With Tom Cruise rumoured to be in line to make his Quentin Tarantino debut in the filmmaker’s final film The Movie Critic, who else should pop their Tarantino cherry? Here’s Tom Jolliffe with ten suggestions…
When it comes to master filmmakers the one thing you can rely on is the eclectic range of talent filling out the cast of their films. The likes of Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Paul Thomas Anderson and the rest can cherry-pick whoever they please. They all have regular favourites and occasionally a one-and-done star who pops up in a film, excels and gets checked off the list.
With so many great actors suited to the oeuvre and style of Tarantino for example, it’s fair to say that there’s a massive list of icons who could easily shine in one of his works but for whatever reason haven’t got the call. Some have been close, lost a chance due to scheduling and then never quite fit the ensuing productions. With Tarantino lining up his final film it’s going to be one with an undoubtedly beefy cast list from the leads right down to the walk-ons.
Tarantino has a penchant for incredible and eclectic casts, with left-of-field choices including superstars, faded stars and cult character actors. This is a man who resurrected John Travolta’s career and gave a second coming to stars like Robert Forster and Pam Grier. He’s worked with mega stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt and the rumour mill suggests that he might finally check Tom Cruise off the list. His movie critic-themed final film perhaps may finally suit a star as distinct as Cruise now as the only prior fit may have been Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
It would be fantastic to see Cruise in a Tarantino, in the hope he could do something really subversive with his persona (as in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia) and perhaps catch Oscar attention again. Here are ten more actors who deserve a moment under Tarantino’s spotlight for the first time…
One of the finest character actors of his generation, Willem Dafoe has remarkably managed to spend his 40 year career tiptoeing around Tarantino. Despite having one of the most distinctive faces in Hollywood and an incredible performative range, Willem has never starred in a Tarantino film. Dafoe’s chameleon-like qualities could have lent themselves to just about any Tarantino picture. He could have popped up in the Old West, 70s Hollywood, during WW2 or in any of the crime thrillers Tarantino produced.
Dafoe has worked with a long list of legends and great auteurs, several of which (Lars Von Trier, Yorgos Lanthimos, Robert Eggers, etc) with great regularity. He’s always committed and interesting on screen. One reason he may not have made the cut thus far is simply because Dafoe is always working. He appeared in 7 films in 2023 alone. Willem, keep a gap in your schedule, okay?
There’s almost always some kind of cool curveball in a Tarantino cast. It might be an undervalued star or someone who fell off the map somewhat. Last time out Dakota Fanning, Danielle Harris and Luke Perry popped up in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood causing many viewers to recreate the now infamous DiCaprio pointing meme lifted from the very same film. We’ve seen it many times before in a Tarantino picture.
A few years back there was a leaked old cast wishlist Tarantino had made for Pulp Fiction back in the day. Among an array of names was Eric Roberts (on the shortlist for the role eventually played by Eric Stoltz, the first choice). Roberts has admitted to being close on a few past Tarantino films but fate never quite clicked. Among star names and rising stars, a Tarantino cast needs a fallen idol and that could be Eric Roberts. The Oscar nominee and three-time Golden Globe nominee rose as one of the most promising talents of the 80s before a string of bombs saw him fall into straight to cable/video premieres.
Nowadays Roberts is about as prolific as they come starring in more films a year than it seems possible to make, yet in the past 20 years a plethora of major filmmakers have pulled him into the mainstream to remind the world of the quality he possesses (which he still does show in the low budget films he’s popping up in). Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan and most recently Damien Chazelle have all cast Roberts in prominent roles.
One new generation star who seems perfect for the cinematic world of Tarantino is Mia Goth. Certainly, her collaborations with Ti West have no small sprinkling of Tarantino styling about them. She’s also an actress capable of great range with an explosive edge belying an occasional mousiness.
Goth has shades of the Arquette sisters, Amanda Plummer, Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh and would slip beautifully into any of the kind of characters those aforementioned play. Goth is always compelling even when she’s doing very little. When she’s letting loose, she’s impossible to look away from (see Pearl) and with that kind of range, Tarantino would have a field day directing.
It feels remarkable to think that Denzel and Tarantino have never worked together. It feels long overdue and with maybe a last chance to do so, it could be now or never. Is it simply a case that no part has been quite big enough? Is Washington less inclined to make a five-minute appearance if it transpires he best fits a supporting role? Of course, he’d undoubtedly be able to storm in, steal a scene and depart, much like Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction for example.
You just very rarely see Washington anywhere below fourth billed. He’s still a prolific leading man and it feels given the subject matter of Tarantino’s latest there’d more likely be a smaller featured role rather than one of 2-3 lead parts that’d fit Washington. Still, we can but hope to see Denzel producing his inimitable power in a Tarantino picture.
There’s no two ways about it. Meryl Streep might be the greatest actress of all time. She is right up there. Remember last time out when it was announced that Al Pacino would star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? It felt like an inevitability that took way too long to transpire. Sure, Pacino feels inherently more suited to the oeuvre of Tarantino than Streep but she is always capable of surprise.
Tarantino could also potentially revel in casting someone like Streep and really doing something unexpected with her.
Sly Stallone has long been on Tarantino’s radar but the fates never aligned. One thing that’s often been thrown at Stallone is how often he’s undersold himself as an actor, particularly during his stint as an action hero. His career has been spent largely within that genre and some critics have been less than complimentary about his acting talents at times.
However, throughout the years Stallone has shown an ability to surprise, be it receiving his second Oscar nomination as an actor for Creed, or showing his chops in Tulsa King. As if we needed reminding that this guy is exceptional when his role allows him to express himself (under the guidance of a focused director). Although Stallone still keeps on swinging as an action man, even close to 80 it feels like he’s long overdue a permanent shift to becoming a character actor, one he has the talent to pull off. Sometimes a star can be too distinctive and too big for the ensemble picture. If Stallone might not as easily fit into a Scorsese ensemble, for example, he’d have no problems fitting into the more heightened world of Tarantino. In fact, he’d be perfect.
The Cagenaissance has been a joy to behold in the past 5 years or so. From a straight to video specialist and fallen idol, to an eclectic cult star with a brilliant mix of interesting films and characters. Cage is back and arguably better than ever. He’s also long been in the thoughts of Tarantino. Like Goth, Cage’s ability to just produce unpredictable brilliance feels like it would vibe well in a Tarantino film. He’d certainly suit a flashy support role perhaps more so than a principal lead but there’s no doubt Cage could shine.
Cage has done it all and has appeared briefly in a Tarantino film, starring in one of the fake trailers for Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double feature. It’s time for him to star in some Tarantino proper.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Tarantino loves cult cinema and surprising casting choices. He’s had Sonny Chiba, David Carradine and Michael Jai White (albeit in a deleted scene) pop up in films and has a certain amount of reverence for martial arts cinema. Someone like Jean-Claude Van Damme might well be a perfect addition to a Tarantino cast because not only does he bring a rich history of cult films and an iconic brand of martial arts cinema, but Van Damme has an ace up his sleeve and it’s the charisma and presence of a character actor.
The notion would have been laughable to many who had lost track of Van Damme’s derailed theatrical career until he made JCVD in 2008 and surprised many with an incredible performance. The resurrection he deserved after that, never quite happened but any die-hard fans who have watched his better straight-to-video works or the underrated French-made thriller, The Bouncer will know that Van Damme’s performance in 2008 was no one-off or accident. Suiting characters with a hefty dose of melancholia with a pinch of tragic-comic, Van Damme would be great in a Tarantino film.
Finding the right role might be tough, depending on the blend and range of characters in Tarantino’s next but could there be space for Tony Leung? Tarantino has been a champion of East Asian Cinema from singing the praises of the cinema from behind the video store counter to using his early stardom to be a soundboard for the cinema of John Woo, Ringo Lam, Beat Takashi and Wong Kar-wai (among others). Tarantino’s endorsement was instrumental in a number of films obtaining a US release back in the mid-90s, including Chungking Express.
Tony Leung has long held an aversion to starring in American films but that appeared to change with Shang-Chi. Whether he might be persuaded to appear in a Tarantino film is another matter but the man with one of the most effortlessly magnetic screen presences of his generation would undoubtedly be perfect in a Tarantino film.
Always compelling and willing to go places others won’t, Noomi Rapace is an incredible performer. Her great range opens up a broad gamut of possible roles too. She’s never less than magnetic. If Tarantino seems to value one thing, it’s that a performer is interesting. He casts actors who are capable of delivering strong and unexpected performances. Whilst Tarantino is synonymous with dialogue it’s also key to note the nuance of what is unsaid in his films and how performers can play those moments.
Noomi Rapace certainly has the ability to portray a complex range of emotions simmering below the surface and the possibilities of what a filmmaker like Tarantino could give her to do are exciting.
Which actors would you like to see make their Tarantino debut in his final film? Drop us a comment on our social channels or hit me up @jolliffeproductions…