Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

By Shamus
on Jan 10, 2006
Filed under:
Movies

I’m going to break the very first rule of Dream Cast and propose a recently completed movie. Sue me.

HHGTTG was a lackluster movie. The writing was the worst, but the casting didn’t excite me, either. Let’s re-cast the movie. I bet we can do way better. Let’s stipulate that Arthur and Trillian need to be brits, but the other characters – who are all from outer space – need not have Brittish accents. Let’s also stipulate that we have to replace the whole cast. This would be too lame to keep some actors from the movie, even if some of them were good choices.

Hugh Grant as Arthur Dent. Martin Freeman was a perfect choice, but Hugh isn’t bad for the part, either. He’s made a career out of playing Perpetually Dumbfounded Englishmen and that’s what the role calls for. Sure, he’s too good-looking and a bit old for the part now, but I think he could still pull it off.
Johnny Depp as Ford Prefect. Ford is supposed to be a writer and a party animal. Sort of a young outer-space Hunter S. Thompson. Depp could pull off the quirky and eccentric Ford easily.
Howard Stern as Zaphod Beeblebrox. A perfect match. Look at him! He is Zaphod Beeblebrox! Just give him a second head in CGI and let him ad-lib all his dialog. He wouldn’t even need to read the books, the script, or know what the hell the story is about.
Steven Wright as the voice of Marvin. Just imagine Steven’s voice doing Marvin’s dialog. It’s funny already.
Ian McKellen as Slartibartfast. We’ve seen him play Gandalf, so I doubt playing Slartibartfast is much of a stretch from there. The fact that Sir Ian McKellen is a serious Shakespearian-style actor would only reinforce the absurdity of Slartbartfast’s character and speech.
Kate Ashfield as Trillian. Kate has made 34 appearances in her career, but the only thing she’s done that I’ve seen is Liz in the outstanding Shaun of the Dead.

Trillian is an odd character to nail down. She’s grounded enough to have something as dull as an astrophysics degree and acts as one of the most level-headed and sensible characters in the books, yet she runs off with Zaphod, the biggest party animal in a billion worlds. This means that amongst all of the outer-space wierdness we find ourselves with an all-too-familiar situation: why is this intelligent and capable woman hanging out with this self-destructive loser? Kate Ashfield tackled a character a lot like this when she played Liz, and I think it would work here as well.

Think I’m screwing it all up again? Leave a comment.

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1414 comments. (Fourteen is the sum of the first three squares.)

From the Archives:

  1. Tony Morris says:

    Martin Freeman as Arthur and Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin were the only good things about the “Hitchhiker. . .” movie, which otherwise sucked.

    Why?

    1) Zaphod only had one head. Oh sure, he had a second hidden one that made an appearance when Zaphod was under stress, etc, but the real Zaphod (ie: the one in the book) has his second head on his shoulder and it is visible and interacting with his primary head all the time. By the way – for all his faults, Zaphod wasn’t responsible for the destruction of the Earth.

    2) The Heart of Gold. The book gives its description as a beautiful sleek white running shoe, 150 metres (yes METRES – that’s 495 feet) in length. What does the movie give us? A golf ball with a great big hole in its rear.

    3) Mos Def as Ford Prefect. In the book Ford is a white man with gingerish hair. He is also English – despite coming from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Beteljeuse.

    4) WHERE ARE THE DENTRASSI? You know, THE best cooks and THE best drinks mixers who don’t give a wet slap about anything else? The ones who got Ford and Arthur on board the Vogon contructor ship?

    5) The Vogons – especially that trick airlock. Why would a Vogon ship have a trick airlock in it when everyone knows that the Vogon mentality doesn’t stretch to that kind of humour. Yes it looked funny, but it lacked any kind of logical sense – even for Vogons.

    6) Ford’s and Arthur’s arrival on board Heart of Gold does not turn them into sofas.

    7) The totally gratuitous and made-up diversion where they went to see Humma Kavulu and Trillian gets kidnapped. And the Earth’s been destroyed and what’s one of the first things we see? A horde of screaming Japanese schoolgirl otaku. No, but no, but no, but no, but no. Zaphod didn’t need HK to tell him to go to Magrathea, that was the whole point of him stealing Heart of Gold in the first place.

    8) The ending. In the book Slartibartfast takes Arthur deep underground in Magrathea where the mice are entertaining Trillian, Ford and Zaphod whilst waiting for him. Slartibartfast is told that the new Earth is now unnecessary since they can now take Arthur’s brain and analyze it to get the information they need. Slartibartfast does not take Arthur to the rebuilt Earth and his house, Zaph, Ford and Trillian are not drugged, Arthur does not kill the mice and Zaph, Ford, Arthur and Trillian only escape because those two space cops/bounty hunters (not the Vogons with Questular Rontok and her SWAT team) show up.

    About your casting suggestions.

    Hugh Grant as Arthur. Maybe, but see my above comment about Martin Freeman.

    Johnny Depp as Ford Prefect. Depends on whether he’d be willing to go ginger. He’s certainly cool enough.

    Howard Stern as Zaphod Beeblebrox. No, sorry, Sam Rockwell was a much better choice because he actually looks like the book’s description (a rare instance of the people responsible for the movie paying attention to the source material . . .).

    Stephen Wright as the voice of Marvin. Maybe.

    Sir Ian McKellen as Slartibartfast. Err . . . Douglas Adams actually said he had Bill Nighy in mind for Slartibartfast when he wrote the character. So the ideal person was cast anyway.

    Kate Ashfield as Trillian. Yes. Definitely. But you’re dead wrong about astrophysics being dull. You’re entirely right about asking why Trillian ran off with Zaphod, but deeper into the series she actually marries Arthur (and proves herself the worst mother in the universe).

    You HAVE read the book, haven’t you?

  2. Shamus says:

    I was totally willing to see all sort of changes to the original story, though. I don’t care what changes needed to be made to make the thing work as a movie, but I do care when those changes don’t make sense and (even worse) when they aren’t funny. I don’t mind that Zaphod only had one head. I do mind that the second hidden head provided no jokes.

    But you’re dead wrong about astrophysics being dull.

    Er. Okay, it is PERCIEVED as dull by most people, which is the point.

    You HAVE read the book, haven’t you?

    Sure I read the books. I read read the original many times, although the last one I read (mostly harmless) was dull and unfunny to me. I read THGTTG in Junior High at age 14 or so, and MH as an adult at 27, and my viewpoint was very different for MH. MH seemed dark and strange, and didn’t appeal to me at all. I couldn’t really tell if it was because Adams was going in a different direction or because I was older.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Ward Hall says:

    I like your suggestions, though I do think Sam Rockwell did a better Zaphod than anyone else could manage.

    Overall, I liked the movie. Many things I thought should have been done differently. (See Tony’s 1 and 2.)

    Tony, just 2 things for you.

    About number 7, you did know that Douglas Adams wrote that for the movie, right? He was fairly diligent in changing things as the story moves from medium to medium. A radio play is not a book, which is not a TV miniseries, which is not a movie.

    And you didn’t mention the one thing I desperately wanted to see that they didn’t put in. As they stand in the airlock, ready to be ejected into space, comes the following exchange:

    Arthur: “You know, it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
    Ford: “Why, what did she tell you?”
    Arthur: “I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

    Something near 15 seconds, nothing to a movie, and really such a perfect Arthur/Ford moment.

  4. Jeff says:

    If you read all 5 books, Shamus, you’ll notice the tone changes in each one. That’s because each is a reflection on Adams’ life at the time. So one has a happy ending, one has a sad ending, and so on, depending on how his life was going when he was writing. This is mentioned by him in either the introduction to the last collection of the five put out, or in the Salmon of Doubt. One or the other.

  5. hf says:

    I really shouldn’t do this, but what they Hell, I’m snowed in.

    By the way – for all his faults, Zaphod wasn’t responsible for the destruction of the Earth.

    Nonsense. You HAVE read the original radio scripts, haven’t you?

  6. Skwyd says:

    Let’s see if I can post this time.
    I have read all of the books (ALL of them) and I don’t remember Arthur and Trillian ever being married. They did have a child, but only because Trillian went to a tissue donor bank. And since Arthur Dent was the only other human left alive after the destruction of the Earth (presumably), he was the only one to have made and “deposits”. Hence, he was the father of Random Frequent-Flyer Dent. So no marriage.

  7. Carrottop would be an ideal Prefect. Simply keep him from blinking a lot, and inject him with a heavy dose of actual funny, and bam!

  8. Musicdudette says:

    Dude, no. Johnny Depp would be awesome as Ford, but I think we can all agree that it should have been Gene Wilder. Think about it. Gene Wilder. ‘Nough said.

  9. Matt says:

    Hugh Grant’s a bit more of a Ford than an Arthur to my mind. I think Paul McGann basically just doing his character from Withnail and I would work but he’s a bit old now.

  10. Dannerman says:

    Shamus; Douglas Adams did accept that MH was a poor book – he’d had a very crappy time writing it (he basically got locked in a hotel room by the publishers) and did mention (In an interview in the British ‘ZZ9’ fanclub magazine) that he wanted to give a definitive end to the HHGttG series another go (i.e. re-write the book).

    So yes, it was dark and strange and non-funny (and had a very bizarre ending, too.), and now maybe you know why. ;-)

    Still, the ‘Perfectly Normal Wildebeest’ made me smile…

  11. Yar Kramer says:

    The romance stuff between Arthur and Trillian wasn’t my cup of tea — it just felt sort of awkwardly done to me, although I can understand someone else not minding it as much. (Though I later told someone that newcomers to HHG would think that long-time fans would have enjoyed it more, because they (the newcomers) had no expectations, whereas the long-time fans would have a point of reference and comparison, and know what to expect from the series; the long-time fans (such as me), on the other hand, would think that the newcomers would have enjoyed it more for precisely the same reasons.)

    The only thing I found really reprehensible about the whole thing was: The movie never explains the significance of towels. Excuse me? The most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have? And they don’t even mention it, but just assume you’re supposed to know why characters think it’s significant? Heck, I keep a towel around — my sister got it during a trip to Sweden. It’s white, and has the words “Don’t Panic” written in large friendly letters on it.

  12. JMcNeely says:

    I feel compelled to post here, although chances are that it may or may not be seen considering how old this post is…

    BUT: I distinctly remember reading in the back of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (whichever copy it is that has all the books plus the short stories in it) that the HGTTG was never the same in different mediums. And that was intended. Douglas Adams was involved in writing the series for TV (which was completely different than the book), the radio show (which was completely different than the book), and the screenplay (which was… you get the idea).

    From my point of view the series as a whole is quirky and I think that DA wanted to point out that the story could be told in lots of different ways while still keeping the spirit of it alive.

    Disclaimer: I read this note about 4 years ago in the back of the Hitchhikers compilation and may be remembering things incorrectly; however I’m too lazy to go look it up.

  13. Vince says:

    I like the idea of Jonny Depp as Ford, Bill Nighy was a perfect Slartibartfast, so leave him be.

    However, to truly appreciate HHGTTG in it’s best format ever, please watch the BBC TV version of it. Simply brilliant.

    Vince.

  14. I actually liked many elements of the movie.

    Zaphod was disastrous, of course, but I didn’t even disagree with making him American. What they needed to do was make him funny and charming but unlikeable. They got the unlikeable part down better than the original radio plays: Zaphod could be a total douche. But they didn’t get down the charm of the character.

    The perspective gun was very funny, and the scene that transpired from it was quite good, IMHO.

    The ending and the feelings Arthur expressed for Trillian were excellently done, and I think capped off the arcs in the book in a compelling way.

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