Still no update on whether or not a Miss Saigon film is a “go” but I figured that as an extension of my original “wish list” in regards to a possible Miss Saigon film adaptation… I’ll provide my idea / vision of the character breakdown for various character parts.
Keep in mind I prefer to stay away from “fantasy casting” so don’t be expecting me to do any “name dropping” as it were. Though thinking this through I think it would be best if I broke this down into two posts… one for the Vietnamese only characters and another for the non-Vietnamese cast. Also (time-permitting) I’ll list out all the side characters from the original Miss Saigon musical that have bit parts in the songs that I think are significant enough to have decent cameos (if necessary).
So to make my life easier (and I’ll explain why in the next post) I’ll work on the non-Vietnamese characters first… these will include the obvious: Chris, John and Ellen… and I will add in “The Engineer” as well to which I will explain at the end of this post, but first:
CHRIS and JOHN
I think this would have been obvious. Americans… doesn’t have to be the stereotypical blond haired / blue-eyed Americans… or Caucasians, but heck anyone that you can see from the Army at some point during the 1970s. Sure the traditional look from musical theatre between Chris and John is one African-American and the other Caucasian, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. What is more necessary is how they look… do they look like they have been through the military boot camp of evil and tossed into an exotic place like Vietnam and rampaged through the jungles of the city of Saigon and not know what the heck is going on? Do they look worn down by the stress of war to the point that they are about to break?
So by extension Ellen (though obviously American) I feel should have a quiet strength to her. Someone that is steadfast, but not overbearing. A light at the end of the tunnel, someone who worked to be a sounding board for Chris for so long and is not only incredibly patient, she stands her ground… after all she is willing to “fight” Kim to keep Chris.
Now… for the most difficult character. It has often been said when Miss Saigon first came out that “The Engineer” was created with the intention of him being Eurasian meaning that though he is Vietnamese he definitely has European blood in him, more specifically French blood in him. After all the French colonized Vietnam via a series of conquests from 1859 and 1885 until finally Vietnam succumbed until French fell to Nazi Germany in 1940 to which the French Indonesia was surrendered to Germany’s ally: Japan.
Knowing all of this let’s look at what “The Engineer” says of his parents:
My father was a tattoo artist in Haiphong
but his designs on mother didn’t last too long
my mother sold her body, high on Betel nuts
my job was bringing red-faced monsieurs to our huts
selling your mom is a wrench
perfume can cover a stench
that’s what I learned from the French
then it all changed with Dien Bien Phu
the frogs went home. Who came? Guess who?
are you surprised we went insane
with dollars pouring down like rain?
businessmen never rob banks
you can sell shit and get thanks
that’s what I learned from the Yanks
So what is Điện Biên Phủ? It is a city, in northwestern Việt Nam that is known as a major battleground during the First Indochina War. Soon after the events that occurred in Điện Biên Phủ in 1954, Việt Nam was separated the country into North and South Việt Nam.
But if Điện Biên Phủ was technically in North Việt Nam, how did that affect “The Engineer”? Well that’s difficult to say since “The Engineer” mentions that his “father was a tattoo artist in Haiphong” which is technically in northeast Việt Nam. *sighs* Perhaps when Việt Nam became separated “The Engineer” chose to move / escape / flee to South Việt Nam. I know of quite a few Vietnamese that originated in North Việt Nam who moved south when it become clear that the Việt Minh were going to take control of North Việt Nam.
And who are the Việt Minh? It is the abbreviation of the “Việt Nam Ðộc Lập Ðồng Minh Hội” aka the “Vietnam Independence League” aka the Vietnamese Communist Party. Yup, quite a few people left North Việt Nam for the U.S. sponsored South Việt Nam because they valued their freedom, and those that desired to stay in North Việt Nam got a rude awakening… but to talk about that would be delving into personal stories and that isn’t what this post is about.
So if this is the case, how is “The Engineer” considered Eurasian? Simple… either one of his parents could have been born from a Vietnamese / French pairing. The timeline works wonders in this case. Take that into account and sometimes the more Western features tend to be dominant… it really is a crapshoot as to which set of genes will have priority.
If this is the case there are quite a few Eurasian actors that have been relatively successful over the years who could work as “The Engineer” and as long as it is known that they are Eurasian and somehow within the script it is emphasized that “The Engineer” is a mutt… well then we have a backstory!
Hope you like my little breakdown from above. In the next post I’ll look at the pure-Vietnamese characters, specifically Kim, Thuy, and the callgirls from Dreamland… as well as my own thoughts as to how they could be approached while casting.