The intense critical and audience support for HBO’s The Last of Us and the overwhelming box-office success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie have led fans to believe we are entering the golden age of video game adaptations. The industry is now turning its head to other highly profitable IPs it can turn into cinematic franchises, and luckily for them, there’s no shortage of popular Nintendo games that should be turned into movies. And no game is higher on that list than The Legend of Zelda.
One of Nintendo’s most beloved and valuable brands, The Legend of Zelda has been around since the mid-80s. Although the series has undergone several changes and adapted its characters into numerous incarnations, the main plot usually centers on Link, a young and courageous warrior, and Princess Zelda, the reincarnation of the goddess Hylia. Together, the pair fights against Ganon, a demon king who wishes to possess the Triforce to rule over the kingdom of Hyrule.
Although a live-action show from Netflix was rumored to be in development, nothing has come out of it. Still, it’s not beyond belief to assume some studio — Universal, Warner Bros., or even Netflix — will eventually get around to adapting this revered IP. So who should play the main roles? More importantly, what game should the project adapt? For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume the project will adapt the series’ most recent success, Breath of the Wild, a classic Zelda story that features everything fans love about the franchise and much more.
Link is the protagonist of the franchise. Brave, stoic, selfless, and loyal, Link is the ultimate warrior, the embodiment of courage and the reincarnation of Hylia’s chosen warrior. Link is an archetypical lone hero, undergoing a journey of courage and hardship to recover the Master Sword, his signature weapon, which allows him to prevail over Ganondorf. Most importantly, Link is silent; the games portray him as a blank slate for the players to imprint themselves in and become fully immersed in the world of Zelda.
When the rumors about the Zelda show were making the rounds, many suggested Tom Holland as Link. Holland is a very charismatic actor, but he would be woefully miscast as Link; Holland’s appeal relies on his charm and bubbly personality, qualities that would be wasted on the brooding and mostly silent Link. Holland is also probably returning for the upcoming Spider-Man 4, meaning he is already too famous for the role. Furthermore, I believe a Japanese actor should play Link to honor the franchise’s roots. Bullet Train‘s Andrew Koji would be stellar, but he’s aged out of the role. What about Titans‘ Ryan Potter? He does a great job as Beast Boy, but I fear he’s in the same boat as Holland: too charming for Link.
That brings us to Mackenyu, son of the late Japanese icon Sonny Chiba. Mackenyu has the sharp features and classic good looks to excel as Link. Already a star in Japan, Mackenyu will lead the upcoming Knights of the Zodiac film and play Roronoa Zoro in Netflix’s live-action adaptation of One Piece. Finally, at 26, Mackenyu is the perfect age to play Link for many years. So, who should play Link? Mackenyu, of course!
Princess Zelda is the other half of the equation. Although she is the titular character in the franchise, Zelda is usually a supporting character in the story, acting as a guide and aiding Link in his quest. However, she plays a much more active role in Breath of the Wild, developing a complicated relationship with Link and acting as a leading force in the story.
Casting Princess Zelda is considerably easier than Link; there’s no shortage of blonde actresses, and many would be incredible in the role. Four-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan is practically Princess Zelda come to life, but something tells me she would not be interested in a big franchise. There’s also Anya Taylor-Joy, but she’s already Furiosa and the voice of Princess Peach; in fact, I fear she’s on the verge of being overexposed. The Great‘s Elle Fanning and Riverdale‘s Lili Reinhart could also work, but I think Euphoria‘s Hunter Schafer is the one. The provocative show has proven her versatility, and she more than looks the part. Having a trans actress leading a massive franchise would also be a massive step forward in representation.
So, who should play Princess Zelda? My vote goes to Hunter Schafer, an actress who deserves to level up as her fellow Euphoria co-stars have.
Ganondorf is the last piece of the Triforce. The King of the Gerudo people, Ganon is The Legend of Zelda‘s primary antagonist, who seeks to gather the three pieces of the Triforce to rule over the kingdom of Hyrule. Ganon plays a large supporting role in Breath of the Wild, with his shadow looming large over the game’s events despite being locked away at Hyrule Castle.
For years, I’ve believed Idris Elba was born to play Ganon. Elba, an acclaimed and respected actor, is no stranger to franchises, having played villains in Star Trek and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw and large supporting roles in the MCU and Sonic the Hedgehog. However, if we were to look for a less obvious choice, my choice would be Dave Bautista. The wrestler-turned-actor has proven his range in projects like Blade Runner 2049 and, most recently, the underrated Knock at the Cabin. With an imposing figure and a gentle but eerie quality, Bautista would kill it as Ganon.
So, who should play Ganon? Dave Bautista, although Idris Elba is a very close second.
Many supporting characters have come and gone throughout the years, but Impa remains a constant in the world of Zelda. Impa is Zelda’s caretaker, usually acting as a wise guide to Link, although some modern incarnations have portrayed her as a more youthful warrior. Impa is a key figure in Zelda’s lore, appearing in many of the all-time great games in the Zelda series, including Ocarina of Time, A Link Between Worlds, and Breath of the Wild.
Gilmore Girls veteran Emily Kuroda would be stellar as Impa. Kuroda’s feisty, decisive attitude, combined with her warmth and empathy, would make her an ideal candidate to play the iconic Impa. Veteran actress Patti Yasukate, recently seen in the Netflix hit Beef, would also be a great option, as would Dash & Lily‘s Jodi Long.
So, who should play Impa? My choice is Emily Kuroda. Anyone who’s seen Gilmore Girls knows she would knock the role out of the park.
Urbosa is among Breath of the Wild‘s breakout characters. The chief of the desert-dwelling Gerudo, Urbosa is one of the Champions who aid Link and Zelda in their fight against Calamity Ganon. Urbosa controls lightning and commands the Divine Beast Vah Naboris, standing out because of her stunning frame and charismatic, heroic personality.
Several actresses come to mind when casting Urbosa. Titans‘ Anna Diop would be ideal, although the character might be too similar to Starfire. What about Chloe Bailey, who recently made a splash with her work on Prime Video’s Swarm? Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Laura Harrier and Star Trek: Discovery‘s Sonequa Martin-Green would also make worthy candidates. Finally, Ella Balinska, whose most recent project was the god-awful Netflix series Resident Evil, deserves a project worthy of her talents.
So, who should be Urbosa? I’m undecided between Diop and Balinska. I think both actresses would be incredible in the role, although I might give Balinska the edge.
The prince of the amphibian-like people of Zora, Sidon is a major supporting character in Breath of the Wild and a massive fan-favorite character. He is Sipha’s younger brother and a valuable ally of Link, characterized by his overly optimistic attitude, strong swimming abilities, and somewhat vain personality.
Sidon is, for lack of a better word, hot. He is tall, muscular, and cocky, making him a popular character among the Zelda fandom; thus, he needs an equally hot actor to portray him. However, the actor playing Sidon would be either in full makeup or giving a motion capture performance, meaning he needs to be charming and have a flashy smile. Manny Jacinto instantly comes to mind, as does Never Have I Ever‘s Darren Barnet. And what of Bridgerton‘s Luke Thompson or Murder on the Orient Express‘ Tom Bateman? Grandchester‘s Tom Brittney and Emily in Paris‘ Lucien Laviscount also fit the bill.
So, who should play Sidon? I’d go with Manny Jacinto. The guy is handsome, unbearably charming, and has been waiting for his chance in the spotlight for a long time. Jacinto is ideal for bringing Sidon to life.
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