Making a popular and successful movie can be a turbulent process. With so much to think about and plan for such as the budget, production, the script, director… the list is almost endless! However, the one thing that could be argued as one of the most important elements of a great movie, is the leading actor. The person at the forefront of the story, driving it forward and connecting with the audience. The actors and the characters they portray are what keep the audiences interested, and ultimately we care about what happens to them.
So choosing the actor that’s perfect for the role is paramount. After all, would we still love Hans Solo if he wasn’t played by Harrison Ford? Or would ‘Dirty’ Harry be such a cult classic without Clint Eastwood? The answer is of course no.
When you have the right actor fixed to the right character, that’s when movie magic happens. Here’s a list of movie re-casts that, had they stuck with the original casting, would have been very different and probably not as successful or popular as they have become.
15. Angelina Jolie – Gravity
We start out list with a recent multi Oscar winning movie. Gravity sees astronauts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney stranded in space and follows their attempts to get back to Earth after their space shuttle is destroyed. The visual effects and the subtlety of the two actors made this film a critical and box office success.
Originally the cast was very different and would go through a few changes until it finally went to Bullock and Clooney. The closest of these was Angelina Jolie. Having first approached Jolie, the producers were happy with their choice and approached Robert Downey Jr. to star opposite her. But with scheduling problems and reports of a spat over Jolie’s fee, she dropped out. Several other actresses were asked but said no until finally they settled for Bullock. By this point Downey had dropped out too and was replaced by Clooney. The movie was better for it as Clooney and Bullock proved to be the right fit for the premise.
14. Annette Bening – Batman Returns
There are many aspects to an actor landing a role. Sometimes it’s talent and other times it’s the popularity of an actor that can get them a role. Then there are those situations that just come down to luck and timing. Michelle Pfeiffer has the later to thank for her role in Batman Returns. A role that she embraced and turned into an icon. Whenever we think back to Batman Returns, the first thing we think of is Pheiffer’s Catwoman. The sexy yet sensitive Pfeiffer stole the movie and in her tight leather outfit became the subject of many young men’s fantasies.
Originally however, the role of Catwoman for this sequel was offered to Annette Bening. The four-time Oscar nominated actress was all set to don the leather outfit when she became pregnant. Not wanting a pregnant Catwoman, the producers looked for another actress to step in. Luckily for the fans, they bypassed their original list, which included the likes of Madonna, and went for Pfeiffer instead. How thankful we all are for this!
13. Bette Midler – Sister Act
This is the role that pretty much saved Whoopi Goldberg‘s career. In the late 80s and early 90s Goldberg was the best in the supporting actor’s role, she even won an Oscar for it. But with Sister Act, Goldberg was pushed out of the supporting role and became a mainstream leading lady. With its mix of music, jokes and Goldberg’s trademark sass, Sister Act became a smash hit.
However, when the movie was first pitched to producers in the late 80s, there was only one person that they could see playing the lead, and that was Bette Midler. With her musical talent and star power at the time, Midler was the obvious choice. Once the script was completed and the movie was ready to go, Midler left the project as she didn’t think her fans would see her as a nun. An odd reason but we’re thankful that it worked out for Goldberg and she got her chance to shine.
12. Chris Farley – Shrek
Sometimes a movie recasting can come out of a tragedy rather than anything else. This is the case with Chris Farley and Shrek. When Shrek was in its early production stages, the main character was a bit different than the one that we are familiar with. The ogre was more kind hearted and dreamed of becoming a knight. With this incarnation, Farley was everyone’s first choice for the role. Unfortunately Farley died of a heart attack brought on by an overdose. Even through they had started voicing the character, the movie had to be recast.
When Mike Myers stepped into the role, the movie and the character was completely re-written to fit in with Myers’ comedic style and tones. When Shrek was released it became an instant smash and is still one of the most successful animated franchises out there. How different it could have all been with Farley’s interpretation.
11. Tom Selleck – Indiana Jones
This is more of an “almost casting” than an actual recasting. But the implications could have been so disastrous that we feel it’s worth mentioning. Indiana Jones is arguably one of the greatest and best loved characters in all of movie history. The whip cracking, dashing archaeologist has led us through some amazing adventures; the character has surpassed his own movies and has turned into an icon of the silver screen. That’s all down to Harrison Ford and his portrayal of the character, a cross between James Bond and Tin Tin, all of which make the Indiana Jones films box office smashes.
How different it could have all been if the original actor cast as Indy had stayed. During the 80s, a man was set to take over TV and almost define the look of the whole decade. That man was Tom Selleck. Selleck was offered the role of Indy at the same time he was offered a role on the TV show Magnum PI. Not being able to do both, Selleck chose Magnum and TV history was made. But how close we came to an Indiana Jones with a mustache and a Hawaiian shirt!
10. Leonardo DiCaprio – American Psycho
When original director Mary Harron got hold of the script for American Psycho, there’s no one she wanted more than Christian Bale in the role of Patrick Bateman. However, the producers wanted star power for this movie and offered the role to Leonardo DiCaprio. With that, Harron left the project. Next in came Oliver Stone and with DiCaprio due to star, the movie could get going. But with several women’s rights groups protesting the movie’s themes and content, in particular its misogynistic tone, DiCaprio left the project for fear of the ramifications on his career and Stone quickly followed.
So with Harron back at the helm, she brought in Bale to star and American Psycho began filming. Although this movie wasn’t a box office smash, as it might have been with DiCaprio and Stone, it has become a cult classic and kick started Bale’s career as a Hollywood A-Lister.
9. Nicole Kidman – Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Mr. and Mrs. Smith wasn’t just a popular action movie, it also introduced “Brangelina” to the world. Staring as a married couple who are also paid assassins, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sizzled on screen together. The chemistry was obvious to even the casual observer, and not long after the movie’s release, they came out as a couple.
But what would have happened if Nicole Kidman had stayed on as the female lead? Originally cast as the leading lady, Kidman was almost pared with Johnny Depp. As good as Kidman and Depp are, the movie would have been very different with those two as the leads. After Depp, Pitt was officially cast but Kidman had to drop out at the last moment due to her commitment on The Stepford Wives. Pitt also then left but once Jolie had been approached Pitt was back and movie magic, and history, were made. We can all breath a sigh of relief as fate was on Brangelina’s side.
8. Ryan Gosling – The Lovely Bones
As you will see from an entry further down this list, Peter Jackson likes to use the same excuse for an actor that he wants to get rid of. That excuse is, the actor is too young for the role.
So when Jackson wanted to adapt The Lovely Bones from the popular novel, he cast Ryan Gosling as the father in the story. Gosling took the role seriously and even put the work in before production began. Wanting to appear more “dad” like, Gosling put on weight and embraced the role. However, Jackson wasn’t happy with Gosling’s new look and thinking he had made a mistake anyway, he let Gosling go and hired Mark Wahlberg instead. The movie didn’t do as well as expected but with Gosling playing a father, we feel it might have done even worse. Gosling has many charms and talents, but a movie father figure may not be one of them.
7. Harvey Keitel – Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now was an epic war movie that was plagued by problems and hold ups. When Francis Ford Coppola started out on this project, everything seemed perfect. However, as the filming started so did the troubles. Typhoons and bad weather crashed the sets, Marlon Brando was becoming increasing difficult to work with as well as being overweight and uncooperative, and on top of that, the main character of the movie hadn’t been cast. With the A-listers of the day, including Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino, all turning down the part, Coppola had to settle for Harvey Keitel.
However, as the filming began, it became clear to Coppola that Keitel wasn’t right for the role. He didn’t come across as passive enough for the character, so Coppola flew in Martin Sheen to replace him. Weeks later, however, Sheen suffered a heart attack which pushed the movie back even further.
6. Stuart Townsend – The Lord Of The Rings
Stuart Townsend has to be one of the most unlucky actors working today. The Irish actor has come close on numerous occasions to breaking into the Hollywood circle, but has never quite managed it. With major roles in movies Queen of the Damned and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Townsend’s career looked set to take off. Unfortunately, as both those movies bombed at the box office, Townsend had to start again. So when Peter Jackson wanted to turn The Lord of the Rings into a movie, his first choice for the role of Aragorn was Townsend. Townsend spent months training and rehearsing for the role; a role that he no doubt thought would be his big break. Finally!
However, as filming started, Jackson changed his mind and felt that Aragorn should be older. So Townsend was shown the door and Viggo Mortensen was brought in. It’s a shame for Townsend, but for the movie and it’s fans Mortensen was the better choice, as he brought maturity and gravitas to the role that Townsend may not have been able to do.
5. Dougray Scott – X-Men
Sometimes life throws up a choice, and that choice can completely change the path of your career. That was the case with Scottish actor Dougray Scott. When you are hand picked by Tom Cruise to star in his latest movie, anyone would jump at the chance and may even think that this would be their big break. Scott, who was a struggling actor at the time, was asked by Cruise to be the villain in Mission Impossible 2. Of course Scott said yes. However, at the same time Bryan Singer was putting together the cast for his up and coming adaptation of X-Men and he wanted Scott to play Wolverine.
The filming and production on Mission Impossible 2 over ran, so Singer had to make a choice; wait for Scott or pick someone else. He went with the unknown Hugh Jackman for the role instead. Jackman went on to become a Hollywood superstar while Scott’s career started to slide. Mission Impossible 2 is often thought of as the worst of the MI franchise, so Scott must be dreaming of what might have been!
4. Samantha Morton – Her
Sometimes the director and produces don’t know the actor they hired for a role is wrong for the gig until the movie has actually finished filming. Samantha Morton was on the receiving end of this with the movie Her. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Her tells the story of a lonely man that falls in love with his highly developed operating system. The O.S., ironically named Samantha, was voiced by Morton. However, when directer Spike Jonze watched the footage back, he felt that Morton’s voice wasn’t quite working and decided to fly in Scarlett Johansson to re-do the voice over.
3. Sylvester Stallone – Beverly Hills Cop
It’s almost impossible to picture the Beverly Hills Cop franchise without Eddie Murphy, but that was almost the case. The action comedy films about a wise cracking Detroit cop who heads to Beverly Hills to solve a case, has action and attitude that make, specifically the first movie, an absolute classic. That is no doubt down to the performance by Murphy. How different it could have all been if Sylvester Stallone had stayed on as Axel Foley.
Originally cast in the lead role, Stallone actually worked with the script writers and cut out most of the fun and comedy. Stallone thought it best to have a straight up action movie. However, as the budget grew, Sly was let go and replaced with Murphy, after which they went back to the script and re-did everything Stallone had done. Thankfully!
2. Crispin Glover – Back To The Future Trilogy
The Back to the Future trilogy was riddled with re-castings and re-shooting (See the next entry), from Marty McFly’s girlfriend, originally played by Claudia Wells and then replaced by Elisabeth Shue for the sequels, to Marty McFly himself. However, apart from the main character, the other movie re-cast that saved this movie was Crispin Glover.
Although not technically a re-cast, Glover didn’t act in parts II or III although his character was still an integral part of the story. Playing George McFly in the original Back to the Future, Glover demanded too much money to return for the planned sequels. Usually the studios would have replaced the actor in question with a different one; luckily they didn’t do that here. All they did was use existing footage of Glover and hired a look-alike for the rest. This was a wise choice as recasting such an important role would have ruined the reality that the movie had set up. They could get away with Jennifer Parker, but not with Marty’s father.
1. Eric Stoltz – Back To The Future
It’s the most infamous movie recasting in all of movie history. When Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg got together to make a movie, they couldn’t have known at the time just how magical and popular that movie would become. The Back to the Future trilogy became an instant classic and is still celebrated to this day as a great example of perfect story telling. As well as the plot, script and visual look of the movie, the major factor for its success and longevity is due to its star Michael J Fox. With his comedic timing and likability, Fox turned the character of Marty McFly into an icon.
However, that’s not how it was meant to be. Originally Eric Stoltz was cast to play the time traveling teenager. Not only cast, but he actually filmed a majority of the movie. But as Zemeckis and Spielberg watch the movie unfold, they couldn’t help but notice that Stoltz’s performance wasn’t good enough. They felt he was unfunny and too dramatic for the whimsical role. With a quick call to Fox and some serious re-shoots, the movie was saved.