Casting Call

6 Actors For Stephen King’s The Stand


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!

Against all odds, the Hulu-produced miniseries of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is a big hit, and it’s actually really damn good. For King fans, this might be the kick in the pants that studios need to finally get their butts in gear and start production on that The Dark Tower project and the long-mooted proper adaptation of The Stand. Probably not, though. The director who was committed to making The Stand into a possible trilogy of big budget films has decided instead to wander off and make a different (re: newer and smaller and less good) Stephen King story into a movie.

And before he put on the Dark Knight tights, Ben Affleck was rumored to be hovering around King’s real world take on Tolkien-esque fantasy epics. A giant trilogy of films with a proper budget and the pacing and visual style of Argo would be so welcome by moviegoers. Maybe we’ll get it if that whole superhero gig turns out as well as his last.

But who should play some of the bigger characters in the monumental cast of heroes and villains dotting The Stand‘s post-apocalyptic landscape? Certainly not Molly Ringwald and the rest of the cast from ABC’s 1994 miniseries, that’s for sure.

Casey Affleck

1. Casey Affleck as Stu Redman

Stu is a strong, stoic country guy. He drinks domestic beer, he glowers at out-of-towners, and he is witness to the initial breakout of “Captain Tripps,” the super-flu that destroys the world. He’s also the very first recorded instance of immunity. Through the course of the book, he is a protector, a leader, and a grounded voice of reason among the sometimes-hysterical survivors in Boulder, Colorado.

Casey Affleck has outshined his older brother as an actor. And I think even Ben would agree with that. As the titular coward in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he somehow earns genuine sympathy and disgust as a rotten but intelligent boy living in the shadow of his hero. Even in the crowded cast of Interstellar, Affleck shows a natural gravitas as Tom, the son left forgotten to futile farming and famine who takes pride in his work out of a lifelong spite. And that was with barely any dialogue and only a couple of scenes. He’d be amazing as Stu watching the world collapse from inside a sealed cell at the CDC, and he’s just the man who would command respect from his fellow survivors.

Elizabeth Olsen SDCC 2014 2 (cropped)

2. Elizabeth Olsen as Frannie Goldsmith

In the novel, college-age Frannie is in the middle of a falling out with her parents over her pregnancy when the flu devastates her small Maine community. Once united with the Free Zone survivors, she is frequently given the position of moral compass during heated arguments. She’s a symbol of purity and hope for the future that is understandably diminished following the collapse of society, and her child is the embodiment of uncertainty and motivation to survive and rebuild.

Olsen would be an ideal Frannie specifically because she would keep the character relatively innocent and reasoned without devolving into a weepy caricature. Say what you want about the American remake of Oldboy, because it is needless and tone-deaf. But amidst the jarringly somber movie Olsen does quite a bit of characterization with very little material. She was also memorable in Avengers: Age of Ultron for the unhinged approach to the Scarlet Witch, and being memorable in an ensemble cast of twenty A-list stars is exactly what The Stand demands.

Nichelle Nichols by Gage Skidmore

3. Nichelle Nichols as Mother Abigail

It’s not precisely a great compliment to Nichols that I feel she could portray a 108-year old Midwestern prophet. At 83, she looks healthier than me. But I can’t think of any appropriate actress who would be better as the beatific, enigmatic siren who draws all the lost lambs to each other and represents the inherent good that still exists in the tattered remains of society. Mother Abigail is a character who is one part hedge witch, two parts southern minister, and topped with an omnipotent Yoda/Oracle humor that is hard to mix properly.

Nichelle Nichols, forever remembered as Lt. Uhura of the original starship Enterprise, has filled out the later years of her career embracing the geek genre, with roles on “Heroes” and voicing characters in video games and sci-fi cartoons. She commands so much respect as a performer and still has a playful spirit and magnetism that are essential to the character.

Grant Gustin at 2015 PaleyFest

4. Grant Gustin as Larry Underwood

Grant Gustin has a knack for playing urgency and desperation. Currently dominating the ratings on the CW’s “The Flash” as the titular hero, he is usually tasked with quickly and efficiently portraying Barry Allen’s conflict of loyalty among his multiple father figures, his duplicity of being a kind and attentive friend while also flaking on everyone to save the city/timeline/dimension. He’s also got a terrific singing voice and a small-town likeability.

Enter the rock star, Larry Underwood. As the performer and writer of a new hit song, Larry is every bit the charming lothario celebrity on the surface in order to properly hide the narcissistic drug addict and irresponsible man-child underneath. And then the apocalypse draws him into a surrogate family, then a community, and then a life-defining mission. Gustin would not only be able to perform Larry’s musical talents but also his transformation into a responsible man with a complex belief structure. It’s a coming of age story fit for the “Glee” alum.

Adam Driver by Gage Skidmore

5. Adam Driver as Nick Andros

As divisive as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is, especially the latest big baddy Kylo Ren, everyone can agree that Adam Driver’s boyish petulance and wiry frame made for a distinctly new approach to villainy in that faraway galaxy. But it’s the quiet moments where Driver does his best acting in the blockbuster: the robotic telepathic interrogation, the mounting fear at Rey’s ability, the pain and conflict when confronted by Han Solo. His character on HBO’s “Girls” is equally abrasive but is more emotionally guarded.

Driver would get the acting challenge he deserves with the role of Nick, the most outwardly heroic and consequently downtrodden of characters in the novel. Deaf and unattached to anyone, Nick is a drifter who sees visions of Mother Abigail in between being beaten by rednecks and caring for his simple buddy Tom Cullen. Nick is fiercely intelligent and instinctively decent, but perpetually frustrated with the people around him. Driver’s standoffish demeanor in several roles and his expressive physicality would match Nick’s unheard turmoil with a fitting intensity.

Matthew McConaughey Cannes 2015

6. Matthew McConaughey as Randall Flagg

This is not my invention, but merely my echo of filmmakers, internet comments, and fans of the book who have all rightly decided that the accidental Paul Newman of his generation should definitely play that unstoppable force known as “The Walkin’ Dude.” Randall Flagg is a supernatural mastermind of the basest of human evils. He’s, quite simply, Stephen King’s most fully-realized interpretation of the Antichrist. And fittingly, he’s also a paragon of cowboy independence, 1960s liberation philosophy, and easy southern charm. The Devil never fooled anybody who didn’t find him seductively cool.

Matthew McConaughey’s career seemed perpetually doomed until his whirlwind last four years or so. Most notably, his seemingly dual performance in the southern gothic crime masterpiece “True Detective” as both the mid-nineties, clean-cut, quirky savant and the 2012 spacey drunken burnout genius he becomes is so powerful. In one role as Rust Cohle, the Oscar-winner has translated the very nature of his enduring acting career: regardless of who he is portraying, their background, their outlook on society or life, or their affiliation with good or evil, it is always easy for his characters to be who they are.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Rust Cohle, Wooderson from Dazed and Confused, Cooper from Interstellar, Dallas the veteran male stripper of Magic Mike, and even all of his mediocre romantic comedy leads are all effortlessly authentic humans despite the cartoonish levels of cool or smart or smug they exude. Randall Flagg is such an embodiment of psychotic evil and effortless cool that he demands an actor who could somehow be both at the same time. And McConaughey is the man, in more ways than one.

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.