When Netflix announced its live action adaptation of Death Note, it was met with a flurry of raised eyebrows, concerns over perceived whitewashing, and the usual host of complaints that comes with trying to turn a fan-favorite anime/manga series into a feature film. However director Adam Wingard’s decision to cast Willem Dafoe as the murderous death god Ryuk was met with near universal acclaim.
After all, Ryuk kind of looks like Dafoe but with slightly sharper teeth and a larger appetite for apples. However, according to a new interview with io9, Wingard revealed that while he was more than thrilled to land Dafoe in one of the film’s most crucial roles, he actually had his eye on not one, but two iconic rock stars to bring the sinister shinigami to life: David Bowie and Prince.
In the original manga and anime, Ryuk basically looks like the Slender Man had a gothy demon-baby with a glam rocker. In the interview, Wingard conceded that “there’s not a ton of precedent in American live-action films [for] a demon wearing glam rock clothing and leather pants and stuff.”
When io9’s Katharine Trendacosta remarked on the description’s similarity to David Bowie’s iconic Goblin King from 1986’s Labyrinth, Wingard revealed that the late, great Thin White Duke was his first choice to play the thin, white death god.
“Well, as a matter of fact, David Bowie was actually originally who I wanted to [be the voice of] Ryuk—but then David Bowie died,” Wingard explained. “And then the second person on my list was Prince, weirdly enough—and then he died. And I was like, we got to stop, we’re literally killing them off. Which is really morbid, but it was true.”
While Willem Dafoe acquits himself admirably in the live-action Death Note, now–much like when I watch The Fifth Element or when I sit down to see Blade Runner 2049 later this year–I can’t help but wonder how much greater the end result might have been with one of rock ‘n rolls glam gods gracing the screen instead.
Death Note is on Netflix now!