STAR WARS: THE MANDALORIAN HAS CAST ITS LEAD. AND IT IS A VERY CLEVER MOVE..
FROM KINGSMAN TO BOUNTY HUNTER..
So: Star Wars. They have had some ups and some downs of late. Last Jedi made a LOT of money but divided fans and critics alike with its subversion of expectations (it was too long and dull and not much happened; but otherwise it was brilliant and beautiful so shurrup). SOLO was released at the wrong time; COULD have been a Christmas blockbuster and instead became a talking point under-performer in an already rushed/crowded summer season.
Episode 9 is the only Star Wars movie currently confirmed as being in production. It should be with us this time next year. LOTS of rumours circulating about who is playing whom but safe to say that one does not simply hire Richard E Grant, Matt Smith and Keri Russell without some serious plans for their dramatic deployment. Oh AND they bring back Mark Hamill. But hey: might all just be cameos. As Storm-Troopers? Kinda like Daniel Craig in Force Awakens? Which was hilarious but made one wish that a star of that calibre actually WERE in the main cast?
That brings us neatly to why the new tv series slate for STAR WARS. PEDRO PASCAL will play the lead (probably a Bounty Hunter like Boba Fett) in TV/Online Streaming series, THE MANDALORIAN.
STAR WARS needs..its..stars. So here’s why the casting of Pedro makes so much sense..
THE HAN SOLO FACTOR
Pedro just has ‘it’. Style, swagger, screen presence. He is, as is remarked upon, frequently, not unlike Burt Reynolds. So there is of course a nostalgic tie in, given the recent reflections on Burt’s career after he died. Though this specific casting was unrelated to that; the similarity did not go unnoticed or unremarked upon. Heck, even my Burt tribute mentioned Pascal as the man’s natural successor onscreen.
But Pedro is not a tribute act or impression. We are talking about old school masculine confidence, cowboy charm, comic timing and convincing competence in an action sequence. THAT. It’s an inimitable quality and in short supply in an era where the bar on ‘leading man’ appeared to have been dropping to fit the general deficit / vacuum in compelling actors? Burt possessed that old Hollywood magic; it’s why he was offered Han Solo and also why the guy who took the role instead went on to do ok for himself. You may have heard of him..Harrison Ford, something like that? The SOLO movie reminded us that we are not ready to replace a Harrison shaped Solo, even with a damn fine young actor. But we CAN seek out similar qualities in leading men and cast them in counterpart roles in this playground of a universe. Hence: Pascal, playing a rogue /scoundrel/bounty hunter. Brilliant: one in a million!
MOVIE STAR POWER / TELEVISION AND STREAMING COMPATIBLE
Pascal is a FILM STAR. He has graced KINGSMAN as a franchise already and will feature in WONDER WOMAN 84. But this name is just at home on big, flagship, television projects. He has done GAME OF THRONES and NARCOS. Pascal knows that terrain, the game and how to play it. This is a sensible investment in a young-ish star that also just happens to be a bankable and dependable veteran of the industry in a highly specialist sector. It’s like adding a Talisman of good will and luck to a project whose success cannot be taken for granted in an increasingly saturated market.
JON FAVREAU NEVER GETS HIS CASTING WRONG
It’s easy to take for granted the joys of watching Robert Downey Junior play Iron Man /Tony Stark. But it almost didn’t happen. Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Clive Owen, George Clooney: can you picture those men in the part Downey made his own? Maybe. Nah! But it was Favreau as director that made the call in casting. He NEVER fails on that score. THE JUNGLE BOOK remake worked because of his insight to the modern counterparts for an old classic; thereby saving it from being yet another pointless Disney live action recycling of their animated back catalogue greats. Jon knows how to match actors to the right roles and thereby give a reality to the fantasy. Jon is show-runner on MANDALORIAN. So I suspect he has just pulled off his magic casting trick again here with Pedro?
THE LATINO FACTOR!
It pains me to say it. Despite or perhaps BECAUSE of our enlightened and tolerant, inclusive media zeitgeist today, we talk more about representation. Whilst it must never be tokenist or a shield from creative criticism of character/plot content, it is fair to say that greater inclusion of what were deemed ‘minorities’ is something of a talking and even sticking point. So it is therefore worth noting that Pedro is indeed, a Latino man.
Coupled with Diego Luna getting his own (admittedly, one must note, less anticipated?) CASSIAN ANDOR series: one can see, empirically, the promotion of diversity among leading men within the STAR WARS universe. These are first and foremost, talented actors. But it is no doubt a great comfort to know that they are defined by that talent now and their ability to convey character, rather than being ‘token Latin male #2’?
It’s tough but needs saying. And it’s a very positive move, socially, whilst also making business sense. At once pastoral and pragmatic; comforting and possibly sceptical, not to say, cynical? Moving towards ‘actors’ rather than ‘latino actors’ whilst still assuring the peoples of the various demographic communities that they can indeed have heroes and role models onscreen; rather than simply being cited as the ‘Puerto Rican’ or ‘Mexican’ or whatever on some ghastly reality tv show. And yes, I DO think that was a problem in America’s cultural landscape and language and that Star Wars just helped in the..well..rebellion?
Whatever the rationale? BRAVO!
THE MANDALORIAN is currently in production. Whilst it is of course an ensemble effort and the STAR WARS brand and its universe are the main attraction (also allowing for Pedro Pascal to pursue longer term cinematic ambitions?)..this casting news bodes VERY well indeed for the show’s success, both critically and commercially, when it streams.