In today’s world of shared cinematic universes and endless streams of sequels, continuity is important. Audiences expect consistency between movies and their follow-ups, both in terms of visual style and the performers involved. Still, when it comes to managing actors’ schedules and contractual demands, sometimes liberties must be taken with casting, testing the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
These actors all starred in the first entry in a series, but were subsequently dropped when it came time to continue the story. Some of them were unwilling to return due to lack of interest, some were not asked due to the studio wanting to pursue a different direction, and a few actors sadly passed away before they could shoot any usable material for their sequel. Depending on the quality of the subsequent films, a few of these actors probably felt pretty bad for not reprising their roles, while others dodged a bullet, so to speak. Either way, their replacements had big shoes to fill for fans of the originals. Here are 15 Actors Who Were Recast For The Sequel.
15. Terrence Howard and Don Cheadle in Iron Man and Iron Man 2
In 2008, Iron Man was a huge gamble for the newly-formed Marvel Studios. Their first film was based on a B-list hero; a middle-aged, arms-dealing, narcissistic, alcoholic industrialist, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., an actor who had been all but totally blacklisted from Hollywood due to his substance abuse problems and subsequent arrests.
The highest-paid actor on that film was Terrence Howard of all people, which may or may not have been part of the reason he was not asked back for 2010’s Iron Man 2. Some say he wanted more money than the notoriously stingy Ike Perlmutter was willing to pay, while other stories say that director Jon Favreau was dissatisfied with Howard’s inability to keep up with the always-improvising Downey.
Whatever the case may be, when James Rhodes appeared in Iron Man 2, he was played by Don Cheadle. This is one case where fans unanimously accepted the new actor with open arms. It certainly helps that Cheadle is one of this generation’s most beloved thespians. Most of us were fine with Howard, but Cheadle wins every time. There’s a scene in Iron Man, in which Howard sees the Mark II armor and says, “Next time, baby!” which is particularly wince-inducing in hindsight. But don’t weep for Terrence Howard; he currently stars on TV’s biggest smash hit, Empire, on the FOX network.
14. Gloria Foster and Mary Alice in The Matrix and The Matrix Revolutions
In The Matrix, Neo visits an elderly woman in the city who is known as The Oracle. This mysterious program assists the human resistance against the machines, and possesses the ability of foresight, or at least the computational power to predict one’s actions. Esteemed star of stage and screen (but mostly stage) Gloria Foster played the character, and earned significant praise for her unique and modern take on the timeless archetype of the wise old sage.
The two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, were shot back-to-back, and while Foster completed her work for Reloaded, she passed away due to complications from diabetes before she could finish her scenes in the trilogy’s finale. For Revolutions, actress Mary Alice took over the role of The Oracle. In-universe, her change in appearance is explained as the character having been killed by the villainous Merovingian and subsequently reborn/rebooted with a different appearance. It’s thin, but it works in context, and is arguably more respectful than just switching her out and hoping nobody would notice.
13. Josh Dallas and Zachary Levi in Thor and Thor: The Dark World
The legend goes that Zachary Levi was the first choice to play Fandral in 2011’s Thor, but he had to drop out due to commitments on the cult NBC show, Chuck. Josh Dallas was subsequently hired to fill the spot that had been intended for Levi, and fans were more than pleased by his performance in the small-but-memorable role.
However, for Thor: The Dark World, it was Dallas who was tangled up in television commitments, with his ABC show, Once Upon A Time, in which he plays the dashing Prince Charming. By this time, Chuck had finished its run, and Zachary Levi was available to replace Dallas, who had replaced Levi the first time around. We actually prefer Josh Dallas as Frandral, but it may just be that his role is drastically reduced in the sequel; Zachary Levi doesn’t have much more to do than stand around and look pretty, and he lacks the Errol Flynn-style charisma of Josh Dallas’s take on the character.
12. Richard Harris and Michael Gambon in Harry Potter
Richard Harris was a legendary Irish actor, who starred in such films as Camelot, The Wild Geese, and The Field, among many others. For today’s young people, however, he is best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films. In 2002, Harris died at the age of 72, and it was decided that the character was far too important to be written out, and to not use any shape-shifting magic to explain Dumbledore’s change in appearance — opting instead for a low-key recasting.
The story goes that Harris’s close friend, Peter O’Toole, was the first choice to replace him, but the film studio balked at casting an actor the same age as Richard Harris, for morbid fear that he might also die before the end of the series. Ultimately, they cast Michael Gambon, who was a full ten years younger than Richard Harris. Despite the wide age difference, it’s hard to tell the difference between the actors, thanks to Dubledore’s massive beard and big robes. Oh, and for the record, O’Toole passed away in 2013, two years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2.
11. Billy Dee Williams and Tommy Lee Jones in Batman and Batman Forever
For many, Tim Burton’s Batman is the comic book film by which all others are judged. It’s full of bold storytelling, great characterization, and jaw-dropping visuals. No visual effect in the film is more stunning than Billy Dee Williams, possibly the most handsome man of all time. Williams plays Harvey Dent, the man who would become Two-Face. Batman Returns was originally supposed to feature Dent, but the character was ultimately changed to newcomer Max Schreck, played by Christopher Walken. In the end, he gets fried by an electrical explosion. Had the character been Harvey Dent as originally conceived, he would have survived with his infamous disfigurement.
When it came time to make a third film, Batman Forever, new director Joel Schumacher (Falling Down, 8MM) had only one man in mind to play Harvey “Two Face” Dent: Tommy Lee Jones. Despite being in-continuity with the two previous films, they felt the need to completely re-imagine the character and gloss over his origin story, opting to make him little more than a ripoff of Jack Nicholson’s version of The Joker. If there’s a silver lining for Billy Dee Williams, it’s that he had signed a “pay or play” contract, meaning that, even though his services were not required for the film, he was still paid a full salary. The same thing happened with Marlon Wayans, who had been cast as Robin before producers ultimately changed their mind and got Chris O’Donnell. For Williams and Wayans, Batman Forever was the easiest money they had ever earned!
10. Crispin Glover and Jeffrey Weissman in Back to the Future
Back to the Future is one of the most beloved family adventure trilogies of all time. It’s got it all: action, comedy, romance, drama, and ZZ Top. The first movie co-starred Crispin Glover as Marty McFly’s dorky father, George. Thanks to his son’s intervention in 1955, George is able to stand up for himself and become a rich sci-fi author in the then-present of 1985.
For the second film, in which Marty travels to the distant future of 2015, Crispin Glover demanded more money to reprise his role, and producers opted to drop him from the film. To preserve continuity with the first film, new actor Jeffrey Weissman was never shown in close-up, and Back to the Future Part II made extensive use of stock footage of Crispin Glover from the original, combined with new scenes where George is mostly shown from behind or way off in the distance. In the scenes set in the future, Weissman was fitted with extensive prostheses and shot upside down to hide his identity (for convenience, we flipped the image above for comparison purposes). Even in HD on the film’s Blu Ray release, the effect is barely noticeable. In fact, it was so seamless, that Crispin Glover successfully sued Universal for using his image without permission.
9. Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight
Katie Homes was a rising star after first breaking out in the popular teen drama, Dawson’s Creek, but her career took an unexpected detour into the bizarre when she married the talented-but-probably-insane Tom Cruise. One of her first roles after wrapping up Dawson’s Creek was as the romantic interest to Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne in the gritty superhero reboot, Batman Begins.
When it came time to shoot the sequel, Katie made the seriously bone-headed decision not to reprise her role as Rachel Dawes in favor of starring in a movie called Mad Money, while Maggie Gyllenhaal was recruited to take over Holmes’s role in The Dark Knight. Mad Money went on to gross a paltry $26 million at the global box office, while The Dark Knight became the first superhero movie to gross over one billion dollars. Whoops.
Holmes recently made something of a comeback with her well-reviewed turn as Jackie Kennedy in the TV miniseries, The Kennedys, and will reprise the role in the sequel miniseries, After Camelot, but it remains to be seen if she will be able to ever truly earn her place on the A-List.
8. Tom Cruise and Stuart Townsend in Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned
Before Twilight made them all sparkly and deer-eating, the original “sexy vampire” was none other than Tom Cruise in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire. Based on the novel by Anne Rice, the film also starred Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, and Antonio Banderas; when it comes to hot guys, the combination rarely gets stronger than that!
While the film was a box office success and a fan favorite, it took nearly a decade to get a sequel off the ground. 2002’s Queen of the Damned is more of a soft reboot than a direct sequel, as it has very little in common with the original movie outside of character names. As far as replacements for Tom Cruise go, one could do much worse than Stuart Townsend, though he’s a bit more rugged than the boyishly handsome Cruise. Unfortunately, the movie turned out to be an epic misfire, earning universally negative reviews and dismal box office returns. A third film, a prospective reboot, has been lingering in development hell for years, but its time may finally be nigh.
7. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney as Batman
For our third and final Batman-related entry on this list, we turn to the lead character himself. The Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher films, whether one cares to admit it or not, are all part of the same continuity. Pat Hingle and Michael Gough play Commissioner Gordon and Alfred, respectively, in all four films, and Chris O’Donnell plays Robin in both the polarizing Batman Forever and the unanimously loathed Batman & Robin.
However, the lead role, that of Bruce Wayne/Batman, was played by three different actors across the four movies. Michael Keaton played the eccentric billionaire/vengeful spirit of the night in the first two films, but when Tim Burton decided not to return for a third outing, Keaton dropped out as well. Val Kilmer stepped in and filled the role with the reserved grace of a refined aristocrat with a secret, and was said to be Batman co-creator Bob Kane’s favorite actor to play the character. For the fourth film, the critically-panned Batman & Robin, George Clooney took on the role and successfully killed the franchise for nearly a decade, until it was resurrected with the previously-mentioned dark and gritty reboot, Batman Begins.
6. Judith Hoag and Paige Turco in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the biggest brands of the late ’80s and early ’90s. When the first TMNT film came out in 1990, it earned a stunning $200 million at the worldwide box office off a meager budget of just $13.5 million. One of the stars of that film was Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil, intrepid reporter and friend to our half-shelled heroes.
For the sequel, Hoag was not asked to return to the role. According to the actress, the producers were not too thrilled with her complaining about the grueling shooting schedule and excessive violence of the film. For the sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, actress Paige Turco was brought in to replace Hoag in the role of April O’Neil. Ironically, Secret of the Ooze was criticized by fans of the first film for pandering to young children (or rather, their parents) by neutering the combat sequences and adding more child-friendly humor.
5. Jodie Foster and Julianne Moore in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal
In 1986, Michael Mann directed the very Miami Vice-esque thriller, Manhunter, based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. In 1991, Jonathan Demme directed The Silence of the Lambs, which is based on the sequel to Red Dragon. It’s not, however, a sequel to Manhunter; rather, it’s a unique adaptation of the same universe. Therefore, the casting of Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins as serial killer Hannibal Lecter doesn’t really qualify for this list.
However, the casting of the 2001 sequel, Hannibal, based on the book of the same name, certainly does earn its place in this story. While Anthony Hopkins returned to his now-iconic role of the title character, Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver, Elysium) opted not to reprise the role of FBI agent Clarice Starling, citing issues with the character’s controversial arc in the book, which culminates in her and Hannibal becoming lovers and running away together. Julianne Moore (Don Jon, Still Alice) was brought in to be the new Clarice, and the film, despite earning a more mixed critical reception for its graphic imagery and discomforting themes (though it did significantly alter the ending of the book), was a box office smash, earning a strong $350 million worldwide.
4. Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo in The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers
When Marvel Studios was just starting out, they made the interesting decision to release two movies, almost back-to-back, in May and July of 2008. Their reasoning was that if Iron Man failed to break out, as the fear was at the time, then at least The Incredible Hulk, based on the massively popular not-so-jolly green giant, would pick up the slack.
In a classic display of irony, the exact opposite happened, with Iron Man breaking out to the tune of $585 million worldwide, while The Incredible Hulk could only scrape together an underwhelming $263 million. Still, star Edward Norton earned significant praise for his performance as Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist with an uncontrollable dark side. When it came time to unite Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for the team-up movie, The Avengers, Norton ultimately made the decision not to reprise the character, and the role was handed off to Mark Ruffalo, who brought a decidedly different type of energy to the character. As much as we love Ruffalo, we still occasionally lament “what could have been” if Norton had stayed with Marvel.
3. Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis as Saavik in Star Trek II and III
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of the most important science fiction films of all time, and one of the few films that can make us cry every single time, no matter how hard we try not to. It also marked the film debut of Kirstie Alley, who played Lieutenant Saavik, a young Vulcan who serves as something of a surrogate for newcomers to the universe, which is otherwise populated by the middle-aged cast of the original series. She quickly became a fan-favorite, but when it came time to produce Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Kirstie Alley declined to return to play her suddenly-iconic character.
The legend goes that she was offered less money for a larger workload; combined with a reluctance towards being typecast as so many Star Trek veterans had been, Alley decided that she was done playing Saavik. Actress Robin Curtis was hired to replace her in the role, and did an admirable job of making the character her own, bad hair notwithstanding.
Fun Fact: The character of Valeris, from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, was originally written to be Saavik, but was eventually changed to be an original character, played by a pre-Sex and the City Kim Cattrall.
2. Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl, Christian Bale, and Jason Clarke as John Connor in The Terminator
In the time-travelling science fiction saga, The Terminator, John Connor is the leader of the resistance who will save humanity from extinction. In the first film, a Terminator is sent back in time to kill Connors’ mother, Sarah, so that mankind’s savior will never be born. When John finally made a real appearance in T2: Judgement Day, he was mainly played by Edward Furlong as a child, with actor/model Michael Edwards briefly playing an adult John in the future, as well as in the film’s alternate ending.
When Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was being developed, Edward Furlong was in the midst of dealing with his substance abuse problem and was not asked to return to the role. Instead, they got Nick Stahl (Carnivale) to play the 20-something version of the character. Terminator Salvation then saw a miscast Christian Bale take up the mantle of humanity’s last hope, inexplicably bringing along his Batman voice. Finally, Jason Clarke played a uniquely altered version of the character in 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. The future of The Terminator may currently be in flux, but we’re confident that John Connor will return in one form or another, though he’ll probably be played by a new actor.
1. Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig as James Bond
There are some people out there who hold on to the fan theory that James Bond is not the character’s real name, but a code-name, an honorary title of sorts, given to the best agent in MI6. We’re here to tell you that’s a load of malarkey. There is only one James Bond, and he’s been played by six different actors in 24 movies over the past 54 years.
The proof is in Bond’s short-lived marriage to Tracy di Vincenzo in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, starring George Lazenby. If there’s one woman who really stuck with Bond, who he truly loved and misses with every fiber of his being after all these years, it’s Tracy. 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, starring Roger Moore, features Bond visiting Tracy’s grave before enacting his final vengeance upon Blofeld, all in the pre-title sequence. 1989’s Licence to Kill, starring Timothy Dalton, features a wedding in its first act. After Bond catches the bride’s garter, she jokes with him that it’s his turn to get married, but he quickly shuts her down and leaves with a tortured expression of stoic longing. The groom, Felix Leiter, explains to his young wife, “He was married once, but it was a long time ago.”
This one is a bit more subtle, but The World is Not Enough, starring Pierce Brosnan, is full of allusions to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the reason Bond falls so quickly for Elekra King (Sophie Marceau) is because she reminds him so much of Tracy. This makes her ultimate betrayal that much more shocking, and Bond’s execution-style murder of her at the end so much more personal.
Finally, the Daniel Craig films are a bit more complicated, as Casino Royale was overtly a reboot of the character, but it still reinforces the notion that Bond is the character’s name, and not his title. Skyfall features Bond going back to his childhood home in Scotland, where his parents graves are seen, and the gravestones show the name, “Bond.” 007 changes with the times, but he is only one man. As to whether or not he is a Time Lord, the jury’s still out.
What do you think? Were these changes all for the better, or would you have preferred that the producers stuck with the original cast? Personally, we’d kill for a new Batman movie starring Michael Keaton and Billy Dee Williams. Sound off in the comments!