James Spader has been cast to play Ultron in the Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is heartening, if curious, news.
Whether you are familiar with James Spader or not, know that he’s a terrific actor, and a wonderful, wonderful villain. He also strikes me as a strange and unexpected choice to play Ultron. Spader’s a delightful and unique actor. The kind you hope makes it into movies you anticipate feverishly. He’s played every kind of role you could name, characters so far afield they are from different universes. From Less Than Zero to Crash to Stargate to Boston Legal to Secretary. The man’s got chops.
But chiefly, for me, Spader will always be the rich asshole Steff from Pretty in Pink. Spader’s performance in Pretty in Pink is among the most delightfully despicable of that decade. Not just because he’s the rich douche screwing with everyone, who knows his life is charmed. Not just because of that terrible hair and that dreadful off-white suit. Or the things he says (“if you’ve a hard-on for trash, don’t take care of it near us”). Really, it’s because he’s the kind of arrogant prick who spits on the floor of his school as he looks you in the eye. It’s a moment so tasteless and brilliant it lacks any parallel in the John Hughes ouvre.
Steff is every bit as evil a villain as Ultron. And spader can wear the look of evil robot in those eyes. Which isn’t to say he’ll work out as the perfect Ultron. But if your casting a maniacal robot with serious issues, you could do worse than James Spader.