Welcome back to The Wheel of Time Casting Call. We’re in week 2 of our Tier 1, or primary characters, and we’ll be flipping sides to Team Dark this week.

This week deals with another “beautiful” character, and I imagine there will be criticism, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just going to mostly ignore that particular criticism. People who think that “most beautiful woman in the world” titles should go to people like Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman, I personally think don’t have their heads screwed on right. ๐Ÿ™‚

As a note on the art: For most of the art I use for characters, I am getting it from the amazing Seamas Gallagher gallery, who does some of the best WoT art out there. Some of the other I’ve used is from the equally amazing Jeremy Saliba. A lot of the art I use is cropped, so that I can fit the most character on the screen without having to deal with fancy borders and such, so you guys should definitely check these guys’ sites out (where you will find the full, beautiful pictures) and support them if at all possible. Some characters, no matter how important(ish) they are, do not have art though.

Oh, and there will be spoilers, up to and including Towers of Midnight. You have been warned.

Two of the primary antagonists of the series (at least through the first five books or so) are also the two most powerful Forsaken to exist – Ishamael, and Lanfear. And both of them are fuckin’ nuts. Not like the kind of nuts that is fun to read about because they build flux capacitors and scream “Great Scott” while catching various buildings on fire, but the kind of nuts where you really wish they would stop entering your dreams and torturing you in your sleep. Ishamael was never quite sealed by Lews Therin, so he lived for three thousand years and went by one of the Dark One’s own names – some of the Forsaken whisper that he thinks he is the Dark One. We know that not to be true now (by several Moridin POVs we’ve had), but that doesn’t change the fact that if your own . . . allies? can we call the Forsaken allies with each other? . . . think you’ve fallen off the rocker, chances are, they’re right. And Lanfear. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. “Lews Therin is mine,” is her mantra, and boy does she stick to it. Her . . . I’m going to call it a “collapse” . . . in Fires of Heaven was some of the most psychotic-sounding writing in the series.

These two characters were essentially the primary antagonists in one way or another for the first few books, so they’re in the top tier. Ishamael is the person who sends Rand running, constantly haunts his dreams, and is his physical foe for the first three books. Lanfear is the one who manipulates much of what happens to him through books 2, 4, and 5. They are both very important in the villain sense, and they are both back with a vengeance now (though physically looking different) to play through the end-game.

So who can handle these two important characters?

We aren’t given the most clear descriptions of Ishamael / Elan Morin Tedronai through the series. His most notable features are the burning holes where his eyes and mouth used to be, so that probably distracts Rand from seeing his true face during most of their encounters. Being a philosopher, he is prone to monologuing about how awesome he is, and how he and the Dark One will DESTROY ALL TIME AND CREATION and yadda, yadda, yadda. Typical megalomaniacal and nihilistic bad-guy stuff.

Physically, Ishamael is considered good-looking, and in his prime (so 40’s? 50’s?). He has dark hair, is tall, with a powerful jawline. He seems to exude power and terror, and is very charismatic. A lot of the art of him makes him look like Lestat or something, but I think he is meant to look more physically imposing than that.

I’ve seen a lot of actors cast as Ishamael at other fansites, and unlike many other characters, there seems to be no very general consensus as to who should play him. Ralph Fiennes comes up every now and then, but I’m pretty sure it’s just because Ralph already plays one Dark Lord.

Thus, I’m happy to present Mark Strong as my candidate for Ishamael. The guys just looks mean – not the pure evil that Jason Isaacs looks, but like he’s just tired of effing around and it’s time to kick some ass. Physically, he is tall, broad, and strong-looking, and his natural hair color is dark (though he often shaves it). Plus, he is known for playing villains. I particularly like his voice for all the menace it has – we’ll need that when he’s haunting Rand’s dreams!

Mark Strong as Ishamael

Places you’ve possibly seen him:
Sherlock Holmes
Robin Hood

Then comes Lanfear / Mierin Eronaile. Someone once asked on Theoryland, “With Lanfear being the strongest female channeler and most beautiful person in the world during the Third Age, what exactly did it take for one to gain their third name?” The clever response I saw was, “Something other than hunger for sex and power, presumably.” This explains Lanfear pretty well to me. All she ever talks about is how she and Rand can dethrone the Dark One and Creator, and they can have power and glory beyond imagining – she even offers these same things to Perrin and Mat during some of her creepy visits to them. We know she’s narcissistic, and by nature of the many conversations she has with Our Heroes, we can conclude pretty . . . conclusively . . . that she’s also a nutjob.

On the other hand, she is literally the “most beautiful woman in the world.” Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but when even Loial starts falling for her, you start to think “maybe there’s something to this perfect beauty thing.” She is tall, with fair skin and dark hair. As Selene, she looks to be about the age of Nynaeve, though once she dispels the One Power disguise, she looks more mature.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. I did NOT choose Angelina Jolie or Catherine Zeta Jones for this role. I don’t find Jolie to be particularly beautiful – I know, eye of the beholder and all, but this is my casting, and my rules (which I will soon break). I think she has a funny face, and I don’t like her lips. For Zeta-Jones, don’t get me wrong, I think she would have been absolutely perfect for the role . . . ten years ago. I just don’t find that she’s aged in a way that she can still look young enough to portray the character we need. I know Lanfear is older than Rand (by at least 3000 years), but she just doesn’t fit it for me. I honestly tried my damndest to make Morena Baccarin work for this role. I’m in love with that woman, but she just didn’t fit what I wanted either.

So here we go. Aishwarya Rai gets this role, and while I wish I could have gone another route, I feel good enough about this choice to stick with it. Rai has been called “the most beautiful woman in the world” so many times that it’s become a clichรฉ. She is tall, dark-haired, and absolutely stunning. And what I find to be particularly important is that her eyes have just the right down-turn to them that I think she could go from looking happy-smiley-beautiful to downright-evil in a heartbeat. I did break a criteria though – Rai is definitely not fair-skinned or ivory-pale, or whatever else metaphors are used to describe Lanfear’s very, very white skin. Oh well, we’ll have to look past that – it won’t be the worst of my rule-breaking in the upcoming chapters.

Aishwarya Rai as Lanfear

Places you’ve possibly seen her:
Note – She hasn’t been in a ton of English movies, but she has been in a few. She is considered to be quite good in her native Hindi movies, but most of the English ones have not been rated very highly. oh well…
The Last Legion
Dhoom 2

Well, there you go. I am 100% behind Mark Strong, and mostly behind Aishwarya, but I fully admit that I could be convinced of other actresses (though not Jolie or Zeta-Jones) if someone can point me to someone I’ve never seen before. Anyway, we’ll get back to some good guys next week!

-Brandon Daggerhart