8 Movie Recasts That Ended Up Being So Much Better


Summary

  • Recasting major characters can be a risky move for a movie, but sometimes the replacement proves to be even better than the original.
  • Don Cheadle’s performance as War Machine in Iron Man 2 was a triumph, redefining the role and adding depth and humor.
  • Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is an iconic portrayal that is impossible to imagine anyone else exceeding.

Recasting an actor can be tricky, whether it arrives later in a franchise or even before a movie’s release, but sometimes the replacement proves even better than the original. Recasting major characters with a new actor is often considered a bad omen for an upcoming movie, but several examples prove that this is not always the case. Whether an actor is recast because of salary disputes, behind-the-scenes creative decisions, or scheduling conflicts, finding a worthy replacement to help carry the movie – or franchise – forward is rarely an easy task.

For some movies and their wider franchises, recasting a major character was the best possible decision, and, in a few cases, contributed to that film’s greater success. Other times, however, movies which have recast actors have become infamous in cinematic history for being unable to match the original star’s performance. Maria Bello replacing Rachel Weisz as Evie in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and George Clooney replacing Val Kilmer as Batman in Batman & Robin are among the most divisive examples, earning the derision of audiences and critics alike. However, the risk of recasting an actor has ultimately paid off on notable occasions, with some movies’ replacements proving to be far more suited to the role.

Related: 10 Recast Movie Roles That Saved The Character


8 Don Cheadle As War Machine – Iron Man 2

Originally Played By Terrence Howard

Don Cheadle and Terrence Howard as War Machine

Iron Man 2

Release Date
May 7, 2010

Director
Jon Favreau

Cast
Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
124 minutes

Genres
Adventure, Sci-Fi, Action

Terrence Howard appeared in the first Iron Man movie as James “Rhodey” Rhodes. The early Marvel Cinematic Universe entrant teased Rhodey’s eventual superhero persona, War Machine, but Howard never got to don the suit. While negotiating salaries for the sequel, Iron Man 2, Howard could not reach an agreement with the studio. As a result, Don Cheadle replaced Terrance Howard in the MCU. Cheadle proved a triumph, however, redefining the role successfully and subsequently appearing in a multitude of MCU movies and television series. Cheadle’s performance added a greater depth and humor to the role, and it is hard to imagine anyone else playing War Machine in the subsequent MCU movies.

7 Maggie Gyllenhaal As Rachel Dawes – The Dark Knight

Originally Played By Katie Holmes

side by side images of Katie Holmes in Batman Begins and Maria Bello in The Dark Knight as Rachel

The Dark Knight

Release Date
July 18, 2008

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Nestor Carbonell, Morgan Freeman, Ritchie Coster, Cillian Murphy, Chin Han, Gary Oldman, Eric Roberts, William Fichtner, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christian Bale, David Dastmalchian, Michael Caine, Anthony Michael Hall, Heath Ledger

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
152 Minutes

Genres
Action, Thriller, Drama, Crime

Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a highly memorable performance as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, which was an impressive feat considering the wealth of impressive acting talent the movie boasted. However, Gyllenhaal did not star in the movie’s predecessor, Batman Begins. Instead, the role was performed by Katie Holmes. Though she delivered a fine performance as Gotham’s assistant district attorney, Rachael Dawes, Holmes decided not to return for The Dark Knight. Holmes opted to star in the 2008 movie Mad Money instead and was replaced by Gyllenhaal.

Ultimately, Gyllenhaal was the superior choice, providing a much more compelling performance that carried the emotional climax of the movie. Gyllenhaal’s version also provided Rachel with a greater toughness required of the district attorney, which wasn’t as apparent in Holmes’ iteration of the character in Batman Begins. While Holmes certainly would have given another great performance had she returned for The Dark Knight, Gyllenhaal replacing her as Rachel Dawes proved to be a successful move for Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

6 Michael J. Fox As Marty McFly – Back To The Future

Originally Played By Eric Stoltz

Back to the Future

Release Date
July 3, 1985

Director
Robert Zemeckis

Rating
PG

Runtime
116 minutes

Genres
Adventure, Sci-Fi, Comedy

Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly persists as one of cinema’s most iconic characters. However, the character and the movie were originally very different. As Fox was seemingly unavailable during the pre-production of Back to the Future, Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty. Filming was well underway when the filmmakers decided the performance was not working, feeling that Stoltz’ version of Marty lacked the humor that the movie required. Consequently, Eric Stoltz was fired from Back to the Future​​​​​. During production, Fox did become available and assumed the role. Fox infused far greater comedy into the role that otherwise may have become much darker than intended, ultimately establishing one of cinema’s most celebrated protagonists.

Related: Back To The Future: What If Eric Stoltz Had Played Marty McFly?

5 Anthony Hopkins As Hannibal Lecter – The Silence Of The Lambs

Originally Played By Brian Cox

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter inside his cell in Silence of the Lambs.

Silence of the Lambs

Release Date
February 14, 1991

Director
jonathan demme

Cast
Scott Glenn, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald

Rating
R

Runtime
118 minutes

Genres
Drama, Crime, Horror, Thriller

Despite delivering the definitive personification of Thomas Harris’s infamous killer psychiatrist, Anthony Hopkins was not the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter. Brian Cox played Lecter a few years earlier in the 1986 thriller Manhunter, an adaptation of Harris’s first Hannibal novel, Red Dragon. However, when adapting the second novel, The Silence of the Lambs, the filmmakers cast Anthony Hopkins instead. Hopkins’ portrayal managed to perfectly balance savagery and sophistication, which ultimately defined the role and earned Hopkins several prestigious accolades. Hopkins’ Lecter was so successful that his own adaptation of Red Dragon was ultimately produced as well, though the 2002 movie ultimately earned worse reviews than Cox’s film version.

4 Hugh Jackman As Wolverine – X-Men

Originally Played By Dougray Scott

Wolverine CGI claws in X-Men Origins Wolverine pic

X-Men

Release Date
July 14, 2000

Director
Bryan Singer

Cast
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Ray Park, Rebecca Romijn

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
104 Minutes

Genres
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero

Hugh Jackman starred as Wolverine in an impressive nine movies, with the upcoming Deadpool 3 marking his tenth. Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine is one of the finest adaptations of a comic book character and a highlight throughout every era of the X-Men movie franchise. Jackman was in fact a last-minute casting decision, with Dougray Scott cast to play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie. Scott was delayed, however, by his work on Mission: Impossible 2 and was unavailable to film (via Brisbane Times). Fortunately, Jackman was cast to replace him, and the famed superhero appeared in every X-Men movie except X-Men: Dark Phoenix and starred in three solo Wolverine movies. While Scott’s iteration of the character is yet to be seen, Jackman has come to define the role in a manner that makes it impossible to imagine another actor exceeding his performance.

3 Ian McDiarmid As The Emperor – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi

Originally Played By Marjorie Eaton

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Release Date
May 25, 1983

Director
Richard Marquand

Cast
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, David Prowse, Frank Oz, Sebastian Shaw, Alec Guinness

Rating
PG

Runtime
131 Minutes

Genres
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Emperor Palpatine is one of cinema’s most notorious villains, appearing in every trilogy in the Star Wars saga as the terrifying architect of the Galactic Empire. Palpatine’s first official performance was in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, which depicted the franchise villain as a hologram. Palpatine was played by Marjorie Eaton, who wore heavy prosthetics to embody the role. In Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi, Palpatine appeared in person, so the role was recast with Ian McDiarmid. McDiarmid brought a sinister sophistication and chilling voice work to the role which was so compelling that he was brought back for the prequel and sequel trilogies.

2 Mark Ruffalo As The Hulk – The Avengers

Originally Played By Edward Norton

side-by-side of Ed Norton as Hulk and Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and Hulk in The Avengers

The Avengers

Release Date
May 4, 2012

Director
Joss Whedon

Cast
Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgård, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Evans

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
2h 23m

Genres
Action, Sci-Fi

Another key member of the MCU was recast early in the franchise, just in time for 2012’s The Avengers. Edward Norton was the first actor to play Dr. Bruce Banner in the MCU, appearing as the eponymous hero in The Incredible Hulk. However, Norton left the franchise after the first movie, reportedly due to creative differences, and was replaced by Mark Ruffalo for the Hulk’s next outing. Ruffalo’s depiction proved more befitting though, perfectly capturing Banner’s awkward humanity and conveying far greater emotional depth as the Hulk. Ruffalo’s Hulk became an essential facet of the franchise and complemented the other protagonists much more effectively than Norton’s iteration of the character would have.

Related: Why Mark Ruffalo Replaced Edward Norton As Hulk In The MCU

1 Josh Brolin As Thanos – Guardians Of The Galaxy

Originally Played By Damion Poitier

Thanos Using Four Infinity Stones In Avengers Infinity War

Guardians of the Galaxy

Release Date
August 1, 2014

Director
James Gunn

Cast
Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, Dave Bautista, ​Chris Pratt2, Bradley Cooper, John C. Reilly

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
122 Mins

Josh Brolin’s Thanos appeared extensively throughout the MCU, teased as the franchise’s primary antagonist in several movies before his central performance in Avengers: Infinity War. The first of these brief teases, however, did not feature Brolin in the role. Thanos was first performed by Damion Poitier, primarily known for his stunt work, in the post-credits scene in The Avengers. Brolin assumed the role of Thanos for every subsequent appearance, starting with Guardians of the Galaxy, as part of a creative decision on behalf of the studio. Brolin’s portrayal proved far more befitting of the character, exploiting Brolin’s imposing appearance and stoic nature to characterize Thanos as the formidable mad titan.

Source: Brisbane Times



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