Since then, I’ve gotten my share of responses on said piece. Some good. Some bad. The overwhelming consensus, however, is that people wanted to see me take a shot at casting K’un-L’un’s shining star before they evaluated the piece any further.
To be honest, I was reluctant to honor this request. This is not because I didn’t want the challenges that come with fan-casting. No. I was reluctant because of how tedious castings are and how much research goes into the entire process.
TL;DR: I am lazy. And busy. Very busy.
That said, I had like two seconds of downtime today and instead of taking that coveted afternoon nap, I decided to suck it up and try my hand at finally fan-casting Iron Fist. So, without further ado, here are four people I would cast to play Iron Fist:
The Part: While Henney has a filmography that include My Lovely Sam Soon (for which he is acclaimed for), Seducing Mr. Perfect, Hawaii 5-0, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I am a bit more interested in his Marvel ties. Like Ryan Potter in my Spider-Man re-casting, Henney already has the MCU hookup in that he played Tadashi Hamada in Big Hero 6. So, if Marvel was thinking about keeping this whole Iron Fist thing in-house, he would be a good pick.
The Look: I am fascinated by Daniel Henney because like Harry Shum Jr. (who I will elaborate on later), Henney gives off fun, rich-boy/playboy vibes. In fact, he very much reminds me of Justin Hartley and his Green Arrow persona that was featured on Smallville. And that might be a great temperament for Danny Rand to take on.
The Part: Gao has a fair amount of acting experience and is fairly popular overseas. However, Gao did not make his American debut until The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones—which turned out to be not that good of a movie (but it wasn’t because of him. Trust). Still, as he can clearly act, Gao has been deemed an “up and comer” and we all know what Marvel usually does with up and comers.
They cast them.
Whether this tendency to do so is for accuracy’s sake or budget’s sake (re: Marvel can be cheap as all hell) is still being debated.
The Look: Godfrey Gao has a very distinct look, especially where his face is concerned. To put it bluntly, dude is really pretty, but there is an edge (and an air) about him that makes you hesitant to say so. Constantin Film Produktion GmbH capitalized on this edginess when they cast him in Mortal Instruments and used all sorts of make-up (but eyeliner in particular) to highlight his striking features (including his eyes).
Basically, if you wanted Danny to have somewhat of an edge or to be rough around the edges, I’d go with Godfrey. He would especially be my choice if I were trying to match the gritty tone of the other Defender characters.
2. Julien Kang
The Part: Kang has done his fair share of acting in Korean dramas like To The Beautiful You, Goodbye Dear Wife, and a few others. And while Kang hasn’t acted in anything this side of the Pacific, I would not be unlike them to go with an actor who is relatively unknown. Indeed, Marvel fans will recall that Chris Hemsworth (Thor) was not very popular in America and was only recognizable to people who were familiar with Australian soap operas prior to joining the MCU. Likewise, there shouldn’t be an issue with Kang, especially since he is a more than capable actor.
The Look: Kang (and also Shum Jr., but I will get into that very soon) is the semi-opposite to Gao in terms of looks. While he too is pretty, Kang doesn’t have that same edge and that initial hesitance one might feel upon meeting him/seeing him is not there.
But, that’s not what I’m interested in here. What I am really interested in is Kang’s multiracial heritage. To elaborate, Kang is half-White and half-Korean and if you remember my Iron Fist piece, I talked at length about how impactful it might be to explore a world where Danny (albeit reluctantly) accepts the Iron Fist mantle in order to make sense of said heritage.
Of course, the danger of this casting is that K’un-L’un, while fictional, is set in China (not Korea) and there is a gross history of pretending that all Asian countries (and people by extension) are the same. This is obviously not the case. Still, I find this worthwhile considering that visibly, Kang is White-passing to some degree. Indeed, I did not find out about his half-Korean heritage until I peeped him in the South Korean drama To The Beautiful You and peeped his bio afterward.
People smarter than I will tell you that it’s a completely different ballgame being a White-passing person of color. And I’m sure that that would add another dimension to an Asian-American Danny’s potential identity struggles. I mean, he would already be under scrutiny for being too “Americanized”; so I can only imagine how that scrutiny would be complicated by his appearance.
Harry Shum Jr. is unanimously my first choice to play Danny Rand. I’m going to try to contain my stan when it comes to him, but no promises.
The Part: Shum Jr., unlike the others on the list, has experience in just about everything. In addition to having acted on TV shows like Glee, (which prominently featured him singing and dancing), Shum Jr.’s filmography includes the upcoming Shadowhunter series and most notably, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend (which will be coming out sometime in 2016). The latter film is especially of importance as Shum Jr. received the honor of working with legendary Martial Arts choreographer and director Yuen Woo Ping (known as Woo-Ping Yuen in America).
Yuen is famous for his work on Drunken Master and Kill Bill: Vol 2. So it would appear that Shum Jr. has learned from the best. This experience, combined with his singing and dancing experience, makes him very qualified for a role that is as complex and eclectic as Iron Fist.
The Look: Shum Jr.—like Kang—does not have that edginess one would find in Gao. Instead, Shum Jr. exudes a charm that is flashy and very confident. There is a chance that said confidence might potentially come off as smugness, but I don’t think that would necessarily be a bad thing. If I were to make a connection to the Avengers here, I’d probably try to set Shum Jr.’s Danny up as the “Tony Stark” of the Defender’s squad. Granted, he wouldn’t nearly be as much of an asshole as Tony actually is, but if you think about the lightness, the humor, and the swagger (sans the alcoholism) that Tony brings to his squad, a Danny Rand portrayed by Harry Shum Jr. could serve the same role for the Defenders.
In fact, it might be an interesting look/feel to shoot for, considering Danny’s rich-boy background. And this would especially be worth exploring in opposition to his Defender’s teammates. This is not to say that a Danny Rand portrayed by Harry Shum Jr. would automatically have to be less experienced than his teammates, but I think having that fresher look keeps the team composition interesting. Conversely, I wouldn’t even mind having a slightly younger, less seasoned Danny. His addition, along with Matt, would balance out the more worldly Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and that might make for some very cool team chemistry.
I am the bastardization of a realist and a pessimist and as this is such, I know that there is a very real chance that Marvel will ignore any and all calls to flip the script and stick to the status quo of a White, “canonically correct” Danny Rand.
While that prospect is depressing and would be a harsh blow to fans calling for a more diverse MCU, said blow might be softened if the “canonically correct” Danny in question was cast as Charlie Hunnam (though I favor him more for the role of Ghost Rider, but that is a conversation for another day).
The Part: Charlie Hunnam is no stranger to acting. Charlie’s filmography includes Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, Queer as Folk, the upcoming Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur (where he will be reunited with the always excellent Idris Elba), and Young Americans. He shows no signs of slowing down either and being cast as Iron Fist might be an appropriate way for Hunnam to finally level up and hit his “come-up yeet” (as my friend AJ would say).
The Look: I am personally very fond of Charlie Hunnam’s look in Pacific Rim (I mean, that may have something to do with the fact that I love that goddamn movie, but I digress). In addition to being in impressive shape and sporting the necessary blonde tresses, I feel like that particular look was lifted from a fairly well-known (albeit questionable) comic book panel featuring Danny.
This is the panel in question:
Sans the bandages, I’d say that the resemblance (and the look) is pretty on point.
In closing, I don’t really know when Marvel will be casting the titular character of their upcoming Iron Fist Netflix series, but I assume that it is going to be fairly soon (especially since Jessica Jones premieres later this month and Luke Cage premieres April of next year) and I’m sincerely hoping that Marvel considers casting an Asian/Asian-American actor for the role. They have talked at length time and time again about being committed to diversity in their cinematic universe and it would be nice to see them put their money where their mouth is with a casting this large (and notable) in magnitude.
What say you, Lovers of the Zoo? Who would be your pick for Iron Fist? Let me know in the comments below!
Images From: Kaytimes.com, Cinemablend.com, MCU Exchange, Tumblr, Imgur.com, Sure, GQ, Just Jared, Entertainment Weekly