Sometimes, one miscast actor can ruin a movie. It’s difficult, for example, to believe that Denise Richards is actually a nuclear scientist by the name of Christmas Jones. But sometimes the riskiest casting decisions are the ones that pay off the most. No one expected hunky Heath Ledger to best Jack Nicholson as The Joker, and yet his version of the character has long since become the definitive one.
Realizing that there are dozens of films in the pipeline with interesting, or at least unexpected, casting decisions, we compiled a list of the 10 most controversial casting choices in upcoming movies. Will these actors succeed in overturning your expectations, or will they flail about in uncharted waters? Only time will tell! Click through to see who has sparked our curiosity, and feel free to chime in the comments if you think we’ve missed anyone!
Michael B. Jordan in Fantastic Four
When Johnny Storm (aka The Human Torch) was created in 1961, both he and his superhero sister Susan (aka Invisible Woman) were white, blonde and blue-eyed. The 2005 film adaptation more-or-less respected this (although Jessica Alba is Latina). For the upcoming adaptation of the venerable comic franchise, however, director Josh Trank cast Michael B. Jordan, the up-and-coming star of Fruitvale Station and Chronicle, as the new Johnny Storm. When this was announced, some fans expressed “outrage” that Fox had changed the race of one of their favorite characters. We’ve already argued that Michael B. Jordan could make for an excellent Johnny Storm, but Jordan himself probably put it best himself when he wrote: “If Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, ‘You’re good. I’m okay with this,’ who am I to go against that?”
Ed Skrein in Transporter Refueled
Jason Statham may have launched his acting career in a couple of potty-mouthed Guy Ritchie films, but it was the Transporter franchise that turned him into a household name. Statham is still playing dangerous, muscular men with shady pasts and The Transporter‘s Frank Martin is a clear template for those roles. That’s why it’s difficult to imagine anyone else stepping in to play Martin, the Transporter himself, and yet that’s exactly what’s being done in The Transporter Refueled, an upcoming reboot of the series starring Ed Skrein, who is best known for a small role in the third season of Game of Thrones. It’s important to remember that Statham himself was relatively unknown when the first Transporter came out in 2002, so perhaps Skrein’s performance will pleasantly surprise us when the film comes out in September.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Walk
Philippe Petit, the French daredevil that illegally performed a high-wire act between New York’s Twin Towers in 1974, is a larger than life character. Anyone who has seen the excellent 2008 documentary Man on Wire knows that he possesses a certain charm that will be hard to capture. In trailers for the The Walk, Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming film about the same subject, Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems as though he may have failed to capture Petit’s charm. His blue contact lenses look creepy, especially in close-up, and Gordon-Levitt’s French accent sounds more like caricature than the real thing. Nevertheless, Gordon-Levitt is a preternaturally talented actor, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he, like his character, is able to pull off the unthinkable and turn this into a movie worth watching.
Vin Diesel in The Last Witch Hunter
Part of the reason Vin Diesel works so well in the Fast and the Furious franchise is because of his contemporary attitude. For Dominic Turetto, a brash, Italian working-class automobile obsessive, Diesel’s bravado works wonders. But some have doubts that Diesel’s specific, gravelly-voiced charms will work for the role of an immortal witch-hunter. Pictures of the normally-bald Diesel with a giant beard and an awkward mohawk haven’t inspired confidence, either. For whatever reason, some just find it difficult to imagine the tough-talking star of xXx as an old, wise voice of reason. Yet, Diesel has an undeniable star quality, and he’s already suggested that the studio is interested in a sequel to The Last Witch Hunter, so it’s possible that we’re in for a surprise.
Luke Bracey in Point Break
Keanu Reeves gets a lot of flack for his acting. People call him “wooden”and make fun of his stiff demeanour. They mock his surfer accent and dazed expressions. Nevertheless, he found a perfect role in Point Break, where he played a green FBI agent going undercover with a group of surfers who rob banks to finance their adventures. In this upcoming remake, Reeves will be replaced by Luke Bracey, a young actor with limited experience. So far, his only notable role has been as Pierce Brosnan’s understudy in The November Man.
Whether or not Luke Bracey is a talented actor isn’t really up for debate here so much as whether or not he can make us forget Keanu Reeves’ iconic interpretation of the role. Will Bracey channel the spiritual side of the SoCal surf life with the same level of authenticity as his predecessor?
Ben Affleck in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
When Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman in Zack Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel, the internet almost collapsed in on itself over the news, but not much of it was positive. For starters, fans of superhero movies remembered the last time Affleck ventured into the genre, for the ill-received Daredevil in 2003. Despite good work in films like The Town and Gone Girl, Affleck has never shaken his reputation as something of a mediocre action actor. Compared to his predecessor in the cape, Christian Bale, some see Affleck as something of a lightweight.
Nevertheless, Affleck definitely looks the part of Batman when he’s in costume (it’s all in the chin), and we’ve already explained why his version of Batman could work. As an added bonus, he’s also been tapped to direct the next standalone Batman film, and his Best Picture Oscar for Argo proves that he’s no slouch in the director’s chair.
Maika Monroe in Independence Day: Resurgence
Roland Emmerich probably had no idea who he was casting in 1996 when Mae Whitman played the President’s daughter in Independence Day, but years later Whitman would make her mark in the cult-classic TV series Arrested Development and movies like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World along with The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Earlier this year, she proved she could carry a Hollywood comedy with The Duff.
So it was a surprise when she was replaced with Maika Monroe in the upcoming Independence Day sequel, with some suggesting the change was a result of Hollywood’s shallow sense of female beauty. Anna Kendrick came to Whitman’s defense on Twitter, saying that her friend “is talented as hell, and JUST proved she can carry a film. Smh.” Despite this bad blood, Monroe is also a talented actress, having recently starred in the excellent indie horror film It Follows, so it remains to be seen if she can win over naysayers in Independence Day: Resurgence.
Zoe Saldana as Nina
Legendary soul singer Nina Simone was recently the subject of a well-received Netflix documentary about her life, but she’s also due to get her own biopic later this year. Although the casting of Zoe Saldana as the High Priestess of Soul initially went under the radar (she replaced R&B singer Mary J. Blige), it was protested by Nina Simone’s estate, which stressed that they had no involvement in the film. When the film premiered at Cannes, and images of Saldana in dark skin make-up and fake nose made their way to the internet, fans of the singer made their displeasure known. On Twitter, the hashtag #BlackBiopics emerged for people to come up with equally absurd pairings (one example: Jonah Hill as Malcom X). Despite the negative press, the film has hardly been seen by anyone. Hypothetically, it could surprise us all.
Daniel Radcliffe as Igor in Victor Frankenstein
When we think of “Igor” (at least in the context of Frankenstein), we think of a hunchbacked little man with bulging eyeballs and crooked teeth. Harry Potter-star Daniel Radcliffe may be short, but we can’t imagine he’s ugly enough to play Igor across from James McAvoy’s Dr. Frankenstein. Then again, Victor Frankenstein is telling the story of Frankenstein’s monster from the perspective of Igor, the scientist’s goblin-like assistant, so perhaps Radcliffe can bring a certain level of sensitivity to the role.
Since wrapping up his tenure as the world’s most famous boy wizard, Radcliffe has proved his acting chops in horror movies like Horns and The Woman in Black, but also as a charming romantic lead in the rom-com What If. Still, we can’t help but balk at the idea of Harry Potter growing up to look like Igor.
Jared Leto in Suicide Squad
Like Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman, Jared Leto has the unique (mis)fortune of taking over a character whose previous incarnation was universally praised. Heath Ledger’s anarchic depiction of The Joker in The Dark Knight captured the public’s imagination upon the film’s release in 2008, just shortly after the actor’s tragic death. For Leto, a very talented actor fresh off of winning an Oscar for The Dallas Buyer’s Club, his goal for the upcoming Suicide Squad will be to make the audience forget that he’s walking in someone else’s shoes (on top of trying to get viewers to forget his own kooky public persona). Footage of Leto’s Joker, covered in face tattoos and smiling with a mouth of gold teeth, shows promise, and we’ve already explained why he might be great, but it remains to be seen if he can turn his version of The Joker into something truly memorable.
Of course, studios and casting directors could have gone a safer route when it came to many of these casting decisions, but if even one of these choices pays off, then it may have been worth the risk. Still, there are probably some other, even more puzzling casting decisions out there. Did we miss anything? Are you excited to see any of your favorite actors playing against type? Let us know in the comments!