Friday, April 12, 2019

Dream Cast - The Maltese Falcon

With the remake trend showing no signs of stopping, I wouldn't be surprised if this one actually happens.

Some might call remaking The Maltese Falcon a sacrilege, but the 1941 classic film was actually the third onscreen adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's 1929/1930 novel. It was preceded by a 1931 version, which was apparently not great anyways, and - due to keeping the book's sexual and gay elements - censored after the Hays Code came into effect in 1934. Then in 1936, another version was released, but ended up differing so much from the source material that it was renamed Satan Met a Lady.

My dream version might not top the 1941 film, but hopefully would be more successful than the 1931 and 1936 attempts!

Previously in Dream Cast:
The Tempest
Wuthering Heights
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Sam Spade - Armie Hammer
He'd have to lose the beard, though.

In the opening paragraph of The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett writes of detective Sam Spade, "He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan." Somehow, I get Armie Hammer out of that. Sam Spade became a noir archetype: the always-cool, always-aloof detective who tells no one his plans or his emotions. Even though he's The Maltese Falcon's POV character, we don't really know how he feels about anything. Is he always 100% confident in himself? How does he really feel about his various love interests? There's a lot for Hammer to work with here besides a Bogart impression.

Brigid O'Shaughnessy - Amy Adams
Brigid knows blue dresses bring out her eyes.

I thought of several iconic redheads for this role (even though hair can obviously be dyed), including bubbly Emma Stone and elegant Jessica Chastain. Ultimately, though, it's Amy Adams's range and micro-expressions I'd love to see in the ultimate femme fatale. We're first introduced to her playing a damsel in distress named Wonderly, but even after she comes clean on that facade, we're never sure when she's playing a role or not. This part needs an actress who can play several layers of character, and we need to believe her every time. Adams it is!

Joel Cairo - Riz Ahmed
Get this man some flashy jewelry and an ascot.

Joel Cairo, a small, flamboyantly dressed "Levantine" man, doesn't come off as threatening. In fact, Hammett leans hard into mincing, effeminate gay stereotype. However, like Gutman, Cairo can be ice-cold when it comes to money. Played by Peter Lorre in the 1941 film, this scene shows why he shouldn't be underestimated. Versatile Shakespeare-and-Star-Wars Ahmed could rock this.

Caspar Gutman - Olivia Colman
Don't think she won't turn you into a Lobster.

Some might see this gender-bending pick and complain about feminism, but the 1936 film made this same switch, and look, Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead. Oscar-winning Colman would slay this role as a scheming, wealthy, globe-trotting crime boss determined to get the Maltese Falcon by any means necessary.

Wilmer Cook - Alex Wolff
Wilmer goes up against Sam a few times. None of them go well. 

Amateurish gunman Wilmer Cook is admittedly not great at tailing people undercover, but he's apparently pretty skilled under the covers. We learn that there was previously a rivalry between Cairo and Brigid for his affections (Cairo won), and this battle is briefly rehashed with a slap fight. Unfortunately for both Cairo and Brigid, a later scene suggests Wilmer actually has a the hots for Rhea, Gutman's daughter. Gutman, meanwhile, is like a surrogate parent to Wilmer, but is willing to negotiate on that.

Fun fact: Originally, Hammett had Spade refer to Wilmer as a "catamite," but his editor thought that was too explicit. So Hammett used "gunsel," a word that basically meant the same thing (a gay man's boy toy), but was more obscure. Since Wilmer is also a gunman, lots of readers took gunsel to mean that, and the meaning has morphed.

Effie Perine - Riley Rose Critchlow

Effie Perine is Spade's optimistic, competent Girl Friday secretary. The Maltese Falcon presents an extremely rose-colored-glasses version of workplace sexual harassment, where Spade calls Effie lots of pet names and rests his head against her for comfort, and everything is portrayed as consensual and harmlessly platonic. (I'd tone down the pawing for sure.) As a longtime administrative professional, I've got a soft spot for Effie.

Critchlow is both adorable and kickass as a wide-eyed cop in Crunchyroll's Anime Crimes Division (it's a little embarrassing to admit I watch Anime Crimes Division, which is...kind of the point of the show, which is very good), and I'd love to see her break out in film.

Iva Archer - Aubrey Plaza
Would you want to cross Aubrey Plaza?

Yeah, this is a small role for Aubrey Plaza, but she could have fun with it. Iva Archer is the wife (and quickly widow) of Miles Archer, Spade's doomed partner who is too boring and inconsequential to cast. Also, she and Spade have been having an affair. The Maltese Falcon is a roller coaster of a few days for Iva, who's kept in the dark regarding the central case. Her husband is murdered, and she thinks her lover, Spade, might have killed him in order to marry her. But then he freezes her out and she sees him with Brigid. Furious stalking on Iva's part commences. The novel ends with Spade finally about to meet her in his office to explain everything. (How that conversation goes is left up to the reader.)

Rhea Gutman - Anya Taylor-Joy

Rhea's role in The Maltese Falcon is the most confounding. She comes out of nowhere, and her part seems to be a red herring. However, her short scene - drugged, keeping herself awake by scratching her stomach with a pin, ostensibly trying to help Spade - is lurid enough to stick in one's imagination. What's her story? Whose side is she on? Maltese Falcon expert and super-fan Don Herron summarizes a few fan theories here, including one that attests she and Wilmer are actually one and the same! I personally don't think that's the case, and as such would cast different people in the roles. Anya Taylor-Joy, of The Witch and Thoroughbreds, would be beguiling in a cameo as Rhea. 

Image info:
Header image: 1941 movie poster
Armie Hammer: from Sorry to Bother You
Amy Adams: from American Hustle
Riz Ahmed: from IMDb
Olivia Colman: from The Lobster
Alex Wolff: from Hereditary 
Riley Rose Critchlow: from IMDb
Aubrey Plaza: from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Anya Taylor-Joy: from IMDb
Maltese Falcon statue prop: Wikimedia Commons


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