Recasting Norman Bates

Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a notorious cinematic failure. At best, it was an interesting experiment that proved lightning doesn’t strike twice, and at its worst, a total waste of time and talent.  However, if Hollywood chooses to do another remake of Psycho (or a similar film), I have the perfect Norman Bates for them: Michael Cera.

It sounds like a joke but I’m perfectly serious. Michael Cera would be an absolutely horrifying villain, especially in a role like that of the psychologically-disturbed Norman Bates. One of the problems with the Van Sant remake was that Vince Vaughan played Norman and it’s hard to believe in his awkwardness. This was one of his biggest film roles since 1996’s Swingers, and in that film he played a wise-cracking and confident wannabe actor. And then look at the role for Psycho: an awkward, shy, and soft-spoken mama’s boy. He was played against his type which is a huge mistake for a role that requires the actor to be played by type for the twist to actually be effective.

Enter Michael Cera. Soft-spoken, mild mannered and awkward. This is the character he’s presented to audiences in almost every film he’s done and that’s what we associate him with. And that’s exactly why Anthony Perkins was cast in the role, because he seems non-threatening and audiences weren’t scared or even suspicious of him. Now, it’s Michael Cera’s turn to star in a psychological horror film where the expectations of the audience are completely reversed.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s brilliant. In the context of Psycho, the trailer could be two minutes of the conversation between Norman (Michael Cera) and Marion Crane, an awkward exchange that has the two talking about Norman’s hobby of taxidermy, strange living habits, and how a boy’s best friend is his mother. With the audience’s pre-set opinions of Michael Cera, this scene might come off as funny and some people would laugh at it. But by the final act of the film it would be chilling.

Cera even has some experience in this department:

Next time you see Michael Cera in a movie or doing an interview, place him in the context of a psychologically disturbed individual and suddenly his awkward persona seems to be covering for something far more sinister.

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