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The Weeks that Were

Freaky Friday Five: 15 Character Swaps We'd Like to See

Friday FiveThis week's Friday Five is freaky - in the Lindsey Lohan Disney film kind of way. When we asked Pandemonium author Jenni van der Merwe to pick a topic, she refused to be constrained by reality. (Even the reality of talking about fantasy, if that makes sense.)

This week's task, she declared, is to take five of your favourite characters from film and move them into different films. Kind of like fan fiction, but with less sex.

We've thrown some TV in as well, and you'll see a few of our old favourites from previous Friday Fives have crept in. But what about you? Given the opportunity to remix your favorite films and shows, how would you do it?


The Cheshire Cat stars as The Cowardly Lion

“I’m afraid I have to expel a rather ferocious hairball. You’re on your own, girl.”

With advice like this, Dorothy would be in way more trouble with the Cheshire Cat at her side. She would never have made it to Oz in one piece with the Cheshire Cat’s sly advice, riddles and rhymes. The journey to Oz suddenly becomes next-to-impossible with the Cheshire Cat’s constant disappearing and incomprehensible directions. In fact, I’m not sure Dorothy would have made it to Oz at all. I mean, the cat keeps urging Dorothy to pursue the rabbit. The Oz posse would most likely have ended up at the Red Queen’s Castle, eating boiled rabbit for dinner before reaching the Emerald City. The Tin Man would receive no heart and the Scarecrow would remain an idiot. In the unlikely event that Cheshire Cat managed to get the Oz posse to see the Great and Powerful Oz, what would he ask for? Courage, he already has. Perhaps the power to stop producing ferocious furballs?

Zaphod Beeblebrox starring as US President James Marshall (Air Force One)

“Some parts of my character weren’t what you’d call presidential.”

The wonderfully wacky Zaphod Beeblebrox would, in my opinion, make a brilliant head of state. The two-headed Betelgeusian was briefly in charge of the Universe, under the auspicious title of President of the Galaxy – “a role that involves no power whatsoever and merely requires the incumbent to attract attention so no one wonders who’s really in charge”. For those conspiracy theorists out there, this job description is a nice political parallel to the current global political stage. I’m a big fan of both Zaphod Beeblebrox and Sam Rockwell, and if you’d replaced Harrison Ford as US President James Marshall in the film Air Force One, I have a feeling it would’ve been exponentially more entertaining. The worst dressed sentient being in the Universe (voted seven times) would’ve been undoubtedly cooler in his presidential speeches and head-of-state duties. Also, I doubt ditsy and charismatic Zaphod would have quite as much success stealing Air Force One as his successful hijacking-by-zip-line of the Starship Heart of Gold: particularly with the Secret Service by his side. Plus, the escape from the plane hijackers would’ve been infinitely more awesome with the use of an Infinite Improbability Drive than Harrison Ford being winched from a wrecked fuselage.

John Maclean starring as Jack Dawson (Titanic)

Supervisor: “Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.”

John McClane: “No fucking shit, lady. Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza?”

If the Titanic had John McClane on board, James Cameron’s film would’ve been way shorter. But, it would’ve been a rad action film instead. Imagine it: fight scenes with ninjas on the rosewood spiral staircase in the main lobby, mass destruction of petite vases and crockery as John McClane (cast for the role of Jack Dawson) sprints through the lavish dining room in pursuit of said ninjas and the iceberg collision would be accompanied with a rather large explosion from something secret in the ship’s hold. Probably put there by turn-of-the-century terrorists, trying to hijack the ship. That’s it: the Titanic was sunk on purpose by hijackers. At the very least, that would make for 90 minutes of awesome viewing. Bruce Willis wouldn’t have been as tender and teen-heartthrob as Leo, and the film would be more Poseidon Adventure than tragic love story. Plus, the precious Heart of the Ocean would have been stolen (not dropped in the sea) and cut into smaller diamonds on the black market. Provides a nice segue for John McClane’s next foray into maritime mayhem in the sequel: Titanic 2: McClane Gets Even.

Frank-n-Furter in Frankenstein

Dr. Frankenstein: “Look! It's moving. It's sha — it's... it's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive! It's alive, it's alive, it's alive! It's ALIVE! Brad and Janet, what do you think of him?”

Janet: “Well, I don't like men with too many muscles.”

Frank: “I didn't make him for you!... He carries the Charles Atlas seal of approval.”

Banish the typical image of Frankenstein’s monster from your mind. Think instead of a monster glistening, muscular and sexy. If Frank-n-Furter (Tim Curry) from The Rocky Horror Picture Show had been Doctor Frankenstein, his monster would be a little sexier and "scary" would’ve turned into a camp musical number. His vocabulary may have been extended beyond grunting - Rocky would’ve been hyper-intelligent, as Mary Shelley had intended him. Frank-n-Furter and Dr. Frankenstein do share an ambition - wanting to create life (one that fails in the end). For the "sweet transvestite", Rocky is a toy, created for Frank-n-Furter’s personal pleasure, but Rocky chooses another playmate. For the good Dr. Frankenstein, his creation freaks him out the second it opens it eyes, sending him sprinting for the hills, and abandoning his science project. For me, that tragic story of the lonely Monster of Frankenstein would really be more palatable with glitter, fishnet stockings and some sizzling musical numbers.

CruellaCruella DeVil as Nanny McPhee

Cruella De Vil: “Be sure to let me know when the blessed event occurs.”

Anita: “It won’t be for another 8 months.”

Cruella De Vil: “The puppies, darling. I have no use for babies.”

There is something you must know about the way that Nanny McPhee works: when you need her, but do not want her, she must stay. When you want her, but no longer need her, then she must go. Oh, rue the day I replaced the lovely Emma Thompson with Cruella De Vil (the Glenn Close De Vil, not the cartoon villain) as the film’s would-be heroine. Instead of several magic lessons in self-discovery, the Brown household has turned into a taboo and un-politically correct showcase as a child labour sweatshop, producing Cruella’s lovely fur coats. But I have a suspicion that Cruella would never transformed from hag to fab like Emma Thompson does. Unless you love fur. And Cruella will stay whether you need her, or want her, or not...


Vincenzo Cocotti (Christopher Walken in True Romance) as Grima Wormtongue in The Two Towers

"You tell the elves in the Gray Havens you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Grima Wormtongue."

True Romance is one of my favorite films (ever since Paul Cibis made me watch it in high school because it was about "a geek like you - but one that becomes cool" - which is, arguably, the best ever summation of both Quentin Tarantino's ouevre and the man himself). Christopher Walken's face-off with Dennis Hopper is one of the film's best moments; a surreal (and slightly racist) stare-down between cinema legends. Walken's icy menace is palpable. He's smiling, he never raises his voice, but he is pure evil

Wormtongue, as written and portrayed, is, well - wormy. Like Tolkien dipped into the Stan Lee bag of character names. And that's always the flaw with The Two Towers. Why would anyone listen to someone so obviously despicable? He's supposedly got the charisma to bring a kingdom to its knees, but really? Are you seeing it? I can't. Now, replace Wormtongue with Cocotti and you've got a much more formidable force: 

James Purefoy as AntonyMark Antony (James Purefoy in Rome) as the Black Prince (James Purefoy in The Knight's Tale)

"I'm not rising from this throne until I fuck someone."

James Purefoy, Pornokitsch favourite, swapping an effete heir-apparent with a paragon of brutish masculinity. Sure, his Prince Edward is a good guy - happy to support Heath Ledger, keen to have a bit of a joust and snuggle with his (deprived of lines) princess. He's an admirer of all manly virtues, including a bit of sportsmanship. Blah blah blah.

Mark Antony? While Heath Ledger trades blunted blows with silly rivals, Antony would be putting Shannon Sossamyn through an athletic workout in front of the shocked crowd. Marc Antony in the mood for a fight? None of this "dressing up and hoping folks are chivalrous" business; he'd step (half-naked and steaming of sex) down from the throne and punch all of France

The Joker (Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight) as William Thatcher (The Knight's Tale)

"Do you want to know why I use a lance? Swords are too quick. You can't savor all the... little emotions. In... you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?"

A The Knight's Tale two-fer, plus body swapping the same actor and both have "Knight" in the title. Boom goes the dynamite.

William Thatcher is a rebel - keen to overthrow the stagnant social order of (anachronistic) England. He's from the bottom rung of society. He sees that his world is random and cruel, with an artificial social hierarchy passing as "civilisation". While the nobles dance (to David Bowie), the peasants sleep in shit-stained hayricks. Thatcher attacks the social order not through stirring orations or acts of valor, but by putting on a costume. He commits himself to acts of meaningless competition, throwing himself against his rival (a man born to privilage who chooses a life of violence, therefore a representative of all that he finds anathema). 

Basically, the Joker's just like that, but with a scarier voice and occasional cross-dressing.

Stansfield (Gary Oldman's insane DEA agent from Leon) as the marshall in High Noon

"I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Ned Washington. Can you hear it? It's like when you put your head to the grass and you can hear the growin' and you can hear the insects. Do you like Ned Washington?"

High Noon is about Communism and the McCarthy era and blacklists. It is about men standing up to do the right thing and the abandonment of one's peers and yawn. Poor Gary Cooper shoulders the world's problems through the entire film, wearily struggling to defend a town that won't back their own champion.

Does the town actually deserve Gary Cooper? Nyah. Give 'em Stansfield instead. None of this hassle about honor and teamwork (or due process or sanity), Gary Oldman would gleefully explode the entire backlot, "friend" and foe alike.

Damien (The Omen) in Home Alone

"This is extremely important. Will you please tell Satan that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. Okay?" 



Faith (from Buffy) as a student in The Breakfast Club

I do not like teen movies. This is not a hard and fast rule, of course; there are a few I am totally fine with. The Breakfast Club, however, is not one of them, and its cultural status as ZOMG The Best Teen Movie EVAR infuriates me. But The Breakfast Club where one of the detainees is Buffy's Faith? Now that's an instant classic. Aw, the widdle pwincess is actually from a bwoken home? The weird girl is actually cute? The jock has a soul? Who the fuck cares! Let's go break into the principal's office and fuck on his desk. Then blow the school up and go dancing.

Adebisi (from Oz) as a vampire in Sunnydale

One of the truly great things about Buffy, as well as being one of its most frustrating aspects, is how much everyone thinks about how they feel. Everything has consequences, and everyone is always angsting about those consequences, over and over. Hell, they devoted entire season-long arcs to angsting. And any character who is initially introduced as not constantly angsting is eventually revealed to have, ultimately, been secretly angsting the entire time. What Sunnydale needs is a good clean kick in the butt, a totally hedonistic, totally chaotic character who just doesn't give a shit and, more importantly, never will. And that character should be Simon Adebisi, from Oz. He'd just ignore the Slayer until she cut off his heroin supply, then feed her broken glass or something without a second thought. Adebisi's arc on Oz ended when his hedonism finally got the better of him; as an immortal vampire, however, he could just snort and shoot and fuck and rip shit up for the rest of eternity. I'd watch the ever-living hell out of that show.

Smaug (The Hobbit) to replace Falcor in The Neverending Story

Falcor the luck-dragon is... weird. Cute, but kind of squishy and, well - let's just replace him with Smaug. Smaug the luck-dragon ain't gonna be saving no whiny-ass kid from the misery-swamp, or whatever. No, siree. Smaug the luck-dragon's going to eat those gnome-things and go find himself a nice pile of gold to sit on. Oh, woe, imagination is dying; no one needs the special dreamscape of youthful fantasy anymore because television and video games are rotting kids' brains - stuff it. Smaug's gonna hang out on his hoard and trade insults with G'mork while the world crumbles around them.

Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham to replace his Hans Gruber in Die Hard

Hans Gruber is, rightfully, well-respected as one of the best villains of all time. So, for that matter is the Sheriff of Nottingham, that leather-pants-wearing, mullet-sporting psychopath who makes Robin Hood Prince of Thieves the best terrible move this side of Flash Gordon. Is it any coincidence that they're played by the same raspy-voiced actor, one Alan Rickman? Who cares! Let's replace the brilliant, controlled Gruber with the power-hungry drama-queen chatterbox from Prince of Thieves and see how quickly Bruce Willis gets defeated. And then gutted with a spoon.

LimeyWilson (Terrance Stamp in The Limey) to replace Sean Connery's Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Look. I love me some Sean Connery. And I love me some Dr. Jones, Sr. But imagine the sheer amazingness of replacing Connery's fuddyduddy Dr. Jones with Terrance Stamp's coiled, controlled Wilson from The Limey. Indy wouldn't be estranged from his dad because of his father's aloofness, but because his dad is fucking terrifying. And the moment Stamp's Wilson realizes that the Nazis have just killed his son? None of this "but I never told him anything!" business. Nope. It'll be "you tell them I'm coming. Tell them I'm fucking coming" enough to make Hitler shit his own pants without knowing why.

WWII would have ended before it started.

So, what about you? What characters would you pick n' mix?