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Casting the Primarchs for a 40k movie

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This is a game I play every couple of years on 40k forums. There are a whole load of new faces here recently, so I thought it might be worth playing again!

Let's imagine you have been asked to cast actors for a Horus Heresy movie, with a vast, Hobbit-like budget. You can effectively get whoever you want.

Who would you cast as each of the Primarchs?

In fact, let's have two answers: one for actors who are alive today, and another, fantasy casting, for any actors, alive or dead, at any stage in their lives, who could play the role. For example, you might cast a young Oliver Reed as Angron, or Arnie aged 40 for Rogal Dorn. That sort of thing.

Any thoughts?


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Brok lesnar had not the charisma needed to play horus, but in Angrom role he could be perfect.

Horus neeed abetter actor with more charisma and quite much awesome.

But to look at the staff of the WWe or TNA could be a good way to find people physicaly able to play primarchs. 

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My fantasy casting list




Marlon Brando, late 40's

If you’re going to make a Horus Heresy movie, you’re going to need a good Horus. This means you need a good actor. Brando was a riveting actor, so he’s an obvious choice. Plus he bears a certain resemblance to the Abaddon miniature in his role as Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.




Yul Brunner, mid 40s

Lorgar is supposed to be golden skinned, and a religious fanatic who can be both inspiring and terrifying. Brunner works on this basis. Plus he was a good actor.




Kirk Douglas, early 40s

The whole Angron story is a riff on Spartacus: so if we’re talking fantasy casting, why not go back to the source? He had the physicality for the role, and has the talent to make Angron an interesting character.

Rogal Dorn:

Charlton Heston, early 40s

Everyone always wants to cast either Arnie or Dolph Lundgren as Dorn, I suspect this is because of the John Blanche concept art which gives him a glorious mid-80’s combat chic blonde crew cut. However, I don’t think either of them have the acting chops for the role, which would be a demanding one. Dorn is actually a complex and conflicted character, and (no disprespect to Dolph) I don’t think he could pull it off. Heston was adept at playing conflicted golden boys, and he had the physicality and presence to make a good Dorn.


Lion El’Johnson:

Christian Bale, mid 30s

 Bale is a good actor who closely physically resembles my own internal picture of what Johnson looks like. He’s a brooding and troubled presence, which fits the character of the Primarch well.


Peter O’Toole, late 20’s

I originally had Michael Fassbender down here, as I was impressed by his performance in Prometheus, which had some of the otherworldly air I associate with Fulgrim. However, I thought about this, and realised that Fassbender was just channelling O’Toole’s performance in “Lawrence of Arabia” for much of the movie, so again, as we’re talking fantasy casting, why not go back to the source? O’Toole brilliantly captured Lawrence’s messianic character and ambiguous sexuality/asexuality, so I think he’s a good choice as Fulgim. Plus he’s pretty enough for the role.

Konrad Curze

Michael Wincott, late 20s

I must admit I’m not hugely familiar with this actor’s career – but I just think he has the right “look” for Curze, largely based upon his performance as the villain in “The Crow.”

Ferrus Manus



Ray Stevenson, late 40s

Another currently active actor, Stevenson is a strong physical presence with a history of playing rugged action roles. He’s arguably not ugly enough to play Manus, but he could be made up to be a scarred and battered Primarch very nicely, I think.


Michael Clark Duncan, early 40s

Does Vulkan have to be black? Debateable, obviously. I’ve always pictured him as such, though many don’t. Many will say that Vulkan’s jet black skin derives from his marine implants, not from his race. (In fact that’s pretty much canon, though I think the canon is a bit lame on this point – what’s wrong with him just being black, rather than “sci-fi black?” I think it would be good to have a black Primarch.) And-until his recent tragic death-Duncan was an excellent actor who could pull off the noble, stoic Vulkan.

Jaghati Khan

Tadanobu Asano, Mid 40s

OK, it’s a rather obvious choice, but as the concept of Jaghati Khan is clearly derived from the story of Genghis Khan, why not cast the actor who played him so well in the movie “Mongol”?


Magnus the Red



Orson Welles, late 50s/ Nicol Williamson, late 50s

I think I’m going to need to do some explaining here…

I don’t see Magnus as a character that can be played by a human actor. Really, he’s got to be CGI as I see it. And if you’re going for CGI, the real trick is the voice acting and motion capture. So you want an actor with a good voice and some serious acting skills. Welles is not an obvious choice, but he had a great voice, and throughout most of his life needed the money, so would have eagerly taken the role. (Does anyone remember his career-defining/ending role as Unicron in Transformers: The Movie?) My backup choice is Nicol Williamson, a man with a voice so rich and camp you could use it to house the entire third world in silk tents.


Primarchs I’ve struggled with

With the following Primarchs, I’m not clear on their casting, and all of the suggestions below are subject to change. Usually this is because I can’t find the right “fit” for an actor playing these roles, or because I don’t have enough of a clear mental picture of the Primarch concerned.





The problem here is that I don’t have a clear mental image of the Primarch’s appearance. I kind of vaguely see him as tall, thin and cadaverous with sunken eyes and closely cropped hair, but that’s just me. I feel he needs an actor with a saturnine and mournful presence, while also being a bit creepy. Thoughts included Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, and Peter Lorre.


Leman Russ

Russ is such a big character, it’s hard to think of an actor who can pull off both his physical presence and larger than life personality. For some reason I immediately thought of BRIAN BLESSED!!! (You’re obliged by law to write his name like that, it’s how he pronounces it) but I know that choice will infuriate many. If you’ve seen “I Claudius” you’ll know he’s a hugely talented actor, not just Flash Gordon’s flying sidekick.

But I accept he’s not the right choice, really.

The problem is that I can’t think of someone who CAN pull him off! Physically the 80’s wrestler “The Ultimate Warrior” seems a good match (apologies if he’s changed name – I’m not really up to speed with wrestling!) but I doubt he can manage the acting. I then hit a bit of a blank…


Like Mortarion, I don’t really have a clear picture of this Primarch. I mean I’ve seen pictures of him in the collected visions book, which basically portray him as Horus in different coloured armour. We’re talking bald marine in ornate armour…that’s kind of all I get from him. I know personality wise he’s supposed to be paranoid, devious and cruel, but I still can’t picture an actor for the role…


Another tricky one. Whoever plays him has got to be beautiful; I don’t mean “rugged good looks” I’m talking male supermodel. And actually, there aren’t a lot of male actors who fit into that category. You really want an almost unearthly beauty, someone with (for obvious reasons) an angelic appearance. You could go for some random male model and have it as a non-speaking part, but that’s a cop-out. I really struggle to cast this role. Perhaps a young Brad Pitt or Jude Law, but I’m not really happy with either of those.


Another Primarch whose personality and appearance are hard to pin to an actor. I know he’s got dark eyes and pale skin. But beyond that, I struggle a bit. There’s a portrait on the cover of a recent Horus Heresy novel which bizarrely looks a bit like a young Lou Diamond Phillips to me, but I don’t like that casting.


I loved “Legion,” but appearance wise, these guys come across as a bit cipher-like to me. I hit a brick wall with them – perhaps this is because they are so intentionally anonymous.

Roboute Gulliman

This one is different from Corax, Perturabo and Mortarion: I have a very strong mental image of Gulliman, and I can’t find an actor who matches it! You’d need an actor with strong, albeit anonymous masculine good looks, enormous quiet presence, dark/greying hair, blue eyes, mid to late 40s in excellent physical shape who also is an incredible actor capable of exuding genius-level intelligence. There isn’t anyone who quite feels right as Gulliman for me that I’ve found.


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Stellan Skarsgård as Leman Russ. Fantastic actor and has the right accent.  Although Brian Blessed is an inspired choice. :)

Alpharius, Omegon and pretty much the entire Alpha Legion - Adrian and Neil Rayment. The guys who played the Twins in Matrix Reloaded.

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