MTV has announced the casting of Australian-New Zealand actor Manu Bennett as the Allanon in its adaptation of Terry Brooks’ The Elfstones of Shannara. This the fourth major role to be filled as casting continues for the ten-part miniseries, which airs in 2015.
Manu Bennett is the man behind the digital mask of (the much maligned) Azog from Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit. However, he’s probably better known for his role as Deathstroke on The Arrow. Judging by his physique in The Hobbit, Bennett has the size and athleticism necessary to play the lone Druid, so all that remains is the charismatic brooding and menace that make Allanon a fan favourite.
“Bennett will play Allanon, a druid who is the last of his kind in the world of Shannara,” said The Hollywood Reporter. “He is described as a wise, perceptive and serious man who knows something incredibly important has begun when the wise tree Ellcrys starts to die. He enlists Wil (Austin Butler) to fulfill his destiny and save the four lands.”
You ask me, there’s no more iconic character from my pre-teens and teens than Allanon. He’s right there with Gandalf and Alan Grant. Brooks’ Shannara novels were pivotal gateway pieces during my discovery of fantasy, and Allanon is a big part of the reason why I became so attached to Brooks’ world. There’s a gravitas to the Druid that helped to define the mentor/student role that has become a genre trope since Brooks released The Sword of Shannara 35 years ago.
Allanon is described in The Sword of Shannara as a towering, dark-skinned man, and it’s wonderful to see MTV following through on this by casting a Māori actor land for major role on the television series. I’d love to see this become a trend as MTV fills out the rest of the Shannara cast. Most of the characters Wil meets throughout the novel are Elvish (already established by the casting of Austin Butler and Aaron Jakubenko as a fair-skinned race), but there are a lot of other opportunities — notably Eretria and Cephelo, perhaps also Mallenroh — to cast native New Zealand or Australian actors in other roles.