BioWare’s Mass Effect series has proven so difficult to bring to the big screen that, according to Screen Rant, it turned screenwriter Mark Protosevich from ever attempting to tackle a video game adaptation again. Legendary Pictures producer Avi Arad has hinted the film could still be five years away. His boss, Legendary CEO Thomas Tull, explained to Ain’t It Cool last summer, “If you’ve played it and you know the universe, you know it is not uncomplicated. To try to hone that, to bring that down to a place that will translate into screen storytelling… we’re pretty close, closer than we’ve ever been. We’re committed to it, but it has to be great or we’re not going to do it. We’re treading on sacred ground. We’re not going to be the guys to screw up Commander Shepard.”
Yet, who could the filmmakers cast in such a highly respected role? They’ll need someone with Shepard’s rugged gravitas. Someone who can carry the weight of the world upon their shoulders. Someone who can sleep with half the universe.
While we wait ever-so-patiently for Legendary to pull its metaphorical finger out of its alien orifice, we thought we would scour the galaxy for an actor worthy of donning the N7 Armour. But just imagine for a moment that some bright producer within Legendary had an idea, an idea that blossomed into something unprecedented in the history of film: they film the same film twice. One version would include a male lead, while the other would place a woman (popularly known as “FemShep”) in charge of the Normandy. I’m not talking about a sci-fi version of Sliding Doors here. I want them to actually release two versions of the same film, and the audience can choose which gender of Shepard they wish to watch, just as they do in the game. How many fans would go see both?
This, I’m afraid, is likely the only way we will ever see a cinematic version of FemShep. Yet, if the producers set the casting directors to task in finding the right actress for the role, who would they choose? Bearing in mind that the character’s appearance is fully customisable, it could really be anyone, but taking the game’s FemShep alternate cover as a template, let’s also have a look and see which starlet could save the galaxy.
So here we go, two Sheps (and two films) for the price of one.
While Shepard was a fully customisable character, many players picture him as he was on the game case. That likeness belongs to Dutch model Mark Vanderloo, but looks alone will not cut it for this film series. One rising young actor who bears a remarkable resemblance to Shepard’s default face is Liam Hemsworth. While his brother has been wielding the mighty hammer Mjolnir in the Marvelverse, young Liam has been pining for Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games trilogy. Like many Australian actors, he cut his teeth on Ramsey Street in daytime soap Neighbours, and was more recently seen in macho action sequel The Expendables 2. Once The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 has finished filming, Hemsworth will be heavily in demand, so it could be written in the stars if the film’s production moves forward fast.
Currently kicking all kinds of ass in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Johansson is the complete package: killer looks, meaty acting chops, and a body to rock the N7 Armour (after she gives birth, obviously). From oddities such as Ghost World to her breakout role opposite Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, Johansson also has a number of big budget titles under her belt, returning as the Black Widow in next summer’s much anticipated sequel, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but fans will see her sooner in Luc Besson’s trippy superhero flick Lucy this August.
At 47 years of age, Lost alumni Matthew Fox is almost twice as old as Hemsworth. But his youthful, yet grizzled looks (presumably thanks to L’Oreal) combined with a long, established career would make him a great choice as Shepard. And by sheer coincidence, his character in Lost went by the same name (though spelled Shephard). While he is best known for TV roles, he has scored some high profile cinematic projects, although most of his role in World War Z was left on the cutting room floor after a complete rewrite of the third act left him with little more than a cameo. He appeared in the critically panned but highly enjoyable Speed Racer, and changed his entire body for the role of serial killer Picasso in the ill-fated reboot of the Alex Cross franchise. It seems Fox’s career has been plagued by bad film choices, so it would be nice to see this well-respected actor finally get the break he deserves.
Seyfried has risen to cinematic heights after a start on TV, including a role on teen detective series Veronica Mars as Lilly Kane, whose murder was the focus of the show’s first season. Since then she’s starred in numerous hits, including musicals Mamma Mia! and Les Miserables. Yet, despite her fame and popularity, she has shrugged her shoulders at big budget roles. Although she did tackle the medium-budget sci-fi thriller genre alongside Justin Timberlake in Andrew Niccol’s In Time. Could the chance to play FemShep draw her into a multi-million dollar film franchise? Quite possibly.
The boy from Alabama has seen his career soar since his first major role as a street dancer in Step Up. Not only did his comedy turn in 21 Jump Street spawn a sequel, he has also showed smart career decisions, working with Steven Soderbergh twice (Magic Mike and Side Effects), which showed he had more acting chops than G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra gave him credit for. Not only is he soon to be seen as alien warrior Caine in the Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending, but he will be returning to the stripperverse in Magic Mike XXL next year. With Tatum’s combination of handsome looks and wide fan base, he could well be the man to lead the Normandy’s crew.
Some actors find themselves typecast, and despite a variety of roles, McAdams is best known for a string of romance films with, in the words of Doctor Who, some “wibbly wobbly timey wimey” thrown in, such as The Notebook, The Time Traveller’s Wife, and About Time. It’s a shame, as McAdams has proven that she can carry a film, like Wes Craven’s nail-biting Red Eye, or the criminally underrated Morning Glory (not what you think). Like Seyfried, she seems to have shied away from big-budget roles, with the exception of Guy Ritche’s action-packed interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, but she could bring a very human side to the role of Jane Shepard, something which bombastic sci-fi films often lack.
At the cusp of the last decade, Worthington’s career seemed unstoppable. First he was hand-picked by James Cameron to lead his sci-fi epic Avatar, then he slid into Cameron’s old franchise with Terminator: Salvation, and followed that up with a remake of Clash of the Titans. While the first of these did big business, spawning three sequels that will be released in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the others were found to be lackluster. While Titans did limp towards a sequel, Worthington drifted away from CGI skirmishes with gods to focus on smaller roles. He is no stranger to the world of video games, having voiced Alex Mason in Call of Duty: Black Ops and its sequel. He was recently seen alongside original Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Sabotage, but given his commitments to Cameron and the Avatar sequels, it is unlikely Worthington would have the time to even consider Mass Effect. However, should the project not be ready until after filming on these has completed, he would be a strong candidate to once again explore alien worlds.
Bryce Dallas Howard
The daughter of director Ron Howard had a mighty stumble in her career when rejoining M. Night Shyamalan for the god-awful Lady in the Water. She followed this up by dying her natural red hair to become Spider-Man’s squeeze Gwen Stacy in Sam Raimi’s threequel, which was so horribly written that it decimated any fanfare won by the first two entries. Two years later, she appeared in McG’s vain attempt to re-ignite the Terminator franchise with Terminator: Salvation, the title of which is now seen as ironic, given how woeful it turned out to be. As if things could not have gotten any worse, Howard decided to appear in the Twilight Saga, filling the shoes of Rachel Lefevre after a disagreement with producers.
Yet she is in this list because, despite these bad choices, she is an amazing actress who genuinely looks like Commander Jane Shepard. Given all the blockbuster bombs she has been associated with, her critics may have thought she would stay well away from large-scale CGI-laden tent poles, but Howard is currently in filming on Jurassic World, so clearly she is phased by nothing!
The Man of Steel himself, Cavill more than proved his mettle by taking on Christopher Reeve’s cinematic mantle and making the red cape his own. Not only will he be seen battling Ben Affleck’s Batman in the 2016 sequel, but he is also taking over Robert Vaughn’s role as Napoleon Solo in Guy Richie’s film adaptation of cult TV hit The Man From U.N.C.L.E. For any readers struggling to imagine Cavill with Shepard’s shorn haircut, check out his look in TV show The Tudors. With his track record for tackling iconic characters, Cavill could easily be attracted to the role; combined with his giant, geek-laden fan base and demanding screen presence, the Normandy would be lucky to have Superman on board.
Relatively unknown until her scene-stealing performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Australian-born Robbie will next be seen in sci-fi apocalyptic drama Z for Zachariah, opposite Chris Pine and BAFTA award winner Chiwetel Ejiofor. Her dainty cheeks will also be captivating Alexander Skarsgard’s Tarzan as his love interest Jane Porter. If producers wanted a fresh-faced rising star to hand the Normandy’s reigns to, Robbie could be a brilliant choice.
Geek reporter. Suave git. Mental Teacher. Corrupt FBI Agent. Raccoon. Cooper has played them all, bending to the roles like water along the course of a river. It seems there is literally no part Cooper cannot play when he puts his mind to it. Given his numerous award nominations, Cooper has proven himself one the most capable actors of his generation, and it is that skill which could bring a sense of gravity to the intoxicating, dense universe of Mass Effect. He can also rock Shepard’s stubble.
Deborah Ann Woll
Brooklyn’s favourite vampire from True Blood was a relative unknown until she was thrust into the seedy underbelly of Alan Ball’s show. With the last season soon to broadcast, Woll has been casting her net into feature films, with comedy Meet Me in Montenegro, as well as dramas The Automatic Hate and Forever, in which she plays the lead. Her role as country bumpkin Jessica Hamby, who was quickly turned into a deadly creature of the night, showed the world that Woll could bring a great combination of emotions and a true sense of depth to her role. If she were given the opportunity to play FemShep, these qualities would help her navigate the various crew members of the Normandy.
Before we start on the many reason’s Gyllenhaal would nail the role of Shepard, did you know his godmother was none other than Jamie Lee Curtis? Trufax!
From cops and soldiers to gay cowboys and princes of Persia, Gyllenhaal’s filmography reads like the deluded thoughts of Donnie Darko, the character that launched his career. Having already tackled a video game adaptation in the woeful Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, it is not apparent whether the actor would be willing to do so again. However, given his erratic jumping between genres and need to tackle challenging roles, it could not be ruled out.
Two-time Academy Award nominated for her roles in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain’s rise to success has been very fast, considering that her first role was on ER only a decade ago. It was 2011, the year she appeared in seven films, that showed the world that not only was she a workaholic, but a sheer force of nature on screen. She has kept up the pace, and is soon to be seen opposite Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year, as well as Christopher Nolan’s top-secret project Interstellar alongside Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. The latter looks to have its roots in the sci-fi genre, and knowing Nolan, it will be of epic proportions, so maybe a taste of that would be enough to sway Chastain to take on one of gaming’s most famous female roles.
With his signature square jaw and shaved head, Purcell looks like a beefier Commander Shepard. Best known as the other brother in twisting TV show Prison Break, Purcell has been racking up the supporting film roles since the show’s demise in 2009. For his sins, he was the main character in Assault on Wall Street, helmed by everyone’s least favourite director, Uwe Boll. The mere association with the man should probably preclude him working on any video game adaptations ever, but he has the physique and look to pull it off.
This English rose has already participated in her fair share of video game adaptations, having been the princess that needed Jake Gyllenhaal to rescue her in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Since her breakout role in St. Trinian’s, she has flitted back and forth between small indie hits such as Tamara Drewe and Friday-night popcorn flicks like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. If offered the chance to play the lead rather than the damsel, this feisty British belle should jump at the chance to kick some alien arse.
Yes, Arrow himself. Despite being 33, Amell has carved out a long career in television shows such as Private Practice, Heartland, and Hung, before donning the forest green hood to take on one of DC Comics’ best-loved characters. He has proven to be a mighty presence on the small screen, and is the rock that keeps Arrow grounded in its fiction, instead of soaring to the ridiculous and often silly heights of its spiritual predecessor, Smallville. He has also flirted with video games, providing an alternate voice track for Green Arrow in NetherRealm’s Injustice: Gods Among Us. If Amell was given the chance to make the transition from television to cinema screen, he could be a brilliant choice for Shepard.
The girl who was almost Wonder Woman, Palicki is best known as heart-breaker Tyra Collette in one of the best TV shows of all time, Friday Night Lights. After the collapse of David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman TV show, Palicki went on to star opposite The Rock and Bruce Willis in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which proved to be infinitely better than the first installment, with a large part of that down to Palicki. She’s coming back for the third entry, but since then has drifted back to TV with roles in two shows adapted from films: From Dusk Till Dawn and About a Boy. As well as being graced with good looks, she has the right mix of sass and seriousness to make the world of Mass Effect believable.
The original and the best, there is little hope that Meer would be offered the main role in a potentially billion-dollar movie franchise. Yet, as well as voicing Shepard, Meer has lent his vocal skills to other games, notably BioWare’s Dragon Age series. He has also starred in numerous short films, including Mass Effect fan film Red Sand, as well as a couple of small TV shows. However, although he has one of the best voices in the business, the fact that he looks nothing like the Shepard we know and love, alongside his lack of on-screen experience, would sadly rule him out. Given his commitment to the character and fans of the series, he deserves an honourable mention nonetheless.
Nichols is also an alumni of the G.I. Joe films, although she appeared in the disastrous first installment. Since then she has been appearing regularly on the small screen, as a recurring character in Criminal Minds before taking the lead as future cop Kiera Cameron in the geek-tastic time-travel smash Continuum. Now in its third season on SyFy, Nichols has managed to make the show her own, and having dabbled with red hair in the past (and green skin in Star Trek), she could certainly do the same with FemShep.
So, readers, what do you think? Should we have stuck to the box art rendition of Shepard, or branched out into some of the variations that can be achieved in game? If producers were so bold as to indulge our idea of casting both male and female leads, do you think any of these could manage to do the role justice that Jennifer Hale managed in three games? Or have we missed someone from the list who would be better to navigate the Normandy with a smooth and steady hand?
Sadly, once again, Jennifer Lawrence has not made the list. One day, we will find a video game role for her.