Who would you be?
Last March, Premiere magazine ranked the 100 greatest movie characters of all time. Their list, while mildly interesting, was noticeably flawed. Yes to Freddy Krueger and Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone) but no to Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman in The Hustler and The Color of Money) and Michael Corleone? I don't think so.
Much more intriguing was the editor's note at the beginning, which included staff writers' thoughts on what movie character they would most like to be. This is not as easy a question as it appears. For instance, many men would instinctively say "James Bond." Yes, 007 has many things going for him, but would you really want to live your life with people constantly trying to kill you? Suppose a supervillain decides to just shoot you instead of the usual "easily escapable death trap" (term courtesy of Dr. Evil). Oh, and, by the way, his wife was murdered.
Coming up with film characters you like is easy. But think about what many of these men and women have to endure through their films? Don Corleone gets shot several times, suffers through his son's death, and dies of a heart attack. Randall McMurphy gets lobotomized. The Little Tramp barely scrapes a living. Rick Blaine gives up the woman he loves. And on and on and on. Films so often place their characters in dire situations. So which ones would you actually want to be?
I posed this question to my loyal readers, and received some insightful, funny, and thought-provoking answers. Here's what they had to say, with scant editing from me. For the most part, I only added in the character name or actor if it wasn't included. I'll offer my picks at the end:
Bluto (John Belushi) from Animal House--sure, he's an obvious choice, but the guy just oozes cool, whether, starting a food fight, or smashing the guitar of someone trying to sing a sappy love song, or just plain getting the respect of his peers/fraternity brothers, he is the quintessential movie party animal (this putting aside that Belushi died a few years after the role).
Frankenstein (David Carradine) in Death Race 2000 - he faces down fellow racers suffering from serious road rage--including Sly Stallone. Heck, he even gets the best of Sly during a fight scene. This in addition to doing in the dictatorial U.S. President during a creative stunt, and hence making himself president as a result. Plus, he gets the girl, who was from the opposing side no less.
Helen Ramirez (the late Katy Jurado) in High Noon. She is one tough woman, holding her own in a 1952 film--and a western no less! She manages to perform well against the likes of Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges, talking some sense into the main characters. She doesn't have to resort to using a gun either. In a genre that focuses on the men--she should definitely get her due.
Humphery Bogart - pick from any number of roles. Actually, my favorites are the ones like The Maltese Falcon (as Sam Spade) and The Big Sleep (as Philip Marlowe). Sure he gets into hot water, mixed up with the wrong kind of dames, and gets hit with a murder rap. Ah, but the way he manages to finagle his way out of even the toughest situations, and just dominates every scene he's in---people (especially the ladies) are just in awe of him. Compare this to Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past, who with similar circumstances, just finds himself doomed. But not Bogart, he makes getting out of the worst of situations as effortless as breathing.
Black Belt Jones (Jim Kelly--and not the ex-Bills' QB either) in Black Belt Jones ---whether he is called Black Belt Jones, Mr. Jones, Belt, BBJ, or just plain cool, he is one tough mutha'----. He defeats a whole horde of bad guys like it's no big deal, then settles into his job--which seems to be watching females jump up and down on trampolines. Maybe Jones doesn't have the name recognition of other blaxploitation protagonists, but watching him in action--hey for him beating up the villains is just another routine. The mob tries to take him on, led by a guy named Tuna (!), and one of his co-horts Pinky (!!). As a side note, Kelly was to have been in a scene from Undercover Brother as himself, but the bit was deleted as the filmmakers felt no one would know who he was and would be unable to get the joke/reference.
Bruce Lee---well, you just pick from any number of films here, even though he suffers loss of his sister (Enter the Dragon), his mentor (The Chinese Connection), and virtually his whole family (The Big Boss), just watching him in action one wonders...why would anyone be DUMB enough to take him on. And the more ppl who try, the odds only go all the more in his favor. I mean, he's defeated Jackie Chan (Enter the Dragon) with great ease, wiped the floor with Chuck Norris (Way of the Dragon) in the Roman Coliseum, and even defeated the towering Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Game of Death)--who was one of his students in real life. Enter the Dragon (as Lee) seems the easy choice for many--it is his best known film over here--but in Way of the Dragon (as Tang Lung) things are more rosy. He doesn't lose so many close to him, his family gets to keep their restaurant, and he defeats the villains (Norris included ) with the head guy getting arrested. Again, Bruce passed away at an early age, too bad...the martial arts films could use him (then again, considering what has happened to Jackie Chan, ehhh...maybe not such a good thing).
In no particular order:
1. Willy Wonka from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (played by Gene Wilder) - for the Candy Man in me. Wonka embodies a magic and wonder while retaining some dash of sinisterness to him. As a parent now, I can appreciate his colorful punishments meted out to the brats. As a child at heart and control freak, I can sympathize with his desire to grant the keys to his candy empire to a deserving kid who'll do it his way. "A genius."
2. Mystique from X-Men I and II (played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos)
- for the model/shape-shifting mutant I always wanted to be. Sure she's a woman,
and what a knock-out! But she can be a man, an animal, any other mutant - even
a Senator. The sheet versatility, the infinite possibilities, the blue body paint!
3. Lestat from Interview with a Vampire (played by Tom Cruise) - for the wig-wearing, blood-sucking night-crawler in me. While not a big Ann Rice fan, I can't resist the glamour of her portrayal of this immortal hunk as brought to life on screen. The omnivorousness, power and sensuality of the vampire exude from this fantastic character in whatever era he stalks his prey. Ah, to be gorgeous and undead...
4. John Merrick from The Elephant Man (played by John Hurt) - for the existentialist outsider and freak in me. The opposite end of the spectrum from Lestat, a hideously deformed creature who demonstrates unparalleled inner beauty and grace, be it admiring his mother, attending the London theatre in tails, constructing a model, and, yes, getting the stuffing beaten out of him. From his self-seclusion with a rag draped from his hat, to his bold proclamation of being "a man, not an animal," to his resigned (and ultimately lethal) act of sleeping like everyone else after a perfect night out, this tragic figure, as directed in Lynch's only "straight" film, never fails to inspire and profoundly affect me.
5. And just so you don't get too much of the wrong idea from that one, last is another odd Englishman - Austin Powers (played by Mike Meyers) - for the singing, dancing, laughing, shagging, Anglophile secret agent in me. Making fun of the espionage genre, and the sub-genre making fun of it, he's no Bond bozo. With a killer wardrobe, a constant hottie at his side and a knack for not taking even world domination (and requisite pinkie-sucking) seriously, I just can't help but to relate, kind-of, and would love to be Austin with a Mojo that won't "BE-HAVE."
Charlie Baltimore (Geena Davis) in The Long Kiss Goodnight. She was brave and very sure of herself. Nothing frightened her until it came time to protecting her child. She was willing to give her life for her daughter.
Annie Hall from Annie Hall - If I were Annie Hall, I'd get to be Diane Keaton and live in New York and hobnob with Woody Allen and his friends. I'd be a photographer and a singer. I'd be funny, endearing and quirky. I would have a unique and trend setting fashion sense. I'd have a great romance that even though it didn't work out, I could always look back on with fondness.
Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) from Fargo- She has a warm and loving marriage, is expecting her first child and is doing great in her career. She handles all situations and people with a positive, sunny outlook. She gets to catch the bad guy single handedly and is cool, calm and collected as she does it. Plus she gets to talk with such a terrific accent. You betcha!
Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) from The Thin Man series- She gets to solve crimes with her husband and dog. She is rich and spunky and enjoys to drink (a lot!) She looks like she's having a lot of fun all the time. She also gets to speak lines written by Dashiell Hammett.
Ginger Rogers in just about anything, but especially Top Hat (as Dale Tremont) or Swing Time (as Penny Carroll)- She gets to wear fabulous clothes, live in art deco elegance and gets to break out into song and dance just like that.
Buttercup (Robin Wright) from The Princess Bride- She gets adventure and romance. She gets to have one of the all time best kisses in the history of kisses, so who could ask for anything more?
Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) from Bull Durham- Every year she gets a new guy and one year she gets to have two of them compete for the honor! She gets to pursue her passions on a full time basis. She is beautiful and has a nifty house.
Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly) from Rear Window- Well, if I were her, I'd be Grace Kelly! I'd have poise, class, romance, beauty, mystery and adventure. I would also be able to pack light-see the scene where she reveals the contents of her small overnight bag.
Susan (Madonna) from Desperately Seeking Susan- I don't know if I'd really want to live her life now, but there was a time when her bohemian existence had a real pull. She also gets adventure and romance but without too much real danger. She has a great fashion sense and incredible self-confidence.
William (Patrick Fugit) from Almost Famous- He gets to travel with rock stars and write for Rolling Stone. Even though his mother is a bit overbearing, they have a good relationship and she is raising him in a way that he can look back on with appreciation.
Elliot (Henry Thomas) from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial- He gets to make friends with an alien creature and help him escape from the feds. His life otherwise is a bit sad, but I think the befriending the alien creature makes up for it.
Marcella (Joan Cusack) from Grosse Pointe Blank- It's always been a great personal disappointment to me that I am not Joan Cusack. But if I were Marcella, I could be her, call John Cusack on the phone all the time, and burn an office down! Woo-hoo!
I'd have to say either Bill (Alex Winter) or Ted (Keanu Reeves) from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Let's say Ted just because he's the taller one. Ted has the ability to time travel and meet interesting people from the past. At the same time, unlike many movie time travelers, Bill and Ted were able to use time travel not just to save the universe, but for personal gain as well, by becoming rock gods who established world peace. Although they had some adventures, it's likely that DeNomolos and fiendish plot is done forever and I won't be dealing with danger on daily basis. Finally, Bill and Ted had a positive outlook on life, and made sure fun and music was a part of it.
The obvious first choice is James Bond, but people trying to kill you, civil servant's salary, having to fill out expense accounts, they never let you keep anything, etc. It is more headaches than benefits. Characters who do things that go against my morality eliminate a substantial portion of modern movies. A while back I would have had the same answer as Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern: Mark Evans, Elijah Wood's character from The Good Son because then I could kill Macaulay Culkin (as Henry Evans) again and again. But I actually liked him in Saved. Some of the guys in Star Trek might be fun. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) now has his own ship, pretty wife, no longer taking orders from sanctimonious bald man. The trouble with this question is that in many of these movies, the end of the movie has the character dead--there goes Brando (as Paul) in Last Tango in Paris and Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) in Citizen Kane. A desire for modern sanitation services gets rid of Kenneth Branagh (in the title role) in Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing (as Seigneur Benedick). My Hamlet would be 10 minutes long as that would be how long it would take me to get from the ghost to wasting Uncle Usurper. Bloom and Bialystock (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in The Producers) are in jail. The kid (Mark Linn-Baker) in My Favorite Year ends up leaving Mia Farrow and marrying his stepdaughter. I will go with Nick Charles (William Powell) in The Thin Man series; like Sam Spade, but more fun.
It would have to be a female character who was competent, articulate, intelligent, youthful, attractive, decisive, focused, sophisticated, with a strong sense of self & comfort in herself, independent, accomplished & respected in her field, confident, totally heterosexual (but not homophobic), with the ability to kick -ass & take no prisoners. Also a tinge of irreverence and salty wit. Three characters come to mind:
Lady Lara Croft (Angelina
Jolie from the two Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies), Emma Peel (from
The Avengers movie, although that damn movie plucked through 20
years of the steadily worsening TV series and selected every bad idea, mixed miserably,
and put into the movie - folks under 30 who went to see the movie were totally
lost & confused! I saw what the movie was trying to do, as I'm very familiar
with the TV series, but all the characters & elements that I disliked in the
TV series came prancing through the movie. However, Uma Thurman made a great Mrs.
Peel, presumed widow for much of the show, although not as great as Diana Rigg
played Emma) and Mystique (the 2 X-Men movies). Although as Mystique
I could change my appearance anyway it suited me, whenever it suited me, I think
that I'd go with the Rebecca Romijn-Stamos look without ever allowing myself to
The Answer: Danny Ocean (George Clooney character from Ocean's Eleven) why? he's cool ......confident, wears a tux to go to jail......in and out. gutsy enough to take on a casino ( my kinda guy). we have something in common in that we wanna take on the casino. he always gets his woman.....he got Tess (Julia Roberts) back after the divorce
Without hesitation, I would have to say that the movie character I would like to be would be either...
1.) Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). He simply ROCKS. Adventures. Brains. Friends and a free place to stay all over the world. Casual fashion and good looks. Packs light and adapts easily. Multilingual. Apparently unlimited travel budget. Respected by colleagues, envied by rivals. Flexible schedule and limited "publish or perish" pressure for an academic. Good instincts -- politically (hates Nazis) and in terms of survival. Gets it done without a gun. Cool under pressure; brave but not stupid. His dad is Sean Connery. Attracts smart, adventurous, physically fit women without even trying. He's even got a sidekick when a sidekick is called for.
- or -
2.) Jimmy Stewart (as George Bailey) in It's a Wonderful Life. In the end he has treasures beyond all worth which no man can steal: a loving family, a good name, the respect of his friends of his friends and neighbors, character/integrity, and unshakeable self-respect. Fundamentally, he knows something we all wonder about: Did my life make a positive difference in the world? He knows the answer is yes. His great-grandchildren will talk about him, because he was the most decent man anybody ever knew. Strangers (myself included) raise a toast in his honor every year.
I would be Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) in Carlito's Way. There are several reasons I chose this character. Here is a man who has done wrong on a variety of levels-murder, selling illegal substances, embezzlement, etc. and now he's been give a chance at redemption. He has a chance to go "legit" now that his time in "the slammer" is over, and he's looking to start a fresh new life. He even manages to get back together with his one true love and that adds more of an incentive to do things right. Unfortunately in the end, his past comes back to hurt him, he's betrayed and he's killed before he can lead his new life. So why would I choose him if it ends badly for him? Frankly, because he gave it such a great shot to start over. Not many of us are given a second chance. We live meaningless lives, going to work day after day not really living life. Carlito, in my opinion, lived life all the way. He was a small man that walked tall, commanded respect, and people feared him.
William Miller (Patrick Fugit), Almost Famous: Pretty much every teenage boy's dream. Travel around with rock starts and get deflowered by groupies (sorry, band-aids).
Ash (Bruce Campbell), Army of Darkness: Mostly just so I could be Bruce Campbell (and in a better movie than Sand Pirates of the Sahara) and deliver those great Bruce Campbell lines. Also having a chainsaw for an arm could come in handy.
Wesley (Cary Elwes), Princess Bride: He's suave, romantic (a hit with the ladies), and inspires fear as the Dread Pirate Roberts. The best of all worlds.
Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), Clerks, Mallrats, etc: He gets "those wonderful toys" from Batman, has the wisdom of Yoda and can use the force. A real renaissance man.
The Shoveler (William H. Macy), Mystery Men: He's happy with who he is as a person. He picks something and does it well. He shovels. I respect that.
Bruce Lee (as Lee), Enter the Dragon: Maybe a bit obvious but you gotta like someone who is so self composed while kicking butt so thoroughly.
Jason Edward Russo
James Bond: Yes, he may be imperiled all of the time, but he is also getting laid virtually every night by the hottest chicks, lives like a worldly playboy and always survives!
Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension): He's smart like Einstein and cool like Elvis, and he's well known in more than one dimension!
Godzilla: no one can screw with you, really, and eventually you are friends with the happy people of the world (until you get remade for the US market)
Ducky (Jon Cryer) from Pretty
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) - Is there anyone cooler than Han that still seems to fully enjoy himself through the three movies in which he is featured? You pilot the "fastest hunk-a-junk in the galaxy," you flirt with Princess Leia, you shoot a blaster at clueless storm troopers and you have about the most intimidating but loyal sidekick in Chewbacca. Not only is the scenario one of absolute fantasy at its fullest but he is the one character that would be one of us in the movie. The "everyman" who seems to recognize that negotiating with little forest creatures called Ewoks is not exactly normal but might as I well have fun with it. Yes the carbonite was painful but walking into the scene with the knowledge that you were taken down by the badass to end all movie villains and you have the love and devotion of the hottest bachelorette in the galaxy would have made any hibernation a pleasant one. While it is true, he is the one character who does not ever see Leia in her gold bikini as he was blind at the time, I'm sure she kept it for later use.
Honorable mention - Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) from the first Naked Gun. If ignorance is bliss, this guy is the happiest cop in the world. He goes through life trying to intimidate the bad guys, sleep with Priscilla Presley all while never taking anything too seriously. Is he my tops? No, but I think his character would be fun for awhile until I realized, "Hey, I don't know what the Hell I'm doing."
2nd Honorable Mention - The Billy Crystal character (Mitch Robbins) from City Slickers. Ok, you have a mid-life crisis but instead of buying a dumbass sports car, you drive cattle horseback while talking through your issues with your two closest boys. You rescue your new pet from certain death and then return to your devoted wife and two kids. Not exciting but I'd take it in a heartbeat.
Now for my selections. I'll start with a few runners-up:
Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) in The Thomas Crown Affair. What's not to like? He's rich, suave, and charming. He bags Rene Russo. Crown has all of James Bond's attributes but never faces real danger.
John Robie (Cary Grant) in To Catch a Thief. Same qualities as Crown, but even more so. He has Grace Kelly lusting after him and lives in the gorgeous French Riviera. You normally don't envy characters in Hitchcock films, but if there was ever an exception, Robie is it.
Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) in Dave. Dave gets to be President without having to endure a grueling campaign. More importantly, he has fun in the job, doing things we might imagine we would do if we were so lucky. Dave also keeps his idealism and does not lose himself in the cynical posturing so common in Washington. Besides, if Ellen Ripley was my girlfriend and Marcellus Wallace was my bodyguard, I'd be the safest man on the planet.
Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel) in Pulp Fiction. This one was a little tricky because my favorite Pulp Fiction character by far is Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson). But I'd rather not have to clean brain pieces from my car or kill people, even if one the victims is played by Frank Whaley. "The Wolf" personifies grace under pressure, remaining unflappable no matter what the situation. He is efficient, but also cool and stylish. Any guy Sam Jackson looks up to is a guy I'd like to be.
And coming in at number one is . . .
(Kevin Costner) in Field of Dreams. Yes, Ray lacks the glamour and
panache of my other picks. I'm going with him in part because he has the courage
of his convictions, building a baseball diamond when he would have every reason
in the world not to. While not wealthy, he is content with a warm and loving family.
He gains something more valuable than money - a chance to right a wrong and reconnect
with his father. Best of all, he has baseball's all-time greats playing in his
backyard. For a die-hard fan like me, that's nirvana.