Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Casting Call: ROAD HOUSE

So I hear that Road House is about to be remade, with Ronda Rousey cast in the role of Dalton, the legendary bouncer originally played by the late Patrick Swayze.

I love this idea. I love Road House anyway, in all its demented eighties glory. We actually own the Deluxe Edition on DVD, and even the sequel, Road House 2: Last Call.

I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, I love this stupid movie so much. It’s not a GOOD movie, but on the other hand, it’s nevertheless an AWESOME movie. It’s got fistfights, explosions, kung fu, rock and roll, monster trucks, naked women, and the mighty Sam Elliott. If it also had dinosaurs and a car chase it would be the Platonic ideal for guy movies. As it is, it comes pretty close.

Plus it’s built like a classic hero’s journey — a good king searches for the most accomplished knight in the kingdom to help him defeat an evil baron and his minions, and he recruits Dalton, a mysterious warrior with a dark past, with Sam Elliott as Dalton’s Merlin. (Or his Yoda, for you younger folks.)

All this weighty mythic stuff… about a guy who throws drunks out of a bar. Road House does for bar bouncers what James Bond did for spies and John Wick did for assassins. It posits this whole crazy underground world where there is a hierarchy and a brotherhood and a code of honor for… well, for guys working nightclub security. It’s completely insane, but the movie sells it with such earnest sincerity that you just sort of buy into it.

I’m certainly not a purist about Road House. (I don’t think it’s possible to be one. All of us who love it tend to love it with the same sort of we-know-it’s-terrible-but-that’s-kind-of-the-point affection. I don’t think any of us take it seriously.) So when I heard about the Ronda Rousey remake, my thought wasn’t Blasphemy! It was, Oh, hot damn, I hope they go ALL THE WAY!

Which is to say, don’t just flip Dalton’s gender. Do EVERYBODY.

The more I think about it, the more I fall in love with the idea. A straight remake of the original, don’t mess with the story at all, but do it with all the genders switched. It just gets me chortling with glee.

The challenge is that you have to confine yourself to actual working actors that could plausibly be cast in a current remake with Ms. Rousey. Because my hope is that this might really be what they are doing.

So who’s got the Sam Elliott role? The wise old bar bouncer that taught Dalton everything she knows?

Mike Gillis at Radio Vs. The Martians suggests Cynthia Rothrock but me, I’m leaning towards Angela Bassett.

You need someone with gravitas, someone that can do action, and someone that could plausibly be badder than Dalton. I think she ticks all those boxes. Plus I think she has a sense of humor and would really throw herself into it.

And our villain? Brad Wesley, the Ben Gazzara role? I think it has to be Jessica Walter.

She can do scenery-chewing evil (I still love her turn as Morgan in the 1978 Dr. Strange) and she’s got plenty of charisma. She could really sell not just the spit-spraying rage at Dalton interfering with the plan to control the town of Jasper, but also the smirky evil at killing his friends.

What about Wesley’s psycho enforcer, originally played with creepy homoeroticism by Marshall Teague? Leaning toward Michelle Rodriguez here.

I think she could pull it off, though I suspect she might be too small to be a believable match for Ronda Rousey. But I can’t think of anyone else that could do the physical stuff and also be persuasively homicidal.

And who should we get for the hot doctor who’s sweet on Dalton? The pacifist who is nevertheless drawn to Dalton’s dangerous personality? You need an actor who’s a heartthrob that is NOT an action star, remember. This is one of the harder roles to flip but after giving it considerable thought I think it’s gotta be Milo Ventimiglia.

But only because Dermot Mulroney’s too old. Young Dermot Mulroney would be ideal.

The owner of the Double Deuce, Frank Tilghman, originally played by Kevin Tighe? I keep landing on Sigourney Weaver.

She’s the right age, she has shown she can do comedy and drama… but honestly, she could also easily do Sam Elliott’s mentor role and Angela Bassett could be Tilghman instead. Either way works for me.

And Red, the auto-shop proprietor? Originally played by former Elvis sideman Red West? How about Bonnie Raitt?

Figure you are looking at casting a middle-aged female blues/rock musician with red hair, really, who else is there?

Finally. Who should we get for Dalton’s good friend, the blind blues singer played by Jeff Healey? This is my favorite casting idea of all the ones I’ve posited so far. You get Kathleen Wilhoite.

See, she was in the original Road House, she played the spunky waitress who was also a singer.

Since then Ms. Wilhoite has gone on to be a remarkable blues singer/songwriter herself, and has recently returned to acting. It’s PERFECT. And it gives you the legacy link to the original movie.

Those are my picks. But by all means, you should weigh in with your own down below in the comments. And if by some chance anyone out there has an in with Ronda Rousey, please feel free to pass this on to her. We are totally rooting for this remake to be awesome in any case, but think how awesome it would be with THIS cast.

Back next week with something cool.


  1. Greg Burgas

    Plus, Michelle Rodriguez already fought Ronda Rousey, in Fast and Furious 7, and she held her own (although much stunt doubling and suspension of disbelief was involved, much like when Paul Walker fought Tony Jaa). So we know that part of the movie would probably work pretty well!

    1. I was going to bring up that I know Mike Nelson has mentioned Road House as possibly the ur-bad movie of all bad movies. Since he was the musically inclined one, I wonder how much of this song was him (bet there are credits at the end of whatever ep it’s from, huh?).

  2. Edo Bosnar

    John, thanks for the link to the Patrick Swayze Xmas song. I’d never heard that before, and I’m so glad it’s part of my life now.

    Greg, my appreciation for Roadhouse is not nearly as immense as yours, but I think all of your casting suggestions are quite good (I mean that pretty seriously, I think these should be forwarded to whoever’s in charge of making this happen for consideration). I’ll just say about Sigourney Weaver that not only could she play the owner and mentor, she also perfectly capable of playing the villain as well.

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    I like the idea; but, I’d suggest Joanna Dean for the Jeff Healey role. Listen to her Misbehavin album sometime and you could see her music in Roadhouse. Plus, it would be nice to see her get her due, after her brief exposure at the end of the 80s.

    You need a grizzled older pro wrestler, too, since the film had Terry Funk. Nobody in wrestling now fits that, as the style is too different. I would suggest either Madusa Micelli (big star in the AWA, WWF, WCW, and Japan and WWE Hall of Famer) or Lisa Moretti (GLOW and WWF).

  4. Louis Bright-Raven

    The notion of Rousey playing Dalton is such a joke. She’s too young, not experienced enough as an actress or a fighter. (Follow me, I’ll explain.) I’d much rather see Gina Carano (34-35 y.o.) in the role, if they were ever going to make it whether you gender switched everybody else or not.

    Gina Carano a decade ago was what Ronda Rousey is today. She has a 19-2-1 fighting record in MMA and Muy Thai (Rousey’s only 10-2). She left the sport when she lost her one title fight back in 2009, and went into acting full time. The UFC kept claiming she was coming back and they were supposedly going to book her to fight Rousey for about 2 years, but Rousey kept ducking the fight, and Gina’s film career took off, so it never happened. If you aren’t familiar with Gina, Greg, seek out the movies HAYWIRE (2011), FAST & THE FURIOUS 6 (2013 – Rousey just followed in her footsteps in F&TF7, as she does in everything), IN THE BLOOD (2014), EXTRACTION (2015), HEIST (2015), and of course Marvel’s DEADPOOL (2016 – she’s the one who punches Colossus into next week).

    But if we have to have Rousey as Dalton (blech), then I’d cast Carano in the “Jimmy Psycho Enforcer” role instead of Michelle Rodriguez. 1- we’ve already seen the Rousey / Rodriguez matchup in the F&TF7 movie, and 2 – every MMA fan on the planet wants to see Carano kick Rousey’s ass, even if the story demands she lose the fight in the end.

    I also have to agree with Mike Gillis on Cynthia Rothrock for the Sam Elliot role, sorry. You just do NOT pass up offering the most famous and experienced martial arts stuntwoman / actress in American cinematic history this role first. Nobody else comes close to qualifying for that part, Greg.

    As for Angela Bassett… I cast her as Wesley instead of Jessica Walter. I mean, C’MON, Greg! Jessica Walter is 75! How the hell is she supposed to be fighting a 29 year old Rousey at the climax of the movie?! C’mon, silly man! Ben Gazarra was 56, Swayze was 36 when they filmed. Oh, who’s in their late fifties and could be a bad ass ball busting bitch to run the town? Angela Bassett (58 to Gazarra’s 56, and oh, see another reason why I want Carano instead of Rousey – 34/5 to Swayze’s 36).

    I’d totally avoid Sigourney Weaver (NOT the right age; the actor looks much older than he actually is in that movie, he was only 45; Weaver’s 67 – you need to go a bit younger, like maybe maybe Katey Sagal at 58 who I could see running a rowdy bar after her work in SONS OF ANARCHY.)

    The rest of your choices I can basically agree with, I guess. Your best pick is the “legacy pick” of Kathleen Wilhoite.

    As for the “grizzled older female pro wrestler” that Jeff mentioned, Lisa Moretti’s 55 and done with the entertainment business for good from what I’ve heard, and Madusa’s 51 and into driving monster trucks and stuff so I’d just have her as a cameo to drive the monster truck through the car dealership scene. But as far as appearing in in the fights, I’d have to say Lisa Marie Lavon (AKA Tara / Victoria) at 45 which is the age Terry Funk was when they filmed, and she’s still performing as a wrestler, would be the right choice for that part.

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