Fantasy Casting: In the movies of our favorite romance novels…who should play whom?
Outlander (AKA Cross Stitch) by Diana Gabaldon, 1991, Book 1 in the Outlander Series
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander deals with the turbulent love of World War II-era Claire and her Battle of Culloden-era soulmate, Jamie. Rich in historical detail, containing a most unusual hero—red-haired, brutal, and younger than our heroine?—and beloved of a very vocal fandom, a novel as ground-breaking as this one demands not only a Fantasy Cast of the highest caliber, but also a Fantasy Production Team of skill and renown (we’re thinking the people who did Rob Roy). The film rights to Outlander have actually been optioned a number of times, but thus far to no avail. Therefore, in the movie of our imagination, we present:
The Fantasy Outlander Cast
Known For: The Prestige, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Frost/Nixon, The Town
Choosing just the right actress to portray willful, feisty Claire is a tall order. She needs to be attractive, yet relatable. Claire is older than Jamie, but not old, so the actress should simultaneously evoke youth and maturity. Even before her adventures in time travel, Claire has been an RAF combat nurse in a tenuous marriage, so her earthly avatar should be able to project a certain self-possessed world-weariness.
It’s a conundrum! Actresses who give “experienced grown-up” to the proper degree (Claudia Black, Elizabeth Mitchell, Vera Farmiga) tend to be just a little bit past 27-year old Claire. Actresses who are young enough are by and large too young (Ellen Page, Gemma Arterton, Claire Foy). Rose Byrne was rejected as too sweet, Rosamund Pike as too sunny, Michelle Williams as too sad, Emily Blunt as too ubiquitous, Eva Green as too intense, and Keira Knightley as altogether wrong. And don’t even get us started on Katherine Heigl, who was apparently attached to one of the drafts floating around out there.
It is, indeed, a tall order…but we think that Rebecca Hall could pull it off. She has that timeless girl-next-door beauty wrapped around a shining intelligence, and “willful” and “feisty” are certainly part of her repertoire. As an actress she’s accomplished, having held her own against Christian Bale and Javier Bardem, among others. She even managed—in Vicky Cristina Barcelona—to upstage Scarlett Johanssen, which is no mean feat. And (on a shallow note) we think she would look quite lovely on the arm of the manly…
Known For: Home and Away, Star Trek (2009), this year’s comic book blockbuster Thor
Tempting as it might be to just cast one of the Weasley boys and be done with it, a strapping hero like Jamie requires someone a little more...more. Six foot four is difficult to find in acting circles; add in the youth, red hair and battle-hardened bod and it gets even trickier. Not to mention, we also need someone with enough gravitas to believably deliver some of Jamie’s more outlandish lines and be sympathetic enough that we won’t hate him after That Scene. You know the one we mean.
We think Hemsworth fits the bill. He’s six-three, a five-year veteran of an Australian soap (so we know he can do outlandish), fair enough to pull off red hair, and has nicely bulked up for his stint as the titular hero in this May’s Thor—for which he was cast by none other than Kenneth Branagh! And if you’re wondering if this was the guy who was dating Miley Cyrus back when, not to fret: that was his younger brother, Liam.
If we had access to a time machine—or a handy ring of standing stones—we'd go back and pick up Brit Damian Lewis for Jamie. He's too old now, even factoring in the difficult lifestyles of 18th-century Scottish clansmen, but fifteen years ago (with the help of a competent physical trainer to produce the whole “solid wall of muscle” thing), he would have rocked the role with his natural red hair, sufficient height, piercing gaze and quiet strength. Sadly, unlike our author, we must work with the times in which we live, so Hemsworth it is.
Known For: Horatio Hornblower, Battlestar Galactica, Law and Order: UK
Handsome and charming with the air of one enjoying a private joke, Bamber could perfectly portray the affable and professorial Frank Randall, Claire’s 1945 war hero husband. Conversely, Bamber can assuredly play a complex character of mixed motivations and pragmatic violence—as evidenced by his stint as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica—and so could also cover 18th-century villain Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, Frank’s ancestor and near-doppelganger. Bamber as Frank: erudite, thoughtful, a little dull. Bamber as Black Jack: disdainful, arrogant, wrathful. He’s a two-for-one bargain!
Known For: Hamish Macbeth, The Full Monty, Eragon, Stargate Universe
As Jamie’s devoted protector, Robert Carlyle is the only man for the job. While it may be a bit mean of us to say that he’s a perfect fit for someone described as “rat-faced,” physically that’s…not entirely off the mark. Plus, Carlyle may be a short little guy, but his aura of barely contained menace is undeniable, as his résumé—filled with drunken psychopaths, cannibals, and, um, Hitler—will attest. He’s not someone you want to mess with. Much like Murtagh.
Known For: The stand-up comedy circuit, Tru Calling, The Hangover, Due Date
When fat, bearded, uncouth Rupert first encounters Claire, there is some question as to whether or not she is a prostitute and he gallantly offers to find out. Later, when Claire balks at the idea of marriage to Jamie, Rupert is offered up as an alternative, and although he’s rejected with a rapidity that has to sting, he remains Jamie’s loyal man. Who could do this… singular personage justice? With actors of size so rare, and Jack Black clearly too frenetic, we think that Galifianakis could pull off the whole “slightly slimy, but basically a good egg” vibe quite nicely. Well, it’s either him or Sean Corden, anyway.
Known For: Commander in Chief, 24, Eureka, a recent guest spot on The Mentalist
Displaying a range that includes wacky, broken, scheming and, most of all, mysterious, Carradine exudes the kind of assured uncanniness that this time traveling would-be witch from the late 1960s requires. She has the height to carry off Geillis, and her blond hair could easily be lightened to platinum, but it is more her aura of otherworldly unconcern and apparent affinity for alternative thinking that makes Carradine ideal for the role.
Known For: iCarly
For this part we need someone adorable and sweetly devious, as well as dewy-eyed and youthful, for which we nominate this Nickelodeon star. As any beleaguered parent of a tween can tell you, she’s cute with a nice streak of bitch, capably playing sassy, vindictive and troubled all at once. Assuming she could get the Scottish brogue happening (which we are; just look at her surname!), we believe she’d give us a nicely saccharine yet properly calculating rival for young Jamie’s affections.
COLUM, differently-abled Laird of Clan McKenzie: Peter Dinklage—Hollywood’s most commanding little person, soon to be seen in the hotly-anticipated Game of Thrones. DOUGAL, his stalwart brother: Dougray Scott. And no, not just because of the name thing. JENNY, Jamie’s older sister: The enchanting Laura Fraser, of Scottish lesbian-centric drama series Lip Service (and let us not forget her memorable turn as Kate the blacksmith in A Knight’s Tale). IAN, her husband: Toby Stephens. He was Mr. Rochester in the 2006 Jane Eyre miniseries. We don't understand why they've bothered with this year's Mia Wasikowska/Michael Fasswhatever re-remake; they can't top that one and probably shouldn't try.
Additionally, if we were to cast further ahead in the series—and, granted, she may be a little short for the role—no one but Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan could play Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna. No one!
Rachel Hyland is the Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine, of which Kate Nagy is the Editor at Large. Fantasy Casting is one of their favorite hobbies…along with, y’know, many other fun geekly things.