Universal is hoping to get into the cinematic universe game. They have been watching Marvel build an empire with their cinematic universe. WB is attempting to do the same. Fox has the X-Men universe (they will never give the rights to Marvel). Universal doesn’t have a comic book property to expand, the closest they have gotten is the Fast and Furious franchise. Their attempt at a cinematic universe is their Dark Universe, which should have just been called Universal’s Monsters. Universal is hoping to take these iconic characters and make them as popular as comic book characters, it started and failed with Dracula Untold, and will will start and fail again with The Mummy, which is not doing so well critically.
However, deals have been signed, and the show must go on. So here is 9 fancasts based on the confirmed films, and 1 recast-fancast.
Javier Bardem has been cast as Frankenstein’s monster, and the Frankenstein film is in development. He may appear first in Bride of Frankenstein set for February 14th 2019. Director Bill Condon will helm the project, and casting should commence soon. My pick is Penelope Cruz, Bardem’s real-life wife. It would be nice to see the two work on a big blockbuster together. Both were in Pirates of the Caribbean films, but not together. Cruz is an talented actress, who can balance a campy performance with nuance and sincerity. The story of the Bride of Frankenstein is quite tragic, and the tone of these films will be dark, Cruz would be a great fit for the project.
The Invisible Man is in development and currently has Johnny Depp attached to star. I propose we recast the role with voice actor H Jon Benjamin. The character is gonna be invisible for majority of the film, and I believe an actor like Benjamin should voice him. Lets be honest, the world would be a better place if Depp wasn’t in so many films. It has not been confirmed what version of the Invisible Man will be in the Dark Universe, but by the casting of Depp one can tell that he is gonna be the joker, drunk, inappropriate, character in the group. Benjamin can do that, and so much more.
Van Helsing is also in development. Van Helsing is the iconic vampire hunter who has been adapted numerous times. This time I propose both genderbending and race bending. Gemma Chan has been my choice to play Mulan for years, but that is very unlikely to happen. So, I would love to have her play another badass, Van Helsing, or at least as his descendent. Dark Universe is looking to modernize these iconic characters, and I would like to see them diversify the casting. Chan could play a descendent of Van Helsing in modern day or have her be the daughter, as is the case in the television show Van Helsing, where the lead is the daughter of Van Helsing.
In the 1800’s there was a man by the name of Manuel Blanco Romasanta, who was Spain’s first documented serial killer. He claimed that he was cursed. Doctors examined him and investigated whether his claims of lycanthropy was true, it was concluded that he had a mental disorder instead…or was that a coverup. He became part of Spanish folklore as the Werewolf of Allariz. Spanish folklore is not something we often see, therefore I would love for Spanish actor Miguel Ángel Sylvester to take on the role. He has proven to have immense talent and charisma, and certainly has that sexy scruffy look.
Dracula Untold was a massive flop and did not launch the cinematic universe, however, attempt number 2 is in development. I propose Russian actor, Danila Kozlovsky, play the iconic Dracula. It has always bothered me that non-Eastern Europeans have played Dracula throughout the years, now is the time to fix that. Kozlvsky has incredible charisma and can play the dark, sexy, and tortured Dracula with great ease.
Mina Harker is the heroine in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and throughout many adaptations of Dracula, she shares a strong connection with Dracula. Their connection has been the root of many vampire romances. It is a sexy, dark, twisted and complicated romance. It is safe assume that Mina will enter the Dark Universe, and the studio will not pass up an opportunity to present THE forbidden love story. I propose Gugu Mbatha-Raw play Mina Harker. She will be able to play Harker’s strength and vulnerability quite beautifully. She will also be able to allow us to relate to the character and root for her.
Universal recently announced they will be adapting The Phantom of the Opera again, and it will be the “musical” in the Dark Universe. This fancast is the most unrealistic, because Universal would never be so daring. Cynthia Erivo as Christine, the young soprano, and Adele as The Phantom, who is in love/obsessed with Christine. This will be a music heavy film, so why not have two incredibly talented vocalists slay that soundtrack. In all seriousness, Erivo should be considered to play Christine. Her voice is beautiful, expressive, and enchanting, it will not be hard to sympathize with why the Phantom loves her so much. As for Adele as the Phantom, just imagine her singing Music of the Night, are you on board now?
Universal also recently announced the adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The film may follow the original source material, which is very depressing, or they will reimagine it à la Disney. One thing is for certain the casting of Esmeralda will be carefully watched. She is one of very few fictional characters of Romani descent. So if Universal casts a non-Romani actress in the role, I hope all their films flop, they go bankrupt, and the Fast and Furious franchise is bought by Disney. Hiba Abouk is my choice to play Esmeralda, she is a Spanish actress of Romani, Tunisian, and Libyan descent. She also kinda looks like the Esmeralda imagined in the Disney film. I would also cast Tahar Rahim for Phoebus who is one of the antagonists in the novel, and a hero in the animated film. Rahim is a French actor, who is completely underrated. Captain Phoebus, is named after the Greek god of the sun, also known as Apollo. And if the character was to embody that, Rahim can totally play the heroic Phoebus, if not Rahim can also play the cowardly Phoebus from the novel. Either way both would showcase his talent.
That concludes the Dark Universe fancast. With these additions this cinematic universe may actually succeed. The Universal Monsters are iconic for a reason, hopefully Universal can find what made those characters and films so special, and modernize the stories and casting to appeal to modern audiences. I would suggest that Universal embrace the campiness of some of these properties and be bold in their choices. Dark and gritty is great, but it isn’t when there is no sense of joy and light. Also drop the Dark Universe title, stick with Universal Monsters.