Patrick Stewart as a neo-nazi & 5 more unlikely roles

Feature by Kirsty Leckie-Palmer | 15 Feb 2016

Lovable thespian and king of Twitter Patrick Stewart as a violent white supremacist? Really? This wrinkle of film casting in Jeremy Saulnier’s upcoming punks v neo-nazis thriller Green Room got us thinking about some other unlikely leads

In director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, Patrick Stewart is cast as a neo-nazi club owner. On paper (or in pixels) it’s a bizarre move – to render our astute captain (Star Trek: The Next Generation), our wise professor (the X-Men movies), our amiable darling of social media (see below) as deplorable enforcer of archaic agenda. Yet sometimes far-fetched casting yields more credible results and often cinema’s most inspired characters are best served unexpected. Here are five examples of curious casting choices that came up trumps...

Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

As a wearied veteran of such grim fare as Schindler’s List and The English Patient, it was high time Ralph got a little light relief from despair. It came wrapped up in a pastel pink confection from Wes Anderson: the role of debonair Gustave H, employee of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Revelatory as a slightly slippy concierge harbouring a predilection for the older woman, Fiennes relishes lines like “I always sleep with my friends, darling,” with pronunciation not so much received as gifted.

Emma Watson, The Bling Ring

For ten years, Emma Watson was solely synonymous with the snotty Hermione Granger in the unrelenting Harry Potter franchise. She then proved her ability to turn out a credible Stateside accent in 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, before being cast as the leader of Sofia Coppola’s gang of real-life Hollywood burglers, The Bling Ring. Watson serves up fame-ravenous Nicki with much slack-jawed, eye-rolling aplomb, carrying the part off like an LA burglar with a trinket-stuffed Balenciaga.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

After a string of one-dimensional action films interspersed with the occasional rom-com, Gyllenhaal has made this list, not because he can’t achieve greatness with an unusual role (Brokeback Mountain, Donnie Darko) but because he let us forget it. His round-eyed intensity is a perfect fit for the part of oddball Lou Bloom, an amateur cameraman who dredges the LA streets for terrors on which to report.

Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher

A resume of daft comedies like Anchorman and Date Night would hardly seem to qualify Steve Carrell for Bennet Miller’s strange and sparse Foxcatcher. Adorned with a beak-like nose that he seems to struggle to see past, Carrell offers a reedy exploration of affluent coach John du Pont, exerting a quiet might over his wrestling protegee Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Cast aside prosthetics though, and his transformation is no less compelling.

Renee Zellweger, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Waiflike Texan Renee might have proved her mettle as a kooky female foil in such films as Jerry Maguire and Me, Myself & Irene, but when she was cast as everywoman diarist Bridget, she had much to prove to the UK chick-literati, Her physical transformation into the ruddy-cheeked, feckless heroine was endlessly scrutinised, yet she embodies Miss Jones so absolutely that the notion of anyone else in the part is as unpalatable as a turkey curry buffet.

Green Room has its Scottish premiere at Glasgow Film Festival: 23 Feb, GFT, 8.45pm | 24 Feb, GFT, 3.30pm

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