Mar. 11th, 2014

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I have yet to see a single episode of HBO's crime anthology series "True Detective," but that's not going to keep me from speculating and fantasizing about the acting team-ups I'd want to see for future seasons. With Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson setting the precedent, I think we're finally at the point where A-list movie stars are truly free to tackle a television project like this without worrying about the effect on their film careers. Heck, Halle Berry's starring in a limited series from CBS this year and Philip Seymour Hoffman had a pilot in the bag for Showtime before he left us. So the sky's the limit as far as casting goes. Below are a few possible pairings I'd love to see for a future season of "True Detective."

Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro - If these two screen legends were willing to team-up for something as bottom-of-the-barrel as "Righteous Kill," surely they could do it for "True Detective." Pacino and HBO have been on good terms over the years and DeNiro hasn't exactly been choosy about his roles lately, having been drafted in "Grudge Match" with Sylvester Stallone, for instance. These two have certainly slowed down since their heyday in the '70s, but I still love seeing them onscreen and they've done great work together. Tommy Lee Jones and Dustin Hoffman would also make good alternates here.

Edward Norton and Ryan Reynolds - These two have been knocking around Hollywood for ages, almost making the A-list but not quite. Both have almost landed major stardom through superhero movies, but not quite. I've been itching to see Norton do something more substantive than his appearances in Wes Anderson films for a while now, and it's clear that under the movie star exterior Ryan Reynolds has some pretty serious acting chops. These two need a stepping stone to get their careers back into gear, and a high-profile run on "True Detective" just might be what they both need at this point. Mark Ruffalo for an alternate.

Amy Adams and Jessica Chastain - It's rough being a lead actress in the movies, especially when the parts just aren't there anymore. That's why so many of our most celebrated leading ladies have moved into television work. I doubt that the creators of "True Detective" would want to address the show's gender issues by going whole hog with a female-female lead pairing, but both of these ladies are currently in ascendency and need major parts to sink their teeth into. The show could easily give that to them. Other possibilities for female leads include Rachel Weisz, Jennifer Connelly, and Michelle Williams.

Will Smith and Forrest Whitaker - Similarly to the previous entry, it would be a little too obvious for the show to do a season with entirely minority leads, but I definitely hope they consider them. Whitaker has already tried a television series with the "Criminal Minds" spinoff, which gave him very little to work with. I think he needs to take another shot at it with better material. As for Will Smith, he's in desperate need of some career rehab right now, and I'd much rather see him try something ambitious like a dramatic TV role than go down the path of endless blockbuster sequels that he seem to be on right now. Mos Def or Idris Elba for alternates.

Zach Galifianakis and Sam Rockwell - These are two funny guys who have both done some great dramatic work that tends to get overlooked. Galifianakis turned in one of my favorite underseen performances this year as the main character's bitterly sarcastic dad in "Kings of Summer," and has the potential makings of serious screen heavy if he wants. Rockwell's been one of our most dependable character actors for a while now, and he's got a fantastic range from comic to bleak. I think that these two would do great shouldering lead roles in a crime drama and would go especially well together.

James Franco and Sean Penn - What these two have in common is that you can't predict what they're going to do. Franco's gone through some major ups and downs in the last few years, seeing his profile rise and fall and rebound wildly as he's taken on a bunch of different projects. Penn has seen a similar trajectory, though his recent work has been quieter and more low-profile. Why would they want to do an HBO series? Well, why wouldn't they? The only issue is that I think both would try to wrest some of the creative control away from showrunners Cary Fukunaga and Nic Pizzolatto. Ed Norton might too, now that I think about it.

Nicholas Cage and Michael Shannon - No particular reasoning here. I just always wanted to see these two get into a scenery-chewing showdown.

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