James Gray is Making a Young JFK Movie, Who Should Play Him?

Over the last few years we’ve slowly seen the Kennedy Cinematic Universe take shape. First, 2016’s Jackie with Natalie Portman, then Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick in 2017. Ana De Armas took the KCU to streaming with the release of Blonde, and now news about the highest profile film of Phase One has arrived. News came out this week director James Gray (We Own The Night, The Lost City of Z, Armageddon Time) will be taking on a JFK origin story for his next project.

From Steven Pusakowski with Awards Radar:

Over the years, James Gray has established himself as a filmmaker with a devoted following. Whenever he comes up with a new movie, a corner of the internet rejoices. With his latest work Armageddon Time (fondly reviewed here by Joey out of Telluride) now in theaters, an announcement has been made about what Gray is doing next. It looks like he’s heading into the biopic realm, tackling an American icon, no less.

According to Deadline, Gray’s next film will be a biopic of John F. Kennedy during his youthful days. The movie will chart how Kennedy went from an undisciplined kid to a war hero, paving the way for his entrance into politics and eventually the Presidency. So, it’ll be a look at how JFK became JFK. Gray is directing and will re-write a screenplay previously written by Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore. More when we have it.

Steven Prusakowski, Awards Radar

Though the topic of ‘young JFK’ could mean a lot of things and we don’t have a timetable for when we should be seeing this (2024 at the earliest would be my guess) it will no doubt be a high profile casting whenever they make the announcement. Whoever they cast will likely need to be young enough to capture ‘young’ JFK but convincing enough to play the President of the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Here’s a list of actors I think could take this role to the moon.

Tom Holland

Having Spider-Man would definitely lean into the young JFK but if that’s the story they’re looking to tell then I would imagine Holland would be at the top of the list. It’s easy to typecast Holland based on his work in the MCU and other action franchises but he’s impressed in several dramatic roles in recent years, particularly Cherry and The Devil All the Time (VERY underrated movie on Netflix).

The challenge here would obviously be if the script requires us seeing JFK grow up to become POTUS. I’m sure this is nothing prosthetics and some wig work couldn’t handle but Holland has made a career out of playing young men and seeing him transform into something more distinguished like a Kennedy would be a fun transformation. Plus, who knows what his schedule is like with the MCU and all those Bond rumors floating around.

Finn Wittrock

This Lenox, Massahusetts native feels like an actor that’s been about to take off for quite a while now and maybe JFK would be a role that could propel him to the next step. His notable film work includes Unbroken, The Big Short, and My All-American and he has received a pair of Emmy nominations for his work on various Ryan Murphy shows. I think he’s got a good mix of similar looks and a body of work that feels like he could pull this off.

One potential issue with this is the fact that he’s currently 38 years old. He certainly doesn’t look that old on camera but by the time this film comes out he’d likely be over 40 and even that might be a little old for young JFK. Kind of the polar opposite problem with Holland but again, this is nothing that prosthetics and makeup can’t handle.

Joe Keery

Another Massachusetts native with similar looks to Kennedy. Kerry, known most famously as Steve Harrington on Stranger Things, is likely on the lookout for that next big thing after Stranger Things comes to an end. The bully-turned-hero has been one of the show’s breakout stars though his film work has been limited to supporting roles in Molly’s Game and Free Guy amongst others.

Keery will appearing in the upcoming season of Fargo (which apparently they’re making another one, please make it stop!) so that will likely be the closest thing we’ve seen to ‘real’ dramatic work. At age 30 he can still pull off playing younger characters but really I think we all just want to see that beautiful hair blowing in the wind while sailing off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

Ansel Elgort

I’m pretty mixed on Elgort. He’s clearly a talented actor (Baby Driver) but he’s also capable of singlehandedly torpedoing a high profile film (West Side Story). Time will tell on how his career shakes out but there’s no denying he’d be an interesting choice to play Kennedy.

In fact, Elgort is already slated to play JFK in an upcoming film titled Mayday 109. IMDb has no details other than Elgort’s involvement at this point so unless this is somehow connected to James Gray’s project or goes into turnaround it’s something to keep an eye on. Could be one of those Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached situations that happens every few years.

Bet you didn’t think you’d be getting a Mila Kunis rom-com reference in this article, did ya? That’s the TMP difference.

Tye Sheridan

My favorite of the five actors on this list. Sheridan came up as an acclaimed child actor, most notably the fantastic Mud with Matthew McConaughey, has played Cyclops in the X-Men franchise, and has started taking on more adult projects in recent years. The 26-year old was the lead in George Clooney’s The Tender Bar last year as well as co-starring with Oscar Isaac in The Card Counter.

He may not have the right look to play a Kennedy but he’s probably got the best combination of youth and proven dramatic chops out of everyone on this list. On the horizon he’ll be starring in an adaptation of the Vietnam novel The Things They Carried, which was probably one of the only books that I actually read in high school.

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  1. Brenna

    I said Joe Keery give me some credit man


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