Red Dawn is finally out in theaters. I say that not because it’s a highly-anticipated movie, but because it was supposed to come out two years ago. The cast — most of them unknowns at the time — started filming in 2009, with a set release date in late 2010. But then MGM went bankrupt and the film went into the vault. It was only when Lionsgate picked it up that it had a chance of coming out.
I saw Red Dawn a few weeks ago and wasn’t really impressed. The original 1984 film starring Patrick Swayze was pretty over-the-top patriotic: When the Cubans invade the United States, it’s up to a bunch of high-schoolers to go all guerilla warfare on their asses and take back their country. The update has North Korea invading; it was originally China, but then the filmmakers decided not to alienate the lucrative Chinese film market (seriously) and digitally changed everything in post-production. Now the “Wolverines” (they name themselves after their football team) include the skinny, motherless Josh Peck, his tough Marine brother Chris Hemsworth, and their doofus pals Josh Hutcherson and Connor Cruise. Not to mention the pretty local girl Adrianne Palicki.
A pretty impressive cast, right? But consider this weird, almost Twilight Zone-y detail: No one knew who most of these guys were back in 2009. Three years may not sound like a long time, but all of these actors’ careers skyrocketed between then and now. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Josh Hutcherson‘s biggest problem was getting recognized for his chubby-cheeked roles in Little Manhattan or Bridge to Terabithia. This was a year before The Kids Are All Right was released, which is when people first started really paying attention to him for playing the mouthy, troubled Laser. Though he was already doing work with Straight But Not Narrow, he definitely hadn’t cracked 1 million followers on Twitter. He probably hadn’t started reading The Hunger Games since it was published only the year before; the only franchise he was gearing up for was Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which he shot with the girl he would then date, Vanessa Hudgens. Instead of a loaf of bread, he toted a fake gun.
This was the first of several roles for Adrianne Palicki that would appear promising and then fall apart. Not that she knew while filming Red Dawn that it would take years to come out. But she was probably counting on this, as well as joining the cast of the drama Lone Star (which would be cancelled after only two episodes). Adrianne didn’t even know that she’d be up for the role of Wonder Woman in David E. Kelley‘s TV show, only for that to get axed as well.
No one knew that Josh Peck had lost all that weight. Even though he’d slimmed down back in 2006, it was such a drastic change that a lot of people didn’t connect this angsty, skinny guy with the chubby, chirpy star of Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh. Despite playing a weed dealer in the ’90s in The Wackness, Josh hadn’t quite achieved that separation from his kid-show past.
No one knew who Chris Hemsworth was, period. He was still auditioning for Thor, competing with younger brother Liam (who would later give him tips when the scales tipped in his favor). Liam wasn’t famous, either, still working on The Last Song with future-fiance Miley Cyrus. After years on the Australian soap Neighbours, Chris was slowly entering the American film market. Earlier that year he had wrapped Joss Whedon‘s Cabin in the Woods… not knowing that that movie would suffer the same MGM fate and not come out until a few months before Red Dawn.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan had just started dating One Tree Hill alum Hilarie Burton, but the two were keeping it secret. Partly because of the 16-year age difference, but also because Hilarie would soon be pregnant with their little baby, and the two agreed to keep their business out of the spotlight. Soon, however, they would be going public at the premiere for The Losers and shocking everyone with this random, but also kinda fitting, coupling.
Connor Cruise hadn’t sent those bitchy text messages to ex-publicist Todd Krim and had to apologize in time to DJ an LGBT Oscars party. So for all we knew, he was still a well-adjusted 14-year-old. Probably not a coincidence that his dad Tom Cruise was still married to Katie Holmes and the rumors about Scientology had mostly died down (before they would start up again during the divorce proceedings). So, his life must have been a lot more stable.
Red Dawn errs on the side of ludicrous, and not in a funny Battleship way. But if you want to go into a mini-time warp and see all these stars as they were three years ago, give it a watch.