Earlier this year, it was announced that Showtime had given a series commitment to PENNY DREADFUL, a “psychosexual horror” show, from the SKYFALL duo Sam Mendes and John Logan. The pair, along with Pippa Harris, will act as Executive Producers on the show, while Logan (writer of GLADIATOR, HUGO, THE AVIATOR, SKYFALL) will write every episode.
The show will be set at the turn of the century, and will feature a LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN-like ensemble of literary luminaries like Dracula, Van Helsing, Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, Dorian Gray, and perhaps Jack the Ripper. This clearly opens the doors for others such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Invisible Man… the possibilities are limitless.
Apparently, like every one of us at FM: ”[Logan] has been obsessed with monsters in literature since childhood. It’s a show he’s always wanted to do, and I’ve been wooing him to Showtime for a long time,” Showtime President David Nevins tells the media. He goes further to describe the feel of the forthcoming show: ”It’s very realistic; it’s very grounded. The characters are in very human form in turn-of-the-century London. There will be one central point, but it’s a fairly ensemble series in the way Downton Abbey is an ensemble.”
Since that announcement, any further updates have been nonexistent, including casting. This allows me to put my imaginary casting director hat on and dream up who I would want to be in the series, filling in the roles of Dracula, Van Helsing, Dr. Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dorian Gray, and Jack the Ripper.
Keep in mind that I’m looking to the original sources for these characters as inspiration for the actors who should play them. In Bram Stoker’s classic, the Count was obviously Transylvanian, with aristocratic charm, but also considerable anger within. Particularly interesting was his mercurial appearance. He had a long, white mustache, pointed ears, sharp teeth, and later was described as possessing a hooked nose and a pointed beard. Mina Harker described the man thusly: “old man; ‘cruel looking’ and giving an effect of ‘extraordinary pallor.’” Considering the pale one could shift from man to bat, dog, and fog, it’s easy to an envision a face that is at once irreplaceable, yet elusive.
While they’ve mentioned they’re trying to go away from Bela Lugosi, and seek a gritty, realistic take on the tale, they still need someone with that kind of charisma to pull off the king of vampires. That someone could be…
As with most of my suggestions, Benedict Cumberbatch is definitely too big of a name for this show, and Cumberbatch’s schedule is booked up with SHERLOCK, THE HOBBIT trilogy, and Guillermo Del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK, but I couldn’t resist putting a guy with his talent in the Count’s cloak.
Honestly, when I began scrolling through actors’ names, I put Cumberbatch’s name down for every role as a possibility. Cumberbatch would’ve been a fantastic choice for all of these roles; hell, he’s ALREADY played Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster in Danny Boyle’s acclaimed play. I was tempted to go down that route, but I figured a man with Cumberbatch’s pedigree would want a new and fresh challenge, and putting his stamp on one of the most ubiquitous villains of all time would certainly be one. We know he can be a villain, he’s already got the light pallor, and his range is undeniable. He’d kill it if it could ever happen.
Who else was in the running? I thought MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS and fellow WAR HORSE star Tom Hiddleston would’ve been an interesting choice, playing a different type of villain. I also would cherish the chance to see BATMAN BEGINS and INCEPTION star Cillian Murphy get to dial up the creepy that he does so well. I thought about going older with names like Willem Dafoe, Ciaran Hinds (now a stud on GAME OF THRONES), Mark Strong, or Stellan Skarsgard, but if I was going with a grizzled acting veteran, I would’ve chosen Charles Dance, who has all kinds of charisma and attitude as Tywin Lannister in GAME OF THRONES.
Next up: Abraham Van Helsing