13 Characters in the Archie Universe and the Actors I Would Pick to Play Them If I Were a Casting Director for an Upcoming Film
So I’m perusing my hometown news provider the other day and I notice Archie Comics has announced that Warner Bros. will produce a live-action film based on the Riverdale Gang. This is exciting news for fans, especially when you consider the atrocious 1990 TV movie Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again has been the gang’s only live-action outing to date (Jughead as a sad-sack dad rapping to win back his son’s love? For shame, NBC!). They’ve got a director and a screenwriter attached to the project; now all we need are some actors to show up for hair and makeup. So let’s start casting!
1. Archie Andrews
Name: Thomas Brodie-Sangster
You might remember him from: Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, Nowhere Boy, Game of Thrones
Why him? I may be risking treason charges for suggesting a young Brit play America’s Favorite Teenager, but I’m Canadian so whatever. And let’s be honest: a lot of Brits have come across the pond to play all-American types (think Henry Cavill in this summer’s Man of Steel, or Andrew Lincoln as the lead non-zombie guy in The Walking Dead). More to the point, Brodie-Sangster has got that quirky, gingery, handsome-but-not-Hollywood-handsome look that works for someone hired to play the world’s most famous redheaded teenager. Plus, he learned to play drums and guitar for two of his earlier roles (as a young Paul McCartney in Nowhere Boy and a young romantic in Love Actually), so he’s ready to rock if the plot has anything to do with the gang forming a band to play “Sugar, Sugar” at the local talent competition.
2. Betty Cooper
Name: Jennifer Lawrence
You might remember her from: X-Men: First Class, Silver Linings Playbook, and a small art-house film called The Hunger Games
Why her? You’re kidding, right? Snagging Lawrence — an Oscar winner and lead actress in one of the biggest film franchises on the block — means boffo box office; the phrase you’re looking for is “star power.” But aside from crass commercial concerns, Lawrence is that rare young actress who can project intense toughness, intelligence and vulnerability with just one look, the same qualities Betty has in spades. And since we can assume part of the plot will involve Betty and Veronica in competition for Archie’s heart, we need someone who’s not afraid to… well, I’ll just let Lawrence explain why she’s perfect for the role: “I like when things are hard; I’m very competitive. If something seems difficult or impossible, it interests me.” And while these things shouldn’t matter… she is a natural blonde. There are some things in life you can mess with, but letting Betty be played by anyone but a natural blonde? In. Conceivable.
3. Veronica Lodge
Name: Sarah Hyland
You might remember her from: Modern Family, where she plays the materialistic eldest daughter in the Dunphy household
Why her? First, she’s got the look and sound of a spoiled heiress down cold, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. Thanks to Hyland’s work on the hit ABC sitcom, we also know she can handle both the physical comedy and the heartwarming stuff with ease. And anyone who saw her play the lead role in the 2011 Disney Channel movie Geek Charming — I, uh, was flipping channels when I happened to come across it by accident — will tell you she can play a high school snob with the best of them. Plus, if her IMDb profile is accurate, she counts ballet, jazz, hip-hop and tap among her dance moves, and that’s just way too much talent not to tap (ha!) for our film.
4. Forsythe “Jughead” Jones
Name: Kodi Smit-McPhee
You might remember him from: The Road, Let Me In, ParaNorman
Why him? I’ll admit this was my toughest casting choice. The binge-eating, heavy-lidded misogynist who inspired a million jokes about the real reason he’s always got the munchies is almost guaranteed to be a breakout role for the young actor who takes it on. Not only is Jughead arguably the more popular character in any contest between Archie and him, he’s certainly the more stylishly dressed and more prone to scene-stealing antics. We need a young actor who can rock a beanie cap and rainbow suspenders, if needed, without looking like a massive dork. I submit that Smit-McPhee is that actor; his lanky 6’3″ frame, mop of unruly hair and slightly-set-apart eyes give him that off-centre look we need for someone portraying Riverdale’s king of off-centre antics. Plus his eclectic filmography suggests a young actor who — like Mr. Jones himself — is game for just about anything.
5. Reggie Mantle
Name: Josh Hutcherson
You might remember him from: The Hunger Games, Red Dawn, Epic, Bridge to Terabithia
Why him? Honestly? It’s all in the jawline. Yes, I’m being that superficial. Oh, he’s a fine young actor, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want any of you thinking that I’m sitting over here and going, “Hmmm, so I need someone to play an overly smug and narcissistic assho– hey, what’s that Hutcherson kid up to?” From all accounts, he seems like a nice enough fellow, and believe me when I say I am only giving him the highest of props by suggesting he could pull off the role of Riverdale’s chief self-centred schemer with aplomb. Dan DeCarlo himself would approve of this casting call.
6. Moose Mason
Name: Liam Hemsworth
You might remember him from: The Last Song, The Hunger Games, The Expendables 2
Why him? Because if I’m going to raid The Hunger Games for my cast, I might as well bag my legal limit. Hemsworth’s a big guy — 6’3″ according to his IMDb profile — and anyone who saw The Hunger Games will agree he’s someone who can bring an intimidating presence when it’s needed. For obvious reasons, we’ll have to tone down Moose’s lack of intelligence and lapses into jealousy-fueled violence and put more of the focus on his other qualities, like his immense strength and loyalty to his friends, and I’m sure Hemsworth would be just fine with that. Hey! Maybe we can ask him to convince his older brother to do a hey-look-we’re-both-playing-comic-characters cameo and show up at the Chock’Lit Shop spouting faux-Shakespearean English.
7. Dilton Doiley
Name: Dev Patel
You might remember him from: Slumdog Millionaire, The Last Airbender, The Newsroom
Why him? Because we need a dorky-but-cute-looking guy for this role, that’s why; stick a pair of round glasses on Patel and tell me you don’t see it. Plus, in real life Patel has a black belt in tae kwon do, and that’s making me think they should include a scene where the bookish Dilton puts his research into the science of martial arts to good use by giving a deserving bully a proper thumping.
8. Ethel Muggs
Name: Sara Fowlow
You might remember her from: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Why her? If there’s one scene I can’t stand about teen-comedy movies, it’s the scene where the alleged “class dork/weirdo” whips off her glasses and undoes her ponytail to instantly transform into the most beautiful-looking girl in the school — and nobody ever saw it before because they couldn’t see that beautiful face hiding behind the glasses. It’s the laziest of plot devices, and it does a real disservice to the many young women out there who could benefit from someone telling them there isn’t just one standard of beauty to strive for. Ethel has been a problematic character in the Archie universe — earlier stories had no problem playing up her plain looks, buck teeth and Jughead obsession for cheap laughs — and to their credit recent Archie writers have toned down those aspects of her character. Because of that, I don’t want to go the lazy “stick braces and bifocals on a Hollywood hottie” route for this one, and so I’m going way outside the usual Hollywood circles to tap Fowlow, an up-and-coming Canadian actress. Partly it’s because she has the height and build for the role (a willowy 5’11” according to her IMDb page), and partly it’s because giving this potential breakout role to a relative unknown feels like the right thing to do.
9. Chuck Clayton
Name: Daniel Curtis Lee
You might remember him from: Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Zeke and Luther, Glee
Why him? Archie comics and Hollywood movies have a lot in common, starting with the real dearth of roles for African-American characters. It took Archie Comics 30 years to get Chuck into the gang; let’s not wait that long for the movie franchise to do the same. Lee is a young man who, if I can believe his IMDb bio, played linebacker for his high school football team, and he also looks to me like the kind of laid-back, got-it-all-together guy who could switch from football practice to working on his dream to be a comic artist and back with ease. So let’s sign him up.
10. Mr. Lodge
Name: J.K. Simmons
You might remember him from: Law & Order, Oz, Juno, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, and a million other TV shows and movies in need of a gruff authority figure
Why him? Hell, the better question is why not him? He showed us his doting dad side in Juno, his comedy chops in shows like Party Down and Arrested Development, and his ability to berate and bluster with authority in… damn, just about everything else. Come on, who wouldn’t relish seeing Simmons haul out a variation on his J. Jonah Jameson persona to yet again rock a stylin’ ‘stache and scare the bejeezus out of any Riverdale punk who DARES to think he’s good enough to date his sweet baby girl?
11. Mr. Weatherbee
Name: Ned Beatty
You might remember him from: Superman, Deliverance, Network, Hear My Song, Toy Story 3
Why him? Turning to the faculty at Riverdale High, it seems only proper to have the younger generation of actors taught by veteran actors who can teach the rest of us a thing or two about stealing a scene. First up: Mr. Weatherbee, the rotund and slightly dyspeptic principal who is constantly annoyed by Archie’s youthful hi-jinks. For this role, I think we should go with Ned Beatty, a fellow who can go from avuncular to disturbingly menacing in two seconds flat. Don’t believe me? Go watch Toy Story 3 again, and listen to his vocal performance as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear, the leader/ruthless warden of the toys at the Sunnyside Daycare Center. Anyone who can make a character named “Lots-O’-Huggin'” sound that menacing with just an inflection change is someone we need to keep this gaggle of wisecracking youngsters in line.
12. Miss Grundy
Name: Lily Tomlin
You might remember her from: Laugh-In, 9 to 5, All of Me, The West Wing, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
Why her? Get out. Now. Tomlin is probably one of the few Americans who can out-dry-wit the Brits at their own game, and her deadpan stare should be registered as a lethal weapon. Given how Miss Grundy is an old-fashioned educator with the seemingly impossible task of holding her own against the raging torrent of teenage hormones she faces every day, we need an actress with the strength of will needed to pound some damn common sense into her young charges, at the same time they’re learning their algebra. And ask anyone who learned their science from The Magic School Bus — there ain’t nobody who can explain the mysteries of human digestion like Tomlin’s Ms. Frizzle.
13. Miss Beazley
Name: Catherine O’Hara
You might remember her from: SCTV, Home Alone, Beetlejuice, any mockumentary by Christopher Guest
Why her? Every fictional school needs at least one resident crazy non-teacher person causing a commotion with his or her unusual mannerisms: Hogwarts has Filch, Springfield Elementary has Groundskeeper Willie and Riverdale High has Miss Beazley, the cantankerous cafeteria worker whose terrible cooking and sharp tongue often mask the kinder side of her that’s hidden deep, deep down. Given how central the cafeteria is in any high-school movie, it’s hard to imagine her not making an appearance, just as it’s hard to imagine anyone but Catherine O’Hara with the chops to take on the part. First off, she’s damn funny in anything she does. Second… hold on, why do I need to list any more reasons? She was on SCTV, people! We’re talking comedy royalty here. They don’t give out stars on the Canada Walk of Fame to just anyone, all right? Okay, yes, we gave one to Céline Dion. But still!