Meet the New Gods
As announced last week, acclaimed director Ava DuVernay’s next film will be a New Gods superhero adaptation for DC Entertainment. Originally created by Jack Kirby, the world of New Gods contains nearly as many unique characters as Avengers: Infinity War (several of which were also co-created by Kirby). When it comes to populating this pantheon with actors, EW has a few ideas.
Read below to see who we’d cast as the dark lord Darkseid, the escape artist Mister Miracle, and more. Check here if you want to know more about the world of New Gods.
Oprah Winfrey as Highfather
Yes, “father” is right there in the name, but a woman could easily fill Izaya’s role as mentor and protector of New Genesis. Winfrey has appeared as the paragon of goodness in DuVernay’s previous films (whether as Civil Rights activist Annie Lee Cooper in Selma or the all-knowing Mrs. Which in A Wrinkle in Time) so it only makes sense for her to continue the tradition here. The connection to history Winfrey demonstrated in her electrifying Golden Globes speech would serve her well as the conduit of the universal life energy known as The Source. At the same time, Izaya’s regretful past as a bloodthirsty warrior would allow Winfrey to add some extra depth and darkness to the character.
Idris Elba as Darkseid
Darkseid isn’t scary because of his craggy face, or because he can shoot laser beams out of his eyes. Darkseid is scary because he can win people over. The enslaved wretches who populate Apokolips’ industrial death-factories truly love their ruler, to the point that they’ll pick him up and care for him after a titanic battle rather than overthrow him in his defeat. Beyond that, when Darkseid has the Anti-Life Equation in hand, he’s capable of making everyone on Earth grovel at his feet. Any film version of Darkseid, therefore, should exhibit both terrifying evil and dark charisma in equal measure. It’s been years since Elba’s breakout performance as Stringer Bell on The Wire, but such a mixture was present even back then, and Elba has grown even more beloved in the intervening years. Imagine his “canceling the apocalypse” speech from Pacific Rim except in villainous reverse, and see how easy it would be for this man to command legions. The actor has said he’d like a meatier franchise role than the MCU’s Heimdall, and taking on the most famous character in the entire New Gods mythos would maximize Elba’s star power in a way he deserves.
Elba would also be a great match for Darkseid’s physicality. Though the lord of Apokolips often leaves the fisticuffs to his minions, preferring to walk around with his arms behind his back surveying the fruits of his many machinations, he leaves no doubt that he could pummel anyone to a pulp if he so chose. It’s not too different from how Stringer did things, either.
Winston Duke as Orion
Black Panther is full of breakout performances and captivating characters, yet even so, Winston Duke stole headlines for his performance as Jabari chieftain M’Baku. Duke proved that he deserves an even bigger role in a meaty superhero film. The key to Orion’s character is his struggle between his origins as a battle-loving son of Apokolips and his New Genesis upbringing, which taught him to value peace and justice. This would allow Duke to deepen some of the notes he hit during M’Baku’s internal struggle between fighting for its own sake and struggling on behalf of Wakanda as a whole.
Oscar Isaac & Gwendoline Christie as Mister Miracle & Big Barda
These Star Wars costars haven’t gotten to share much screentime over at Lucasfilm, but they could make a perfect match for the Fourth World’s First Couple.
From Poe Dameron to Llewyn Davis, Isaac’s characters have had to use their wits to survive against overpowering obstacles. That should prepare him for the role of Scott Free, a son of New Genesis who had to learn all kinds of tricks and technological hacks to survive the fire pits of Apokolips before growing into a superhero escape artist. If the new film dips into the new Mister Miracle comic at all, in which Scott is buffeted by anxiety and depression, Isaac just proved in Annihilation that he can play trauma as well as anyone.
Who is better-equipped to play the Apokoliptian renegade than Christie? Barda’s journey from the merciless captain of the Female Furies to Scott Free’s savior could almost play like a journey from Captain Phasma to Brienne of Tarth. DuVernay has said on Twitter that Big Barda is her favorite superhero, so it seems like a safe bet that the character will get a significant role in the film — a good antidote to how underserved Phasma has been in the recent Star Wars movies.
Timothée Chalamet as Lightray
Following the one-two punch of Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird, Chalamet is unquestionably one of Hollywood’s most beloved breakouts right now. If he’s interested in dipping his toes in superheroics, his talents would be well-suited to New Genesis’ shiniest ambassador. Flying around at the speed of thought, Lightray’s sunny enthusiasm is contagious, often forming an interesting dynamic with his dark and surly friend Orion. But he’s far from a one-note character; in Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ current Mister Miracle comic, Lightray has evolved into the insufferably pompous consigliere for a corrupt New Genesis bureaucracy. As seen in Lady Bird, Chalamet certainly has the ahole chops to pull off that aspect of the character as well.
Margo Martindale as Granny Goodness
The esteemed character actress has played both matron and Machiavellian, two seemingly opposing characteristics that are united in the figure of Apokolips’ primary caretaker — a figure equally despised and loved by the children she torments. Ed Asner set a high bar for Granny with his performance in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, but if anyone can surpass that standard, Martindale can. Granny’s dynamic with Big Barda, in particular, could even channel some of the same matricidal fury as Martindale’s relationship with Keri Russell on The Americans.
Michael Emerson as Metron
Metron is from New Genesis but opts to remain neutral in the great Manichaean struggle with Apokolips. Sometimes he helps Darkseid, sometimes he helps Orion; the only constant to Metron’s actions is the pursuit of more knowledge — and perhaps some grand plan the outlines of which mortals couldn’t even begin to see. In his roles as Ben Linus on Lost and Harold Finch on Person of Interest, Emerson proved he’s peerless at playing the kind of enigmatic chess master who’s sometimes helping you out and sometimes screwing you over and constantly keeping you guessing which is which.
Andy Serkis as Desaad
Though Serkis first became famous for playing groveling, subservient characters like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and Bowie-Tesla’s assistant in The Prestige, he has grown into a performer capable of commanding a screen with self-confident characters like Supreme Leader Snoke and Ulysses Klaue (the latter even reminded people Serkis can be just as engaging a performer in live-action as he is in his trademark performance-capture style). Desaad offers a mixture of both, happily torturing Darkseid’s enemies while also concocting dark plans of his own.
Conan O'Brien as Glorious Godfrey
Of all the New Gods characters, Godfrey has the biggest potential for fourth-wall-breaking fun. The golden-voiced propagandist often shows up on Earth as an advance agent, using talk shows and mass media to spread the gospel of Anti-Life and lay the cultural groundwork for Darkseid’s eventual arrival (which doubles as a warning — whenever you see Godfrey pop up in a DC comic or TV show, it should tell you who’s not far behind). Godfrey’s not afraid to change with the times, either; though originally conceived as a mix of Joseph Goebbels and Billy Graham, in more recent years he appears more like a late-night talk show host or political TV pundit. Seeing O’Brien in the role would really allow for some meta-meaning. Over the course of his career, O’Brien has worked to expand the possibilities of the late-night format, from doing specials in Haiti to putting a Masturbating Bear on TV. Playing Godfrey would allow him to do some meta-commentary about the cultural role of TV personalities, while also poking plenty of fun at himself.
Lakeith Stanfield as Forager
Over the last few years, Stanfield has proven himself exceptionally capable of playing outsiders, people who don’t fit into the status quo. Certainly no one would mistake his portrayal of Death Note’s L (covered up in black, always hunched-over instead of sitting) for a traditional detective, and his performance as the brainwashed Andre Hayworth became one of Get Out’s major calling cards. He would be a fascinating choice for Forager, the bug-person who doesn’t fit with either his hometown bug-people or the high-and-mighty gods of New Genesis, and yet nevertheless tries to find a path for himself in the midst of celestial war.
Daniel Kaluuya as Black Racer
One of the most fascinating characters in the New Gods pantheon is the Black Racer, an angel of death who races across the sky in armor and skis. By day, the character is mute, paralyzed army vet Willie Walker; but when needed, he becomes this speedy grim reaper. Kaluuya has proved over and over again that he can get viewers invested in a character just with his minutely-tuned facial expressions, which would serve him well as Walker. The Black Racer persona loves nothing more than to bring karmic justice to murderers who deserve death — something Kaluuya embodied with his character’s brutal vengeance during the climax of Get Out.
Mahershala Ali as Himon
The original inventor of the Mother Box is one of the few good souls on Apokolips. Himon didn’t just have a gift for technical invention, he also loved to mentor young Apokoliptians and show them that there was life beyond Darkseid, a possibility of escape. One of the best cinematic examples of this kind of selfless mentoring is Ali’s performance as the gold-hearted drug dealer Juan in Moonlight. If anyone could demonstrate humanity in the face of hellfire, it’s him.