Casting Call

Who Should Be In a GTA V Movie?

GTA5 Casting Call Social

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!

Rockstar has a habit of pilfering Hollywood style and pizzazz — along with Hollywood performers — for their gigantic sandbox games that mimic genre fare along the lines of Scarface, Chinatown, and Heat. And while there have been big studio-financed adaptations of triple-A games in recent memory, somehow none have touched the level of polish and awareness that goes with a Grand Theft Auto title. And in terms of characters, Grand Theft Auto V was an embarrassment of riches regarding the three playable protagonists and their supporting ensemble rolling around Los Santos and the surrounding area.

Now, it’s obvious to gamers and those of us who hold a fondness for actors at heart: the best way to cast a film out of GTA V is to simply leave it as is. The motion capture and voice acting was great, and the actors who portrayed our despicable avatars pulled off a huge win for the gaming community by bringing a spectacle that rivaled any crime film cast of 2013. But ask a Hollywood executive, and you’ll be told the hard truth that no film is greenlit without a bankable cast and a built-in fanbase. While GTA has the latter in spades, what kind of cast would make the GTA V story pop on the big screen?

Well, just so we have a view from both angles, here’s who Hollywood would cast and who really should be cast according to my brain.

1. Michael De Santa/Townley

Michael Madsen

Hollywood’s Pick: Michael Madsen

Not only has this sneering tough guy made a career out of playing raspy-voiced outlaws like our husband/father/thief/killer/traitor, such as Budd in Kill Bill and Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, but he’s also a studio’s pick primarily because he’s not above doing a video game adaptation. He was, for instance, in Bloodrayne. Say what you want about that movie and director Uwe Boll… seriously, say what you want. I’ll wait. But video game adaptations are where careers like Madsen’s go these days.

Garret Dillahunt

My Pick: Garret Dillahunt

Sure, in a perfect world, Michael would be played by Michael Madsen… circa 1995 or so. But the former Mr. Blonde hasn’t exactly aged like Bruce Willis, and it’s a pretty tall order to ask him to pull on a wetsuit and get into fistfights with men half his age (which is pushing 60). Now, brilliant character actor and all-around hardass Garret Dillahunt is believable as both the family man he was on “Raising Hope” for four seasons and the unstoppable violence machine he’s been continually called for by “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” and “Deadwood,” among others.

What’s more, Dillahunt has the versatility required to play the most stylistically fluid of the three protagonists. Michael is somehow natural in a ski parka robbing a Fargo-like betting bunker with an assault rifle, playing tennis in the ritzy suburbs, or infiltrating a military facility and stealing biological weapons. Dillahunt has done all of those things already on television, I’m pretty sure.

2. Franklin Clinton

Oshea Jackson Jr

Hollywood’s Pick: Oshea Jackson, Jr.

Straight outta box office nirvana playing his own father Ice Cube in Straight Outta Compton, Jackson is sure to expand his credits with some high-profile and high-pay gigs. Hey, he’s already shown that he’s believable as a young man from the tough streets of south central LA, which is exactly who Franklin is. And it would be fun to see his dramatic work be applied to the moral choice Franklin is given in the game’s climax.

Gaius Charles

My Pick: Gaius Charles

First and foremost, repo man Franklin is done being a gang-banger. Seemingly the only man from his neighborhood who realizes that the ’90s are over and Tupac is dead, Franklin is young and looking to find a big break and move into a big mansion in the Vinewood hills. To play him, it would require an actor who is physically imposing and able to walk the fine line between idealistic dreamer and opportunistic killer.

Gaius Charles spent over two seasons on “Friday Night Lights” as Brian “Smash” Williams, a young man with roughly the same goals as Franklin. Smash is ultimately torn between standing up for his ideals against the racist Texas town he’s stuck in and the chances to be recruited to a Division-1 college football team to escape. It’s an apt audition to play Franklin, who is ultimately given the choice to kill his partners or face the wrath of every enemy amassed in the game.

3. Trevor Phillips

Nicolas Cage

Hollywood’s Pick: Nicolas Cage

And I could almost agree. Trevor is the definition of raging id; he freaks out and spews garbled rhetoric as he wantonly murders bystanders and destroys property. What better a match for the craziest character in GTA than the craziest actor of his generation. Cage has slipped in between raving psychotic and muted, introspective genius over the years, and now here’s a character to pair him to perfectly.

Walton Goggins

My Pick: Walton Goggins

Yes, this is an incredibly obvious choice for anyone familiar with his work. I don’t care. Goggins is such a dexterous performer that he could easily fly on the tectonic mood swings of GTA’s most depraved protagonist. What’s more, he’s also spent six seasons of “Justified” as Boyd Crowder, the same kind of Machiavellian meth emperor and cold-blooded businessman as Trevor.

I am certain that Goggins can improve on the character by adding legitimacy to his suddenly empathetic moments, as when Trevor discovers the level of treachery that Michael has resorted to. He can also grunt and scream like a lunatic while firing rockets at the passing helicopters. So, that helps too. He’s also not afraid of anything a role demands, playing transvestite prostitute in “Sons of Anarchy” the same year he played a mid-nineteenth century congressman in Lincoln.

4. Lester

Jonah Hill

Hollywood’s Pick: Jonah Hill

Whenever you need a bulkier actor who can be a bit whiny, a bit of a know-it-all, and willing to look pathetic, the producers always seem to remember Jonah Hill. His character in Moneyball even feels like a Lester prototype, in that he’s used his incredible geek skills to someone’s tactical advantage. And sure, he’s way too young to play the disabled recluse who has masterminded dozens of big scores, but that never stops show-biz people.

Patton Oswalt

My Pick: Patton Oswalt

Lester is a bitter, acidic little man who is adept with the planning and preliminary hacking needed for epic heists the team pulls off. He also is a bit of a motor-mouthed conspiracy nerd, and is also the level head who can disarm a violent argument brewing between the three leads.

Oswalt, meanwhile, played the exact same hacker role in… cough… Blade: Trinity, and he’s the comedian who improvised an eight-minute long pitch for a Star Wars/Marvel crossover during his character’s filibuster on “Parks and Recreation.” And in real life (Re: Twitter) he maniacally delights in spamming the feeds of his enemies with a ruthless barrage of insults and jokes. He practically is Lester for real.

5. Devin Weston

Woody Harrelson

Hollywood’s Pick: Woody Harrelson

Weston is the insufferably cocky billionaire who employs and eventually targets our antiheroes. His devil-may-care attitude and boorish, flamboyant boasting about his lifestyle coupled with what must be a gargantuan drug habit make Harrelson a great choice. Woody may have started his career humbly as a small-town rube, but he’s since played showboating rodeo and deathmatch champs, slick street hustlers, and selfish cops on the edge. He’s also perfected the boisterous numbskull who never knows when to shut up.

Jeffrey Donovan

My Pick: Jeffrey Donovan

Those of you who tuned in to “Burn Notice” because of Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell hopefully took notice of the lead actor, Jeffrey Donovan, as one-man wrecking crew and super-suave spy Michael Westen. You may also recognize him as the sleaziest side character of all time from the Will Smith comedy Hitch, and I submit that performance as the perfect match for the cocky, greedy, completely deranged CEO villain of Grand Theft Auto V.

Devin has the grapes to hire our trio of nutcases to boost some exotic cars right off the highway, and eventually gives them other responsibilities while playing them against one another and secretly tearing down their rise to wealth and power. Most frustrating of all for the player, he NEVER pays up on the huge sums owed for all that dangerous work. Donovan’s speech in Hitch, wherein he explains that he “wears power suits, power ties, and uses power steering” is so oddly apropos to describe Weston… he lusts for power to an absurd degree, he never lets logic get in the way of an intimidation, and he’s so horribly smarmy. Until he begs forgiveness in the most cartoonishly pathetic pleas.

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.