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Casting Controversies That Resulted In Success

Entertainment
Casting Controversies That Resulted In Success

It happens to everyone: you’re looking forward to an upcoming movie or TV show, and it’s based off of a story you love, you see the cast list, you go through the names looking forward to seeing it translated onto the big or small screen. Then it happens: you come across that one name on the list, and the actor, whoever it is, is just completely wrong for the role.

It doesn’t always end in sorrow, though. Sometimes, those miscast roles are the best things about the show or movie. So, in honor of the hubbub regarding the casting choices in Batman vs. Superman (a rundown of the complaints, Wonder woman: Too skinny, Lex Luthor: too hipster, Batman: too Ben Affleck) here are some roles people thought were miscast, but turned out awesome.

8) Daniel Craig as James Bond (2006-present)

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I remember this: looking at this musclebound, craggy faced dude and thinking ‘no way’. And I definitely wasn’t alone: the stories poured in, he was too thuggish, he couldn’t drive stick-shift (meaning no Aston-Martin!) he was too short, and he was too young for the role. The worst part of it, for Craig, was that the criticisms were coming before the movie had premiered.

Then the movie opened, and it was impossible to hear to naysayers over the fervent converts. Craig’s version of Bond was an unpolished, and, judging by the film’s reception, that was exactly what the audience had been wanting to see. The film has since earned $599, 045, 960 worldwide, and is the second highest grossing film of the Bond franchise (only beaten by 2012’s Skyfall).

7) Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica, 2003-9)

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2003 saw the re-imagining of a campy 70s sci-fi show that had largely passed from public memory, called Battlestar Galactica. The update cut the camp away from the premise, and provided a compelling sci-fi drama about humanity in crisis. To do this, and to update the show for a modern audience, some changes were made, and none caused more ire than that of Starbuck.  In the original series, Starbuck was a loveable rogue, a cigar-smoking flying ace, a man with a girl in every galaxy. In the reboot, Starbuck was a loveable rogue, a cigar-smoking flying ace, and a woman with two love interests. Dirk Benedict, who’d played Starbuck in the original series, wrote an angry screed of nearly 2000 words decrying the casting. In his mind,  making Starbuck a woman was indicative of the ‘un-imagining’ of the series, and that the remake was “a show of despair, sexual violence and family dysfunction”.

But he was clearly wrong. Audiences fell in love with Starbuck pretty much from her introduction. And the show, rather than being a flash in the pan, was so popular that the UN held a symposium on its deft handling of themes like religion, terrorism and gender.

6) Lucy Liu as Joan Watson (Elementary, 2012- present)

The Red Team

Elementary was in trouble from the start. CBS had tried to get the rights to remake the wildly popular ‘Sherlock’ for American audience, and upon the BBC’s refusal, remembered that Sherlock Holmes was in the public domain, and that they could make their own Sherlock Holmes adaptation, with or without BBC approval. And so they did, and one of the major changes they made was turning John Watson into Joan Watson.

To be frank, most people were curious about the show, and felt neutrally about the change. However, some people got really nasty, really fast. Namely, ‘Watson can’t be a woman’ and ‘Watson must be white’.

Then it did air, and while there are still those who still dislike the show, they’re harder to find; it’s mostly beloved, with Liu‘s clever, no-nonsense Watson one of the major draws. The show garners consistently high ratings, is well-received by both reviewers and the average viewer, and has picked up several awards, including three for Lucy Liu’s Watson.

5) Heath Ledger as The Joker (The Dark Knight, 2008)

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Imagine this: you’re a movie watcher. That boy who played the bad-boy heart throb in your favorite teen rom-com has grown up and started to make a showing as an excellent actor. Then he takes a role in a superhero movie as a heavily made-up villain, and worse, definitely won’t be able to top the last man to take the role.

That’s basically what happened when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker. People were generally outraged at the choice, and there’s no noise like angry fans. People wanted Jack Nicholson to reprise his role, or Mark Hamill, who’d received fan acclaim for voice acting the Joker in Batman’s animated outings.

The tragedy of Ledger’s death aside, his portrayal of the Joker burnt itself onto the public mind, from the DIY style of his facepaint (designed by Ledger) to his hissing ‘Why so serious?’. Aside from the Best Supporting Actor Oscar Ledger won (the first major award to be given to a comic book movie), Ledger’s take on the Joker won Michael Caine‘s (who played Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s butler) approval when Ledger’s acting in their first scene together (also their first meeting) scared the veteran actor so badly that he forgot his lines!

4) Tom Cruise as the vampire Lestat (Interview With The Vampire, 1994)

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In the good old days of the nineties, Tom Cruise‘s roles in movies garnered surprise and suspicion because of the perceived disconnect between Cruise and the character he portrayed, not simply because it was Tom Cruise.  When Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire, she’d had Rutger Hauer in mind for the role of Lestat, the brat prince of vampires, but he was too old when the book began to be transitioned to film. When the role was given to Tom Cruise, over actors like Johnny Depp and John Travolta, Anne Rice expressed concern over Cruise’s ability to portray the character. Since he was best known at the time for films like Risky Business and Top Gun, one can see why she worried.

The movie aired. People loved the eerie vampire makeup and the lush sets. And, to everyone’s relief, they loved Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Lestat. Cruise, who’d watched videos of lions hunting to prepare for the role, managed to capture the arrogance, glibness and complete lack of care for consequences vital to Lestat’s character. Anne Rice was so pleased with his portrayal, she wrote a letter apologizing for doubting Cruise’s skills, and took out full page ads in Vanity Fair and the New York Times endorsing the film as a masterpiece.

3) Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With The Wind, 1939)

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Over a thousand actresses interviewed for the role, and casting Scarlett O’Hara became part of the film’s publicity campaign, with fans asked to vote in on who they thought should play the role, a stunt in which Vivien Leigh received a single vote. Leading contenders included: Lana Turner, Joan Bennett, Louise Platt, Paulette Goddard and Tallulah Bankhead. Reportedly, the studio wanted to hire Tallulah Bankhead, but her scandalous (at the time) life outweighed the bonuses of hiring a real southern belle.

The actual casting of Vivien Leigh was met with suspicion, as she was an unknown actress expected to hold her own against a well-established cast of actors. She also could not dance, and scenes requiring Scarlett to dance had to have Leigh substituted with Sally de Marco. She also did not get along with the film’s second director, disagreeing with both his brusque style and his unflattering interpretation of Scarlett.

But, despite troubles during filming,  Vivien won an Oscar for her role, and her place in pop culture history as Scarlett O’Hara, with the movie being regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, grossing over $390 million since its release in 1939h

2) Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean, 2003)

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This is one of those cases where the controversy wasn’t coming from the public. Generally, the public likes seeing Johnny Depp movies. And, at first, the studio was all for it too: they’d decided that Pirates of the Caribbean was going to be a theater film, instead of a direct-to-dvd release, and they wanted a capital-s-Star to play the role of Jack Sparrow, turning down Hugh Jackman (writer Stuart Beatty’s choice) as not being big-name enough.

The studio started to rethink their casting decision during filming, though. Depp had a great degree of influence on the character of Jack Sparrow, and the studio wasn’t sure that the inebriated swagger, gold teeth and rockstar mannerisms would be well received. But both director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer insisted that Depp’s portrayal would work, and that any of Sparrow’s oddities would be perfectly offset by the clean-cut heroism of Orlando Bloom‘s Will Turner.

When the movie came out, any problems the studio had with Depp’s acting choices vanished underneath the piles of money the movie earned. Where previous theme park ride to movie adaptations had performed averagely at the box office, Pirates of the Caribbean was a certifiable smash hit. It was the perfect summer movie, and had the returns to show for it, taking in $46 million on opening weekend in the US, and making over $300 million by January 2004. And three sequels later, they’re still going strong, with a fifth Pirates movie expected out in 2016.

1) Sean Connery as James Bond (Dr. No, 1962)

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James Bond’s a polarizing role. All the fans seem to have a list of the actors who’ve played him, ranking them from best to worst. Not even the first, iconic Bond, Sean Connery, escaped the dreaded ‘who, him?’ response. Like with Gone With the Wind, part of the film’s publicity campaign involved finding the best man for Bond.  There was a contest, with Bond creator Ian Fleming, producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman judging, despite Broccoli and Saltzman having already decided on Sean Connery, who Broccoli had seen in the Disney movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People.

But Ian Fleming wasn’t convinced. In fact, he was a little horrified at the idea of a rugged Scottish man playing the aristocratic English spy. When the film premiered, however, one of the few things Fleming did like about it was Connery’s performance. In fact, he liked it so much that in the James Bond novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he revealed James Bond’s secret Scottish ancestry.

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