Sony Should Probably Cast Unknowns for the Valiant Universe
I understand everyone's risk aversion these days. I can understand it even further if you're Sony and your whole movie-making division was majorly hacked just three years ago. Plus the whole Spider-Man thing. Hollywood these days is still in love with the notion of only backing big bets, and ensuring that those bets are connected to a butts-in-seats actor or actress who will unquestionably bring people into the theater. But with the Valiant Comics IP, I think Sony needs to do something different. You already went out on a limb grabbing a Tier 2 publisher to license anyway. And so you need to recognize that you cannot go at that kind of a thing in the same ham-fisted, big-budget manner with which you approach everything else.
Names in the hunt to be nailed down as the lead for the first Valiant Comics IP in the hopper, Bloodshot, include Oscar Isaac, James McAvoy, Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicholas Hoult, and Mark Wahlberg. But none of these actors seem to have the right timbre to carry this role. They are all sharp actors. But I really want to see just the right fit of actor attached to this lead role, not just a popular name. Again, NO ONE is going to know and understand who these characters are anyway. I think what Sony would actually want to do is grab some unknowns for these Valiant roles and plug them into small supporting roles in films with bigger-name actors the year before their starring role film is going to release. So people go, "Oh, that's the guy or girl who is going to be in that big flick next summer".
There are some other actors that are known names that I think would be a better fit for the role of Bloodshot if Sony does not just entirely George Lucas the casting. This character has to be one part tortured sole, but also an entirely irrefutable bad-ass. Bloodshot is sort of like the Punisher, and runs themes similar to the tragedy of the Hulk. But he's also entirely wild, raw, uncontained, and is restrained really only by his own moral compass, which has a strong anchor, but can also waiver to meet the needs of a given situation.
I personally think that actors on the list below would line up a bit better with this character's concept. In no particular order:
1. Michael Jai White - while it's not specifically a love interest that makes Bloodshot so conflicted, the tensions are similar to the forces that pull Spawn in so many different directions. I tend to think of Bloodshot as caucasian, but the nano treatment is what gives him the arctic white skin treatment, so I am not sure his original pigment really matters at all.
2. Gerrard Butler - Part of Bloodshot's makeup is a good chunk of angry, similar to what Butler portrayed in 300. But then there's that tortured side, that is probably closer to the softer side of Maximus that Russell Crowe gave us in Gladiator. Butler oughtta be able to pull off something similar.
3. Karl Urban - A Judge Dredd-like performance might be able to be presented in a way that suits a certain take on Bloodshot. Urban can pretty much do anything, but he's not proven as a lead. I feel like he could be the Ruffalo of the Valiant universe, but with the less controlled edginess that the Bloodshot role would require.
4. Sam Worthington - I know a lot of people don't like him, but I think Worthington has been tarnished from being attached to big-budget but poorly directed movies. Bloodshot needs to be much more a character story than an action flick, which would be a god fit for Sam.
5. Thomas Jane / James Purefoy - Bloodshot, as I mentioned, bears some resemblance to the Punisher, which Jane did and, arguably, pulled off the Frank Castle that made us give a poo about Frank Castle. I don't know Purefoy's repertoire as well, but I can see him doing well with the more tragic side of the role, as long as he can get down the physicality of the more violent aspects.
I am also not sure that Harbinger is the right follow-up to Bloodshot either, as I have read is Sony's plan. After something as heavy and humorless as Bloodshot is going to be, I would definitely go after something like Archer & Armstrong, or even Faith. If Sony keeps it safe and serious for the second film in the universe, I would go after these storylines instead:
1. H.A.R.D. Corps - to lay out the first big organization in the universe and set up the team-up between this team and Bloodshot
2. Unity - let's start setting up the conflict between the some of the characters and X-O Manowar, which you have to do from some unique angle if Aric of Dacia is not going to be seen as anything but an Iron Man knock-off. Bring him in as the villain before you set him out in his own movies as a hero.
3. Ninjak - or build up to Unity by selecting a solid character who will connect well and logically on a screen alongside Bloodshot. Ninjak is a character that you can root in the present day without some of the more fantastical concepts necessary to introduce Eternal Warrior or Ivar, the Timewalker.