For the last five years, I’ve been in a friendly fantasy football league. Fantasy football works like this: you have a team of a few players–my league’s format is 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 kicker and 1 defense. Each week, players at those positions accrue points for what they do in the real-life NFL games. My league is head-to-head, so my goal is for my players to score more combined points than the team I’m matched up against each week.
It’s a lot of fun. It’s mostly luck, but there is a little skill involved–or at least, I’ll claim there is, because I won my league a few years ago, and it’s more fun to brag if I can say it was because I am a football expert.
So, I started thinking: for what other activities could you make up this sort of game? And I ultimately settled on movies.
Like many people, I like to imagine my “dream all-star cast” for movies. But anyone can do that. Fantasy film-making needs to have an element of strategy and resource management. So, I came up with some rules.
The format of the Fantasy Movie Cast/Crew is as follows:
- 1 Director
- 1 Lead Actor
- 1 Lead Actress
- 1 Supporting Actor
- 1 Supporting Actress
- 1 Screenwriter
- 1 Cinematographer
- 1 Composer
Yes, I realize it takes a lot more people to make a movie, but as with Fantasy sports, there have to be some constraints.
Another constraint: you are only allowed to have two Academy Award-nominees per “team”. That is what brings out the strategic element–it forces players to prioritize where they want the proven talent. That’s not to say only Academy Award nominees are any good, but again, as with fantasy sports, you have to know how to find under-valued talent to succeed.
Also, you can’t cheat and use one nominee in multiple slots–no written by/directed by/starring the same person.
Finally, the selection is limited to living people–so no building All-Time teams with Stanley Kubrick directing Peter O’Toole or something.
So, here’s my team:
Director: Mike Leigh. Using one of my two Oscar slots right off the bat. I figured having an established presence at the helm would be important. He also has experience directing in theater as well as film, and I think that versatility would be useful.
Others I considered: Sir Kenneth Branagh, Rian Johnson.
Lead Actor: Roger Guenveur Smith. This is what I mean about under-valued talent. I have seen Smith perform live in his one-man show Juan and John, and he is a marvelous actor. Why isn’t he more widely known? Beats me. He is excellent at cycling through a huge range of emotions, and can create all different kinds of characters–often in the space of a few minutes. He also has a distinctive voice and memorable presence.
Others I considered: Ewan McGregor, Joel Edgerton, Ralph Fiennes
Lead Actress: Natalie Portman. Yeah, yeah; long-time readers probably knew I would pick her the minute they read the description of the game. Well, she’s a great actress with a wide range, and a particular knack for dark or tragic roles. Besides which, for a movie to succeed, it helps to have at least one big-name lead.
Others I considered: Rachel Weisz, Sigourney Weaver, Felicia Day
Supporting Actor: Stephen Colbert. People know him mainly as a talk-show host, but he does have a background in acting, which you could see sometimes on The Colbert Report when he would really dial up the crazy. I read once that he said he always wanted to play Richard in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons. Just the fact that he said that earns him some acting credit, in my book.
Others I considered: Jeff Lewis, Hugh Laurie
Supporting Actress: Sara Kestelman. Like Smith, I first heard of Kestelman when she was voice acting in the game Knights of the Old Republic II. Since then, I’ve seen her perform in all sorts of things. But it’s still her KotOR II role that best showcases what a terrific actress she is. While the writing is terrific, I think Kestelman’s acting also made Kreia into one of the greatest characters in gaming history.
Others I considered: Rashida Jones, Tina Fey
Screenwriter: Anthony Tambakis. His work on Jane Got a Gun and his novel Swimming with Bridgeport Girls impressed me enough to take a chance on someone with a relatively small body of work.
Others I considered: None. There aren’t too many active screenwriters whose work I like.
Cinematographer: Steve Yedlin. I’ve only seen one movie on which he served as cinematographer: The Brothers Bloom. But it had something I really, really liked: color. Not just muted greens and greys and browns, but honest-to-goodness colors. This has fallen out of fashion for some reason, and it’s annoying. So, on the basis of his willingness to accommodate the full spectrum of colors, I choose him.
Others I considered: Dick Pope.
Composer: Lisa Gerrard. Another talent I first discovered in Jane Got a Gun. Since then, I’ve heard her work in the band Dead Can Dance, and I was hooked.
Others I considered: Clint Mansell
As for what the movie would be about–well, we can sort those details out later! That’s how the big studio producers do it, after all. As for scoring and head-to-head competitions, those also can be determined later.
How would you build your ideal movie cast and crew?