The SAG-AFTRA strike may still be going (at least as of this writing), but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from announcing future projects. Tuesday brought a biggie: After nearly four decades, Nintendo was finally, belatedly making a movie out of The Legend of Zelda. Unlike this year’s Super Mario Bros. Movie, the Zelda one won’t be animated. They’re going live-action (with lots of CGI, of course).
Another big difference: the Super Mario Bros. characters have big personalities. It’s essentially a comedy, and comedy actors is mostly what the movie got for voice talent. Link, the intrepid hero of Zelda? He’s just some dogged loner going from place to place, killing beasties. It’s unclear if the Zelda movie will have a comic tone, but given the seriousness of the games and the hiring of director Wes Ball — whose Maze Runner movies aren’t laugh riots, and presumably the same goes for his forthcoming Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes — it seems unlikely.
So who to cast for Link? When news of the movie broke, people instantly thought of two no-brainers for Link: Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Both are cromulent picks. (Honestly, Pratt is probably too old now to play the young Link, though his non-Italian-ness didn’t stop him from nabbing the Mario role.) But surely there are others. Here’s some possible candidates:
If there’s a young heroic role and Tom Holland doesn’t get it, there’s always Chalamet. Each has a very different vibe: Holland is more clean-cut, Chalamet is floppy-haired. Could Holland play Willy Wonka? Probably, though his would presumably not be as wacky. Likewise, Chalamet can do po-faced heroic, too, as witness his Paul Atreides in Dune. Imagine Chalamet as a dashing young Millennial Link who has to constantly do cool coif-flips while shooting his sword at Octoroks.
Jeremy Allen White
An intense Zelda, who’s constantly suffering volcanic high blood pressure and pushing back his copious curls after kills. In between battles, there would be montages set to Sufjan Stevens.
Moviegoers mostly know the animated version of Moore in the Miles Morales Spider-Man movies (though he’s also been his live-action self on shows like The Get Down and Wu-Tang: An American Saga, in which he played Raekwon). Let more people see his face as he prowls the monster-laden realm of Hyrule.
A sky high Link, towering over even Ganon. He can even bring some of the mumbly Elvis drawal he brought to Priscilla.
He was great in his breakthrough during the second segment of Moonlight. He won an Emmy for When They See Us. And he was excellent in Steven Soderbergh’s Full Circle. All of these are heavy works. Let Jerome have some fun. Let him make a movie where he wanders around a fantasy realm by himself, killing endless monsters, and collecting triangles.
If they did a gender-swapped Link and they got Plaza, they could go one of two ways. They could ask for Plaza in withering deadpan mode. Or, better yet, they could have Plaza do her more serious, intense side, as seen in Emily the Criminal and the second season of The White Lotus. Plus having a woman play Link would piss off tetchy conservatives, which is always fun.
If we’re switching genders, why not cast Tom Holland’s paramour? Give her a chance to be a hero, rather than an accomplice/love interest as she is in the Dune series.
But what of Princess Zelda? She probably wouldn’t be a mere damsel-in-distress, as she is in the original game. This Zelda would have to have more agency. Zendaya would be a good choice (if she’s not getting Link, that is). Anya Taylor-Joy already played a Nintendo princess in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, so why not here, too? Other popular young actresses who would make enjoyably strong-willed Zeldas include Jenny Ortega, Storm Reid, Auli’i Cravalho, Amandla Sternberg, and Kaitlin Dever.
But let’s consider some way outside-the-box Zeldas, ones who would bring a more comic edge:
Ayo Edebiri or Rachel Sennott
They’re such a dynamic duo in Bottoms, at once stressed-out and sharp-witted. If comic is the way Zelda goes — and it probably isn’t, but one can dream — then either of them would make a great non-boring Princess Zelda.
The Oscars rarely realize the greatness of comic performances, but the Bulgarian actress was so mind-blowingly good in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — even ensnaring Rudy Giuliani in what proved his fifth or sixth most embarrassing moment in 2020 — that she nabbed a nomination. Bakalova can do more than Tutar Sagdiyev — she was straight-faced in Bodies Bodies Bodies, with the aforementioned Sennott and Sternberg — but imagine her bringing that same Borat 2 energy to a Nintendo video game about a dude stabbing things.
Let Keke Palmer steal the Legend of Zelda movie. Maybe even cast Daniel Kaluuya as Link for a much-welcomed Nope reunion.
Hope this has helped, Nintendo.