In Hollywood, just because an actor wins a part, doesn’t mean they can’t be replaced. It was a pretty big deal when Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2, and our world was turned upside-down when Edward Norton got sacked from The Avengers and replaced with Mark Ruffalo. Even on television, actors get replaced all the time, like Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or Darrin on Bewitched, who was played by Dick York before he was switched out for Dick Sergeant. There’s a joke here, but we’re classier than that at Screen Rant.
Sometimes, however, a cast change is handled with finesse and subtlety, leading to the audience not even noticing that a behind-the-scenes shakeup had ever taken place. Only the most eagle-eyed viewers would know about these 12 Actors Who Were Recast And Nobody Noticed.
12. Claudia Wells and Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer in Back to the Future
The time-traveling adventures of Marty McFly and Doctor Emmett Brown are universally revered as some of the most beloved and endearing family films of all time. Elisabeth Shue is so well-remembered for her role as Jennifer, Marty’s girlfriend, that it may come as a surprise to discover, upon re-watching the original Back to the Future, that Shue is nowhere to be seen!
Indeed, the role of Jennifer was played in the original film by Claudia Wells, a hard-working but relatively little-known actress. Wells was not fired, but declined to appear in the sequels, opting instead to care for her mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer. Meanwhile, the first scene of Back to the Future Part II is a shot-for-shot remake of the first film’s ending, only with Wells replaced with Shue. The two actresses look enough alike that, after hair, makeup, and wardrobe, the transition between the two is seamless, even when watching the first two films back-to-back.
Claudia Wells did return to play Jennifer in the excellent Back to the Future: The Game, developed by Telltale Games (The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us).
11. Jeffrey Hunter and Sean Kenney as Christopher Pike in Star Trek
When Star Trek was first commissioned as a television pilot, the Captain of the Enterprise was Christopher Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter, who had appeared in such films as The Searchers and King of Kings. After the pilot, “The Cage,” was rejected in 1965 for being “too cerebral,” a second pilot, more action-packed and swashbuckling in tone, was ordered, which ultimately led to the series being picked up. “The Cage” was seen as too great of a story to completely abandon, however, and footage from the unaired pilot was incorporated into Star Trek‘s only two-parter, “The Menagerie.”
“The Menagerie” is one of the best episodes of the original Star Trek series, a fitting and touching send-off to The Enterprise’s old Captain. Only…Jeffrey Hunter didn’t reprise his role. While Hunter appears in the recycled footage from “The Cage,” the older, physically incapacitated version of Pike is played by look-alike Sean Kenney. Bound to a wheelchair after a crippling accident, Pike is severely burned, which further sells the illusion that both men are the same character.
10. Tim Dunigan and Dirk Benedict as Faceman in The A-Team
Against all odds, The A-Team has become one of the more enduring pop culture staples of the 1980s. Maybe it was the family-friendly tone, with hundreds of bullets shot per episode with nobody ever getting hurt, or the wonderful dissonance of the cuddly/intimidating figure that is Mr. T, or maybe it was the palpable chemistry between the main cast. We bet it’s the latter, because said chemistry is noticeably lacking in the show’s pilot. When The A-Team’s double-length pilot, entitled “Mexican Slayride,” aired in 1983, Templeton Peck, aka “Faceman,” is played not by series regular Dirk Benedict, but by actor Tim Dunigan.
Benedict had always been the creators’ first choice for the role of the team’s handsome rogue, but NBC executives insisted on Dunigan, who ultimately proved too tall and young-looking to fit within the ensemble. The A-Team was comprised entirely of Vietnam vets, and Dunigan wasn’t even out of high school by the time that war came to a close. From the second episode onward, Dirk “Starbuck” Benedict filled the Templeton Peck role, and the rest is history.
9. Bill Duke and Peter Dinklage as Trask in X-Men
In the much-reviled X-Men: The Last Stand, Trask, as played by the towering Bill Duke, is head of the Department of Homeland Security. The film also features Sentinels — mutant-killing robots — in its cold open, though they serve no purpose in the main story, and are solely intended as a nod to the fans. Fast forward nine years to X-Men: Days of Future Past, and suddenly Trask (now with a first name, that of his comic book counterpart, Bolivar) reappears, played by Game of Thrones‘ Peter Dinklage.
Peter Dinklage is two feet shorter than Bill Duke, and probably weighs at least 100 pounds less than the Predator star, to say nothing of the obvious difference in race. Despite being physical polar opposites of each other, very few people minded, or even noticed, that a recasting had taken place. Trask’s role in The Last Stand is so small, and his character so unlike his comic book persona, that, by the time Dinklage had been cast for Days of Future Past, most viewers had forgotten that Trask was even in The Last Stand to begin with, much less that he was played by Bill Duke, of all people.
8. Numerous X-Men Mutants
Speaking of X-Men, back in the days of the first three movies, directors Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner had a habit of including cameos by mutants. Many of these characters would go on to make significant appearances in subsequent films, and every single one of them were recast. Here’s a few, just for starters:
Beast, in human form, appeared briefly on a television screen in X2 before being played by Kelsey Grammar in The Last Stand. Psylocke appears in a minor villain role in The Last Stand, played by Mei Melancon, and will be played by Olivia Munn in X-Men: Apocalypse. Before being played by Ellen Page in X-Men 3 and Days of Future Past, Kitty Pryde made appearances in the first two X-Men films, played by two different actresses. Pyro makes a cameo in the first film before Aaron Stanford was cast in the role for X2. Also in the first X-Men film, a young student at Professor Xavier’s school can be seen painting. Astute fans would correctly infer this character to be Colossus, who would be played by Daniel Cudmore in subsequent films before being reimagined as a more comically inclined character in 2016’s biggest surprise hit, Deadpool.
Cameos such as these would probably never fly these days, as viewers no longer appreciate having their beloved mutants making mere cameos as throwaway gags, demanding more in-depth characterization from such fan-favorite figures.
7. Rachel Weisz and Maria Bello in The Mummy
The Mummy films, action/adventure flicks ostensibly based on the 1932 Boris Karloff film, were huge hits during the turn of the millennium, and even inspired a spinoff, The Scorpion King, which helped to jumpstart the career of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Even though The Mummy Returns was a huge hit in 2001, it took seven years for Brendan Frasier to return to the series for a true third film, The Scorpion King notwithstanding.
Part three in the series, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, would move the action to China, and original director Stephen Sommers would step down as director, opting instead to produce for series newcomer Rob Cohen (The Fast & The Furious, The Boy Next Door). Also not returning for the three-quel was Rachel Weisz, who had played the female lead in the first two films. Citing her new focus on motherhood, as well as not considering herself old enough to play the aged-up version of her character, Weisz opted to vacate the role of Evy O’Connell.
While the third Mummy flick is not held in any particular esteem, most fans agree that the change in actresses works well with the numerous other changes in the film; Weisz is lovely, but she’s too dainty to have believably spent the better part of two decades in the company of Brendan Frasier’s goofy adventurer character. Maria Bello has a harder edge, but still fits snugly within the framework established by Sommers and Weisz all those years ago.
6. Ed Skrein and Michiel Huisman as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones
Before he was antagonizing Ryan Reynolds as Ajax (or Francis, if you prefer) in Deadpool, Ed Skrein was the first actor to play the role of hunky warrior Daario Naharis, one of the few morally righteous characters on the show. He still brutally murders his commanding officers, but only after they order him to kill an innocent woman, Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons.
Daario was first introduced near the end of Season 3, and was played by Skrein, but when Daario turned up in Season 4, he suddenly had the visage of Michiel Huisman. Apparently, Skrein left the show to star in the seriously ill-advised reboot, The Transporter Refueled, and could not commit to both projects at the same time. Being replaced in between seasons helped to ease the transition, as did a strong choice in Skrein’s replacement: Michiel Huisman has earned much praise as the less dreamy, more hunky version of Daario, and, after recurring throughout Season 4, became a full-fledged regular during Seasons 5 and 6.
5. Josh Dallas and Zachary Levi as Fandral in Thor
Of Lady Sif and The Warriors Three, dashing rogue Fandral is the only one who switched actors in between 2011’s Thor and its 2013 sequel, Thor: The Dark World. Zachary Levi had been cast in the role for the first Thor, but had to drop out due to his obligation to his NBC series, Chuck. After first replacement Stuart Townsend also exited the role, Josh Dallas stepped in and made the part his own.
However, history repeats itself: Zachary Levi had to drop out of the first film due to commitments to his television show, and the same fate befell Josh Dallas when it came time to reprise his role for the sequel. His ABC show, Once Upon A Time, became something of a breakout hit with children and adults alike, and Dallas could not commit to another Asgardian adventure. However, now that Chuck was no longer on the air, Zachary Levi was able to return to the role which had eluded him the first time around. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
4. Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt as Catwoman in Batman
The 1960s Batman television series is a far cry from the dour and grim version seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the fact that two wildly different versions of the character can even exist with their own fandoms is a testament to the enduring versatility of the Dark Knight.
In the first season of the television series, the recurring role of Catwoman was filled by Julie Newmar, one of the all-time sexiest stars of stage and screen, bar none. When it came time to shoot the movie, in between seasons one and two of the series, Newmar proved to be unavailable, so producers hired Lee Meriwether to play the feline femme fatale. These days, Meriwether is perhaps best known for her scene-stealing role as Big Mama, AKA Eva, in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
Julie Newmar returned to play Catwoman in Season 2 of the series, but Season 3 saw the great Eartha Kitt take on the role. Regardless of the multiple changes in Catwoman’s actress, millions of young kids watching in the late ’60s failed to notice anything out of the ordinary. She wears the mask, she makes the cat puns, and she possesses heavenly beauty, so she’s Catwoman, end of story!
3. Newman, Frank Costanza, and Morty Seinfeld in Seinfeld
If Jerry Seinfeld has one true nemesis, it has to be that slimy postal worker, Newman. While the character’s first appearance was in the Season 2 episode, “The Revenge,” it was just as a voice role, provided by creator Larry David. Several years later, while preparing the episodes for syndication, Wayne Knight, who took on the role from Season 3 until the grand finale, went back and re-recorded David’s lines, offering a little bit of continuity to the series, with many fans being none the wiser to the behind-the-scenes tricks being played.
Likewise, when Frank Costanza first appeared in the show in Season 4’s “The Handicap Spot,” he was not played by Jerry Stiller, but by esteemed character actor John Randolph. This time, instead of simply re-dubbing his voice for syndication, the crew went in and re-shot all of Randolph’s scenes, but with Stiller in the role. Finally, Jerry’s dad, Morty, was first played by Phil Bruns in one episode before being replaced by Barney Martin. The legend goes that Larry David wanted to re-shoot Morty’s scenes from Season 1’s “The Stake Out,” but that too much time had elapsed and the differences would be too jarring.
Ultimately, when it comes to “The Revenge” and “The Handicap Spot,” it’s up to viewers to decide whether they care more about continuity or preservation of the episodes in their original form. Neither approach is wrong, but the debate rages on.
2. Lisa Robin Kelly and Christina Moore as Laurie Forman in That ’70s Show
On That ’70s Show, young Eric was constantly tormented by his freeloading older sister, Laurie, played by Lisa Robin Kelly for 50 episodes during the show’s first five seasons. However, she was unceremoniously replaced by Christina Moore, who, indeed, had an uncanny resemblance to her predecessor. Moore only appeared on the show for six episodes during the show’s sixth season. In hindsight, most viewers don’t even remember that Kelly had been replaced, and she is certainly the actress most easily identified with the role.
It had been reported that the main reason for Kelly’s departure was her addiction to drugs and alcohol, a struggle which resulted in a string of arrests and her death from a drug overdose at a rehabilitation center in 2013. Watching her episodes of That ’70s Show, it’s evident that her talent was tremendous, but that cruel combination of bad luck and poor decisions means we will never know what could have been when it comes to Lisa Robin Kelly’s career as a comedic actress.
1. Jacqueline MacInnes Wood and Caity Lotz as Sara Lance in Arrow
Sara Lance’s first appearance on Arrow was in the very first episode, in which she parties with Oliver Queen until their boat is damaged and she is swept away by a torrent of rushing water, presumably to her death. For this appearance, the younger of the Lance sisters was played by Jacqueline MacInnes Wood.
When the character was revealed to be alive in the second season, she was played by Caity Lotz, who looks almost hilariously different from Wood. Her hair is different, her complexion is different, and her voice is totally different. Still, audiences immediately fell in love with Lotz’s take on the character, and those who noticed the change all but unanimously approved. Lotz’s ownership over the role was cemented in a clever flashback, which recreated her demise from the pilot, practically shot-for-shot, but with Wood replaced by Lotz, of course. The latter would go on to play the character all the way through Season 4 of Arrow before permanently crossing over to the ambitious spinoff show, Legends of Tomorrow, which combines characters from both Arrow and The Flash with a wild time-traveling science-fiction premise.
Did we miss any subtle cast changes? Remember, if it was a huge deal and everybody knew about it, then it doesn’t count! Sound off in the comments section!