They call me Da Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci.
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I have to admit that I had to check the calendar to make sure that the news that Warners was turning the life of Leonardo da Vinci into an action-adventure movie wasn’t some sort of inspired April Fools’ joke.
But it’s for real. The studio has bought a treatment that imagines the inventor, engineer, mathematician and painter of ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Last Supper’ as -- and this is the part you can’t possibly make up -- ‘a member of a secret society who falls headlong into a supernatural adventure that pits the man against biblical demons in a story involving secret codes, lost civilizations, hidden fortresses and fallen angels.’
Geez, I wonder if they could title it ‘National Treasure of the Lost Ark.’ Maybe not. But what got me immediately thinking was this: Who could play Da Vinci?
As anyone who studied any Italian history in high school knows, all the paintings of Da Vinci depict him as a dignified and generally full-figured old gent with an unruly white beard, which you gotta figure knocks Shia LaBeouf and Robert Pattinson out of the running right away, since it’s pretty hard to ever imagine Da Vinci being a day under 35. And while everyone wants Brad Pitt, can you really imagine the tagline: Brad Pitt as Leonardo da Vinci?
So who does the shrewd casting agent go to? Let’s assume, judging from the ‘supernatural adventure’ logline, that we’re looking for someone in the virile thirty- or fortysomething age range, so that would put the kibosh on Nick Nolte, who could clearly play the cranky, old guy Da Vinci in his sleep.
I’d love to hear your ideas, no matter how outlandish, but here’s some tongue-in-cheek thoughts that came into my mind:
Joaquin Phoenix: Already has the beard, has gotta be ready to ditch his band and un-retire and would surely identify with a cerebral, head-in-the-clouds kind of madcap inventor.
Adrien Brody: He’s already playing an action hero in Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Predators,’ but this guy needs all the good parts he can get.
James Franco: He’s getting a master’s degree, so he must be smart enough to play the scenes where Da Vinci has to rattle off dialogue about how he used an early form of calculus to engineer entry into a heavily guarded hidden fortress.
Christoph Waltz: An Oscar winner would give the project some cachet, already looks good in a beard and doesn’t he already speak. like, four languages? Surely one of them must be Italian, right?
Johnny Depp: He’s gets first crack at all these things, and besides, isn’t he so good that he’s believable as basically anybody?
Robert Downey Jr.: Could definitely capture that special eccentric genius that says ... Da Vinci!
Val Kilmer: He’s already played a comic-book superhero, a secret agent, a painter, a gunfighter and a rock star, so isn’t he basically locked, loaded and ready to go?
Gerard Butler: Looks manly in any beard of any size. When I think of a guy could crack any secret code and capture any fallen angel, I think of Gerard Butler, don’t you? What’s more, he’s from Europe.
Leonardo da Vinci self portrait from the Royal Library of Turin.