- Published on Wednesday, January 16 2013
- Written by Greg McIver
Welcome to another edition of Recasting The Classics! On this go around I am taking on Carol Reed’s 1949 classic The Third Man (not to be confused with the last installment, The Thin Man). This film tells the story of a pulp novelist named Holly Martins, played originally by the most excellent Joseph Cotten, who travels to Vienna to take on a job offered to him by is friend Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles. However, when Holly arrives in Vienna, he discovers that not only is Harry regarded as one of the most vicious gangsters in the city, but also that he’s apparently been killed as well. Holly will not rest until he’s cleared his friend’s name and discovered who murdered him.
Carol Reed struck gold when he brought together the likes of Cotten, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Alida Valli, and that Welles guy. Well, it’s 2013 and high time that someone hypothesized which modern-day actors/actresses would excel in these classic roles. Cast your eyes a few inches and downward and all will be revealed.
Holly Martins: DOMINIC WEST
Holly Martins is a friendly enough chap -- until you say unkind things about his friends. When that happens, his inner detective is unleashed and he won’t stop until the truth is revealed. Well, he may pause for a brief drink or flirtatious moment here and there, but other than that, he will not be deterred. Dominic West first popped up on people’s radar playing a kindly Spartan in Zack Snyder’s 2006 rom-com hit 300. But I urge you to check out his performance in the HBO Series “The Wire”. Aside from the fact that his character on that show and the character of Holly Martins both enjoy an adult beverage from time to time, both characters are relentless in their pursuit of justice, and both are forced to consider their actions when truths are finally revealed.
Maj. Calloway: MARK GATTISS
Major Calloway was the officer in charge of the Harry Lime case, until a speeding truck came along and did the work for him. Calloway is certain that Lime is dead and knows for a fact that he was a criminal, but poor Holly Martins is unwilling to let the matter rest. Calloway is amused by the idea of an American fiction writer trying to solve an imaginary mystery, yet he pities him at the same time. The Major would prefer to spare Martins of the harsh reality caused by Harry’s actions, but in the end he has no choice, because Holly will simply not stop meddling in affairs that do not concern him. Aside from the fact that I think Mark Gattiss is a fine actor, it is also my mission to see that everyone involved in the series “Sherlock” makes it into one of these articles. I’m kind of a fan. Seriously, though, please do check out Mr. Gattis’s portrayal of Mycroft Holmes, and you’ll see why I like him for the role of Major Calloway.
Sgt. Paine: VINNIE JONES
Sergeant Paine is the only person in Vienna, other than Harry Lime, that’s read any of Holly Martins’s books. It’s quite amusing and to see him have to occasionally rough up Holly, while at the same time being a huge fan. In actuality, Paine’s only real purpose in the movie is to get shot towards the end, because it’s the final act that truly brings the severity of the whole affair home, and shows Holly what he inevitably has to do. Vinnie Jones is a large gentleman that is known for playing very intimidating characters that are also kind of endearing at the same time. While you might think that his role as the Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand is the perfect example as to why he should play the part of Paine, I’d actually encourage you to check him out as Bullet-Tooth Tony in the film Snatch to see what I mean when I say intimidating-yet-endearing.
Anna Schmidt: MONICA BELLUCCI
Anna Schmidt used to be Harry’s girl, but now that Harry is dead, she is left alone and vulnerable in post-war Vienna. She thinks that Holly is sweet for wanting to help her, and for wanting to solve the mystery of Harry’s life and death, but she can never be truly happy now that the man she loves is gone. Monica Bellucci has always had a sort of sad quality to her performances that I think would be just right for the role of Anna. The character needs to be sort of a mystery in her own right, and intoxicating enough to deter Holly from his goals.
Harry Lime: PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN
Was Harry Lime murdered, or was he the victim of an unfortunate accident? Was he truly the horrible criminal mastermind that the police are making him out to be, or was he simply a man trying to survive in a harsh environment? The answers are available in the back of your textbook, but I urge you to examine the material first. When we do see Harry (I’m not saying he isn’t dead -- I could very well be referring to a flashback!), we see a man who is charming, intelligent, funny, and capable of just about anything. Very little is ever revealed about his history, and in many other films, that lack of information could be damaging to the overall story, but here it serves to enhance the mystery of the film. Everyone sees Harry as something different, and as a result, their actions and motivations differ from their fellow characters'. The conflict in the story comes from whether or not a person is not only willing to accept that their point of view has been incorrect, but also whether or not they have it in them to make changes and sacrifices as a result. I chose Philip Seymour Hoffman because he has constantly shown a remarkable ability to play incredibly flawed yet incredibly likable characters at the same time. The most recent example is of course his Oscar-nominated performance in The Master. And by the end of the film, if the actor playing the role, whether it be Welles or Hoffman, has done his job, then you should still be slightly on the fence as to how you feel about Harry Lime.
Greg McIver currently resides in New York City. Check out his other reviews and articles at www.nerdtopiacast.com, and be sure to tune in to his weekly podcast Filmtopiacast 3000 which is currently available on YouTube, iTunes, and Stitcher.
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