Written by Belle Law
Casting Choices, Narrative Hopes, and Dreams of a Live-Action Adaptation
Last November, Nintendo announced that a live-action film of The Legend of Zelda franchise is in development. As someone who grew up alongside the series, my first Zelda games being ‘The Phantom Hourglass’ and ‘Spirit Tracks’ made for the DS, this is something that my fellow Zelda fans have been looking forward to for years. However, with this announcement, crucial questions have been raised about the film, such as who will get to play Princess Zelda?
Actress Hunter Schafer, best known for her role as Jules in HBO’s Euphoria, has been a popular choice amongst fans. With her angular face and elvish looks that encapsulates the Hylians, Schafer reminds me of the ‘Twilight Princess’ version of Zelda. Although I think Schafer would be an incredible choice, model Gemma Ward is someone who I’ve always thought looks very similar to Zelda with her pixie-like features. However, considering Ward is primarily a model and hasn’t acted in anything since 2013, this is highly unlikely. Another actress I believe would really suit the role of Zelda is Anya Taylor Joy, who has already voiced Nintendo’s other famous Princess, Princess Peach, in The Super Mario Bros. Movie that came out last year. With Joy’s blonde hair and angular features, she could be a great fit for the role. Due to Zelda’s many incarnations, either being a child or on the cusp of adulthood throughout The Legend of Zelda series, Schafer, the youngest on my list, seems to be best for the role. But perhaps Nintendo is looking for someone from Zelda’s actual age group, which would be refreshing to see – considering the Hollywood trend of casting actors in their late-twenties to play teenagers. This ultimately depends on what story Nintendo wants to tell, either an original story or a straight adaptation of one of the games, although I believe the former is more likely.
In considering other actresses for the role of Princess Zelda, it’s essential to find someone who not only embodies the essence of the character but also brings a depth of talent and charisma to the role. One exceptional choice could be an actress like Letitia Wright, celebrated for her outstanding performances in “Black Panther” and “Small Axe.” Wright’s remarkable talent and ability to convey both intelligence and strength on screen make her a compelling candidate for the role of Zelda. Her captivating presence and versatility as an actress would undoubtedly bring a fresh and dynamic interpretation to the iconic character, having already portrayed royalty on the big screen. With her talent and star power, Letitia Wright could deliver a captivating portrayal of Princess Zelda, igniting the screen with her charisma and leaving a lasting impact on fans worldwide.
Though I look forward to the cast announcement for the film, my main interest lies in whether Zelda will play a more active role in the film then she has previously in the games. When the latest instalment of the series, ‘Tears of the Kingdom’, was announced, theories were raised on if Zelda was going to become a playable character. These theories mostly arose from the fact that Zelda’s character design now had short hair, potentially making her playable. Personally, Zelda’s playability is something that I have always secretly wanted. Not to say I’m sick of playing as our iconic Hero of Time, Link, but I thought the new game would make Zelda have a more active role, working side-by-side with Link to defeat Ganon, rather than just appearing at the end of the game to seal Ganon away. Although I loved playing ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ when it was released, and thought both the story and final battle were one of the best in the series, I can’t help but wish to see more of Zelda. Similar to how Peach in The Super Mario Bros. Movie had a bigger role than her games allowed.
The choice to make the film live-action rather then animated is a decision that doesn’t surprise me. With The Super Mario Bros. Movie being animated by Illumination and targeted at children, the Zelda series has a much larger adult fanbase. Nintendo’s decision to create a live-action adaptation will present the film as more serious to a wider audience. There is an overall stigma that animation is made primarily for younger viewers, however, after recently viewing Hayao Miyazaki’s new film, The Boy and the Heron, I almost wished that the Zelda adaptation could be animated by Studio Ghibli. Ghibli is a studio that breaks down the concept that animation can’t be sophisticated, with its rich storytelling, complex characters and compelling narratives. In another reality, a Zelda adaptation in the style of Studio Ghibli would be my personal dream collaboration, and would be able to give the games the true justice they deserve.
As previously stated, the film will most likely follow an original story rather than adapting its narrative from one of the games. But if I had to choose one of the games from the franchise to be directly adapted, it would be ‘Skyward Sword’. Although I’m not the biggest fan of ‘Skyward Sword’ in terms of gameplay (don’t even get me started on the motion controls), it’s the game that gives the franchise its roots in terms of story and is fundamental to the logic that operates the series. Additionally, I think ‘Majora’s Mask’ would make for an amazing adaptation, although it would most definitely turn out to be a horror film.
Finally, part of me can’t help but suspect that this film could be just another one of Nintendo’s attempts to not only capitalize on their much beloved franchise, but profit from the recent burst of video game adaptations that seem to have become a trend within Hollywood; most notably, the release of the Five Night’s at Freddy’s film in 2023 and the upcoming Minecraft film set to come out in 2025. I can only hope that this Zelda adaptation is a long-time passion project for Nintendo, rather than just a cash grab, and that a lot of heart and care will go into its development and production.