If '12 Angry Men' Was Gender Swapped, These 12 Talented Actresses Would Be Amazing For The Roles

In light of what you might call remake fatigue — contemporary Hollywood’s proclivity to revive as many old properties as it can muster the budget for — the very idea of reimagining existing stories has come to feel like little more than a listless cash grab. But we should not forget the intrinsic value in approaching tales of yore through modern lenses. It’s a practice that can help to show us just how far we’ve come in our art, our culture, and our psychology, and just how far we still need to go. Imagine, in the wake of the sociopolitical state of modern America, a film like 12 Angry Men with a gender swapped cast being released today. Imagine the questions it’d raise about race, about justice, about the law, and about gender. 

Sidney Lumet’s 1957 masterpiece, itself adapted from Reginald Rose’s stage play, showcased the powder keg that became of a room full of disparate masculinities. A  contemporary take, on the other hand, could allow for the duly fascinating transfer of the premise into the hands of a dozen ticked off female jurors. Indulging this fantasy, I've dream cast a modern version of the courtroom masterpiece with some of today’s most talented actresses taking on the central roles. What's the verdict on our choices?

Juror No. 1

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Martin Balsam. As the de facto jury foreman, No. 1 starts out the high-minded diplomat, but dissolves into infantile self-pity when his authority is rebuked. 

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Elisabeth Moss, whose aptitude in marrying likability with self-indulgent pettiness was more than accounted for throughout her years on Mad Men.

Juror No. 2

Played in 12 Angry Men by: John Fiedler. Meek and wide-eyed, No. 2 seems to eschew the gravity of the situation in the name of the excitement of serving on a murder trial, only maturing in his psychology when met with his peers’ illustration of the case at hand.

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Ellie Kemper, who has made a career on her childlike whimsy. 

Juror No. 3

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Lee J. Cobb. Sour and hotheaded, the main antagonist of 12 Angry Men harbors a deep-seated resentment for his estranged son — and furthermore, for himself — which more than mildly influences his persecution of the boy on trial.

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Frances McDormand. The slow rise of the internal corrosion haunting No. 3 would play like a symphony in the hands of a woman capable of evoking such sympathy and wickedness all at once. 

Juror No. 4

Played in 12 Angry Men by: E.G. Marshall. No. 4 is a self-described intellectual, pragmatic to the point of total detachment from anything but cold, hard fact. 

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Tilda Swinton. (Of course you’ve got to get Tilda Swinton in on something like this.) Masterful at playing the “alien,” Swinton would be perfectly suited for a character who works her damndest to emancipate herself from the grips of human error. 

Juror No. 5

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Jack Klugman. Meek and unsure of himself until riled up to the point of necessary explosion.

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Phyllis Smith. Now that Inside Out has shown us what she can do with a big screen role, the part of the mumbling, put-upon No. 5 would be right up Smith’s sullen alley. 

Juror No. 6

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Edward Binns. A self-described blue-collar worker whose understanding of all present matters is uncomplicated and chivalrous.

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Marisa Tomei. Although No. 6 might veer a bit too familiar to Marisa Tomei’s Oscar-winning performance in My Cousin Vinny to count as something altogether new, it’d still be a treat to see her revive her knack for that outer-boroughs flair.

Juror No. 7

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Jack Warden. A brash joker whose only motivation is to get out of the jury room in time for a Yankee game.

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Melissa McCarthy, whose Bridesmaids and The Heat shtick could translate to a majestic busting of fellow jurors’ balls in the name of making the ballgame in time. 

Juror No. 8

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Henry Fonda. The hero. The only man sensitive enough to the possibility of the defendant’s innocence to stand against the rest in the name of articulating their communal lack of definitive proof against him. 

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Jessica Chastain. Although Chastain herself is a delightful character actress, she is at her best when playing the noble heroine. 

Juror No. 9

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Joseph Sweeney. A much older and gentler man than the rest of the lot, and as such gifted with a few existential insights that the others couldn’t otherwise achieve. 

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Sissy Spacek. Though we’re instinctually inclined to think of Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, and Maggie Smith whenever we happen upon “older” female characters, the role of No. 9, a character empathetic to the idea of loneliness, would better suit someone less busy (albeit no less talented) like Sissy Spacek. 

Juror No. 10

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Ed Begley. The secondary antagonist of the film, charged in his fight against the defendant by his racial bigotry alone. 

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Charlize Theron. Yes, we’ve come to accept Charlize Theron as our next big genre hero, but we must remember that she’s just as skilled when playing a toxic and reviled villain. 

Juror No. 11

Played in 12 Angry Men by: George Voskovec. Distinct from the rest in not being native to the United States, No. 11 is articulate, thoughtful, and wholly compassionate to both sides of the case. 

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Marion Cotillard, perhaps the only living human “classy” enough to fill George Voskovec’s 12 Angry Men shoes. 

Juror No. 12

Played in 12 Angry Men by: Robert Webber. A foolhardy dolt and gabby oddball whose idiocy anchors him from beginning to end. 

Played in 12 Angry Women by: Allison Janney. Always delightful as a loony space cadet.

With all of these talented actresses who would be perfect for these roles, why hasn't this movie made Hollywood's remake list yet?

Images: United Artists (13)

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