Casting Neverwhere: The Movie

For those who aren’t familiar with Neverwhere, or who haven’t read our review, it’s the story of a Richard Mayhew, a Scottish man living in London who helps out an injured girl on the street and ends up trapped in “London Below” for his troubles. The story chronicles Richard’s travels and misadventures through the long forgotten tunnels and subways as he tries to get home.

Since its airing on the BBC in 1996, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy miniseries has been re-published in almost every format available. It’s been made into a novel, (also written by Gaiman) a comic book series, and a stage play, and while it’s been adapted into a script which the Weinstein Company currently owns the rights to, a director has yet to be found and a motion picture adaptation remains tantalizingly out of reach. Even so, hope springs eternal. So in the spirit of trying to grease the wheels, we at MRFH have decided to get the casting of said film out of the way. You listening hollywood? Get on the ball. We can’t do *all* the work.

Richard Mayhew: Ewen Mcgregor

Originally, we had Across the Universe‘s Jim Sturgess in mind and while  he certainly looks the part, the more we thought about it, the more we liked Mcgregor in the lead role. The audience discovers and experiences the world of London Below through the eyes of this character, thus it’s important that the actor can believably take on all of the necessary emotions of desperation, humor, resigned determination, and newfound confidence. Just the thought of watching the scene where Richard is nearly driven insane during The Ordeal, as interpreted by Mcgregor, is totally worth my ten bucks. Plus he’s already rocking the Scottish accent.

The Lady Door: Natalie Portman

Door’s story arc contains tragedy, revenge, darkness and despair, and the wrong actress could overplay that and make the character too whiny or abrasive. As an actress, Portman’s femininity, vulnerability and determination would be crucial in not only bringing life to Door, but also making her relatable and charismatic. This is crucial when dealing with a character who is basically the reason the hero’s life is ruined, and at the same time, his motivation for continuing on his grueling journey.

The Marquis de Carabas: David Tennant

In the search for an actor capable of portraying the arrogant, roguish, devil-may-care trickster, the only actor we could think of better than the former Doctor was Johnny Depp, and we’re saving him for when we cast the Sandman movie. If you have any doubts as to Tennant’s ability to play the hell out of this roll, take the following line and say it in his best angry Doctor Who voice:

“You dont ask any questions. You dont  get any answers. You dont stray from the path. You don’t even  think about whats happening to you right now. Got it?”

Yeah… Now you’re on board.

Hunter: Gina Torres

This one didn’t take any thought at all. Gina Torres absolutely exudes the tough-as-nails demeanor tempered with a soft, elegant beauty and grace that befits the definitive warrior and slayer of mythical beasts.  From her turns in Firefly, Cleopatra 2525 and Angel, we’re well aware of her ability to kick ass. Thusly we’re terrified of her while at the same time falling in love with her a little. We can also totally see her pulling off Hunter’s obsession with killing the Beast of London, an obsession that takes precedence over anything else at hand.

Anesthesia: Summer Glau

And as long as we’re casting former Firefly stars…. In the small but rather pivotal role of the young rat-speaker who serves as Richard’s initial guide and companion across Knightsbridge, we could think of no one better than Glau. Her diminutive frame and high voice lend themselves to the character, and the mousy but good natured demeanor that she displayed as River Tam would be wholly effective in playing the first denizen of London Below willing to actually befriend Richard.

Mr. Croup: Tim Roth

As the decidedly more verbose half of the duo of assassins that serve as the antagonists, Mr. Croup needs an actor short of stature but long on menace. At 5″7, and having given life to such characters as General Thade in Planet of the Apes, Ringo/Pumpkin in Pulp fiction and Emil Blonksy in The Incredible Hulk, Tim Roth more than fits the bill. The guy can play scary.

Mr. Vandermar: Vinnie Jones

This was a no-brainer. Seriously, almost too easy. The  part of the slightly more menacing and significantly quieter assassin seems to be almost made for Jones. Did anybody read the novel and *not* picture Bullet Tooth Tony when this guy was described?

The Earl: Michael Gambon

This one took a while. In point of fact this part was up for grabs right up until the writing of this article. We ended up going with the man-who-is-Dumbledore for several reasons. He’s no stranger to fantasy and science fiction, having been in Sleepy Hollow, five Harry Potter movies and most recently, the Christmas episode of Doctor Who. We’d love to see him play the forgetful, haunted, train-dwelling Earl of Earl’s Court, a nobleman who’s seen the halcyon days of his youth pass him by as he descends into darkness and decay.

Old Bailey: Bob Hoskins

It’d be treat to see Hoskins playing the much-beleaguered and put-upon rooftop dweller, especially since we haven’t seen much of him since Hollywoodland. Hoskins brings a gruff British charm that would seriously work for Old Bailey, particularly in later scenes opposite the Marquis.

Islington: Alan Cumming

The enigmatic and altogether ethereal character of Islington is at times friendly, soft spoken sanctimonious, sad, stoic, goofy, dangerously angry and  altogether unhinged. Alan Cumming we’re pretty sure could knock that out over a ten-minute conversation. As a prolific actor with previous roles ranging in scope from the understated to the sublime to the wholly ridiculous, we’d be really excited to see what Cumming would bring to the table as the troubled angel, especially opposite some equally amazing talent like Tennant and Mcgregor.

Well that’s it in a nutshell folks. Start writing letters to the Weinstein company and let’s get this movie made! In the meantime, are there any characters we left out, or actors you think would be better in specific roles? Let us know in the comments!


  1. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with Neverwhere in any of its mediums, but these character descriptions seem to really fit each actor’s strengths. And I’d see any movie that features Dumbledore, River, Zoe, the Doctor, Christian and Alan -freaking- Cumming onscreen together!

  2. I vote Tilda Swinton for the mad Angel Islington. Sure she’s just reprising her role in Constantine, but she was the best thing in the film.

  3. Good batch, but some of the actors are too old to pull off what is needed. And McGregor seems like he’d leave Richard as a total wimp rather than someone who has tremendous hidden talents. For Richard, I’d go with James McAvoy who is closer in age to Mayhew and provide a bit more internal strength. And Portman is just way too old to be playing a 16 year old. Emma Watson would be a better fit and I think she’d bring a built in audience to this type of role. Tennant and Torres are inspired choices, though. Putting Summer Glau in any role where she doesn’t kick butt is a waste and again, she’s too old to pull off the lost innocent girl. It’s a fairly minor role and I think a lot of young actresses could pull it off, though I’d like to see Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit get a shot. Roth and Jones are just too easy. Perfect. Though Malkovich would make a very interesting Croup as well. Love, love the ideas of Gambon and Hoskins. But Cumming as the angel Islington leaves me a bit dry. To me, this is the key to any film version and I’m not sure Cumming could pull of the otherwordly calm mixed with underlying menace. Christopher Lee would be an interesting choice, but mighy be overdone in this type of role after the recent Star Wars and LOTR films. I’d actually take a wild turn and go Harry Lennix. If you’ve never seen him in Titus, then you have missed one of the great villains in screen history, but very understated. “If there ever was a good deed I did, I do repent it.” Or something like that. Greatest villain line ever.

  4. @Bibb: I’m gonna have to re-write the article after reading your comment! I think Ewen Macgregor definitely has the range to pull off Richard, but your choice of McAvoy works so much I’m a little ashamed that it never occurred to me. I like Emma Watson as Door as well. Inspired. I’ll defend my choice of Summer Glau as honestly I always felt that casting her in kick-ass roles always seemed kind of forced. I LOVED Harry Lennix in Titus, but he was always a more “behind the scenes” kind of manipulator. More of an Iago or Theron from 300. The actor that plays Islington needs to pull off scenes where you can believe him as friendly to Door and her group. Cumming is the only actor I can think of who could come off as both disarmingly friendly and harmless and suddenly shift gears into dangerous insane rage.

  5. After reading the novel and graphic novel again there recently, ive been pondering why exactly (after a very successful big-screen adaption of Stardust) has Neverwhere not been brought to the big screen? Its bigger and meatier than the former and yet still un-touched!
    I love the choice of actors for the roles here, although id like to see lesser-known choices for Richard and Door …but McGregor and Portman could work.
    Really wana see a movie version of this now.
    Nice post!

  6. I always pictured Mr. Croup as Wally Shawn, but he’s probably too old now. Timothy Spall would work for me in that role. I do like the idea of Emma Watson as Door; she can be scrappy and still pull off the dignified carriage of someone who knows herself to be the lost scion of an aristocratic dynasty. What about Zoe Saldana as Hunter? I absolutely can’t see someone as old as Christopher Lee as Islington. Islington has to look like a youngish jet-setter – I kind of picture a gay fashion designer sort; not sure what current actor that might be. I’ll bet Paul Bettany could do it.

  7. Saoirse Ronan as Anesthesia, Summer Glau as Door, James Mcavoy as Richard, I love the idea of Tilda Swinton as Islington, but if you have to go male you could do worse than Tennant. Hunter would be very hard to cast – I see where you’re going with Gina Torres, and I think Angela Basset would work in the same vein, but how about the tiny, delicate Thandie Newton? In the end i’d probably cast a dancer or model though, as the role is almost entirely physical.

    And finally Idris Elba for the Marquis de Carabas. seriously. no question.

  8. I’m so glad someone’s finally trying to make this into a movie.I love neverwhere(book and show)imensely.your choice of cast is good,but i think probably somebody a little younger for Richard,and also for Door(don’t know who),I’d like to see Timothy Spall for Croup-cuz he’s creepy.Don’t know who for Islington,though I like the idea of Paul Bettany,I couldn’t tell you who for The Marquis,but I personally don’t think Tennant would work.The guy just really should be black(though, if you had to I wouldn’t mind seeing Depp play him).Otherwise it looks good! But honestly,I don’t know why they haven’t made this into a movie already,it’s so cool.

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