When word broke last week that Warner Bros. had a live-action Archie movie in development, fans like myself were instantly whipped into a frenzy. Seriously. Even if you still naively think of Archie as the red-headed stepchild of the comics industry, it’s hard to remain unimpressed by what Archie Comics has achieved over the past couple of years: Kevin Keller, the batshit insane Life with Archie comics, the upcoming Afterlife with Archie zombie horror-comedy title, etc. With longtime fan (and current writer for the company) Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa scripting, and Pitch Perfect helmer Jason Moore handling directing duties, this upcoming project marks the first time since 2001’s underrated Josie and the Pussycats that the Archieverse will make it to the big screen. But the question remains: which actors could and/or should play Archie and the rest of his Riverdale pals and gals? As an Archie superfan – again, seriously– I’ll be sharing my casting choices with you in today’s Daily List. (Feel free to add your picks in the comments). Grab a burger at the Choklit’ Shoppe and get to reading!
10) Mr. Weatherbee – Kevin Chamberlin
Known for his roles on Broadway (Uncle Fester in The Addams Family), TV (Heroes, The Disney Channel’s Jessie) and movies (Die Hard with a Vengeance) character actor Kevin Chamberlin has the comedic chops necessary to portray Archie’s principal/nemesis. It also doesn’t hurt that he is almost a real-life doppelganger for the Bee either.
9) Dilton Doiley – Clark Duke
You don’t have to be an alchemist to realize that Kick-Ass and The Office co-star Clark Duke could bring the perfect combination of awkwardness and geekiness to the role of Dilton Doiley, Riverdale High’s resident genius.
8) Miss Grundy – Jane Lynch
Over the course of Archie Comics’ 72-year history, Riverdale High teacher Miss Grundy has been portrayed as everything from a strict authoritarian to a goofy pal to Archie and the gang. Back in the real world, Jane Lynch has excelled at playing similarly quirky characters throughout her career. In fact, if you were to throw a gray wig on her and give her some old issues of Faculty Funnies, Lynch would produce another memorable characterization a la Christy Cummings and Sue Sylvester in no time. Given Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s involvement with Glee (both as a writer for the series and the subsequent Archie tie-in comic), Lynch as Miss Grundy could be a very real possibility. Let’s hope so.
7) Kevin Keller – Liam Hemsworth
A role model for the “It Gets Better” generation, the openly gay Kevin Keller character made his debut in 2010. In less than three years his ongoing title has become a symbol of how progressive Archie has become, selling out issues (a first in the company’s history) and recently winning a GLAAD award for Outstanding Comic Book. Although Keller’s sexuality may be a big deal in the comics industry, in Riverdale he’s just another teen looking to go on dates and have fun with his friends. Because of his current high profile, it seems unthinkable that Keller won’t be a part of the film. On page, the character is presented as a masculine, dynamic, somewhat awkward everyday guy who just so happens to be gay. His big screen counterpart should be a mixture of strength and vulnerability, traits that would suit Thor’s bro just fine if the movie decides to cast with up-and-coming actors.
6) Mr. Lodge – Michael McKean
Other than Betty, the biggest obstacle to Archie’s romantic bliss with Veronica is her long-suffering (and sometimes tyrannical) father, Hiram Lodge. To effectively portray Lodge in the Archie film, the producers will need to cast someone who can play a character who is lovable but also a bit of a dick. Enter the great Michael McKean. I’m not talking This Is Spinal Tap or Laverne & Shirley McKean here, but rather his sublimely smarmy takes on Gibby from Dream On or Larry Dittmeyer from The Brady Bunch Movie. McKean can also play compassion flawlessly, which should come in handy during the flick’s inevitable third act scene in which Lodge realizes that maybe Archie isn’t so bad after all. With the screenplay still in development, it’s too soon to say whether the film will be going for broad humor, subtle laughs or a mixture of both. However it turns out, McKean has the talent to rise to the occasion.
5) Reggie Mantle – Skylar Astin
The Reggie character is a problematic one because he is so one-note – he’s a scheming jerk: no more, no less. Paul Kupperberg’s Life with Archie work has gone a long way towards making the character more three-dimensional, and the Archie screenplay should take a cue from this by having Reggie maintain his trademark assholishness – but still include hints at a rich inner life that exists just behind his rough exterior. When casting the movie, it’s not a stretch to assume that director Jason Moore will want to look at people he was previously worked with. Pitch Perfect‘s Skylar Astin could utilize his stage background to finding out what makes Reggie tick. He certainly looks the part and can display the blustery swagger that makes Reg such a divisive figure amongst Archie fans.
4) Betty Cooper – Emma Stone
Since she’s likely to be thrown off a bridge in the next Spider-Film film (um, spoiler alert?), Emma Stone’s schedule should be free for her to take on the role of another iconic comic book babe: Betty Cooper. Obviously Stone has the beauty to play Riverdale’s favorite blonde, but she also can believably emote the vulnerability and hyperactivity necessary to make Betty believable. Better still, the filmmakers could decide to take a cue from the popular “Betty is crazy” meme and have Cooper be completely unhinged in her pursuit of Archie, in which case Stone would really get to demonstrate her increasingly impressive range.
3) Veronica Lodge- Mila Kunis
Betty or Veronica? It’s a question that has plagued not only Archie but comic readers the world over for more than 70 years. Unless the film goes the goofy and yet somewhat plausible route of casting the same actress as both Betty and Veronica – and then placing her in the appropriate wig for each character – the ladies who play Archie’s main love interests should possess nearly equal amounts of attractiveness and acting ability. (It is not my intention to sound sexist here, but if one actress is stronger than the other in either of these categories than moviegoers won’t be invested in the love triangle that will be at the heart of the film). This said, in the cinematic Archieverse, Mila Kunis could easily be the yang to Emma Stone’s yin. Feel free to argue this point in the comments until the Internet explodes.
2) Jughead – Ezra Miller
Outside of the printed page, no one has yet been able to properly replicate Jughead’s gluttonous cool. The cartoon Jughead was an annoying whiner, and the less said about the hip-hop spewing Forsythe P. Jones from the To Riverdale and Back Again TV movie the better. To bottom line it: Jughead is an asexual character who hates girls and loves hamburgers. Even typing those words feels ridiculous, so I can appreciate the challenge facing the movie’s producers. My solution? Cast someone who is quirky and left-of-center but in a way that won’t scare the mainstream audiences the film is courting. In short, get Ezra Miller. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Miller portrayed Patrick, a gay teen who existed amongst the fringes of high school life and found acceptance amongst the people who meant the most to him. The movie Jughead will need to be more than merely a burger-eating cipher. Miller can mold him into lovable dude that fans of Samm Schwartz and Frank Doyle’s work on the character yearn to see replicated in live-action.
1) Archie – Michael Cera
If there’s one lesson to be learned from the final season of Arrested Development, it’s that Michael Cera can still pass for 16. His eternal youthfulness and comedic skills seem to make him the ideal choice to bring “America’s Typical Teenager” to life. Unless he is burned out from comic flicks after Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in which case I suppose someone should get, I dunno, Rupert Grint on the phone.
BONUS: A FEW WORDS ON THE AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE MOVIE SCENARIO
The rumors that the film would be somewhat based on the upcoming Afterlife with Archie comic have been dismissed for now, but let’s hope that this is a bit of misdirection on the studio’s part. In the (hopeful) case of a zombie apocalypse in Riverdale , Tom Savini needs to be hired to encase all of the aforementioned actors in the appropriate amounts of zombie makeup and gore. Does Riverdale really need to pander to the zombie craze? Of course not. But have you seen how cool this looks?