Earlier this week, The Jim Henson Company reignited the news of a Labyrinth sequel – a project that’s been on-and-off for over two decades. While fans seem to be cautiously optimistic, the reality is that whoever steps in for the role of the Goblin King – played originally by the late, great, perfect and iconic David Bowie – has a pretty big codpiece to fill. Luckily, we here at ToughPigs have been spending far too much time thinking about who could even come close to taking over the role of Jareth.
David Bowie brought an incredibly androgenous and sensual energy to his portrayal of The Goblin King. He was at once accessible and threatening for the film’s young protagonist, Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah, and to all of us young and impressionable audience members sitting mesmerized in theaters. Jim Henson always intended to hire someone from the world of music to play Jareth, having vetted Michael Jackson, Prince, and Sting before settling on David Bowie, but the character ended up being so much more than just a rock star. Now that David Bowie’s gone to that great Goblin Kingdom underground, here are some of our picks for a new Goblin King.
Is there anything Cate Blanchett can’t do??? She’s a royal Elf, the Queen of England, the hellbent daughter of Odin, Bob Dylan, and always the coolest person in the room. Somehow, all of this adds up to David Bowie. She can play mysterious, funny, regal, sexy, and bulletproof all at the same time. If anyone can out-Goblin the Goblin King, it’s Blanchett.
Multi-hyphanate musician-actor-Afrofuturist Janelle Monae would be a perfect choice to carry David Bowie’s legacy forward in a modern interpretation. Their songs would fit perfectly in the world of Labyrinth. Monae’s sci-fi song cycle Metropolis spans multiple albums and is hugely ambitious in scope. Monae the songwriter has an ear for pop and also the more esoteric, which is perfect for the dark and mysterious world of Labyrinth. Also, just watch Monae in their multiple films like Moonlight or Hidden Figures to see a sensitive actor who could bring a lot of depth to the portrayal of The Goblin King (or Queen, or Goblin Ruler depending on how the character would want to identify). Janelle Monae would knock a Labyrinth sequel right outta the Bog of Eternal Stench.
Jareth the Goblin King may be a sexed-up rock star, but his most defining characteristic may be his other worldliness. And if Hollywood wants someone who may or may not be from another realm, they often look to Tilda Swinton. Between her piercing eyes and commanding tone, it’s easy to envision her among a crowd of ridiculous goblins, riding crop in hand. She could be hiding around any corner, ready to deliver a poisoned peach or steal a baby or whisk you away for a ballroom waltz. I’m not even talking about the movie – I’m always expecting to see Tilda Swinton in the strangest places. So why not the Labyrinth too?
Donald Glover brings buckets of charisma and charm to any role that he touches. His portrayal of a pansexual Lando Calrisian is the only redeeming quality of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Glover is a sexy dude, but he’s also very funny, too, as anyone who’s watched Community can attest. And then there’s his musical alter-ego Childish Gambino, who makes incredibly witty, forward-thinking and sensual hip hop and R&B. The Goblin Kingdom would be in incredibly smart and funky hands with Donald Glover at the helm, and he’s easy on the eyes too.
Toby Froud – who played the baby Toby in Labyrinth – may not be an actor today. But he’s still heavily involved in the world of The Jim Henson Company (notably as a character designer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), so it’s not like he’d be hard to get. He’d make for a terrible Jareth, but what if Toby grew up and went back to rule over the Labyrinth? And what if it’s not just – I dunno – Joseph Gordon-Levitt or something, but the real Toby??
David Bowie is – and always will be – a cultural icon. There’s really no one who can even compare to his influence in pop culture today. But if pressed, Lady Gaga comes closest. She’s a talented musician with a unique and ever-changing style, and as we saw in A Star Is Born, she can act too. If nothing else, giving Gaga a chance in Jareth’s tights would promise an unpredictable performance, and the Goblin King should most definitely be unpredictable.
Anyone who’s seen Ezra Miller’s outfits that they wear to their film premiers know that they can rock a fashion choice that makes you question all sense of reality: a perfect attribute for a new Goblin King. Miller is an incredibly funny actor as well and is no stranger to genre films, having been in both Justice League (as a brunch-loving Flash) and the Fantastic Beasts series. Their Goblin King would be sinewy, sensual and funny. Miller has the musical chops for the role as well, as a member of the excellent band Sons of an Illustrious Father. It’s actually a surprise that Miller’s massive fanbase hasn’t already started an online campaign to get them the role.
Jemaine already auditioned for the role on Flight of the Conchords. He does a good Bowie.
Hear me out: this would be a very different kind of movie, but what if the plot of Labyrinth 2 revolved around Sarah ending up together with The Goblin King after all? After his demise, she could rule The Goblin Kingdom in his stead. This would make the movie a legacy film, very much in the vein of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, it would be amazing to see Connely back in this iconic role, and give the two films some much needed consistency. How cool would that be?
This one is a bit of a joke, but wouldn’t it be cool to go the non-human route with this role? I mean, who’s really going to replace David Bowie, right? Henson studios could licence our favorite mysterious Muppet from Disney and give him an incredible starring role in a Henson Legacy project. Problem solved!
I mean, she’s already got the hair.
For anyone who saw Egerton in Rocketman, you already know that he’s a Brit with some excellent pipes and great moves. As far as I’m concerned, he can go ahead and play every English rock star. And it’d be something else to see one of the stars of Age of Resistance cross over between the worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
David Bowie recreated by CGI
Just kidding, that would be terrible. Henson Company, please don’t do this.
Special thanks to the fan community at Birth.Movies.Death. who ignited our imaginations when it came to the monumental task of replacing David Bowie.
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by Joe Hennes and Louie Pearlman