The biggest movie recasting backlashes of the 21st century
If the movie industry had a draft, we’d currently be smack in the middle of it with the likes of James Bond, Wolverine and a number of iconic roles currently up for grabs. Hollywood has an appetite like never before for reboots, remakes, sequels and spin-offs, meaning many of cinema’s famous characters have been recast with younger actors more suited to the latest incarnation of whatever superhero, horror or heist story is being told.
So as fans brace themselves for yet another round of musical chairs for some of film’s most beloved roles, here are a few controversial recasting choices that weren’t well-received.
After signing Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man and Edward Norton as Hulk, Marvel was clearly lining up an all-star cast for their Avengers franchise. But after the overall favourable response to The Incredible Hulk, Marvel publicly excoriated Edward Norton in a press statement as being a difficult collaborator and subsequently terminated him. Norton’s camp, of course, took exception to the denouncement, which led to a bitter publicity battle between Marvel and Norton’s representation. They signed him up just to cut him loose. Ouch. Mark Ruffalo took over for Norton and nobody seems to mind all that much. Of course, there was Eric Bana as Hulk in the original reboot in 2003, who was cast aside for Norton on account of critical feedback of the film – despite the majority of fans liking Bana’s performance.
The studio felt fortunate that Anthony Hopkins was willing to reprise his award-winning role as Hannibal Lecter after Silence Of The Lambs, but what was perhaps initially underestimated was how crucial Jodie Foster was to the success of the original film. Julianne Moore replaced Jodie Foster in Hannibal as Clarice Starling, and just nothing gelled as well as the original film. The tone was off and Moore’s portrayal of Starling seemed like a completely new character altogether. Her unrecognisable performance is partially absolved, however, because the entire film squandered what was great about the original.
This Spider-Man reboot of 2012 came way too soon after the scorned Spider-Man 3 five years earlier. It’s not so much that Andrew Garfield wasn’t a worthy successor, it’s just that it was too soon. Yes, a lot of people prefer Garfield’s take on the character to Tobey Maguire’s, but fans were incredulous as to why they were already rebuilding the brand. This vexing choice, coupled with mixed reviews, led to this reboot imploding, which is why Spider-Man now rests in the safe care of the MCU. Fox would be wise to remember this lesson for Wolverine.
When the all-female reboot for the beloved Ghostbusters franchise was planned, it was met with quite an incredible – and unfair – amount of criticism on the internet before a single day of filming. This led to heated arguments about gender equality, and how to appropriately pay respect to a classic film. It was also a point of contention that in both incarnations the black Ghostbuster is the less-educated, ‘street smart’ character. Of course, despite the fact the four women remain four of the funniest humans on the planet, what ended up truly sinking the reboot into obscurity was poor reception to the trailers and poor reviews.
The many iterations of the Batman franchise have had their fair share of casting calamities, whether it’s an assembly line of new faces portraying Batman or it’s Jared Leto’s reductive translation after Heath Ledger’s indelible take on The Joker (take note, Wolverine). But the incongruous casting of Rachel Dawes for The Dark Knight is particularly notable because of how disjointed it felt within the franchise. It was Katie Holmes’s choice not to reprise the role, but replacing her with Maggie Gyllenhaal softened the impact of that character. Her relationship to Batman feels disconnected and the character’s death isn’t met with much despondency because it’s a fresh face on a character for whom we’re supposed to feel an affinity. Don’t even get us started on the many incarnations of Catwoman. Continuity counts, especially when that character is supposed to be the empathetic touchstone of the franchise.