Casting Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle

I couldn’t be more delighted with last week’s news that Lin-Manuel Miranda will be producing film and TV adaptations based on Pat Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. It’s no secret that there’s a massive amount of crossover between SFF fandom and people with an abiding love of theater and Broadway musicals, and Hamilton in particular, so for many people this announcement represents an opportunity to cross our favorite streams in the best possible way: JRR Tolkien meets jazz hands; Stephen Sondheim’s blind date with Severus Snape; Sally Bowles live at the Mos Eisley cantina.

It’s also a chance to play the dream-casting game again—I’ve done this once before but I’ve never been fully satisfied with the way it turned out; LMM’s involvement presents the perfect opportunity to cast a wider net and explore the myriad, diverse possibilities offered by the amazing cast of characters Rothfuss has created.

I should also note that I’m not up to date on the author’s own casting preferences beyond a few comments he’s made here and there, so those haven’t been taken into account here. Similarly, in most cases I’ve decided to look beyond the exact physical character descriptions detailed in the books—this is more of a free-wheeling attempt to consider actors who’d bring something fun and interesting and exciting to the roles.

In light of the recent announcement, this post will focus mainly on the first book, The Name of the Wind, since that will be the source of the upcoming movie adaptation. As with all Tor.com casting posts, this is simply a fun experiment—as someone who grew up obsessed with both musicals and the fantasy genre, I’m *extremely* excited to see what new elements and interpretations are in store for The Four Corners of Civilization with Rothfuss and LMM working as collaborators, and it’s entertaining to try to imagine what this project will look like, as it takes shape. This post is just the start of the conversation, though—I’m really looking forward to hearing everybody’s suggestions in the comments!

 

Kote (AKA, Older, World-Weary, Cut-Flower Kvothe)—Tom Hiddleston (alt. Toby Stephens, Michael Fassbender)

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I’m sticking with my original pick on this one—Tom Hiddleston remains an excellent actor whose playfulness and boyish quality would help connect the adult Kvothe to his younger counterpart. On the other hand, he’s certainly more than capable of capturing the haunted, world-weary side of the character and tackle the almost Shakespearean complexities of being both Kote, the affable nobody, and Kvothe, the conflicted, misunderstood legend in his own time. I’ve seen Domhnall Gleeson’s name bandied about in casting discussions lately, and while I think he’s a talented actor, he doesn’t quite work for me in this role. Same with perennial favorite Eddie Redmayne—he’s great, but not my first choice for this very particular character. I’d be quite happy with either Michael Fassbender or Toby Stephens in the role, however—both older and decidedly less boyish actors, but with the range needed for the part.

 

Kvothe: The Teen Years—Alex Lawler or Asa Butterfield

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The most difficult role to cast—Kvothe’s status as a prodigy at the Universe means choosing an actor who will look like the youngest person in the room while still coming across as an incredibly clever, charming, and capable young adult. I’ve narrowed down the field to two choices for the role—Alex Lawler is an up-and-coming British actor in his (very) early 20s, best known for playing the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game and starring in a recent episode of Black Mirror. So far he’s won both critical praise and the fervent admiration of Dame Maggie Smith(!), and clearly has great things ahead of him.

Asa Butterfield is probably a more familiar face around these parts (he’s starred in various SFF properties, including playing Ender Wiggen—one of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s all-time favorite fictional heroes). At a few months shy of his 20th birthday, he’s just old enough to tackle Kvothe’s coming-of-age narrative, and his established acting chops and genre cred make him a strong candidate. Both natural brunettes, a little off-screen magic might be necessary to capture Kvothe’s signature red locks, but I think both Lawler and Butterfield would do a fantastic job in the role.

 

Chronicler/Devan Lochees—Mandy Patinkin or Naveen Andrews

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Chronicler is a bit of a mystery in several ways (although who isn’t, in these books?)—exactly how old the character is supposed to be is open to debate; I won’t go into the whole thing here, but this discussion on Reddit does a good job of summarizing the different theories. My own mental image while reading the books was of someone a bit older than Kvothe, but I think the question is open enough to support a range of ages. So, at the older end of the spectrum, I’d like to make the case for Mandy Patinkin.

An odd choice? Maybe. But the man is a Broadway legend AND he’s Inigo Montoya. He’s amazing. How many people have acted with both Barbara Streisand and Andre the Giant, and still have time to get together to duet with their lifelong friend Patti LuPone on the weekends? Mandy freakin’ Patinkin has, and I think he could bring a compelling mix of grit, dry humor, and scholarly reserve to the role. And also swordfight and sing like an angel, if necessary—Mandy P. can pretty much do it all!

For a slightly younger take on the character, though, I’d really like to see what Naveen Andrews could do in the role. Between Lost and Sense8 he’s got plenty of SFF street cred, and has proved himself adept at playing enigmatic, multifaceted characters—vulnerable but not naïve; haunted without being broken.

 

Bast—Ezra Miller

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Ezra Miller’s really grown on me over the last few years, which is good since he’s suddenly all over the place, popping up in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and playing The Flash in the DC Extended Universe. Miller can play dangerous, even homicidal, but he can also be puckish, charming, and louche; he strikes me as a perfect fit for the demands of playing Bast, the mercurial Fae princling. Miller is also a musician and singer who performs in a band and was trained in opera singing as a child, which could come in handy if the adaptation expands Bast’s musical role beyond the lullaby he sings to Kvothe in The Name of The Wind.

 

Ambrose Jakis—Cameron Monaghan

So here’s where I nominate Actual Ginger Cameron Monaghan to play the nemesis of (a probably faux-red-headed) Kvothe—I’m creating a topsy-turvy parallel universe fueled entirely by bleach and hair-dye fumes, I know. But hey, it can’t be denied that Monaghan would make an excellent Ambrose. I haven’t seen his turn on Gotham, but it’s clear that he’s more than capable of playing a darker, more villainous character—but keeping in mind Lin-Manuel Miranda’s insistence that he doesn’t believe in villains, Monaghan’s familiarity with more multifaceted dramatic and darkly comedic roles might come in handy as well, in case the adaptation calls for an antagonist who’s conceivably more sympathetic than your garden variety insufferable rich kid-turned-fledgling psychopath.

 

Denna—Zendaya or Amandla Stenberg

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So, it’s clear that Denna needs to be likeable and genuinely warm, as well as beautiful, if the audience is going to feel invested in the twisty, tentative relationship that develops between her and Kvothe. Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games, Sleepy Hollow) are gorgeous, but more importantly they’re both smart, outspoken, self-assured young women working in an industry that doesn’t always reward candor and confidence. These women have substance. For that reason alone, I think either actress could do the role justice, without coming off as flaky or flighty. (It also helps that both are singers and accomplished performers.)

 

Master Elodin—Lin-Manuel Miranda

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This one was easy: Elodin is exceptionally brilliant, a prodigy who shot up through the ranks of the university to become the Master Namer. He can be charming, if eccentric, and acts as something of a mentor to Kvothe, though his behavior can also be erratic at times. I picture LMM having so much fun with a role like this; Elodin is a young hotshot, incredibly dedicated to his craft, which involves the connection between language and magic—it’s a perfect fit for a performer who is also a celebrated wordsmith, creator, and writer.

 

Elxa Dal—Taika Waititi or David Tennant

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In my opinion, anyone cast as Elxa Dal should be capable of having fun with the role in the same way Alan Rickman clearly had a great time sneering and glowering his way through the life and times of Severus Snape. Dal’s a charming weirdo with a flair for the dramatic—he has a sense of humor, but also might be responsible for getting Devi expelled from the University (we haven’t gotten to the bottom of that particular mystery yet).

I will never pass up an opportunity to include the above picture of David Tennant in a post, and still think he’d be a great fit for Elxa Dal, but I’d also love to see multi-talented actor/director/comedian Taika Waititi take on the role. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done as both an actor and director, and would love to see Waititi’s take on the goatee-sporting Master Sympathist.

 

Master Hemme—Ben Kingsley or Peter Capaldi

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Kvothe describes Jasom Hemme as “the king-high bastard” of the University Masters; he’s smug, has a fondness for trick questions, and clearly enjoys lording his position over students (and Kvothe in particular). He should appear visibly older than Elxa Dal (who in turn is older than Elodin); at 72, Ben Kingsley would no doubt bring a viciousness and sense of superiority and entitlement to the character (if you’ve seen his brutal, sociopathic gangster in Sexy Beast, you have an idea of how unpleasant Kingsley can be in a role). On the other hand, thanks to my enduring love of The Thick of It, my favorite Capaldi is Total Bastard Capaldi, and I’d love to see him put those finely-honed Bastard skills to work on Kvothe. While I don’t see Hemme as wielding quite the same glorious proficiency with expletives as Malcolm Tucker, Capaldi’s vicious condescension and ferocious, steely-eyed glare are more than enough to convey Hemme’s essential awfulness.

 

Master Kilvin: Ernie Hudson

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Okay, hear me out: I know Kilvin is supposed to be a massive guy, but for what it’s worth, Ernie Hudson is surprisingly jacked (go ahead and Google images of “Ernie Hudson muscles” and tell your boss I made you do it. Or…probably don’t, if you’re at work. Just trust me: there are muscles. I hope I look half that good when I’m 70). More importantly, who doesn’t need more Ernie Hudson in their life? Ernie Hudson is one of our greatest national resources, and would bring a steady, earnest, mellow wisdom to the role of the honest and honorable Kilvin.

 

Simmon— Eugene Simon or Avan Jogia

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Here’s the thing about Simmon: I want to cast Jonathan Groff in this role SO badly. He’s the best, and this way the adventures of Lin-Manuel and Groffsauce could continue well into the future. But, I fear that Groff may be a smidge too grown-up for the part, because life is terrible and unfair. Instead, I suppose I’ll go with Eugene Simon, AKA Lancel Lannister: the biggest doofus in all of King’s Landing. I’d originally had him on my list as a possible candidate for Ambrose, but I think he’d make a better nice guy than a villain (and honestly, after everything Lancel went through, maybe Simon deserves the chance to play a sweet, sensitive soul with actual friends and non-incestuous relationships? Just for a change of pace). And in the interest of giving a less familiar face a shot, actor Avan Jogia had a recurring role in Caprica and has starred alongside the above-mentioned Sir Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield (in different productions) in the last year, so if we’re tired of the Game of Thrones cast getting all the good fantasy roles, Jogia could be worth a shot.

 

Wilem—Alfred Enoch

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You might know Alfred Enoch as Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter movies, but he’s also done a ton of stage work, from Antigone to King Lear, speaks fluent Portuguese, and has a degree in Portuguese and Spanish from Oxford. Most recently, he’s had a rather boring role supporting Viola Davis’ scenery-chewing star turn in How to Get Away with Murder, but I feel now would be the perfect time for Enoch to return to his fantasy roots and have a little fun hanging out at the Eolian, drinking cut-tail and playing corners. Given his facility with languages, it also might be fun to see what he can do with Wilem’s accent and dialogue in Siaru as he doles out advice to Kvothe and Simmon.

 

Fela—Lupita Nyong’o

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Strikingly beautiful, extremely intelligent, yet fun and approachable—Fela sounds almost too good to be true, and yet Lupita Nyong’o is all of these things and more. Oscar-winning and Tony Award-nominated as an actress, Nyong’o speaks four languages, holds an advanced degree from the Yale School of Drama, has written, directed, and produced a prize-winning documentary, campaigns vigorously against ivory poaching, and is an advocate for the health of women and children in war-torn, impoverished regions. All that, and she finds time to star in Star Wars and the upcoming Black Panther movie and still seems utterly likeable, so she gets my vote for Fela.

 

Manet—Daveed Diggs

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Granted, Manet is supposed to be an older and more crotchety figure in the books, but if you have the opportunity to cast Daveed Diggs in something, you’d be a fool not to do it. And hey, Diggs has the requisite wild hair, would still be a bit older than Sim, Wilem, and Kvothe, and since some fans have linked Manet to Elodin (because both characters ask the same question involving three spades and five spades), we get the added pleasure of trying to figure out what mysterious nonsense Diggs and LMM get up to in their free time at the University (my guess: SO MUCH RAPPING. And inventing cool dance moves).

 

Auri—Saoirse Ronan

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As I noted in my previous casting post, Saoirse Ronan is a seriously gifted young actress, capable of bringing all manner of depth and shading to the role of the damaged, otherworldly Auri. Almost four years later, I’d still argue she’s the strongest choice: capable of balancing Auri’s delicate, ethereal quality with the fearful, feral survival instincts of someone slightly wild, maybe even slightly mad. In other words, she’d keep things from getting way too twee (and that’s important, especially if you’ve read The Slow Regard of Silent Things—Auri has layers; she contains worlds).

 

Devi—Chloë Grace Moretz

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Devi’s fearsome reputation precedes her in the book; she’s a formidable woman used to being underestimated (by Kvothe and others), something she both resents and uses to her advantage. Anya Taylor-Joy, who starred in the The Witch earlier this year, has an eerie ability to shift almost imperceptibly from wide-eyed baby deer innocence to sharp-edged, potentially malevolent intensity in the blink of an eye. She’s definitely an interesting candidate for the role, but I haven’t seen her in anything that requires her to portray the kind of flinty, uncompromising bad-ass that lies under Devi’s cute-as-a-button exterior.

Chloë Grace Moretz, on the other hand, can definitely play tough, as we’ve seen from her performances as Hit-Girl in the Kick-Ass movies and her recurring role as Alec Baldwin’s Machiavellian teenaged nemesis on 30 Rock (so good). She might be a little young for the role on paper (at a couple months shy of 20), but Moretz has an ability to project confidence and self-possession far beyond her years, and would have no problem putting the fear of god into Kvothe or any other unfortunate, cash-strapped University students.

 

Count Threpe—Simon Russell Beale


(1) Simon Russell Beale is one of the greatest stage actors of his generation. 2) If you have not seen his performance in Penny Dreadful, you are missing out on one of the great joys in life. Sir Ferdinand Lyle is a sparkling jewel illuminating the dark, dank Victorian angst. In conclusion: Best. Threpe. Ever.

 

Deoch and Stanchion—Christopher Jackson and Leslie Odom, Jr.

deochstanchion-casting

Just a thought, really, but the smaller roles of Deoch and Stanchion, proprietors of the Eolian, present a perfect opportunity to sneak in some choice Hamilton cameos. I could see Odom as the charming, affable, and gossipy Stanchion with Jackson as his more taciturn business and romantic partner, Deoch—just as long as they both get to sing at some point (even if that’s not in the books). Or genderflip the roles and have Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry take over management of the Eolian—whatever works, as long as there’s plenty of dancing and singing and silver pipes to go around…

 

BONUS ROUND: Casting The Wise Man’s Fear

Maer Alveron—Raúl Esparza

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Raúl Esparza is known for his incredible versatility: if you’ve seen him in Company, you’ll know how great he is at seeming suave and bemused; if you’ve seen him on Law and Order, you’ll know he can pull off cautious concern and a piercing glare. If you’ve seen him in Cabaret—well, congratulations (he was amazing). But more importantly (for me) he and Lin-Manuel Miranda are friends—if you haven’t seen it, check out their classic Miscast duet from West Side Story—and I’d love to see Esparza bringing some additional Broadway sparkle to this adaptation in the role of the Maer.

 

Lady Meluan Lackless—Zoë Kravitz

Meluan Lackless is striking, proud, and intelligent—with a fanatical hatred of the Edema Ruh. If the popular theories are to be believed, she may be Kvothe’s aunt, and/or may be somehow related to Denna, with whom she shares a resemblance. Without the final book, it’s difficult to know how much credence to give to all the potential familial relationships in the series, so for now I’ll limit myself to nominating Zoë Kravitz for the role of Meluan. I’ve liked her recent appearances in Dope and Mad Max: Fury Road and could easily see her summoning the rage and disdain necessary to play Lady Lackless. (And, for the record, if there’s ever an opportunity to cast Kravitz’s mother, Lisa Bonet, or her stepfather, Jason Momoa, in additional roles, I have zero qualms about turning this into a whole Lackless family affair…)

 

Felurian—Jessica Parker Kennedy, assorted supermodels?

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I have a tough time attempting to cast Felurian—Kvothe’s time with her in Fae is not the most fascinating section of the story for me, and in some ways I imagine the role might be a relatively thankless one for a lot of actresses looking to do more than play an insatiable sex goddess with a lot of time on her hands. On a certain level, I feel like you could probably glance randomly at any Victoria’s Secret commercial or runway show and find a host of viable candidates, if you’re simply looking to fill the “attractive, alluring, comfortable in various states of undress” part of the equation.

Thinking along those lines, but with some proven grit and professional acting experience added into the mix, it occurs to me that pretty much any of the women who played the Wives in Mad Max: Fury Road could easily slip into the role of Felurian. I’ve already tapped Zoë Kravitz for Meluan Lackless, but that still leaves Riley Keough and supermodel/actresses Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Courtney Eaton, and Abbey Lee. I thought all of them did strong work in Fury Road as the vulnerable-but-courageous Wives (Capable, The Splendid Angharad, Cheedo the Fragile, and The Dag, respectively), and any one of them could convincingly bring Felurian to on-screen life.

The other casting option that comes to mind is Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Secret Circle, Black Sails); her performance as Max, the crafty, seductive prostitute-turned-entrepreneur of Black Sails proves that she can combine sexiness and extreme physicality with emotional depth and intelligence, making Kennedy my first choice to portray the series’ mercurial, Shadow Cloak-weaving “primal lust goddess.”

 

So, those are my picks! Now it’s your turn: let us know which actors you’d like to see in the upcoming movie (and/or TV series), and what aspects of the books you’re most looking forward to seeing on screen…

Bridget McGovern is the managing editor of Tor.com. She spent the last week wading through previously uncharted regions of Google Image Search, and what has been seen can never, ever be unseen. But on the plus side, there’s also this.

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