The Wheel of Time Casting Call, Tier 1 – Ishamael and Lanfear

Welcome back to The Wheel of Time Casting Call. We’re in week 2 of our Tier 1, or primary characters, and we’ll be flipping sides to Team Dark this week.

This week deals with another “beautiful” character, and I imagine there will be criticism, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just going to mostly ignore that particular criticism. People who think that “most beautiful woman in the world” titles should go to people like Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman, I personally think don’t have their heads screwed on right. 🙂

As a note on the art: For most of the art I use for characters, I am getting it from the amazing Seamas Gallagher gallery, who does some of the best WoT art out there. Some of the other I’ve used is from the equally amazing Jeremy Saliba. A lot of the art I use is cropped, so that I can fit the most character on the screen without having to deal with fancy borders and such, so you guys should definitely check these guys’ sites out (where you will find the full, beautiful pictures) and support them if at all possible. Some characters, no matter how important(ish) they are, do not have art though.

Oh, and there will be spoilers, up to and including Towers of Midnight. You have been warned.

Two of the primary antagonists of the series (at least through the first five books or so) are also the two most powerful Forsaken to exist – Ishamael, and Lanfear. And both of them are fuckin’ nuts. Not like the kind of nuts that is fun to read about because they build flux capacitors and scream “Great Scott” while catching various buildings on fire, but the kind of nuts where you really wish they would stop entering your dreams and torturing you in your sleep. Ishamael was never quite sealed by Lews Therin, so he lived for three thousand years and went by one of the Dark One’s own names – some of the Forsaken whisper that he thinks he is the Dark One. We know that not to be true now (by several Moridin POVs we’ve had), but that doesn’t change the fact that if your own . . . allies? can we call the Forsaken allies with each other? . . . think you’ve fallen off the rocker, chances are, they’re right. And Lanfear. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. “Lews Therin is mine,” is her mantra, and boy does she stick to it. Her . . . I’m going to call it a “collapse” . . . in Fires of Heaven was some of the most psychotic-sounding writing in the series.

These two characters were essentially the primary antagonists in one way or another for the first few books, so they’re in the top tier. Ishamael is the person who sends Rand running, constantly haunts his dreams, and is his physical foe for the first three books. Lanfear is the one who manipulates much of what happens to him through books 2, 4, and 5. They are both very important in the villain sense, and they are both back with a vengeance now (though physically looking different) to play through the end-game.

So who can handle these two important characters?

We aren’t given the most clear descriptions of Ishamael / Elan Morin Tedronai through the series. His most notable features are the burning holes where his eyes and mouth used to be, so that probably distracts Rand from seeing his true face during most of their encounters. Being a philosopher, he is prone to monologuing about how awesome he is, and how he and the Dark One will DESTROY ALL TIME AND CREATION and yadda, yadda, yadda. Typical megalomaniacal and nihilistic bad-guy stuff.

Physically, Ishamael is considered good-looking, and in his prime (so 40’s? 50’s?). He has dark hair, is tall, with a powerful jawline. He seems to exude power and terror, and is very charismatic. A lot of the art of him makes him look like Lestat or something, but I think he is meant to look more physically imposing than that.

I’ve seen a lot of actors cast as Ishamael at other fansites, and unlike many other characters, there seems to be no very general consensus as to who should play him. Ralph Fiennes comes up every now and then, but I’m pretty sure it’s just because Ralph already plays one Dark Lord.

Thus, I’m happy to present Mark Strong as my candidate for Ishamael. The guys just looks mean – not the pure evil that Jason Isaacs looks, but like he’s just tired of effing around and it’s time to kick some ass. Physically, he is tall, broad, and strong-looking, and his natural hair color is dark (though he often shaves it). Plus, he is known for playing villains. I particularly like his voice for all the menace it has – we’ll need that when he’s haunting Rand’s dreams!

Mark Strong as Ishamael

Places you’ve possibly seen him:
Sherlock Holmes
Robin Hood

Then comes Lanfear / Mierin Eronaile. Someone once asked on Theoryland, “With Lanfear being the strongest female channeler and most beautiful person in the world during the Third Age, what exactly did it take for one to gain their third name?” The clever response I saw was, “Something other than hunger for sex and power, presumably.” This explains Lanfear pretty well to me. All she ever talks about is how she and Rand can dethrone the Dark One and Creator, and they can have power and glory beyond imagining – she even offers these same things to Perrin and Mat during some of her creepy visits to them. We know she’s narcissistic, and by nature of the many conversations she has with Our Heroes, we can conclude pretty . . . conclusively . . . that she’s also a nutjob.

On the other hand, she is literally the “most beautiful woman in the world.” Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but when even Loial starts falling for her, you start to think “maybe there’s something to this perfect beauty thing.” She is tall, with fair skin and dark hair. As Selene, she looks to be about the age of Nynaeve, though once she dispels the One Power disguise, she looks more mature.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. I did NOT choose Angelina Jolie or Catherine Zeta Jones for this role. I don’t find Jolie to be particularly beautiful – I know, eye of the beholder and all, but this is my casting, and my rules (which I will soon break). I think she has a funny face, and I don’t like her lips. For Zeta-Jones, don’t get me wrong, I think she would have been absolutely perfect for the role . . . ten years ago. I just don’t find that she’s aged in a way that she can still look young enough to portray the character we need. I know Lanfear is older than Rand (by at least 3000 years), but she just doesn’t fit it for me. I honestly tried my damndest to make Morena Baccarin work for this role. I’m in love with that woman, but she just didn’t fit what I wanted either.

So here we go. Aishwarya Rai gets this role, and while I wish I could have gone another route, I feel good enough about this choice to stick with it. Rai has been called “the most beautiful woman in the world” so many times that it’s become a cliché. She is tall, dark-haired, and absolutely stunning. And what I find to be particularly important is that her eyes have just the right down-turn to them that I think she could go from looking happy-smiley-beautiful to downright-evil in a heartbeat. I did break a criteria though – Rai is definitely not fair-skinned or ivory-pale, or whatever else metaphors are used to describe Lanfear’s very, very white skin. Oh well, we’ll have to look past that – it won’t be the worst of my rule-breaking in the upcoming chapters.

Aishwarya Rai as Lanfear

Places you’ve possibly seen her:
Note – She hasn’t been in a ton of English movies, but she has been in a few. She is considered to be quite good in her native Hindi movies, but most of the English ones have not been rated very highly. oh well…
The Last Legion
Dhoom 2

Well, there you go. I am 100% behind Mark Strong, and mostly behind Aishwarya, but I fully admit that I could be convinced of other actresses (though not Jolie or Zeta-Jones) if someone can point me to someone I’ve never seen before. Anyway, we’ll get back to some good guys next week!

-Brandon Daggerhart

25 thoughts on “The Wheel of Time Casting Call, Tier 1 – Ishamael and Lanfear

  1. I just… feel like Mark Strong is more of a Moridin than an Ishamael. He just seems more sane than Ishamael is meant to be.

    As for Aishwarya Rai, I see what you were going for, but I just don’t agree. Then again, I feel that Lanfear is the fourth hardest character to cast (behind Rand, Mat and Perrin).

    Can’t wait for the rest of them!

  2. When I was thinking about the main differences between Moridin and Ishamael, the conclusion I eventually came to was:

    Ishamael’s actor must have the appearance of menace and foreboding, while Moridin’s actor needs to have this “beautifully evil” type appearance. I may not be thinking of it the same way that Robert Jordan would have, but when you think of how they’re always described – Ishamael’s appearance was always one of fear in the first three books. Flaming eyes and mouths, evil monologuing voice, ready to fight Rand to the death. Moridin’s appearances have been dramatically different – most peoples’ recollections of him are of a very handsome, calm man, not very old, with this quiet crazy about him. And I just thought Strong worked with that particular view of Ishamael, and my actor for Moridin works for it.

    But seriously, all these Tier 1 actors are giving me more headaches than I imagined. And I’m not even sold on Rai for Lanfear – I truly wish I could force Catherine Zeta-Jones to be about 10 years younger and I’d just go with her. But alas, the world does not revolve around my casting needs.

    Thanks for reading, hope the next batch is more palatable!

  3. Oh no, not Aishwarya Rai.. sigh..
    I HATE HER. She cannot act at all, and I absolutely do not think she’s beautiful.. (I also hate her because she married my most favorite actor, but that’s my issue, not yours!!)

    How about Naomi Watts? She has coloured her hair black before and I think she is exquisitely beautiful.. I don’t have any opinion about her acting, you might know better.. Just a suggestion..

    Mark Strong works, was my choice for Ishamael too 🙂

  4. Like I mentioned in my post, the Aishwarya Rai issue is definitely one I am willing to reconsider. Lanfear was the hardest person in this series to Cast, even moreso than Rand, and I eventually became tired enough of considering it that I think I just said, “the hell with it,” and went with someone who at least came close to what I pictured. Definitely not set in stone on here.

    On the other hand, I don’t think Naomi Watts would be the way to go, though. As beautiful as she is (which I agree), it’s not the right kind of beauty to play Lanfear. Thanks for reading though, and feel free to keep pointing other actresses my way, maybe we’ll come across the right one for Lanfear!

  5. You know, I spent the whole of last night looking up pictures of blazingly beautiful women with black hair who can act completely coo-coo-cachoo.. I came up empty though!

    I do not envy you your job, my friend!!

  6. I like Mark Strong for Ishmael, i can readily imagine him with blazing eyes in that role. As far as Lanfear goes, i was completely surprised by your choice since I’d never thought of her in that role. I can see her portaying the role(in term of looks) but not in term of the level of acting required , but yeah, as u said these tier 1 characters are just too dificult.

  7. I don’t know about “too difficult” . . . Lanfear is really the only one I’m conflicted about. Of course, that doesn’t stop other people from disliking my choices! 😉 Frakkin Lanfear . . .

  8. So I kept looking 🙂
    AnnaLynne Mccord in dark hair looks ravishing (I think), but when I saw her in her blonde hair, i got confused.

    Thoughts on her for Lanfear?

  9. 🙂
    Well, I think she is definitely a step in the right direction, especially going by this picture:

    However, my wife happens to like the new 90210 show, but didn’t think very highly of McCord’s acting skills. Granted, I can’t speak with authority on the subject, because I’ve only seen her in one movie (Transporter 2), and don’t even remember her from that (and am not willing to watch the movie again to check it out, cuz quite frankly, the movie sucked! 🙂 ). So I would, at the moment, be a bit hesitant to put her in the role.

    Do you know anything about Koena Mitra?

  10. Oh man, you’re insistent on Indian actresses, aren’t you? 😀

    Koena is gorgeous, and maybe looks-wise she MIGHT fit (though her skin colour isn’t just a tan, she won’t exactly be the blazing white beauty i Imagined Selene to be).
    Unfortunately she hasn’t ever acted in a serious role, only done a couple of stints in parodies and multiple ‘item girl’ roles (wait, do you know what that is? I have a feeling it is a phenomenon unique to Indian movies only!!)

    If you’re not too fussed about acting, then maybe she’ll work.. still feels like a round peg in a square hole..

  11. Heh, I wouldn’t say I’m insistent on Indian actresses by any means, it’s just that whenever I google anything like “gorgeous brunette actresses” or “perfect beauty actress,” etc, 70% of the image results are Indian stars. 🙂

  12. If you want koo koo beauty, hows about Marion Cotillard? She’s nutbars in Inception, and strikingly beautiful.

    For ishamael, Mark Strong is a bit cliched in the bad guy role (as is Jason Isaacs) – they play out like cartoon characters with one dimension. I know you’ve cast him already, but with eyes on fire would be my ishamael.

    And Jim Cavisiel for Moridin.

  13. With these ‘most beautiful’ characters you’re going to find even more division than with ‘just’ beautiful ones – that’s the beauty of books (if you’ll excuse the pun), we can imagine our exact version of perfection for both Galad and Lanfear. Within the boundaries of them being dark-haired, dark-eyed and pale anyway.
    Rai is stunning and her demeanour captures Lanfear’s particular allure – the Forsaken isn’t ‘sexy’ because she has that otherworldly, remote quality; you’ll be attracted to her but she’s written in a way that elevates it beyond carnality. If you see what I mean. Also, her hair/eye colour works, and she is tall (as it’s figured in Jordan’s world). But no, she’s not pale.
    I was surprised to read your words about age, regarding Zeta Jones, after what you did with Anna Camp, but there we go.

    As to other actresses who could near this perfection, I’d suggest Monica Bellucci, though she’s older again, or Olivia Wilde, who is just so stunning in black hair I can’t stop staring. They’re both pale and the right height, but Bellucci lacks slenderness (she’s a gorgeously curvy woman, and slender to me says narrow hips, etc) and Wilde has pale eyes… Dang, it’s very tough.


  14. Lanfear is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the series, bar none. I always think of Kate Beckinsale for this because to me she is but I’m sure a lot of people would disagree.

  15. I am one of those people. 😉 I am not a fan of Beckinsale for either her beauty or her acting abilities, though I acknowledge that she is definitely beautiful in a stereotypical since. I will repeat something I said (somewhere) on this blog, that if Catherine Zeta-Jones had been 10-12 years younger when I made this list, she would have won HANDS-DOWN – I still think she is one of the most beautiful actresses in the world, but I just don’t find that she’s aged in a way that could make her look young enough to play how I picture Lanfear.

  16. That’s the wonderful thing about books – we can see whatever we want to see (within the limits of physical descriptions). I have seen way worse suggestions than Beckinsale, that’s for sure! While she’s not quite there in my opinion, she is gorgeous – and could match the description – so it’s a perfectly reasonable idea.
    I think Zeta Jones, who looks stunning for a 40-something woman, would still be able to play it with the make-up that films slather on anyway – she isn’t that far gone yet 😉 Plus I don’t have a possible heir for the Lanfear crown… 😮

  17. I think you are missing one here.
    Charlize Theron. She is blond and has a too nice smile but she can play the bitch quite well. Imagine Ravenna from Snow White and the Huntsman just with black hair like in Neon only long.
    I think acting wise and beauty wise it is spot on.
    AnnaLynn McCord is way too young IMHO.

    I cannot picture Zeta Jones in the role. She has her appeal but I don’t think it is quite so universal. I think Beckinsale is same just in the other direction more skinny and less of a good lascivious appearance. They are both really Lanfeer just in different ways imo.

  18. I noticed that you used a lot of Joss Whedon actors in your casting, and whenever I think of Lanfear I always think of Eliza Dushku. She is stunningly beautiful, and has played not only a badass, but also a complete psycho.

  19. I love Ria and she can act most women hate her because she makes nearly every other woman look like a baboons ass. I would never pick her for the role but I see what you mean. She could use makeup to change her skin colour. And for Mark I agree 100%

  20. Mila Kunis?
    She is young enough to be able to look in her 20s which is needed when Rand meets Selena for the first time and she is old enough to look older when necessary.
    She has that layer of wickedness in her eyes.
    And she has also layer of elegance that Eliza Dushku doesn’t.
    And while I like Rai and don’t really like Kunis, I really think Rai is lacking… oh, I don’t know… “something” which makes Lanfear Lanfear.

    If not, can Mila be Berelain?

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