Casting Call

5 Actors Who Could Play “Alien” Androids

Casting Call Alien Androids fb

In this series, we speculate on what actors would be the perfect choice to play an upcoming character, or what type of character a particular actor is best suited for. Feel free to unilaterally agree with all our picks voice your opinion in the comments!

It sounds like Neil Blomkamp is hard at work to make his purported Alien 5 a fantastic return to form for the series. Meanwhile, Ridley Scott isn’t quite done with it, recently stating that Prometheus 2 is now called Alien: Paradise Lost to hammer home the theme of the new series and its connection to the old films. So, it stands to reason that we’ve got plenty of new androids to meet.

It takes a special kind of performance to convey an artificial person’s thoughts and feelings. That’s probably why the synthetic crew members of the Alien/Prometheus franchise have always been the most nerve-wracking to get to know; they are typically a step ahead of the audience and the other characters, and they are hard to judge until they’ve revealed everything.

In 1979’s Alien, the very late reveal that persnickety and elitist medical officer Ash is an android with murderous intent fits perfectly with Ian Holm’s dismissive British schoolmaster routine. It explains his cold demeanor and his unshaken loyalty to regulations and orders. But he also attempts to kill Ripley by such an unorthodox and visceral method (cramming a nudie magazine down her throat) that it creates an even more disturbing gulf between human behavior and synthetic behavior. It makes Ash more, well, alien.

Meanwhile, the unflappable congeniality and capability of Bishop, the newer model from Aliens in 1986, forced the audience and Ripley to distrust him that much more. Bishop is respectful of everyone, he’s smart, he’s considerate of everyone’s safety, and he refuses to carry a weapon just to show us that he’s as harmless as Ash was dangerous. There was no way he wasn’t up to something! To top it off, he was played by Lance Henriksen, whose soft and husky voice and gaunt face mix with a childlike bemusement and slow, deliberate movements. It makes Bishop and his genuine “nice guy” programming suspiciously fake, because in a way, it is.

Finally, we have Michael Fassbender as David, the artificial man at the center of Prometheus. His childish curiosity is even more pronounced, with his fascination with protagonist Elizabeth Shaw, his imitation of T.E. Lawrence, and his dutiful obedience to his “father” Weyland. Fassbender is an extremely imposing man, but he focuses his performance on David’s submissive nature and vulnerability, as when he’s insulted by other crewmembers of Prometheus for being a mere robot. Though he’s visibly hurt by them, he cannot help his programming and is always willing to assist them when asked.

Androids in this universe seem to be a study in contradictions. So which actors could use their physical characteristics and a precise, mechanical performance to give us the uncanny valley willies?

Recommended Videos

1. Benedict Cumberbatch

From his almost plasteen complexion, his wry baritone voice, and his cold and calculating history as a benign sociopathic Sherlock Holmes and a dispassionate genetic super-space-villain Khan Noonien Singh, Cumberbatch is a huge star who seems tailor-made to play a potentially violent machine struggling to maintain a human veneer. His acting has always shown a caged tiger behind his characters’ cool exterior.

Though he definitely has the abilities, I wonder if his presence would overshadow the subservient nature of the synthetic programming. Cumberbatch would do great as the android gone amok, but could he be the android cooperating with humans in the first act, when they only have xenomorphs to worry about?

Rosamund Pike Doom

2. Rosamund Pike

There has yet to be a female android in the Xenoverse, and I think Pike has all the makings for a rich character dealing with the terms of her own artificiality. In her haymaker performance as Amy in Gone Girl, Pike sways between a manipulative pathological liar and a mentally deteriorated shell-shock victim, depending on the situation. And not to praise anything about Die Another Day, but her shift from nervous rookie agent to sadistic, theatrical Bond villain shows that she could easily play a synthetic who feels pity and insecurity one minute and then become soulless and devoid of feeling the next. Say, if she were programmed to protect a company secret she might jettison her own lover out an airlock. Can the androids have lovers?

If cast as an android, Pike would certainly be limited to an Ash style of the character. I don’t really see her as the friendly and misunderstood robot, but she’s a dead ringer for “we suspected she was up to no good, never trust the android” story.

3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Though capable of intimidation and menace, as seen in Looper, JGL is mostly known these days for his boyish good looks and boundless charm. One can imagine him as an improvement on Fassbender’s David; an artificial crew member who makes great jokes, fits in with everyone, loses at poker and is gracious about it, and obeys orders without question. Until he finds out he’s the android on board… yeah. Then he has the existential crisis and wonders if any of his friends are really capable of being friends with an expensive piece of equipment.

It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure Levitt would get a chance to use any kind of characterization typical of the androids. The cool, detached confidence that Henriksen used for Bishop would have to go out the window, but the childlike curiosity displayed by all three androids when coming face to face with the xenomorphs and Engineers is something Levitt has in spades.

4. Ronda Rousey

You guys asked for her back in the Captain Marvel list, and I think I finally found a character that would work for MMA fighter Rousey’s still-budding acting skills. While not a seasoned pro at conveying emotions in small, muted ways, and having not yet demonstrated an innate ability to pretend to be someone else, Rousey has a physical presence not to be denied. And she also has a “screw you, don’t tell me I can’t do something” attitude in her real life. Imagine that affixed to the plight of an android: a model built solely for combat and protection (for instance, to protect the older Ripley and Hicks in Blomkamp’s new entry) who is not programmed with any ambition beyond the immediate fight. Then Ripley has to teach her to win by teaching her to want for something at all.

I would love the idea of the synthetic protégé for our beloved female alien-killer, but I would hope Rousey would be believable as a cutting-edge piece of technology. I’m not saying she’s a bad actress at all, but merely that her acting remains to be seen at this time. If capable, she could easily fit the part as Ripley’s concluding synthetic. While Ash represented the menace of artificial human constructs, Bishop represented the benefit of their unwavering loyalty and ability. Rousey could represent Ripley’s complete acceptance and immediate trust of an android, finishing her emotional arc.

5. Don Cheadle

While most folks know him as War Machine from that ever-expanding merchandising machine known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cheadle rose to A-List prominence with roles like Paul Rusesabagina, a man trying to hold together a lot of terrified people facing genocide in Hotel Rwanda and as a detective commenting on everyday prejudices in Crash. Cheadle does have something alien about his calm, authoritative presence. He has Henriksen’s same deliberate command over his movements and Holm’s precision over words. He even has Fassbender’s charm.

What would be interesting to see is Cheadle playing the captain of a vessel that has come into contact with the xenomorph or Engineer races. And that captain’s impartial viewpoint on the situation, as a secret android, makes him a danger to the humans with him. Just like David, he understands the Engineers better than humans can.

Agree? Disagree? More ideas? Let us know in the comments.


About the author

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.