Word on the internets is that Keira Knightley is officially starring in the My Fair Lady remake, and that Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement) is set to direct. The 1964 My Fair Lady is one of my very favorite movies, so I feel I need to have an official opinion about this. I don’t need a remake. I don’t want a remake. But it seems to be happening despite my personal displeasure, so I figure I’m going to look on the bright side and remind myself that as a theatrical work, the new movie will be more of an adaptation than a remake. Also, I keep reminding myself that Emma Thompson is writing the screenplay, and it is my belief that Emma Thompson is a goddess who has blessed us mortals with her presence.
The other thing to consider, of course, is the rest of the cast. So I’m offering up my own suggestions of whom should be cast in the new My Fair Lady.
All right, so she wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I’m resigning myself to this as gracefully as I can. I have this problem with Keira Knightley where I can’t decide whether or not I like her. Also, I feel like she’s in every costume drama nowadays, and I’d like a little variety. Really, I’m thinking her Atonement costar, Romola Garai, would have been a better choice. And I have no idea if Ms. Knightley can sing. But you know, back in 1964, there were plenty of angry Julie Andrews fans who didn’t understand why Audrey Hepburn was going to be Eliza, so I’m just…going to withhold judgment at the moment and see what happens.
Emma Thompson suggested Hugh Laurie for this role, furthering my belief that the woman is a genius. I’m actually more nervous about this casting than I was about Eliza, because Henry Higgins is a very particular sort of character, and frankly, Rex Harrison was pure perfection in the original, winning both a Tony and an Oscar for his performance. I’ve read that Daniel Craig is being considered, but…I’m kind of at the point where I can’t imagine anyone other than Hugh Laurie doing this properly. To be Professor Higgins, our actor needs to have a good sense of comedic delivery, the ability to play a lovable grouch, and the ability to portray a certain arrogance–not the quiet, Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy kind of snobbery, but a loud, childish, petulance. Now, tell me if you can come up with anyone who excels at playing a lovably grouchy, childish, arrogant jerk and also has a significant comedy background. Anyone come to mind?
Okay, I confess that I’m just being indulgent now. The actor in the original movie, Wilfrid Hyde-White, was quite a bit older than Stephen Fry, but I’m letting that go for the chance of seeing Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry be boyfriends again. Really, though, I have no doubt Stephen Fry could play this role, and the two of them play off each other brilliantly.
It helps knowing that Ewan McGregor can carry a tune, I admit, but if he wouldn’t mind doing another (more traditional) musical, he could totally be the doting, earnest Freddy. He can be awkward, he can be charming, and he can sing “On the Street Where You Live” without making my ears bleed. That’s really all I require from Freddy.
It’s time for justice to be served. If Julie Andrews is not in this movie, the gods will weep. She was the original Eliza on Broadway, but she wasn’t a big enough deal for the movie. (She was, however, a big enough deal to be Mary Poppins and win an Oscar that very same year.) I need Julie Andrews to be in this movie, and Mrs. Higgins will give her a chance to be a little bitchy.
If you’ve seen the Les Miserables concert video, where he played Thenardier, the innkeeper, then you know that Alun Armstrong could play the role of Eliza’s drunken father with both hands tied behind his back.
For Mrs. Pearce, the housekeeper, my first thought was Angela Lansbury. But…she’s Angela Lansbury, and this isn’t that big a role, so I wasn’t sure if that would fly. Also, she’s going to be in the new revival of A Little Night Music on Broadway, so she’s going to be busy. Next thought was Maggie Smith, but that feels so obvious. Finally, I decided on Imelda Staunton, who has a tendency to pop up in movies associated with Emma Thompson, so I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if she does end up in My Fair Lady. Whether you know her as Umbridge or as the chatty Mrs. Palmer in Sense and Sensibility, Imelda Staunton is so versatile, I could probably cast her in anything. Plus, she and Hugh Laurie are hilarious together.
And there you go. If by some strange miracle, this ends up being the cast of My Fair Lady, not only will I go see it, I will look forward to it and stop wondering why the hell this remake–I’m sorry, adaptation–is necessary in the first place.