Introducing…Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist!
CBM's Brent Sprecher makes a case for actor and real-life ninjutsu master, Eric Gable, to be Marvel's next costumed hero in the Iron Fist movie!
I’m a comic book guy. I'm also a movie guy, which makes me an über-comic book movie guy. That means that I take the big screen adaptations of my favorite comic book characters veeerrry seriously.
Like many of you, I mourned the death of the Batman franchise following Joel Shumacher's travesty that is *shudder* Batman & Robin, and cheered its resurrection after seeing Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins for the first time—and no, I don't have a problem with Christian Bale's mouth-full-of-gravel Batman voice. I raised a quizzical eyebrow when Robert Downey, Jr. was first announced as Tony Stark in Iron Man and laughed openly when Jason Momoa was cast in the Conan reboot. I argued with friends ad nauseam about why Tobey Maguire's pelvic-thrusting disco dance in Spider-Man 3 was perfect—because it illustrates that Peter Parker is such a good person that even when he is infected by an evil entity all he does is dance in public—and argued with those same friends about why it wasn't necessary for Zack Snyder to include the "space squid" at the end of Watchmen.
In other words, I spend a lot of time thinking about, talking about and writing about comic book movies. There are many factors that go into making a good CBM—script, direction, score, special effects—but the one factor that is sure to spell the doom of any CBM is poor casting. I won't go through the long list of the ill-advised casting choices that have populated CBM's over the past 20 years—you know who they are—but what I aim to do is offer up an up-and-coming actor for your consideration.
The movie? Marvel Studios' planned Iron Fist movie. The role? The title character, Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist. The actor? Real-life ninjutsu master and actor Eric Gable.
Who's Iron Fist, you ask? Here's the Marvel.com database entry for the character to get you up to speed:
Daniel Rand is the son of Wendell Rand, who had, as a youth, visited the mystic city of K'un-Lun, which materialized in the Himalayas once a decade; founded roughly a million years ago by extraterrestrials, K'un-Lun was co-ruled by the aliens' descendants and powerful beings called the Dragon Kings, who were themselves subject to the godlike sorcerer Master Khan. At some point, Rand won ritual combat against Davos, son of K'un-Lun's greatest warrior, Lei Kung the Thunderer, which entitled him to claim the power of Shou-Lao the Undying, a man transformed into a mystic serpent over a thousand years ago by the Dragon King Chiantang; however, although great K'un-Lun warriors had periodically wielded Shou-Lao's power as the Iron Fist, Rand declined the power. When Daniel Rand was nine, at roughly the time K'un-Lun was scheduled to materialize, his father decided to bring him and Heather to K'un-Lun. Accompanied by Rand's business partner Harold Meachum, they traveled to the Himalayas, but Wendell fell from a mountain ledge; clutching the edge, he called to Meachum for help, but Meachum, hoping to control Rand's business shares, caused Wendell to plunge to his death. Shortly afterward, Heather sacrificed her life to protect Daniel from a wolf pack, and her spirit ascended to Feng-Tu. The denizens of K'un-Lun found Daniel and took him in, while a frostbite-crippled Meachum learned of Daniel's survival and spent the next decade preparing elaborate defenses against future attack. Vowing to avenge his parents, Daniel Rand studied martial arts under Lei Kung while growing up in K'un-Lun. His closest friends were Miranda Rand-K'ai, whom he did not know was his half-sister, and a K'un-Lun boy named Conal D'hu-Tsien. At nineteen, Rand requested and earned an opportunity to win the power of the Iron Fist by confronting Shou-Lao the Undying, whose power resided within a flaming brazier. Rand slew Shou-Lao, a feat no other warrior had ever accomplished, and plunged his hands into the brazier, imbuing himself with the mystic energy of the Iron Fist.
Now, that's a comic book character heavily steeped in the myths and traditions of the Orient. While the abilities of most comic book characters can be created through the use of special effects, when you're talking about a martial arts master like Iron Fist, you can't really fake it—not the, you know, "iron fist" part, that's gotta be CGI, but the ass-kicking K'un-Lun warrior part. No, in order to compete in the increasingly saturated comic book movie market, the Iron Fist movie needs to be a cross between a modern superhero origin movie like Batman Begins and a kick-ass martial arts movie like Ong Bak, and for that you need a real martial artist. Gable may not have a long list of acting credits to his name (yet), but that's why he would be a perfect pick for the role—he's an unknown, an X-factor that will "wow" the audience with his skills. Like Danny Rand, Gable has spent much of his life training in various forms of martial arts and has travelled extensively in Asia, where he studied under six different masters. Gable has a black belt in ninjutsu, jiu-jitsu and tae kwon do. For years, he parlayed his talents into teaching others, from little kids right on up to military Special Forces and professional MMA fighters. Now, he's dedicated himself to acting and will soon be headlining a major martial arts movie in China with many of Asia's top talents.
After no small amount of effort, I was able to track down Mr. Gable. I told him that I had come across his demo reel and researched his background and asked if he was familiar with the character of Iron Fist and whether he ever thought about portraying a superhero on screen. Here's Gable's reply:
"First of all, I have to admit to being a huge fan of Iron Fist. I’ve followed many of the Marvel titles since I was a kid. It would be amazing to see a movie version come to life and, I won't lie, I've often thought about how I would bring his otherworldly martial arts style to life. A blend of legit martial arts with top notch effects would be truly awesome. His story is so rich that the possibilities are endless. Right now, I'm prepping for a film shoot with Peter Cornwell [director of The Haunting in Connecticut] in Asia. I can't release any more details yet, but the action is guaranteed to be unique... And awesome. After that, who knows? What I do know is that if an Iron Fist movie happens... I want in!"
Here's the action-packed demo reel that first prompted me to consider Eric for the role of Iron Fist in the first place:
What do you think, CBMers? Are you ready for a real martial artist to play Iron Fist on screen? Sound off below!
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Eric Gable photograph by Ryan Rogers @ ryan-rogers.com.
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