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Casting Call: The Institute, by The Horror Hypothesis

In “Casting Call”, I play the role of a casting agent for hypothetical adaptations of Horror novels.
With the recent debut of HBO’s awesome new mini-series, THE OUTSIDER, I figured I would
start by trying my hand at casting a potential adaptation of King’s most recent novel, THE INSTITUTE. If you haven’t read the novel yet but want to get a quick background on the story, you can check out the side-by-side review of this novel that I did with Sadie right here.
So, here’s how I would cast this:

Note: Every single character isn’t featured in this article. I attempted to find the stand out roles which would translate well into theatrical performances. Also, there may be some light spoilers so proceed with caution.
The Kids:
Luke Ellis - Noah Jupe

Pay attention to this young actor.  Between A QUIET PLACE (and its upcoming sequel), HONEY BOY, and FORD V. FERRARI, Jupe has developed a ridiculous track record in a very short amount of time.  I think he would thrive as Luke Ellis, the star of the show.



Kalisha - Marsai Martin

Marsai Martin is amazing in the ABC comedy, BLACK-ISH.  While she hasn’t appeared in many feature films yet, I think this role would be perfect for her to show off her acting chops in a dramatic role.  

Avery - Owen Vaccaro  

This was one of the hardest roles for me to cast.  Vaccaro was great in THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS and is the right age for The Avester.  This is one of the most important roles in the story.  

Nicky - Jack Grazer

We’ve already seen Grazer tear it up in the film adaptation of IT, so let’s get him back for Nicky, the only kid at THE INSTITUTE who isn’t afraid to give the adults the middle finger while being tased.  He’s perfect.





George - Brady Noon 

Noon was by far the best part about GOOD BOYS, and while THE INSTITUTE doesn’t have a whole lot of comedy in it, I think his comedic timing and charisma would help add levity in certain scenes.  

Helen - Julia Garner 

Garner’s performance in the Netflix original, OZARK, is truly noteworthy.  Helen is one of the lone teenagers trapped in THE INSTITUTE with the other kids.  This is an interesting flip from OZARK, where she plays a child surrounded by adults.  She chews up the screen.  


The DuPray Allies: 

Tim Jamieson - Mark Ruffalo

In a film, I imagine that Tim’s story would have to intertwine with Luke’s - so Ruffalo is essentially a co-star here.  Yes, he’s the Hulk, but FOXCATCHER proved he can handle subtle, nuanced drama and he would need that to pull of Tim’s story. 

Wendy Gullickson - Emily Blunt

Wendy’s role is pretty limited in the novel, but an adaptation to a film would likely push the role into the spotlight a little bit more.  Her role is pivotal in the climax and her relationship with Tim would likely be explored more. Blunt is a badass.

Sheriff Ashworth - Keith David

The legend, Keith David.  There’s nothing else that really needs to be said here.  He’s my sheriff.

Orphan Annie - Juliette Lewis 

The Institute Employees: 

Mrs. Sigsby - Tilda Swinton 

I’ll be honest, I created this article just so I could cast Swinton in this role.  She is who I pictured in my head while reading the novel. She’s amazing. She would be horrible in this role, in the best way.  

Dr. Hendricks - Chris Rock


This is by far my most out of left field casting choice.  However, with the recent news that Rock has moved into the horror world after successfully pitching a story for the upcoming SAW movie, I tried to think of someone who would be a good foil for Swintons hypothetical performance.  Adam Sandler proved in UNCUT GEMS to never count out SNL alums for dramatic roles and I think Rock would pull this off. Have you seen DEATH AT A FUNERAL? Rock is great.   

Maureen - Octavia Spencer

Like Chris Rock, Spencer made a recent transition into the horror world with 2019’s MA.  The movie was okay, but Spencer was amazing, like she always is. Like Swinton as Sigsby, I pictured Spencer playing Maureen during my entire read.  

Gladys - Emma Stone

Emma Stone has a disarming charm that I find slightly insidious.  I think that smile and that charm would be terrifying in the context of THE INSTITUTE.  


The next four roles are essentially Mrs. Sigsby’s goons.  I picked 4 actors that I think would thrive in these roles.  This was fun.  

Tony - Bobby Cannavale

Zeke - Peter Stormare

Hadad - Haaz Sleiman

Trevor Stackhouse - Walton Goggins 


The Lisping Man: Christoph Waltz

Finally, we have the mysterious Lisping Man.  The first scene of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is one of my favorite of all time and while Hans Landa speaks so eloquently, I think Waltz showing up at the end in the Chevy Malibu to explain THE INSTITUTE would be a *chefs kiss* moment.  


The Horror Hypothesis - 

Donnie Hypothesis is an avid reader, writer, and collector of horror fiction.  He runs the Bookstagram page, “The Horror Hypothesis,” which advocates for the Horror literature genre as a whole.  He currently lives in Central Virginia where he spends most of his free time reading, making music, playing video games, and watching movies.  

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1 comment

  • I think the young black actress who played Abra Stone in “Dr. Sleep” would also make a great Kalisha.

    • Bridget