The world has been threatening a Good Omens adaptation for years now, for film and television both. (Neil Gaiman himself actually wrote a screenplay a long while back, which is fascinating if you ever come across it....) The rumor mill has started up again, and it looks like we might get a TV version from the BBC. Now, I’m a little nervous on that account because the sort of humor found in a book like this doesn’t always translate well to screen, but I’m willing to play the game: Who gets to be Crowley and Aziraphale?
Up front: I made an attempt to pick people who I thought might actually be interested in the playing the roles. I know that fans of the book have cried out names like Kenneth Brannagh for Aziraphale and Johnny Depp for Crowley in the past, but I don’t think there’s much chance of that. (Also, much as I love Depp, I’d rather he stayed away from Crowley.) So I’m going to go with some names that maybe haven’t been tossed into the ring yet. Everyone is from the UK, since it’s unlikely that they would be casting Americans for a BBC production. A couple picks will be wishful thinking. We’re allowed to dream.
So let’s start with...
Aziraphale — Our stuffy, prim Principality who tries his best not to sell books from his shop in Soho. Collector of rare Bibles and gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. Well, he appears to be, anyway. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got:
Mark Gatiss is about as posh and prim as you can get, and hilarious to boot. There are some in the Good Omens fandom who would prefer an ultra-young pretty boy for Aziraphale, but I think we should be going in the opposite direction; he and Crowley are essentially opposites, after all. Funny enough, there are some BBC Sherlock fans who have asserted an alternate universe where Sherlock and Mycroft secretly are Crowley and Aziraphale... and that makes a frightening amount of sense. (There’s fanfic. Check “Good Omens/Sherlock crossover”. It’s sort of brilliant.) Just imagine Mycroft, drunk and with terrible fashion sense, sneering at potential customers in a dusty, tiny book shop. It would be glorious.
Shaun Parkes brings a wonderful combination of play and gravity to every role I’ve seen him in. (Except Izzy in The Mummy Returns, but we’ll talk about that movie’s issues some other time.) There’s a lot of fun to be had with Aziraphale, but you have to be able to pull back from that and really lay out that he’s an angel. In touch with God, believer in the ineffable. Shaun Parkes would take out that book, bell, and candle and you would know things were serious. Also, he’s great at epic friendships (see: Casanova).
He’s a bit young for my tastes in this role, but Russell Tovey can go from weeping to ridiculous with no questions asked. He’s also unforgettably endearing, which might be a good element to bring to Aziraphale’s character. Being angelic is distancing enough — give the audience something they can latch onto. It’s easy to imagine him with all of those unfortunate angelic manners, confusing everyone with a smile that’s actually masking his irritation. And he’s got that sniffy temper down pat. He’d be plain adorable.
I’m not going to lie... Davison might take my top place in these picks. Can you think of anything that makes more sense than the Fifth Doctor playing this part? The confusion, the ineffective sternness, the Frowny Face? Davison has everything required. He’s also plenty experienced at the desperate chase and running around in a tizzy, considering that he had more companions to keep track of than any Doctor before or since his tenure. And then there’s Aziraphale’s unfortunate love of ye olde magician tricks. I’d love to watch Davison put on a terrible magic show for a bunch of bratty children.
It’s not likely Pegg would do this at the current rate he’s going, so this is a dream pick. More than anything, it would just be amazing to see what he’d do with the role. I imagine that his Aziraphale would be some weird combo of Tim from Spaced and Hot Fuzz’s Nicholas Angel for that blind sense of duty. He’d be giggly and adorable in the famed drunk scene, and I’d love to hear him utter the words, “Tartan is stylish.” The look on his face once they reached the potential sight of Armageddon would be worth it all by itself.
And now for...
Crowley — A dark-haired demon with great cheekbones. Snakeskin boots (that might not be boots). Garden of Eden’s very own tempting serpent. Abuses his houseplants and owns a 1926 Bentley that he loves more than anything on Earth. Here are a few choices:
Sure, he’s young, but Crowley is likely to be on the young side anyhow. Colin Morgan has the cheekbones, the hair and, more importantly, the acting chops to pull the role off. He’s great with comedy and would know exactly what to do with those scenes where Crowley’s superiors in Hell tried to intimidate him. With the work he’s done on Merlin, this would be one heck of a fun follow up. Give him a role that’s iconic, but outside the family television umbrella. We already know he’s great at being something of a punk (Remember Jethro on the Doctor Who episode “Midnight”?), which Crowley definitely is, no matter how fancy his suits and car happen to be.
After watching him on the latest season of Being Human, I’m hooked. Molony is just superb, and would bring a vulnerability to Crowley that would make him more than some smooth, cool agent of Hell. We already know he’s capable of bringing a lot of age to a role, despite how young he is, and that would make Crowley more real to us. A being who has been around since before the Earth was created. His Crowley would probably be calm and collected for the majority and then whip out weirdness at the most unexpected points. Yes.
Okay, another vampire from Being Human. It’s not my fault that the prerequisite for playing a vampire is also dark hair and cheekbones that won’t quit. Maybe Aidan Turner will be off to different pastures after The Hobbit, but if he comes back for a bit, he would be unbelievable in this part. The way that Turner handles humor is simply effortless, and it would make some of the absurdity of the Good Omens universe seem like the most natural thing in the world. He’s also great with giving us lovable characters who have tricky, sharp edges to them. Mitchell’s relationship to Herrick on Being Human is incredibly similar to the one that Crowley has with Hell, and Aidan Turner would make you feel for the demon in those moments.
Drama is more Menzies’ suit, but he does it brilliantly. Anyone who saw him play Brutus in Rome knows it. He’s got a great look for Crowley and he strikes as the sort of man who could do any part he put his mind to. And he’s actually damn funny in Casino Royale as M’s put-upon assistant, so let’s see what else he can pull out of the hat! He could probably rock those snake eyes that Crowley flashes whenever the sunglasses are off.
Obviously the dream pick here. Cumberbatch is off in the greenest of green pastures, and I doubt he’ll be doing television outside of Sherlock anymore, if he can help it. Now, apparently Terry Pratchett has said that he wants Cumberbatch to play Aziraphale, but I honestly think he’d make a much better Crowley. As I said before, it has been noted that Sherlock and Mycroft have certain elements in common with the angel-demon duo, but I’d be happy to see him play the demon opposite any of the actors above. He’s already playing a dragon in The Hobbit, so being snakelike should be no problem. And he’s played so many dramatic roles lately, I’d love to see him try something funnier. He would gracefully balance Crowley’s rage with that irrepressable urge to do Bruce Lee impressions in his spotless apartment. I need to see this.
So, who did I leave off? Who wants Daniel Craig to play Aziraphale? (Someone’s gonna get upset about the lack of Freeman, McAvoy, and Fassbender, I can tell.) Who are your dream picks? Discuss!