Saturday, December 11, 2021

Modern Dream Cast for "It's a Wonderful Life"

I want to be very clear, right from the start, that I am not advocating for anyone to remake It's a Wonderful Life (1946).  That movie is jewel-perfect and could not be improved on.

However.  It's really fun to imagine an alternate reality in which It's a Wonderful Life is getting made into a movie for the first time in 2021, starring today's talent.  And in which I am a casting director with the power and budget to cast whomever I please :-D

Please note that some of what I discuss here may spoil the original film, so if you haven't watched the 1946 film, do yourself a favor and celebrate its 75th anniversary by watching it before you read this.

With that in mind, here are my casting choices!

George Bailey -- Chris Evans

We need someone extremely likable and relatable for George Bailey, and I think Evans excels at both of those.  After all, he made Captain America a fan favorite by exuding genuine niceness, which is not something most actors can pull off.  But we also need someone who can go dark and angry as his frustrations and disappointments keep piling higher and higher.  Having just watched Knives Out (2019) for the first time this month, I really think Evans can go to that dark and lonely place too, making him ideal for this role.

Mary Bailey -- Grace Park

Mary Bailey is a tough character to cast because she's so multi-faceted!  She needs to be a sweet yet sexy girl-next-door in the flashbacks, then be a dependable and loving mother and wife, and yet also be a dowdy spinster in the alternate reality scenes.  That's a lot to ask from one actress!  But I think Park can handle all of it.  She impressed me so much back when she was on Battlestar Gallactica (2004-09), where she played multiple people with a magical blend of toughness and sensitivity.  In fact, I liked her so much there that she's the main reason I watched the Hawaii Five-O (2010-17) reboot.  I also think she and Evans would play a cute and believable couple.

Clarence -- Alan Arkin

This might be my favorite bit of casting.  In fact, I kind of started with Clarence and then moved outward from him because if he's not likable, no one will believe that George Bailey rescues, befriends, and believes him.  Alan Arkin has such a wonderful, mischievous twinkle to him, and I very much wish I could see him in this role for real!  I think he would play off Chris Evans extremely well, never taking too much nonsense from him, but also never bullying or badgering him into making good decisions.

Mr. Potter -- Clint Eastwood 

Probably my other favorite bit of casting.  If we can wrangle a moment where Mr. Potter calls George Bailey a punk, that would be amazing.  But even if we can't, my goodness, Eastwood would be so magnificent as a "warped, frustrated old man" grasping at any and all possible ways to ruin the young man he hates and envies so much.  He honestly might be a little TOO scary in the role, but I'm willing to take that chance.

Uncle Billy -- Dustin Hoffman

Did I cast Dustin Hoffman because he blusters and fumbles well?  Yes, I did.  Would he make audiences cry with his despair after he loses that all-important deposit?  Yes, he would.

Violet -- Jessica Alba

Violet was so hard for me to cast!  She has to be sexy and sassy, but also not too brassy.  We have to believe that she dates around and likes to have a good time, and has maybe gotten herself in a little trouble from time to time... but we also have to believe that the kiss she plants on George's cheek is innocent of anything but gratitude.  I think Jessica Alba can pull off the mix of come-hither and don't-come-quite-that-hither that the role requires.

Sam Wainwright -- Anthony Mackie

Hee haw!  Sam Wainwright, how ARE you?  :-D  Did I cast Mackie here because I already know he's great at giving Chris Evans crap with a likable grin?  Absolutely.  Plus, I just want to see him in more roles!  I think he'd be awesome as a successful businessman who gracefully loses Mary to George...but continues to give George a hard time whenever he gets a chance.

Mr. Gower -- Robert Duvall

I don't think the whole childhood incident with little George saving Mr. Gower's reputation as a pharmacist would work in modern times.  Pharmacies don't work that way anymore.  But surely we could figure something similar out with Mr. Gower being a barista who accidentally puts sugary syrup in a coffee for a very diabetic customer, and George being a delivery boy who notices and doesn't take her the coffee because it would hurt her.

Anyway, Duvall can ALWAYS be depended on to be enjoyable and watchable.  And I love that he's still acting!!!

Harry Bailey -- Armie Hammer

George Bailey's kid brother who turns into a glamorous war hero has to be taller and cooler than George himself.  I know Hammer has had some personal difficulties lately, but I can't wait to see him in Death on the Nile next year, and I think a happy-go-lucky role like Harry Bailey would be perfect for him to charm audiences back into really liking him.

Ruth Dakin -- Lily James

I STILL haven't seen Rebecca (2020), but I love the photos and clips I've seen of James and Hammer together in that, and I think it would be such fun to see him as a genuinely happy couple in this.  Ruth needs to have polish and aplomb, but also be fun and appealing, all in just a couple of minutes on screen.  We need to believe that George truly likes his new sister-in-law and takes her seriously when she says that Harry has a too-good-to-miss opportunity ahead of him.

Ma and Pa Bailey -- Karen Allen and Harrison Ford 

PLEASE, can we make this movie happen?  I know this picture is from a few years ago, but I'm certain Allen and Ford would still be magically delicious together.  And be believable as the parents of hotties like Chris Evans and Armie Hammer.

Ernie and Bert -- Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan

Did I save the best for last?  I DID.  Obviously.  We need this movie to happen just so these two goofballs can play opposite each other again, even in the super tiny roles of Bert the Cop and Ernie the Cabbie.  It's completely impossible to find photos of Monaghan and Boyd together where they look like normal people, much less movie stars, but since Bert and Ernie have a key scene together in the rain, serenading the newlywed Baileys, I figure this works pretty well.

What do you think?  Let's discuss!

This is my second contribution to the It's a Wonderful Life Blogathon hosted by Classic Movie Muse in honor of this classic film's 75th anniversary.  (My first was a review of the short story that inspired the film.)


  1. These casting ideas are really fun!!
    We just rewatched the movie for the umpteenth time last week. It's a "must" every year.
    Note: Our oldest son, Tom, got his name from the adorable "S'cuse me!" character (I was three months along when my hubby and I happened to watch the movie together and just knew!). And our youngest is named Peter. Heh.

    1. Jill, oh, I LOVE that you have a Tom and a Peter! That is marvelous.

      Glad you got a kick out of this :-) I haven't rewatched it yet this year, but I'm thinking this might finally be the year to introduce my kids to it. I think they're old enough to appreciate it. We shall see!

  2. I knew that you would do it justice and you did. Obviously nothing can replace that movie, but thinking about this possibility brightened my day! I approve! I like your adjustment for Mr. Gower's business in modern times.

    Then you said the last two. OH. MY. GOODNESS. I want this whole movie to see Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan play Bert and Ernie. And then Harrison Ford playing Chris Evan's dad? That would be so awesome I would really be broken up when that part of the movie hits.

    Excellent casting for all of the characters! People who have the means to make this happen should listen to you...

    1. Chloe, thank you!!! I'm so glad you enjoyed this. I agree that nothing can compare to the original... but this can be a fun way to pass the time :-)

      And yes, we just need Billy and Dom in more things. Have you listened to their podcast? I haven't yet, but I want to find time for it.

    2. I listened to the first episode and laughed a lot more than I should have. So yeah, I had a lot of fun! It was a great thing to listen to while walking and since then I've been meaning to listen to more of the episodes!

    3. Chloe, that's good to hear :-D I WILL find time for it one of these days!

  3. You are a wonderful casting director. You pose ideas that make me think "Why didn't I think of that?" I adore Evans and Park as George and Mary. And Lily James as "Ruth Dakin Bailey, if you please." Arkin? Hoffman? The whole thing is marvelous and makes the imagination soar.

    1. Thank you, Caftan Woman! I'm so glad you liked these :-D It's definitely fun to imagine out various scenes with these combos!

  4. Oh Rachel, the 'eye candy"!  I know that is not the your main intent, but certainly caught my attention.  As I read through each character I was wondering when Harrison Ford would pop up.  And you didn't disappoint.  By the way, I also enjoyed the read!

    1. Merylin, haha! Yes, definitely plenty of eye candy here for all to enjoy :-) And how could I NOT include my dear Harrison Ford? ;-)

  5. I fully support the casting of Chris Evans, in virtually any role, anytime, anywhere.

  6. Super fun casting choices- a blend of well known and more fresh faced.

    1. Thanks, Flapper Dame! I like that I could mix actors from many eras together here.

  7. Okay, this cast is brilliant. BRILLIANT, I tell you! I don't know all the actors/actresses, but I will comment on the ones I do.

    Chris Evans - Miscast George Bailey and the whole thing falls apart. But Evans would be amazing in the role, so we're good. <3

    Alan Arkin - 'The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!' remains the funniest movie I've ever seen, and I think Arkin would have a blast portraying Clarence.

    Clint Eastwood - YES. (Although Lionel Barrymore cannot be surpassed, imo.)

    Dustin Hoffman - This just might be the best casting choice on this list. Super hard to pick, but I can so easily picture Hoffman as Uncle Billy.

    Anthony Mackie - With such a casting move, every Marvel fan would flock to see Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie reunited onscreen. :D

    Robert Duvall - Yep, yep, yep.

    Armie Hammer - LOVE this casting choice too!!

    Lily James - Excellent.

    Harrison Ford and Karen Allen - YASSSSSS.

    Billy & Dominic - Also YASSSS.

    I had so much fun reading this post!

    1. Thank you, Eva! I'm so pleased you like it :-) I am having the best time imagining this cast in various scenes.

      The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! is also the funniest movie I've seen. But I like Arkin in lots of other things too. That's still his best, though.

  8. Rachel, you did a fabulous job with this!! Not every actor is familiar to me, but the ones that are are brilliantly casted. I'm especially loving Evans as George, Arkin as Clarence, and Eastwood as Potter. Thanks for contributing this fun post to my blogathon!

    1. Thank you, Muse! Wouldn't it be amazing to see some of these people together? Sigh. We can dream.

      Thanks for hosting this awesome blogathon! It has been such fun.

  9. What fun! I love to reimagine updated casting - although you'd probably be shot - movie-wise - for even suggesting such a thing. Clint as Mr. Potter? Brilliant!!

    1. FlickChick, yes, we DO NOT actually want a remake of IAWL. But it's a fun thing to imagine ;-) Glad you liked this!

  10. If there had to be a remake, I'd watch this one! :-D I think you chose very well.

  11. Ah, these are awesome choices! I especially like the idea of Billy Boyd and Dominique Monghan as Bert and Ernie--those two would be perfect. They might even upstage George. :-)

  12. Eastwood as Potter is both inspired and hilarious-- he probably would be kinda scary lol!

  13. Okay, so I was happily reading this post (I love the idea, and you have excellent choices here!) but I just can't go past the fact that the old one is 75 years old? :O

    Oh, also, what did you think of Knives Out?

    Also, I love how Dominic and Billy are still as inseparable as Merry and Pippin ever were, haha.

    1. Glad you got a kick out of it, Gabby! But I know what you mean. I pulled out my DVD to watch it last week and was like, "Wow, my DVD is old -- it's the 60th anniversary special edition." Time does, as they say, fly.

      I liked Knives Out a LOT. My hubby and I watched it after the kids to bed the week we all had Covid, and we got so into it, we didn't stop halfway thru and go to bed the way we meant to, we stayed up until midnight to finish the whole thing. I very much want to see it again.

      Billy and Dom are Friendship Goals and I love them for it.


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