What I’m about to suggest borders on action-movie heresy. But bear with me. Reboots and origin stories are all the rage these days, and someday soon some Hollywood exec may say, “Let’s make a…[pause for effect]…new Dirty Harry.” At first, the idea will make you furious. Nobody can replace Clint. The voice. The attitude. The snarl. Why even try? Eastwood is the man. But a Dirty Harry remake could be successful, if the actor inheriting the titular role puts his own spin on the part (like how Roger Moore took James Bond in a different direction after Sean Connery). So in the likely case that one day we see the origin story of how Harry Callahan became Dirty Harry, here are five actors who could wield the most powerful handgun in the world, just like Clint.
I know what you’re thinking: whoa! The Pianist, really? Brody couldn’t even hold Dirty Harry’s badge, let alone his gun! These are all statements I’d be making had I not seen Predators. After watching Brody lead a rogue squad of misfits and mercenaries against a trio of predators, firing virtually every weapon known to man, I walked away thinking I just might have seen a new action hero. Brody got ripped, found an action-hero voice, and didn’t take crap from anyone. These are three things one needs to do in order to play Dirty Harry. Brody would bring a studied focus to Callahan, not to mention an Oscar.
Perhaps this generation’s finest actor, he’s the kind of guy who can anchor a franchise. Remember, this is the best Batman ever! Bale can transform himself into just about any character he plays: the grim Caped Crusader, an emaciated machinist, or a crackhead (in The Fighter). Bale’s intensity and character dedication remain unparalleled, so who would we be to doubt him as the man to fill Clint’s shoes? Remember: Clint’s a pretty intense guy himself. If you remain unconvinced, please see American Psycho, then get back to me.
How could the same guy who saved James Bond also resurrect America’s best not-so-secret agent? A Brit playing Dirty Harry? Scoff away. Think about it, then say you can’t see Craig as San Francisco’s most dangerous lawman, the guy who punches first, shoots second, and asks questions never. Craig is a bulldog onscreen and portrays rage as well with his eyes as he does with his fists. And since only a fool would try to imitate Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, why not see where he’d take it? Okay, fine: you tell him he can’t.
Renner burst onto the scene over the last few years with the force of one of the bombs he tried to defuse in The Hurt Locker. He strikes you as a genuine tough guy who just so happens to have the chops to pull off good character work too. (I’m from Boston, and in The Town he reminded me of every local tough guy who wanted to kick my ass for no reason.) Renner has a brute charisma that makes you think he could play a cop, a retired rugby player, or a soldier, which would probably lead him to do to Dirty Harry what Daniel Craig did to James Bond: make the character more rugged and aggressive. That would not be a bad thing.
The wild card. The dark horse. And maybe the best choice overall. Hardy is the only one on the list who’s played a ruthless prisoner (the title character in Bronson) and a romantic legend (Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights) in the same year. Along with Bale, he’s quickly become a favorite of Christopher Nolan, first as a non-CGI scene-stealer in Inception and next as the villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Though not as physically imposing as Eastwood, Hardy’s a badass. (Watch the trailer for Warrior.) His looks, range, and relatively low profile might make him the perfect choice to play a young Callahan.
Nick Stevens tries to make funny about movies, pop culture, and sports as often as possible. He lists John McClane, Batman, and Tom Brady as the people with whom he’d most like to have beers. For more of his grown-up nonsense, visit his Tumblr page or follow him on Twitter.