Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prince Jake of ...Persia?

As you may have heard by now, the rumors were true and Jake Gyllenhaal has been cast as The Prince of Persia in the film adaptation of the popular video games. [src] This news elates, alarms, depresses, and assures me all at once. It multi-tasks.

Elates for it promises ample opportunity to gaze upon the maximum amount of Gyllenhaal flesh that a PG-13 rated film (we assume) can offer. Think Lara Croft: Tomb Raider only with Jake properly objectified instead of Angelina Jolie. To borrow a quote from The Holy Grail "...and there was much rejoicing"

Alarms for it falls squarely within the unpromising realm of the video-game adaptation. Is there a video game adaptation yet that has also been a good film? Hollywood has even managed to make a theme park amusement into a good film... but video games? Not yet unless I'm forgetting something. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time will be directed by Mike Newell which is neither here nor there, quality wise. He's hit & miss having directed great stuff like Dance With a Stranger and Donnie Brasco but also, I fear, Mona Lisa Smile and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Depresses for it reminds us of how "color blind casting" in Hollywood usually means the opposite of what the media implies that it means. It actually means this: Put pasty white people into roles that should require some ethnicity! Jake and Gemma Arterton the female lead hail from Los Angeles, USA and Kent, UK, respectively.

Gemma (who will also certainly be objectified, see Prince of Persia women to your left here) is hardly a box office draw. Couldn't they have thrown at least one of the lead roles to actors of Middle Eastern descent [Arabic isn't exactly accurate... but I hope you still hear where I'm coming from. -editor]? You can probably guess that the evil villains will be cast more authentically regional if they don't go for big names.

Good looking potentially audience-engaging Middle Eastern actors aren't impossible to find. None of them are as famous as Jake Gyllenhaal but still... who is to say that audiences wouldn't warm to the most charismatic among them if given a proper chance? Even Wentworth Miller, certainly a name, is a little bit more appropriate ethnicity wise. Here's just a tiny random sample of talent in the right age range and beauty for lead roles... took me barely any time to look up and I don't have the resources of a Hollywood casting director.

(From left to right) Men: Säid Taghmaoui (Three Kings, G.I. Joe) Haaz Sleiman,
Jake Yakobi and Babak Tafti (prev post). Women: Hadeel Sittuh, Summer Bishil (Towelhead), and Heather Raffo (actress/playwright from the terrific
one woman show 9 Parts of Desire).

I always wonder about well-known properties needing big name draws. Isn't the material selling the first weekend audiences (to some extent) and don't first weekend audiences word-of-mouth sell it from there (if it's any good). I know that people didn't love Superman Returns but isn't everyone happier that it was Brandon Routh (an unknown) rather than Nicolas Cage who was cast at once point (and paid. Ouch) in one of the aborted ve
rsions of the franchise relaunch. I know I'm living in a fantasy world. These are billion dollar properties. They won't be taking any big chances with unproven actors of Middle Eastern descent. Eventually someone will --It's a better world out there for black, hispanic and asian actors than it used to be after all -- but not in 2008.

Assures for it finally gives Gyllenhaal a franchise. Franchises are crucial to salary inflation and (presumably) long term bankability. Assuming that Persia is successful this will keep him bankable and employable no matter how many Renditions await. And many moviegoers (myself included) need the Gyllenhaal delivered routinely like a live-saving pill, injection, IV drip or a blood tranfusion.

Ahhh, the healing powers of Gyllenhaal.


The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

At least with the Franchise Money, it will ensure more Jake for the next few years. Or banishment as I heard was something that was nearly done to Ang Lee after The Hulk.

And as for ethnicity? Um, spray-on tan ~shudder~?

Anonymous said...


Yaseen Ali said...

Thank you for saying what really needed to be said, Nathaniel. I was considering doing a post about the problematic casting decision(s), but you took the words right out of my mouth.

Deborah said...

I so agree with your about "color blind casting." I saw the casting stuff for Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse, and character after character who was described as "of any race" ended up white.

But Quantum of Solace is going to be HUGE, and casting Gemma Arterton is safe money. She may not be a box office draw now, but...

Anonymous said...

There is no logical reason why film adaptations of video games should suck as badly as they do. It's not like many of them don't have cinematic potential (Final Fantasy VII, anyone?). But instead of trying to turn the video game into a film adaptation, most directors seem more interested in turning the film adaptation into a video game. Urk.

Oh, and another suitable actress for the Persia girltoy role could be Atossa Leoni (The Kite Runner) who was a really lovely presence in that vanilla film.

whitney said...

I wonder if they'll put him in brown face.



anon --i've never slept with Jake Gyllenhaal so i wouldn't know ;)
although I do wonder why Reese would go to the trouble if he is. She has nothing to gain from an arranged thing you know...

back on topic. so how bout that PRINCE OF PERSIA. has anyone played this game?

Anonymous said...

Like the post Nathaniel and like the fact that it means more Gyllenhaal (why is he not everywhere already?!?). I have to say though that casting an Arab-American actor in the role would also be 'unauthentic', for Persians aren't Arabs. They're Persians. Iran is the only country in that region whose people are not of Arab ethnicity.


I hear you and I was nervous about this post for that reason.

like when i was confused about what constituted Hispanic versus Latino since sometimes the words seem to be used interchangeably and other times they mean very different things.

but shouldn't they at least try to be non ALL -AMERICAN... is what i'm getting at. The way they'll cast Ben Kingsley in ethnic roles of various sorts because he's half Indian. Or cast Hawaiian chinese Jason Scott Lee as Bruce Lee,

or I hope you know what i'm saying.

adam k. said...

Even Shia LaBoeuf, for example, to me looks much more middle eastern than Jake, who just SCREAMS anglo L.A. boy (in the hottest way possible, but still). I realize just casting someone who looks more ethnic isn't much better, but it would at least look like they're trying, you know?

I assume there reasoning is largely to do with Jake's body. You gotta know that the muscles will be there...

Glenn said...

As someone who has played this game I was just hoping they'd cast Orlando Bloom and put me out of my misery. Now I suppose I'm gonna have to see it because if it flops then you can bet your arse that it'll turn out to be Jake's fault ("HE'S NOT A STAR!!!") and not the fact that it'll most likely be a shite movie like, as you say, every computer game movie is.

Although, I happen to find Super Mario Bros a hilarious failure, but a failure nonetheless.

favfan said...

Summer Bishil would have been perfect in this role. She's the right age, she has two major films coming out this august and is on several oscar prediction sights. Would have been perfect.

Colin Low said...

Sad as it is that an actor of Middle Eastern descent was not chosen, Jake is nearly as close to perfect casting as it can get for a white actor in the role of the Prince: open-hearted, unsure of himself and his burgeoning love for Farah, desperate to undo his epic mistake that kickstarts the entire story.

Thank goodness, too, that Sands of Time was far more cinematic than it was a game, with decent platform puzzles and filler fight sequences, but mostly atmospheric and boasting character empathy in the cutscenes. It even has one of the more heartrending, unique endings of a videogame in recent times -- a modern classic. Let's see how this develops.

Colin Low said...

Oh shit, there is another element to this story that worries me: Jerry Bruckheimer is producing. There go the wondrous emotions, here come the bombastic monster fights and magical sand-clouds.

Anonymous said...

Video Game Films I enjoyed:

Silent Hill (just awesome!)
Tomb Raider 1

And couldn't we get someone Persian to play the Prince of Persia? And why couldn't we get someone Indian to play the Princess...there are some smoking Bollywood women who would have been great?

Anonymous said...

BLESS YOU NATHANIEL for truly saying what I thought when I heard of this insane casting.

As a Persian myself I find it highly insulting that someone like Jake Gyllenhaal and Arterton ( two Caucasian actors) were chosen to play the lead roles.

Is there an acute shortage of nice Persian actors out there?!?!? NO!!!!

It escapes me what people will be willing to do in order to draw in numbers, you were right 'color blind casting' is the right way to put it.

And Gyllenhaal slips even more in my eyes in terms of his movie choices after Brokeback Mountain.

I just hope the movie turns out to be a disaster so these people can learn their lesson, can't wait to hear the ridiculous accents.

RC said...

interesting stuff....i appreciate how you break down the different thought processes here.

maybe this will be a pirates...somehow, someway.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I cannot for the life of me figure out why they're making a Prince of Persia Movie. I've played the video game and it's not terribly fun/interesting, as far as video games go. It's kind of meh, as far as video games go, to answer your question Nathaniel.

I'm all for Gyllenhaal ubiquity, both in the form of Jake and Maggie, but the casting of him as the Prince of Persia sends a really powerful (the bad kind of powerful) message to struggling Persian-American actors, doesn't it? *Sigh* Such is Hollywood...

CanadianKen said...

I've always had a soft spot for sword and sandal movies. Arabian Nights stuff too. And - of course - any chance to watch Gyllenhaal is a good thing. So I'll be there. But I think this project would've presented a great opportunity to any number of awesome Bollywood stars. Not only would the casting have brought the project a little closer to ethnic authenticity. But there are so many charismatic (and drop-dead gorgeous) candidates to choose from. Almost all of whom are totally fluent in English. For openers, John Abraham. His name's synonymous with sex appeal in India - but he's also got acting chops galore. And excels in action sequences. Western audiences already know him a little from Deepa Mehta's WATER. And he's currently working on LUNA with Rachel Weisz and Dustin Hoffman. What's more Abraham is half Persian. (His mother's from Iran). Milind Soman, Dino Morea and Arjun Rampal are other hunky (and very talented) candidates that come to mind. All, like Abraham, former supermodels.
As for leading ladies - where to begin? One time Miss World Aishwarya Rai - regularly hailed as the screen's most beautiful woman - would be perfect. And though her position in the Bollywood firmament is unassailable, she hasn't had much luck with English-speaking ventures. The closest thing to a hit's been the so-so BRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Rai enjoyed considerable exposure in the west as one of the faces of l'Oreal and she recently completed work as Steve Martin's leading lady in the next Pink Panther film. Besides her,there are so many other exceptional beauties on the Indian screen. Lara Dutta is amazing on every level. And western audiences are missing a lot by not seeing Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, both of them endearing, exceptionally pretty and extremely versatile - each with a decade of Bollywood stardom behind her. All of these ladies are fabulous dancers too. And what's an Arabian Nights adventure without a little exotically colorful choreography?

Anonymous said...


I am familiar with Bollywood and while John Abraham is a good choice (people can se him in Water) Aishwarya Rai does NOT on any level look Persian at all.

lily said...

Well, Gyllenhaal IS Jewish (although his father's family is... Danish, I think) and we are technically speaking a Semitic people, so really it's as authentic as casting an actor of partial Arabic descent to play a Persian. I think the best choice would have been to cast an actual Persian, but, you know, Hollywood...

Anonymous said...

I disagree (and for it's worth, so did majority of reviewers on the planet back when the game was released) that Sands of Time was "meh". Fighting got tiresome pretty fast, but all the platforming sections are beautiful, exquisite, and engage both dexterity and intellect in an extremely satisfying way (running along the walls = awesome). And the art direction and the ambience is top-notch, as have been said. (Even though it will be ancient in game terms by the time the film is released, it will be really quite a feat for a movie if it manages to look better!)

And that's not even touching upon the whole time manipulation aspect which made this game so different from anything released before it.

That said, as with all the game adaptations before it, the film will probably only have the most superficial resemblance of the source, so what do these merits matter?

Anonymous said...

Regarding colour blindness, Hollywood is just blind to anything beyond its own borders, imo. At least, some things are changing and now they tend to avoid (mis)casts like "The House of Spirits".

What I find funny is that European (except probably British) actors and actresses are cast to play any nationality. So you can have Cruz, for instance, playing Brazilian, Greek, Italian... Just anything that sounds remotely similar to their own nationalities. So, no wonder there won't be real "Persians" in this movie.

Truth is I never expect Hollywood movies to be accurate, at least when it comes to depicting far away settings. One gets used to it, especially after having seen in half astonishment half embarrassment, how two lame stereotypes can be (wrongly) joined together in "Mission Impossible" (whatever part).

By the way, I used to play this game when it was a much more basic version and I always assumed that, even though it was "The Prince of Persia", the character was some kind of British settler, partially because he was much blonder anglo type by then. And, well you know, because it was still called Persia ;). But I have no idea how the game is right now.


P.S. I'd cast the guy playing Mohinder in "Heroes" or the one playing Sayid in "Lost", those are the only close to Iranian-but-still-Hollywood-type actors that I know.

Anonymous said...

"I'd cast the guy playing Mohinder in "Heroes" or the one playing Sayid in "Lost", those are the only close to Iranian-but-still-Hollywood-type actors that I know".
Damm it! You stole my idea!!!
But anyway, I think videogames are now where comic books where decades ago. We faithfull fans are still waiting for our Sam Raimi or Christopher Nolan to come and rock our socks of with something that can stay true to the spirit of the original without becoming a borefest. Until then, all that we can do is pray that Hollywood keeps it's greedy fingers away from our favorite games.
And I admitt,if I suddently turned gay, Jake would be my first choice.


D --thanks for the comment. But i wonder about videogames. I mean comic books are still inherently a non participatory narrative, pure storytelling.

aren't videogames a hybrid. Sure some of them are narrative based but i wonder how the movies can ever adapt the person watching as being the person creating movement or narrative decision

Anonymous said...

WTF @ the poster who suggested Sendhil Ramamurthy from Heroes or Naveen Andrews from Lost as being "close to Iranian-but-still-Hollywood-type actors." Both of them are South Indians who have nothing to do with Persians nor look like them.