The 8 Ball 08.06.13: The Top 8 Movie Recastings
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 08.06.2013
From Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk in The Avengers and Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games to Liev Schreiber in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as Sabretooth and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 movie recastings of all time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Movie Recastings
This past weekend the new face of Doctor Who was revealed. As was announced earlier this summer, Matt Smith is stepping down from the role after the 2013 Christmas special which means that it's time for a new regeneration. Peter Capaldi, who has proven his skill as both a dramatic and comedic actor, will be taking up the mantle as the Twelfth Doctor. Many roles in film franchises have been recast for a variety of reasons. Sometimes scheduling conflicts get in the way; sometimes actors have no desire to come back. Sometimes it is the unfortunate passing of an actor that makes a recasting necessary. Whatever the reason, some franchises have found new life through the bringing in of a new actor for an established role and with this announcement being made over the weekend I thought I would take this opportunity to look at the best recastings in films.
Caveat: The main caveat for this list was simple; I was looking for roles that were filled by one actor in a particular film and another in its following sequel; prequel. For the record, I left one primary, well-known franchise off, and that's the James Bond franchise. That can (and probably will) easily be its own list somewhere down the line. I also didn't include reboots, as following in the spirit of the Doctor I wanted to go with actors who played the exact same role and not a re-envisioned version of the role. While it's sometimes difficult to establish what is a reboot and what isn't considering the term is basically a marketing tool, I used this simple rule: if there is reference of continuity from the previous films to the recast ones, it was a sequel. If the previous film's continuity is cancelled out, it is a reboot.
Just Missing The Cut
• Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique (X-Men: First Class)
• Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy Gennaro-McClane (Live Free or Die Hard)
• Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes (Iron Man 2 & Iron Man 3)
• Michael Gambon as Dumbledore (Harry Potter franchise)
• Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th Parts 7 - 10)
#8: Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer Parker
(Back To The Future Part II & Part III)
First up on our list is one of the classic recastings. Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future was a breakout hit in 1986; it received widespread acclaim and was the highest-grossing film of that year with over $383 million worldwide. Thus, a sequel was inevitable and it arrived with Back to the Future Part II in 1989. That film actually had two recastings as Crispin Glover was replaced by Jeffrey Weissman due to contract disagreements but in that one Zemeckis actively tried to pull one over on the audience with makeup effects and shooting Weissman consistently from behind. The other recasting was a much less-heated situation, as Claudia Wells chose not to reprise her role when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Zemeckis replaced her with Elisabeth Shue, who made the role her own and is now largely remembered as "the" Jennifer. For my money Part II is a bit of a disappointment overall; it's too messy and the future doesn't work as well as Zemeckis wanted. But one of the highlights was how easily Shue integrated into the cast, using Jennifer's expanded role to steal a lot of moments from the rest of the cast. Shue would parlay that success into a very successful career through the '80s and early '90s, and even an Oscar nomination for Leaving Las Vegas. To many people though she will always be Jennifer from Back to the Future which says a lot to how well she took over the role.
#7: Juliette Lewis & Johnny Galecki as Audrey and Russ Griswold
(National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation)
Being cast as a kid in the National Lampoon franchise is a mixed blessing; on one had you are guaranteed the chance to work with comedy icons in Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo but on the other you know it's going to be a "one and done" situation. When Anthony Michael Hall decided not to return so he could do Weird Science and Dana Barron was recast as well, Chase came up with the idea of consistently recasting the children because he thought it would be funny that despite Clark's efforts to be a great family man, he never recognized his children. Dana Hill and Jason Lively played the roles for European Vacation and Marisol Nichols and Ethan Embry were Rusty and Audrey in Vegas Vacation, but the best duo to take on the roles for my money was Juliette Lewis & Johnny Galecki, who played the Griswold kids for the best of the sequels in Christmas Vacation. Part of the humor is in that Lewis and Galecki were actually younger than Hill and Lively, but outside of arguably Barron and Hall the holiday-cast duo took to the roles with the most gusto and humor. Galecki works quite well with Chase and nicely contributes to the lights scene in particular while Lewis slots in well and has several funny moments of her own. As it turned out Barron would mess up the "one and done" format when she reprised the role of Audrey for the made-for-TV National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2 in 2003, but the less said about that the better.
#6: Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth
(X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
Released in 2009, the spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine is widely (and deservedly) considered to be a massive disappointment. The film has a very jarring sense of tone between the first and second halves, the script features some horrendous dialogue and poor characterizations, the action is remarkably unrealistic (even for a superhero film) and what they did to Deadpool was the equivalent of a cinematic felony. But the two shining points in the film can be attributed to the main stars in Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. Jackman did his usual great work while Schreiber opened up a lot of eyes with his work as Sabretooth. The role had originally been filled by pro wrestler Tyler Mane in the first X-Men film and he did fine for what was required of him, but it is no understatement to say that a nuanced performance and character depth were not high on the list of Mr. Creed's attributes in that film. These were both provided by Schreiber, a talented character actor who was able to rise to the physical demands of the role but more importantly portray the ferocity of the character's personality and deliver more than a line or two of dialogue. Schreiber was one of the few good character actors who weren't wasted in the film and he made Sabretooth the single thing that was better than its predecessors.
#5: Chris Pine & Zachary Quinto as James Kirk & Spock
(Star Trek & Star Trek Into Darkness)
I thought very long and hard about including just one or the other, or including them as separate entries. However, Kirk and Spock are inextricably entwined in the Star Trek franchise...and I'm not just talking about massive amounts of slashfic. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are the originators of what are quite possibly two of the most well-known characters in all of science fiction this side of Darth Vader and anyone filling those shoes was in for an impossibly high bar to reach. That bar was a large part of why I had extreme doubts that J.J. Abrams' reboot could succeed; to me, recasting Kirk or Spock was tantamount to casting someone other than Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger (and look how that worked out). Luckily my doubts were quelled as Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto delivered takes on the characters that kept them correct at their cores, but didn't feel the need to exactly ape either character. No one would look at the modern-day Spock and Kirk and mistake them for anyone other than those original characters, but it's far more than the two doing their best Shatner/Nimoy impressions. The excellent acting continued in this year's sequel and I'm excited to see them continue making their stamp on these landmark roles.
#4: Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan
(Patriot Games/Clear & Present Danger)
Recasting is a bit more common of a thing now, in the age of superheroes, science fiction and fantasy. For some reason genre filmmaking seems to be much more inclined toward recasting, but it is not the only place in which it occurs. Take the adaptations of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan military thrillers, in which three actors have played the role. Alec Baldwin filled the shoes for the great Hunt for Red October in 1990, but when he was unavailable to reprise the role for the follow-up Patriot Games Paramount and director Phillip Noyce decided to cast older. The result was Harrison Ford, who delivered a standout performance in the film. Ford was originally a favorite to play the role before Baldwin had been cast and he followed up Patriot Games with an equally-good turn in Clear & Present Danger. That would sadly be Ford's last performance in the role as the studio decided to reboot the franchise, which left us with a miscast Ben Affleck in the somewhat problematic Sum of All Fears. But we'll always have Baldwin and Ford's work (and, potentially, the upcoming re-reboot with Chris Pine) to remind us that the right character can fit multiple actors...and you don't even need a cowl, sonic screwdriver or martini for that to be the case.
#3: Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk
In my initial draw of this list, this was the #1 choice but he slipped down a couple spots in the final ranking. The Hulk has been one of the most problematic characters of Marvel's more iconic characters to realize on the big screen, perhaps up there with the Punisher. (For the record Punisher: War Zone is a reboot and thus not eligible for the list, if anyone was wondering about its lack of inclusion.) Ang Lee's take on the character was too uneven in tone and didn't mesh Lee's serious overtones with the superhero stuff at the end and while the Edward Norton-starring film was better but didn't seem to connect right with fans. When Norton clashed with Marvel over negotiations to reprise the role in The Avengers, the studio decided to try again and we got Mark Ruffalo's take on Banner and his emerald-skinned alter ego. Ruffalo's Banner hit all the right notes; he didn't look like an action hero and he had the down-to-earth attitude and world-weariness of a scientist living with a monster inside of him. And his Hulk was the best-realized version of that character yet, both from a CGI and physicality standpoint. Ruffalo was able to play off of Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson in particular incredibly well; it just matched up beautifully with what comic book fans were hoping for to the point that the Hulk was considered one of the real highlights of the film. It's nice to see that they finally got this character done right.
#2: Ian McDiarmid as Emperor/Senator Palpatine
(Star Wars Episodes I - III and Episode VI)
It's strange to think of anyone but Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor. The Sith Lord who turned Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader and ruled the galaxy with an iron fist has become a pop culture phenomenon almost at his apprentice's level and McDiarmid will always be remembered for his work in the role. But in Palpatine's first appearance, McDiarmid was nowhere to be seen. We first see the Sith Lord in The Empire Strikes Back, where he was physically (or rather, holographically) portrayed by Elaine Baker with Clive Revill providing the voice a la James Earl Jones' work as Vader. Some may not realize this fact at this point because Lucas has digitally inserted McDiarmid into Empire because...well, it's George Lucas. Baker, who was the wife of make-up designer Rick Baker, had makeup that darkened her eye sockets and Lucas superimposed chimpanzee eyes to create a more unsettling image. Obviously this couldn't be done once Darth Sidious wasn't just a hologram so McDiarmid was brought on board. Ironically, he was aged via make-up for the original films and then made to look more youthful via the same process for the sequels. McDiarmid took the character and made him chilling, a symbol of the natural progression of unrepentant evil. And he was one of the absolute best things about the prequels, continuing to make Palpatine a force to be reckoned with no matter what era of the franchise he played him in.
#1: Michael Fassbender as Magneto
(X-Men: First Class)
It's not an exaggeration to say that the acting made X-Men: First Class the great film that it was. (No, we're not including poor January Jones in that.) This is not to say that everything else about the prequel is bad; all in all it is a very satisfying film that took the first positive steps forward for the franchise since X2: X-Men United. But it did have a few moments of dialogue that would have allowed the whole thing to fall completely apart if not for the great work by the cast. Paramount among them was Michael Fassbender, who took on Ian McKellan's younger self as Eric Lehnsherr, aka Magneto. Fassbender had already been establishing quite a track record as an quickly-rising star with work in films like Hunger and Inglourious Basterds, but with Magneto he showed that he had real blockbuster franchise potential. I've jokingly referred to the actor's portrayal of the younger Master of Magnetism as the Bourne Mutant or 00-Mutant and those are not digs. Fassbender is able to take a character that is destined to become an archvillain and make him a bad-ass that we root for. He also has the gravitas as a performer to give the role dramatic weight; scenes like the chess game between Xavier and Eric or his seduction of Mystique play out less like comic book pulp than serious dramatic thrillers and they lend urgency to the overall product. McAvoy is a great Xavier and Lawrence was fantastic as Mystique, but for my money this will always be Fassbender's film and he makes us believe every moment he's on the screen. Filling the shoes of a legendary actor like McKellan isn't easy, but he was very much up to the task.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
Current Series/Season:Season Thirteen (1975) Episodes Watched: 621 Last Serial Completed:The Android Invasion - The Doctor and Sarah find themselves in the English village of Devesham near a Space Defence Station. The village seems deserted, the telephones don't work, calendars are stuck on the same date and white-suited figures are wandering about aimlessly. Who are the Kraals and what are their plans for Earth? Surviving Episodes Remaining: 20
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.