Back in my IGN days, I wrote a very silly feature about casting The Avengers in 1985. But it was also a blast to put together. Largely because the piece combined my twin passions of superheroes and 1980s nostalgia. And also because such geeky fantasy casting is fun. So with Justice League in cinemas right now, I thought the concept should be resurrected, Superman-style, for a DC version.
The only restriction I’m placing on myself is that I can’t use any of the same actors. So no Tom Cruise. No Michael J. Fox. No Patrick Swayze. And definitely no Burt Reynolds. But aside from those glaring omissions, these are my picks for what we’re calling JL85.
Going into 1985, Harrison Ford had already played two iconic heroes in the shape of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. So why not make it a hat-trick by casting the 43-year-old as Batman? Bruce Wayne is a playboy millionaire, similar to the characters Ford played a few years later in Working Girl and Sabrina. He’d already nailed the brooding side of Batman’s psyche in Blade Runner. And those comedic moments that Ben Affleck struggles with in the new movie are the kind of lines Ford delivers better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. Plus, Harrison Ford has a great chin. And Batman needs a great chin.
In 1979, Sigourney Weaver introduced the world to Ellen Ripley in Alien, a kick-ass character who would go on to become one of the greatest heroes in screen history. So we reckon it’s a no-brainer to cast the 35-year-old as one of the greatest superheroes of all-time. At nearly 6-feet tall, she’s a real-life Amazonian, while having already defeated a Xenomorph, Weaver would have no problem going toe-to-toe with a silly CG-giant shouting “Mother!” every five minutes. Sigourney has serious acting chops (just check out the likes of Gorillas in the Mist, Death and the Maiden and The Ice Storm) and would maybe make a tougher Wonder Woman than Gal Gadot. But one who is no less memorable.
Sylvester Stallone might not have the height of Jason Momoa. But what the ‘Italian Stallion’ lacks in inches he more than makes up for in star-power and charisma. New Rocky and Rambo movies made 39-year-old Stallone the biggest box office star in the world in 1985, so that’s a plus. And while 1990s efforts Oscar and Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! suggest he might have struggled with the character’s more comedic moments, The Expendables movies later proved that he’s terrific as part of an ensemble. Plus, Sly had a mullet at the time. And we want to see an Aquamullet.
If Justice League was having a bit more fun with Cyborg, I would have gone for Eddie Murphy, who was coming off the killer one-two punch of 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop at the time. But as this is a pretty serious take on the character and his tragic origin, it can only be future Oscar-winner Denzel Washington. In 1985 he was probably best-known for playing Doctor Philip Chandler in St. Elsewhere. And it was obvious to anyone who watched the hospital drama that he was both a star, and a seriously good actor. So in the same way that Justice League could launch 30-year-old Ray Fisher’s film career, so JL85 would help kick-start 30-year-old Denzel’s.
John Cusack as Flash
This was a tough one, as thanks to John Hughes and ‘The Brat Pack,’ films about teenagers and twenty-somethings were big business in the mid-1980s. Meaning there’s lots of great actors to choose from. I could see Emilio Eztevez, Ralph Macchio or Matthew Broderick doing interesting things with the role. But based off Ezra Miller’s take on the character — which combines high anxiety with witty one-liners — we’re going for John Cusack. An actor who at 19 somehow managed to be both nerdy and cool. In 1985 Cusack was coming off the back of Class and Sixteen Candles, and going into The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead. It’s easy to picture that Cusack as the Justice League’s annoying younger brother, while one can imagine him making the scenes that Barry Allen shares with his Dad positively pulse with emotion.
You can call this one a cheat, but seriously, who else could play Superman in 1985? Christopher Reeve made the world believe a man could fly in the first two Superman flicks, while having the 33-year-old appear in JL85 would help wipe the slate clean for substandard Richard Pryor comedy vehicle Superman III. And maybe prevent the god-awful Superman IV from ever happening. We’ve already called Reeve’s performance the second best in superhero history (with Hugh Jackman narrowly pipping him to the post). And he casts such a shadow over the character that in spite of the fact that Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill have been good in the role, for film fans, there really is only one Superman.
Justice League is in cinemas now.