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Vintage Casting: 1970s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

I think we were all pleased and surprised by how good James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was, and just how exciting it was to see all those characters that most of us knew little about in a cinematic universe so closely tied to well-known earthbound characters. But, the Guardians we saw depicted were the ones from the 2008 reboot of the comic; the title dates all the way back to 1969! So, I propose to you, what if Guardians of the Galaxy had been made in the late-70s following the massive international blockbusting success that was George Lucas’ Star Wars when every film producer and their mother (Mrs. Film Producer) were attempting to replicate that success with their own space-set adventure yarn? A 1978 Guardians of the Galaxy, let’s say.

First and foremost, this movie, in this world I’ve invented with my brain, would be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, using the same kinds of designs the brilliant French comic artist Moebius did for the director’s ill-fated production of Dune in 1974. Jodorowsky is a bit of a wild card, of course, but it would be tempered by a stellar (pun intended) script written by Apocalypse Now and Magnum Force writer John Milius. The story would essentially be that of a war in space, with the Guardians acting a bit like a Dirty Dozen squad taking out the evil alien reptiles called the Badoon, a race older than both the Kree and the Skrulls. They take out most of the solar system, leaving almost nothing in their wake. Whoever will stop this threat? The Guardians of the Galaxy, of course.

Vance Astro played by John Travolta – Our hero is Vance Astro (also known as Major Victory), an astronaut from contemporary Earth who, after having joined the space program earlier than he was meant to, agrees to be put in suspended animation for 1,000 years in order to reach the Alpha Centauri star system to help Earth colonize it. When he awakens in the future, he finds that Earth has surpassed where they were and already colonized Centauri IV, the main planet in the system. Distraught and way out of his element, Astro decides to finish his mission anyway, and gets embroiled in the war with the Badoon, hooking up with the other members of the team that will eventually become the Guardians. Travolta was the hot thing in the late ’70s, with starring roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease. He’s also vulnerable enough to handle being a man 1,000 years out of his comfort zone.

Yondu Udanta played by Tommy Lee Jones – The first person of import Astro meets is Centaurian warrior Yondu. His tribe is entirely wiped out by the Badoon and he takes up with the Earthman to seek revenge. He’s the most noble and stoic of the group, but vicious with his arrows. He’s a natural mystic as well, like all of his fallen tribe. Tommy Lee Jones seems like a good fit for him because of his intimidating stare and ability to compel the screen without words, especially in his earlier days. If you’ve seen Rolling Thunder from 1977, you know just how unhinged and intense the actor can be.

Charlie-27 played by Brian Dennehy – A native of the human colonies on Jupiter, Charlie-27 is a soldier through and through until his people are also wiped out/enslaved by the Badoon. Due to the intense gravity on Jupiter (or in Jupiter…gas planet), Jupiterians have developed enormous muscles and a stocky frame. Just looking at the drawing of Charlie-27, only Brian Dennehy’s name and visage popped into mind, him being perhaps the broadest, stockiest actor ever born. Charlie-27 is 11 times stronger and denser than any other character in the film, and a military genius, which would be fun for an actor like Dennehy to tackle.

Martinex T’Naga played by Jim Kelly – A Pluvian (person from the planet Pluto [which is no longer a planet, but they didn’t know that in the 1970s]), Martinex was a scientist with crystalline body coverings, like all the members of his people, in order to withstand the extreme temperatures on Pluto. His people, too, were exterminated by the Badoon and he and Charlie-27 meet in a penal colony before teaming up with the other soon-to-be-Guardians. Martinex can shoot heat beams from his right hand and cold blasts from his left. Just because, I suppose. Jim Kelly would be a fun choice to play him because of his physicality and martial arts skills. He might have to shave his trademark fro, but it might be even funnier if Jodorowsky demanded he keep it.

Starhawk played by James Brolin – Starhawk is a really interesting character; he was the child of Quasar and Kismet, but raised by Ogord of the Reavers to be a weapon. Whenever he is about to die, his consciousness goes back in time and enters his infant self’s body, meaning he’s already lived countless lives over and over again and calls himself “One-Who-Knows” because of his semi-precognition. His powers are pretty endless, so he could be a lot of fun to play with, but his origins make him a lose cannon and someone who is at times both helpful and hurtful to the team. Why did I pick James Brolin for this? Because after The Amityville Horror, Brolin found it very hard to get work because people thought he was evil for real (dumb idiot people, but still). With a role like this, he’d prove he could be a bankable Hollywood action star, and the character is deep enough to utilize some of his unhinged Amityville chops.

Nikki played by Raquel Welch – Talk about a hot head (I hate myself too; it’s fine). Nikki, or Nicholette Gold, is a Mercurian who lived for years aboard an abandoned, adrift spaceship. She’s rescued by the Guardians and joins them for a bit of excitement after her years of solitude. Because of the Badoon decimating her home and family (a running theme), Nikki has an intense hatred of them and any other lizard-like species. She has the innate ability to resist high levels of heat and radiation and can see into even the brightest of light. She’s also expert at hand-to-hand combat. A natural choice here, I think, is Raquel Welch, known throughout the ’70s as both a great beauty and a great temper. She seems perfectly suited to an angry yet sprightly alien warrior.

Drang of the Badoon played by Orson Welles – The bad guy of the film will be the Badoon emperor Drang, who mostly sits on his throne and barks orders and monologues. Naturally, I’ve chosen someone with a most commanding voice and the ability to sit for long stretches of time.

The film would end with the Guardians finding a way to go back in time to try to prevent Earth and the whole Solar System from being invaded and subjugated by the Badoon in the first place. After the credits, they would arrive on modern day Earth and ask to see someone who was in authority. They go to the White House and the president is about to meet them when he’s called back. One figure steps out of the shadows and says “I’ll handle this, Mr. President.” And that person is…

Captain America played by Jon Voight!!!!

This actually happened in the comics back then; the Guardians return to Earth and team up with Cap, the Thing, and Sharon Carter to stop the Badoon invasion before it gets too far. That would be a pretty sweet-ass sequel, don’t you think?

There’s my casting; do you think you could improve on these choices? What other comic books or beloved franchises should have been made into movies back in the day? Give me suggestions for new Vintage Castings in the comments below!

Images: Marvel/Warner Bros/Disney/Paramount

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He writes the weekly look at weird or obscure films in Schlock & Awe. Follow him on Twitter!

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  1. Ack!  Sorry for the double post.

  2. Too bad Voight has devolved into a batshit crazy loon.

  3. Too bad Voight has devolved into a bat shit crazy loon.

  4. Eric Weiss says:

    The 70’s already has a Captain Americ thank you very much. Mr. Reb Brown!

  5. Bob Hodge says:

    Surely someone has already told you – that’s Jim KELLY, not Jim Brown.