So! Skulduggery Pleasant is a series of books which I am extremely fond of – they’ve always been my favourite books, really. I’ve written a little bit about them before, but never on the topic of one of the things that’s always interested me about the series – the possibility of a movie. I suppose in many ways that’s just the spectre of Harry Potter, looming over every book that came in its wake – Skulduggery Pleasant doesn’t really need a movie, and it’d probably be even more difficult to adapt than the Potter books were.
But, you know. I enjoy the challenge of fancasting the roles, and trying to come up with a group of actors who fit the characters. So, let’s begin with the main roles of the first book…
Benedict Cumberbatch as Skulduggery Pleasant
I know, I know. Cumberbatch is in everything at the minute, and he’s starting to grate on a lot of people. Realistically speaking, I suppose it’s entirely possible he wouldn’t actually have the time for these movies – Dr Strange will take up a lot of his time, and I can’t imagine it’d leave him inclined to take on another franchise movie.
But I do think he’d be well suited to this role. Typically, Benedict Cumberbatch gives very well mannered, precise performances; the level of attention he pays to his roles would come in handy here, I think. I also think Cumberbatch has got a great voice for this role – one of Skulduggery’s defining characteristics is his voice.
Also! Cumberbatch has some experience with motion capture, which I think would be the best way to depict Skulduggery. Alternatively, if that’s too expensive, there’s the option of Red Skull style makeup as another possibility.
Honourable mentions: David Tennant, possibly Paul McGann
Maisie Williams as Valkyrie Cain/Stephanie Edgely
Now, in the past, I would actually have advocated that an unknown actress play this role, simply because there aren’t any famous actresses young enough who are the right age for the character; no one knew who Daniel Radcliffe was before Harry Potter, after all.
But with a bit of thought, I’ve actually changed my position: it is damn near impossible to adapt a nine book series straight from page to screen. It’s actually really impressive to think that Harry Potter did it at all – you just wouldn’t be able to replicate that with Skulduggery. It’s far more likely that we’d see a series of films lifting from and adapting multiple books at once; I think five films is probably the upper limit on the length of the series.
It makes sense, then, to cast an experienced actress who you know can play the role well; Maisie Williams could probably play the role slightly younger anyway, perhaps 15 or 16 rather than her actual 18. I do really think, though, that she’s talented enough to play this role exceptionally well; Val can easily be the next Katniss, and Maisie Williams is definitely talented enough to be the next Jennifer Lawrence.
Honourable mentions: Well, an unknown really. I’m sure there’s someone who could play the role well.
Idris Elba as Ghastly Bespoke
This, I imagine, is relatively self-explanatory. Idris Elba is a really great actor, and I think he’d be well suited to the character of Ghastly, able to bring the right sort of nuance and subtlety to the role.
Ghastly is one of my favourite characters in the books, for the record; Idris Elba is definitely the sort of actor you’d want bringing this role to life, because he’s really very skilled.
It is, true, something of a departure from the source material, wherein Ghastly is a white man… but honestly, Idris Elba really is the best actor for the role. Can you genuinely think of someone else who fits the bill? I’ll wait. No? Me neither.
Honourable mentions: There really isn’t anyone else I’d want to see in this role. I used to think Michael Chiklis was a possibility, but I’m less convinced now. I suppose Tom Hardy is a possibility, but I’d be more inclined to choose him for Mr Bliss.
Natalie Dormer as Tanith Low
I mean, my first preference for a future role for Natalie Dormer, if I were for some reason dictating her career choices, would be as the Doctor. That’s the role I’d most like to see her play, really, even moreso than Tanith.
But, if it were possible to have both, Natalie Dormer would absolutely be my first choice to play Tanith; I definitely think she could pull off the different challenges the role would bring, across the length of the series. (Spoilers!)
Plus, if the Tanith Low and the Maleficent Seven book was ever adapted to be a movie (which, admittedly, seems unlikely to me; perhaps a tie in television miniseries?) Natalie Dormer is absolutely the sort of actress who could carry something like that and hold the lead role.
Honourable mentions: Again, no one else really comes to mind. Alice Eve is a name that comes up often though, when I’ve spoken to other people about it.
Katie McGrath as China Sorrows
Katie McGrath is basically just how I’ve always pictured China, really; I’m basing this a little in terms of her portrayal of Morgana from Merlin, though somewhat more the later seasons than the earlier ones. I do think she’d be able to give the right performance for this role, in any case.
Incidentally, Katie McGrath is also the only one of the actors I’ve picked out so far who’s actually Irish. Skulduggery Pleasant is set in Ireland, so it’d probably be important for at least some of the actors to have accents; thus far I have made sure to limit the casting to actors from the British Isles, in any case.
Also! Derek Landy knows Katie McGrath, so that’s a nice connection.
Honourable mention: Ruth Negga, from Agents of SHIELD, is another possibility.
Mads Mikkelsen as Nefarian Serpine
So this one is actually the biggest departure from what I’d previously planned out; for a couple of years before making this post, I’ve had the previous five choices essentially set in stone. For Serpine, I’d always sort of leaned towards Tom Hiddleston, because I imagined Serpine as being somewhat similar to the way Hiddleston played Loki.
But with a bit more consideration, I actually decided that Mads Mikkelsen would be a better choice; again, it’s something of a departure from the source material, in that he’s not even a British actor, but I think you can probably take a few liberties with it.
The reasoning behind this, in any case, is because I think Mikkelsen is a better age for the role; the characters of Serpine and Skulduggery are supposed to have a real history together, and there’s a real weight to that history, which I don’t think would necessarily be conveyed with younger actors. Also, I do think that Mikkelsen would be very good at portraying the calm exterior of Serpine, as well as the moments of sheer rage.
Honourable mentions: Tom Hiddleston, as I’ve already said, and quite possibly David Tennant.
That, in any case, concludes this post. There’s still quite a few main roles I’ve not cast – particularly in the later books – so I’ll most likely continue this with a few more posts, actually. I’ve got some pretty good ideas for Vaurien Scapegrace and Erskine Ravel in particular, actually; prize for anyone who can guess the actors I have in mind.
If you’ve got any thoughts on this – agree, disagree – let me know in the comments! And, hey, if you liked these, or agreed with them, share it around; I don’t think this cast is actually, you know, possible, but it’d definitely show that we’re interested in a movie, and want to see these stories on the big screen.