Posted by: T Y | September 26, 2007

The Outlander Movie: Black Jack Randall

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers was born to play Jonathan Wolverton Randall. Although some of you may not have considered him for the coveted role of Outlander’s arch-villain, I’m here to convince you that he could do the job.

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Black Jack Randall has a sneer; I see it with Diana Gabaldon’s every word. His calm, gentlemanly exterior conceals a steel-trapped mind and a dark, insatiable monster. This sneer erupts as if by compulsion, contorting his otherwise handsome features into the face of evil and then, all of a sudden, the sneer vanishes…

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has been sneering for a decade. He has full, sensual lips which, in ordinary circumstances, deem him eligible for pretty boy status, but so often in films, I’ve seen those lips pulled back into a rictus of contempt. Out of any actor in his generation, he excels at the cold, merciless stares, the smiles of dubious intent. His role as the ambitious Steerpike in Gormenghast (2000) is one of the best movie villain performances since Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960). Jonathan Rhys-Meyer’s Steerpike simultaneously garners our hatred and sympathy; he commits cruel, unspeakable acts, yet he manages to illuminate his humanity with an animal howl of desolation.

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I liked Black Jack Randall despite what he did to Jamie Fraser. There were parts in Outlander in which I despised him, but toward the end of Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon pulled a fast one on her readers by revealing some of Jack Randall’s redeemable features. He’s not your typical, mustache-twitching villain, but one who is textured and undeniably human.

As the series’ main villain, Jack Randall creates perfect melodrama; he’s the lingering presence pursing Jamie Fraser across the four corners Scotland as diligently as Inspector Javart pursued Jean Valjean throughout France. If you consider how much of the first book is dedicated to escaping Jack Randall, you’ll realize what an important character he is to the series and how casting him is a decision not to be taken lightly.

The actor who plays Jonathan Wolverton Randall has a daunting task ahead of him: he must be able to play a believable, multidimensional villain and then turn around and play the thankless role of Frank Randall. I handpicked Jonathan Rhys-Meyers mainly on the basis of his immense acting range. Although I haven’t considered his physical resemblance to Jack Randall, I have to admit that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers does have Black Jack’s lithe, tennis player physique.

Some of you may be tempted to write Jonathan Rhys-Meyers off as being too much of a pretty boy, too androgynous, or too slight in stature for the role. But if you measure him against his towering Scottish foil, you’ll come to realize that a little bit of androgyny may be necessary to accentuate the differences between Black Jack and Jamie Fraser.

The important part is capturing Jonathan Wolverton Randall’s sneer. If casting directors can only get the sneer right, audiences will know we’ve got a villain to reckon with.

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Responses

  1. I have read several of the Outlander books and just loved them. Looking forward to seeing how the film turns out. Appreciate you posting this.

    Steve Davis, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

    http://stamperdad.wordpress.com

  2. Johnathan is certainly an actor who could strike fear into the heart of any man – especially with a part like Black Jack. Just thinking of him in a reprisal of an 18th century Velvet Goldmine-esque role is enough to send shivers down my spine.

  3. His perfect for the role no questions asked

  4. I like Jonathan but I’ve always been partial to Jasson Issacs for BJR.

  5. Ok apparently I have been in the closet and am not aware that there is a movie or movie in the making for the books I relish! Can someone fill me in? I have read posts about it and about a mini series but have not been able to find release dates etc. HELP! I am all for the books going on the big screen!

  6. Barb:
    As it stands today, there is no official annoucement of an Outlander movie/miniseries/tv show. There are, however, fans (me included) who are impatient waiting for the movie and have decided to cast their own versions of who should play who if there ever is a movie. Hopefully, there will be. In fact, I don’t understand why there isn’t (since Hollywood seems to be recycling old ideas while there’s a perfectly good novel to adapt).

    Maybe one day a movie producer is looking to fund the next big thing and stumbles upon all these casting ideas/reader comments and says “Eureka! That’s my next project!”

  7. TY Thanks Bunches!! I just can believe none of the producing companies havent jumped on this because this genre of film is very popular right now. Beowulf, 300 etc all blockbusters!! The Highlander series still lives on even though its been gone for so long and the fan base isnt going anywhere! I belong to many of groups that adore and lust after kilted warriors. Sheesshh!! When are these people going to wake up and smell the heather!! These books have so much historical base the saga would appeal to those that dont do the romance aspect of the storyline. Too bad we arent in charge!! *WEG* My hope is as popular as YouTube is as gaging people’s interest maybe someone out there will get a heads up and go to work on this!! Thanks again for responding to my desparate question.

  8. Barb:
    Your Welcome! Yes, producers must be living in the dark because the Outlander movie would have a lot of blockbuster potential. I know that I would buy tickets and would recommend the film to everyone I know.

    And yes, this epic film genre is immensely popular with moviegoers. Just because Outlander is billed as a “romance,” it is not solely a romance; there’s action, adventure, comedy, history, drama, etc… It has more material to transcend the “blockbuster” category and move into the Oscar-worthy sector.

    Remember Rob Roy and Braveheart? Both Oscar nominated/winning films. I personally forsee the role of Black Jack Randall as having potential for winning best supporting actor. It’s such a complicated character. In fact, I see the actor who plays Black Jack winning an Oscar more so than Claire and Jamie Fraser.

  9. I am on the same page with you TY!! I truely wish that the ‘powers that be’ would pull their collective butts out of the dark and do something proactive. If they want proof its all in black and white given the history of such movies as Braveheart, Rob Roy etc. The movie industry needs a jump start again I have noticed there is not alot of substance out there…This book series has substance galore!! Its got something for everyone! Although I am marveled by the computer generation in the newer films, I crave for the good old fashioned actors and actresses at center stage. To me their character and emotions will never be equaled on the big screen. So I guess I will just keep voicing my views with the thousands of others to keep this venture alive!

  10. Barb:

    I definitely agree with you in your preference for good-old fashion acting talent, witty dialogue, Hitchcockian suspense etc… over all the CGI effects that’s popular today.

    But if they made Outlander into a movie, I would watch it no matter what. I’ll be in line on opening day. I just hope the production lands in the right hands. Please don’t give it to Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay who will, no doubt, assult my ears with their overblown special effects. I hope whoever directs/produces/writes the movie doesn’t loose the heart of the story.

  11. I echo your concern of the story landing in the wrong hands. There is much to be said of not being done justice and respecting the storyline. We have seen that happen countless times. Which, to me, is such a let down being an avid reader. It turns me away from enjoying the movies and fims I love to read about. I would be there with you in line to watch an ‘Outlander’ movie regardsless! I have to chuckle a bit because my daughter is in awe of ‘Prince Tristen’ the second feature in the Narnia series. She liked the first and felt the story was pretty much to the book. When she saw the previews for the second, she didnt know how it would shape up to what she had read but said she didnt care because Prince Tristen was hot! I feel like I have jaded her judgement with my own!! Anyway, its always enjoyable to find someone out there that shares the same likes whether it be books or movies. Thanks TY

  12. Barb:
    Your welcome again! I’m always up for an Outlander correspondence.

    As for the fantasized Outlander movie, I really hope writers at least try to stick to the plot. They might have to think of a creative way to work in the prision scene (which they can’t leave out because it’s a major part of the book), but let’s pray they don’t butcher the plot like they did with…er… The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore.

    I’m still eagerly awaiting the day when I’m sitting in a dark movie theater and then The Outlander movie trailer plays. I swear, I’ll be so excited I’ll run amuck down the aisle. People will think I’m crazy, but we all know I’m just passionate.

  13. Well passion is a good thing! As for me I am just crazy! (just kidding) I have little enjoyment these days save for my books and/or books that I would love to see turned into movies.

    I think the prison scene would have to be done to provide the base of multifaceted conflict in the story. How to do it and still maintain a rating for the general adult public escapes me. I would rather keep my movie fantasies unfullfilled than to have it butchered. I didnt care for the Scarlet Letter either!

  14. Barb:
    For the prision scene, I think if writers go for the ‘tell instead of show’ route, then it could be acceptable to the mass public. I’m in favor of a soliloquy with a range of emotional facial expressions and maybe vague references to what happened in Wentworth prision so that people who have read Outlander know exactly what went on while people who have not read the book can only guess.

  15. Whenever I see Jason Isaacs, especially from “The Patriot” I think he’d work well as Jack Randall….I think he could pull it off.

  16. I’ve just fallen in love with Jonny Lee Miller and was trying to figure out if he could fit into the Outlander universe anywhere… and I think he could be great as both Randalls — anyone else consider him? He’s Brit (though does great Scots and American accents too :-) I would love to see him stretch and do something the opposite of Eli Stone. (or are there any other roles he could do? I’d just love to see him in it anywhere!)

  17. See, I dunno… I actually see John Rhys Meyers as a better fit for Jamie. He’s got the cat eyes, he could pull off the accent, and he looks young. That’s key.

  18. whoa whoa, hold on a tick. I actually had Johnathan Rhys Meyers on my list as a Jamie character. my top choice, actually. In fact, the only thing he’s got against him is height, but even that can be dealt with through shoes and camera angles.
    as for Jack Randall, i peg either Matthew Goode or Jack Davenport. The key in choosing a Jack Randall character is you have to keep in mind that he would also play Frank, in the beginning of the movie and in flashbacks. Both of those actors definitely have the capability to play both polar characters. Matthew Goode for example, compare his characters in The Lookout and Brideshead Revisited. The Lookout shows him as a clear and definite Jack Randall, whereas in Brideshead he is the epitome of Frank. And for Jack Davenport, his Commissioner Norton from Pirates of the Carribean definitely sets him up for the role of Jack Randall, whereas his character Steve in the series Coupling is a good comparison to Frank.

  19. I would so love to see this movie, should it ever be made. I think Gerard Butler would be perfect for James Fraser (perhaps not the young Jamie but definately the older version). I think Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Black Jack would be great. And I see Tom Hardy in the role of his brother Alex. Not too sure yet about the role of Claire. I’ve heard some people favouring Rachel Weisz, others have said Alex Kingston and I’ve heard Keira Knightley’s name banded about. Personally I don’t quite see her in the role. Too skinny. Jamie makes much mention of Claire’s fulsome posterior and Keira just doesn’t have that. I’ve seen Julia Stiles name tossed about in regard to Brianna but I see Brianna as being as possessing as an Amazonian. A tall red headed woman, towering over others like her father. I don’t see that in Julia Stiles. I’ve seen David Wenham’s name mentioned in regard to Jamie Fraser but I don’t think he’s possessing enough for that role but he might make a good Ian Murray.


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