The team behind the massive critical and commercial success “The Social Network” are at it again. Producers Scott Rudin and Dana Brunetti have teamed up with author Ben Mezrich – whose book “The Accidental Billionaires” was the basis from which the Oscar-winning film was made – for another film. Mezrich’s new book, “Sex on the Moon”, is another true story that’s no less juicy and scandalous and filled to the brim with young, morally ambiguous and party-hard geniuses, and the filmmakers have fittingly set “Easy A” helmer Will Gluck to direct.
Our lead character, Thad Roberts, is a 25-year-old upstart working in NASA’s highly selective co-op program, with very real ambitions to go to space one day (as “the first man on Mars” to be exact). But Roberts is no nerdy rocket scientist. In order to prepare for space, he is in tip top physical shape, and has earned a pilot’s license. With effortless charm and cool, Thad becomes a leader amongst his fellow students and stages elaborate adventures to take them on. When he meets and falls in love with beautiful fellow co-op student Rebecca, his next adventure becomes even more daring – and a lot more illegal, as the two conspire to lead a small team on a mission to steal and sell priceless moon rocks from NASA’s seemingly impenetrable facilities.
Ambitious, competitive, charming, rebellious, beyond intelligent, and madly in love. No small task, but here are ten young actors we think would thrive in this role.
From a practical standpoint, Timberlake’s got all the advantages. He brilliantly played Napster founder Sean Parker (a bit of a charming, arrogant young genius himself) for Sony and the producers in “The Social Network”, and he also starred in Gluck’s latest rom com, “Friends with Benefits.” Timberlake as Thad Roberts would be a solid – if not slightly predictable and unexciting – choice and would surely prove to be a nice and smooth production for all parties. Bonus: the author thinks he’d be great too.
Another Ben Mezrich pick, Robert Pattinson has certainly charmed at least one demographic of the moviegoing audience, so perhaps it would be easy to see him as the enthusiastic leader of a rag tag team of adventurous wannabe astronauts. Pattinson is also no stranger to book adaptations, having brought to life such best-sellers as “Harry Potter”, “Twilight” and “Water for Elephants” so a lesser known character should be small potatoes. And the British actor does have an innate likeability that will help the audience root for Thad, even as his actions become increasingly criminal. Now, about that American accent…
File this one under wishful thinking? “Captain America” himself is surely at that stage in his career where he has his pick of roles, and it certainly seems like Evans is leaning towards darker fare, but we can’t help but picture just how perfect Evans would be as the charming and adventurous Roberts. Let’s hope he can find some time and balance between fighting supervillains and training serial killers to play a relatively normal guy for a change.
What is it about this guy that just screams leadership? After all, he’s already played two iconic Presidents of the United States. With soulful, intelligent eyes and a commanding presence, Walker would certainly be believable as the guy who leads his fellow young NASA co-ops on weekend excursions that include white water rafting and skydiving and inspires them to pull off risky capers inside NASA after he himself stole aboard the space shuttle simulator – strictly reserved for real astronauts.
While big brother James is all stoner free spirit, the younger Franco has the confidence, effortless charm and chiseled cheekbones of the football team’s quarterback. He perfectly embodies the modern leading man, as evidenced by the eco-friendly, politically correct yet subtly intimidating popular guy in school he plays in the new “21 Jump Street.” Franco has been cast in a string of strong supporting roles in high profile upcoming movies like “Rosaline” and “Now You See Me”, but getting the lead here would be a great step forward for the promising rising star.
Like you, I had never heard of Alex Russell or seen any of his work until a couple of weeks ago. Then came “Chronicle.” We knew Dane DeHaan would be great in the movie, so perhaps we were unprepared for how compelling and watchable Russell turned out to be. The subtle sensitivity and innate goodness he displayed in “Chronicle”, in addition to the obvious popular-guy charm, will go a long way to make the audience root for Thad, something that was difficult to achieve even in the book, but will be crucial for a movie.
Thad isn’t exactly described with Zac Efron’s matinee idol pretty boy looks, but this is the movies after all. Efron hasn’t been making the best post-”High School Musical” project choices and has yet to find his breakout adult role, which would make landing the lead here beneficial on both ends. Efon isn’t lacking in charm and likeability, and the slightly psychotic edge to Thad’s adventure-seeking and eventual law-breaking would give him something a bit meatier to chew on, as well as allow audiences to see him in a more grown up and darker light.
If they chose to play up the darker side of Thad Roberts, Sebastian Stan would be ideal. Thad’s drive and ambition stems largely from having to work his ass off on his own to make it as far as he has, without any financial or emotional support from his strict religious family. Family angst and rebellion is well within Stan’s wheelhouse, having played a tortured, borderline bad guy Prince in short-lived NBC series “Kings”, and with an increasing presence on the big screen, landing the lead here would certainly boost his resume as well.
TV funny guy turned serious film actor Chris Pratt has the perfect blend of comedic and dramatic chops to pull off all the aspects of Thad Roberts: Laid back, funny and cool (see: “Everwood”), athletic and intense (see: “Moneyball” and Kathryn Bigelow’s Navy SEALs movie). Pratt is another underrated, talented actor who could benefit greatly from landing the lead role in a high profile project as this. In his favor: “Moneyball” and Bigelow’s movie are both set up at Sony, the studio taking on “Sex on the Moon”, so the execs already know how good he is and how much potential he has. Let’s hope!
As if we can make a list of potential leading men without mentioning Garrett Hedlund! Can he play all the different facets of Thad Roberts? Absolutely. With piercing eyes, a commanding screen presence and that indefinable swagger, it’s no wonder Hedlund keeps showing up on filmmakers’ shortlists for basically every high profile upcoming movie. We’d be surprised if he isn’t in the mix for “Sex on the Moon” and would be thrilled if he landed the role. It seems impossible that he’s still waiting for his big breakout role, but this one seems like a perfect fit.
Tell us who you’d like to see as Thad!