TOP 10: Most Distracting Film Franchise Recastings
Published: August 28, 2012 - 2:26pm
When a major film role gets recast there's an adjustment period needed to get used to the new actor in the role... but there are also times when it's just too hard to overlook the obvious change. From Marvel's Hulk to Hannibal's Clarice, take a look at our picks.
Recasting happens all the time, especially in big budget movies. Thankfully this mostly takes place before filming starts or during the preliminary stages of production so no one is the wiser. But sometimes, for any matter of reasons, a franchise swaps actors between films and it can become one of the hardest things for movie goers to look past. Even in those cases where the recasting actually helps the quality of the film, it still manages to hurt continuity. Here we'll take a look at some of the most glaringly obvious -- both good and bad -- recast roles in popular franchises. Keep in mind, to make the list the character had to be within the same continuity of the last film(s) of the series. For example, being that Daniel Craig's Bond in Casino Royale was a reboot of the franchise he wouldn't qualify.
#10 - Robert John Burke as Alex Murphy/Robocop
Peter Weller's performances as Detroit police officer Murphy turned cyborg in Robocop and Robocop 2 are still praised to this day. Due to a previous engagement he wasn't able to reprise the role for the third installment, which eventually garnered negative reception across the board. Not only was the tone reduced from a a hard-R, science fiction satire to a cartoonish action romp carrying a PG-13 rating but Weller's replacement was shockingly bad. For a role that rarely required the audience to see more than the character's jaw, it was plain to see there was a new man behind the metal suit. But don't feel bad for Robert John Burke, he's go on to have a very successful career, starring in a slew of hit TV series including Rescue Me, Sex and the City, Oz and most recently Person of Interest.
#9 Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer Parker
Back To The Future II
Claudia Wells couldn't return to play Marty McFly's paramour in the sequel to Back to the Future due to an illness in her family. When Shue was cast as her replacement the end scene of the first film/opening scene of the second -- which featured her character -- was reshot so as not to distract audiences. This was a successful ploy, unless of course you watch all three films of the trilogy back-to-back. Wells recently returned to voice Jennifer Parker in the Back to the Future video game by Telltale Games.
Fun fact: When Crispin Glover tried to demand a salary increase that would match Michael J. Fox's, director Robert Zemeckis chose instead to use a prosthetic wearing stand-in and stock footage to incorporate George McFly's role in the sequel.
#8 Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban
Beloved actor Richard Harris played the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets. Although he was ill before filming of the franchise's third installment began, he asked producers not to recast the role. Unfortunately, he passed away in late 2002 and they were forced to recast. Sir Ian McKellen and Peter O'Toole were both rumored to be up for the part, but Michael Gambon became director Alfonso Cuarón's pick. The much younger Gambon brought a more physically engaging portrayal to the role than Harris was able to due to his age, much to the delight of some Potter fans, but his darker take was devoid of the fatherly cheerfulness the character is most known for.
#7 Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan
Alec Baldwin played Jack Ryan in the critically acclaimed military thriller The Hunt for Red October, the first adaptation of Tom Clancy's popular novel series. Baldwin garnered praise for playing Ryan as a cerebral hero, similar to his literary counterpart. For years it was cited that the actor had opted to star in a Broadway production instead of the sequel Patriot Games, but recently he explained in detail that he was muscled out of the role to make room for Harrison Ford. While Ford's turn as Ryan was also liked, the character differed greatly from Baldwin's portrayal becoming more of a quintessential action movie hero. This wasn't well received by both Clancy fans and the author himself, who distanced himself from the project after many other changes to his story were implemented for the film.
#6 Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling
The Silence of the Lambs won Academy Awards in all the top five categories, Best Picture, Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), and is recognized as one of the great horror masterpieces. When Universal Pictures opted to move ahead with an adaptation of the sequel novel under the tutelage of director Ridley Scott, both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins were set to reprise their roles. Foster eventually left the project and Julianne Moore, Hopkin's co-star from a previous film, took the role. At the time, Universal President of Production Kevin Misher posed the questions, "'Can Clarice be looked upon as James Bond for instance? A character who is replaceable?' Or was Jodie Foster Clarice Starling, and the audience will not accept anyone else?" Result: The audience did not accept it. But Moore isn't completely to blame, the film's story as well as its performances (including Hopkins) were poorly received.
#5 Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes
The Dark Knight
The recasting of Bruce Wayne's childhood friend and love interest Rachel Dawes for The Dark Knight was widely regarded as a good move. Katie Holmes played the part, an original character who had not appeared in comic book form previous to the film series, in Batman Begins and was consistently called one of the worst parts of the film. Holmes chose not to return for the sequel and Maggie Gyllenhaal won the role. That's not to say that the character now became unanimously accepted, as many critics and fans felt Dawes' damsel in distress archetype didn't serve to better the story; but, Gyllenhaal herself was well liked and managed to add depth to a single serving, write-off of a character.
#4 Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes
Iron Man 2
Terrance Howard was the first actor attached to Iron Man, and when time for sequel talks came around he was the first actor the studio wanted to replace. Many rumors surfaced as to why Marvel decided to drop Howard as Tony Stark/Iron Man's best friend and military liaison Lt. Col Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, from reports that his salary (which was the highest for the first film) would be lowered to others citing altercations between him and director Jon Favreau. Howard received the news he would be replaced by Don Cheadle the same day as the general public: "There was no explanation, apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren't worth the paper that they're printed on sometimes." Some fans liked Howard's chemistry with Downey Jr. more so than Cheadle's, while others preferred the Cheadle; but what really didn't help the already obvious changeover were the sporadic bits of dialogue added in purposefully to joke about the recasting.
#3 Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner
In the span of a decade three different actors have brought Bruce Banner and his alter ego the Hulk to the big screen. Eric Bana starred in director Ang Lee's version for Universal, a polarizing film that was simultaneously too thought provoking and too cartoonish. When Marvel Studios recouped the character's film rights Edward Norton was tapped to star in a reboot that briefly modified the character's already established back story, saving the film from having to retell an entire origin. Due to creative differences Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo for the ensemble film The Avengers, which garnered the actor wide praise for his performance. There was no need to re-imagine the character in this round as it was a direct continuation of Norton's story, but it was plain to see a very different actor played the part very differently from what was just seen several years ago. As good as Ruffalo's take was, the change took away from the well crafted continuity Marvel Studios had assembled for their franchise.
#2 George Lazenby as James Bond
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
After bringing Ian Fleming's suave spy to life in five feature films, Sean Connery retired from playing James Bond and George Lazenby took up the mantle. At the time his portrayal of 007 -- more action-oriented and emotional -- was poorly received; which didn't matter much to the Australian actor who had already decided not to reprise the role in future installments. Looks aside, it's hard to see past just how different Lazenby carries himself as the world's most famous secret agent compared to "the other fellow". Years later Bond fans began warming up to his performance and the film itself, which some even stake claim as the best in the series. But that didn't stop the masses from welcoming Connery back to the franchise with open arms.
#1 Val Kilmer and George Clooney as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Batman Forever and Batman & Robin
It wasn't only the gaudy suits that caused Bat-fans to question the direction the third and fourth Batman films were heading but men chosen to wear them. Val Kilmer was relatively well liked but overall forgettable as Bruce Wayne while George Clooney was and is still looked on with distaste. Their performances would probably have been better received had they not followed in the footsteps of Michael Keaton -- who many still consider to have delivered the best portrayal of DC Comic's most popular character on film. Joel Schumacher's neon infused and hyper-stylized reinvention of Tim Burton's gothic Gotham City did a good job of distancing Kilmer and Clooney's films from Keaton's, but their performances left much to be desired. At the end of the day, they couldn't embody the Dark Knight as successfully as the stand up comedian who originally caused fan outraged when he landed the part.
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