Jack adaptation? Did we miss out any important characters? Let us know in the comments below.