Death Note director Adam Wingard has recently revealed that his original choices for the voice of Ryuk, "a demon in glam rock clothing," were David Bowie and Prince, respectively. The choice of Willem Dafoe to voice Shinigami Ryuk has been seen as a very wise choice for Netflix's Death Note and Dafoe was the first "actor" to be chosen, but Wingard initially wanted to have the 2 musicians before Dafoe came in to assume the role. While a lot has been changed from the original Manga story, Wingard made a conscious decision to keep Ryuk as faithful to the source material as he could, but it appears that wasn't always the case. And it sounds like he may have inadvertently cursed the two iconic musicians who died within months of each other.
Wingard recently sat down with Gizmodo to discuss the release of Death Note. While explaining what his vision for Ryuk was originally, the interviewer mentioned that Wingard's description of a "glam rock demon" sounded an awful lot like The Goblin King from Jim Henson's Labyrinth who was played by iconic musician and actor, David Bowie. Wingard excitedly confirmed the suspicion and then revealed who his first choices for Ryuk were. He explains.
"Yeah! There you go. Well, as a matter of fact, David Bowie was actually originally who I wanted to play Ryuk, but then David Bowie died. 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."
Either one of those choices would have been pretty amazing, but Bowie is the only one who probably would have entertained the idea. Though Prince has acted in the past in movies such as Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge, the musician pretty much went into seclusion in his later years and focused solely on writing, recording, and performing music. Plus his religious beliefs would have most certainly kept him away from participating in the movie, had he considered entertaining the idea. Bowie on the other hand, had been sick for quite some time, but had he not, he could have made a really awesome version of the Shinigami Ryuk even in the current look of the character.
Wingard ended up with his first choice among actors, which was Willam Dafoe to portray Ryuk. Wingard went on to say that Dafoe was the first person that they approached and the actor said yes right away, which is pretty rare in Hollywood to be able to pull your number one choice so easily. The original story took place in Japan and the production has been plagued with accusations of "white washing" for replacing Japanese roles with Caucasians, but Wingard stand by his choice to tell the story in America by saying that, "ultimately you can't put rules on the way you adapt something, just because it comes from a certain country."
Adam Wingard's Death Note premiered on Netflix today and the reviews have been mixed so far, but it seems that the consensus is that the movie tries too hard to cram too much information into a short amount of time. That's not necessarily a bad thing since it can encourage repeat viewings, but some fans are still angry about making the movie so drastically different from the original manga source material. Maybe Death Note would have been better with Prince and David Bowie, unfortunately, we'll never know.