8 Bizarre Casting Risks That Hurt Movies (And 7 That Saved them)

Casting directors are one of the most important, yet rarely discussed occupations in the film industry. They certainly don't get interviewed or discussed in the same light as the actors who they propel to fame and fortune.

Perhaps it's because few casting decisions draw intense scrutiny. We expect Ryan Gosling to get leading men roles, and Jennifer Lawrence to get leading female parts, and the likes of Paul Giamatti and Allison Janney to get memorable character roles.

Yet sometimes casting choices create outrage. They send the internet into a frenzy, with commenters declaring they'll never even watch a movie because of the casting choice-- or at least have strong reservations.

Let's face it, sometimes those criticisms are valid. But at other times, they are premature evaluations. Some of Hollywood's greatest performances are from actors and actresses who played parts that you'd never have thought they were suited for.

For this list we're tackling both sides of the bizarre casting equation: odd choices that made a good film great, and poor choices that made a bad film worse.

Here are 8 Bizarre Casting Decisions That Hurt Movies (And 7 That Saved them).

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15 RUINED: Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in The Shell

Johansson's casting as the lead role in the live-action adaptation of the cult classic Japanese manga series drew immediate controversy. Many fans of the source material (and film critics) were outraged by the choice. It was a classic case of whitewashing, and the lead role should have gone to an actress of Asian descent.

Oddly enough, one group  that didn't register much outrage were Japanese citizens, where many fans of the original Ghost in the Shell had expected the film to feature a white actress for marketing purposes, or felt that ultimately race was immaterial due to the film's themes, which involved a body that is largely synthetic.

Nonetheless, the damage was done, and the controversial casting choice certainly played a part in poor reviews and lackluster box office returns.

14 SAVED: Margot Robbie In I, Tonya

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I Tonya

Margot Robbie felt hamstrung by the media's focus on her beauty, and formed her own production company (LuckyChap Entertainment) to find roles that wouldn't normally be brought to her attention. This led her to lobby for the part of disgraced Olympic contestant Tony Harding in 2017's critically acclaimed film I Tonya.

Being cast as a person who mocked by the press for her appearance and lack of poise was seen by many as a huge gamble, but thanks to some creative makeup choices and Robbie's fierce dedication to her character (including three months of ice-skating training), it floored critics and audiences. Her sympathetic performance also allowed the real Harding’s damaged reputation to be reassessed after 23 years of character assassination by the media.

The Australian actress’s ambition and determination paid off handsomely, resulting in Best Actress nominations for both the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and Academy Awards.

13 RUINED: Emma Stone in Aloha

Emma Stone Aloha 2

With a 19% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Aloha ranks as one of the worst reviewed films of director Cameron Crowe's career. One of the most contested complaints about the film was the casting of Emma Stone as Air Force Captain Allison Ng, a character of Asian and Hawaiian descent.

Crowe responded to the backlash, saying  "I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice... Captain Allison Ng was written to be a super-proud one-quarter Hawaiian who was frustrated that, by all outward appearances, she looked nothing like one... The character was based on a real-life, red-headed local."

Stone also spoke about the controversy, adding "I’ve learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood... It’s ignited a conversation that’s very important."

12 SAVED: Jim Carrey in The Truman Show

Jim Carrey The Truman Show

Jim Carrey's elastic physical comedic skills and way with a one-liner made few even consider the possibility that there was a serious artist behind his whimsical exterior.

Director Peter Weir obviously knew what everyone else didn't, and saw Carrey's potential for poignant, dramatic work.

The Truman Show was an excellent launching point for Carrey's dramatic début, seeing him focus his boyish enthusiasm to moving effect as a man who discovers his entire life takes place on a TV set. Acclaim for his performance would lead to other parts in films like Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that would also show more multidimensional aspects to his talent.

It should also be noted that this wasn't Weir's first attempt at making a comedic actor reveal a new aspect of their talent-- he did the same for the late Robin Williams in 1989's Dead Poet Society.

11 RUINED: Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger

Benny and Joon - Most Eccentric Johnny Depp Performances

Johnny Depp has gone from critical darling into more questionable territory over the years, frequently optic for gimmicky, prosthetic or make-up heavy roles.

Sure, his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow was a massive success, earning him millions of dollars from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But attempts to duplicate that success in similar comedy action films have fared far more poorly.

2013's The Lone Ranger is the worst offender, which saw Depp reuniting with Pirates director Gore Verbinski. Depp took on the role of Native American sidekick Tonto, which, despite the actor's assertion that he himself was of Native American ancestry, did not go over well with audiences.

Even beyond that issue, Depp sleep walked through his performance, and the film failed to connect with viewers, which led to both critical and commercial misfortune.

10 SAVED: Charlize Theron in Monster

When word came out that the statuesque actress had been cast as criminal Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkins biopic Monster, there was a mix of morbid curiosity and derision. Could such a photogenic actress really pull off the part of a mentally disturbed villain who was so decidedly unglamourous?

The answer, of course, was yes, and her portrayal of Wuornos showed a whole new side of her acting chops. Thanks to convincing cosmetic effects (and eschewing a fitness regimen), Theron disappeared into her role and was throughly convincing as a psychologically damaged woman who gave in to her worst impulses.

Jenkins' instincts about Theron's talents were rewarded, and her grounded, unsettling, and unexpectedly moving performance earned the actress an Oscar, and made her one of today's most in-demand actresses.

9 RUINED: Jesse Eisenberg in Superman V Batman: Dawn of Justice

Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor

We can't pin all the issues with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on Jesse Eisenberg Eisenberg's portrayal of Lex Luthor. In terms of the rest of the cast, there were some bright spots to be found in Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot's performances. Eisenberg? Not so much.

Eisenberg's over-the-top, nuance-free performance made him unbearable to watch-- coming across like a hyperactive teenager who stopped taking his meds.

His approach was also entirely at odds with the source material: in the comics Lex Luthor isn't an unhinged maniac like the Joker. He's a disciplined genius who knows that his intellect and instincts are his only weapons against the Man of Steel. Eisenberg's take as a scatter-brained loon was a disastrous misfire.

8 SAVED: Hugh Jackman in X-Men

It's impossible to think of Marvel's favorite mutant without recalling Hugh Jackman's cinematic interpretation of the character. He was the breakout star of the X-Men movie franchise, and helped popularize a genre of filmmaking that has overtaken Hollywood. But he almost didn't get the part.

The original actor pegged to play the adamantium clawed character was Dougray Scott, but an on-set injury forced him to bow out.

At first glance, Jackman seemed an odd fit.

In addition to being much taller and attractive than Wolverine's short, squatty appearance in the comics, Jackman's previous experience was mostly musical theater, including a role as Gaston in a stage adaptation of Disney's Beauty and The Beast and a performance in Oklahoma at London's West End.

In the end, Jackman played the character for over 18 years, including his acclaimed swan song in 2018's Logan.

7 RUINED: Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough

James Bond Denise Richards The World is Not Enough

Denise Richards has never been well-known for her amazing acting ability. Therefore it was a massive head-scratcher to see the actress playing, of all things, a nuclear physicist in the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

Hearing her attempt to spout technical jargon was jarring to say the least.

It didn’t seem convincing in the slightest, and a made mediocre Bond movie even worse.

Richard's limited chops  just couldn't carry a role that needed a more cerebral take, and so provided plenty of unintentional laughter.  The fact that the character was named Christmas Jones made the proceedings all the more ludicrous. Seeing Pierce Brosnan trying to keep a straight face while she's attempting to demonstrate her scientific chops makes it all the more awkward to witness.

6 SAVED: Daniel Craig in Casino Royale 

Daniel Craig has been lauded for reinvigorating the character of James Bond thanks to his stoic, gritty performance in 2007's Casino Royale. He's become so associated with the role that MGM has forked over millions of dollars to have him stay with the franchise. He was far from an easy sale to fans, however.

Many complained he wasn't tall enough.

Even more complained that a blond actor should never play 007, and others felt that his craggy, rough complexion and unconventional looks made him a poor fit for such a dapper, suave character.

Their complaints were all for naught, of course. Craig has been the star of some of the best reviewed and most financially successful Bond movies in the series.

5 RUINED: Vince Vaughn in Psycho

Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates in Psycho

Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic slasher was a disaster in every sense. Just the notion of remaking such an iconic, flawless film seemed blasphemous in itself.

The most terrible part of a terrible film was the ill-advised casting of Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates.

In the original Psycho, the part was played by Anthony Perkins, who gave a striking, multi-layered and complex portrayal that made Bates' evil intentions all the more terrifying.

Vaughn, an actor of considerably more limited range, just couldn't match Perkins' performance, and it was flat-out embarrassing even watching him try. Vaughn is fine in roles that demand fast, comedic quips, but he was clearly outmatched playing a part that needed more heavy lifting in terms of character development.

4 SAVED: Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love

Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love

For many moviegoers, Adam Sandler has been past his sell-by date ever since 1998’s The Wedding Singer. He's pretty much stuck to variations of his comedic persona that began back in his Saturday Night Live days, which appeal to his fan base, but don't resonate much beyond that.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson saw something in Sandler that others didn't, however. He cast him in the 2002 dramedy Punch-Drunk Love as Barry Egan, a man whose romance with a co-worker (Emily Watson) is threatened by his violent outbursts and an extortion attempt.

Sandler was a revelation in the role, showing a more vulnerable (and volatile) aspect of his talents, which led to other non-Sandler-ish roles in films like Funny People and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).

3 RUINED: Elijah Wood in Green Street Hooligans

When one thinks of Elijah Wood, the image of a violent, loud, thug hardly comes to mind. This made Wood's casting in the film Green Street Hooligans all the more incongruous, and unintentionally comedic.

Wood plays a disgraced, subtance-addicted Harvard student who, after being expelled, heads to England to stay with his sister. He all too quickly falls in with a group of drunk, English soccer (or football, depending on your region) hooligans who began terrorizing the local populace.

To say the mild-mannered, diminutive actor, best known for playing Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy was unconvincing in the role is an understatement, and he competes with co-star Charlie Hunnam's horrible attempt at a Cockney accent for the worst thing about the film.

2 SAVED: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight

Fanboys were not at all pleased when Ledger was announced to play the most iconic of Bat-villains in Christopher Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins. An actor most associated with rom-coms and romantic dramas playing a maniacal psychopath? For many it did not compute. Online outrage was fierce.

Everyone was proved wrong, of course. Ledger's edgy, unhinged and hyperfocused performance even topped Jack Nicholson's popular portrayal in Tim Burton's Batman, and helped propel The Dark Knight to gross over a billion dollars at the box office.

It even garnered him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Thanks to the late actor's dynamic portrayal, The Dark Knight is considered by many to be the best comic book movie ever made, proving you should never judge an unconventional casting choice until you see the final product.

1 RUINED: Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's - Hollywood Whitewashing

Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of the most beloved and iconic romantic comedies ever made. But there is one element that has eroded the 1961 film's legacy over time, and has made it hard for modern audiences to accept, and that's the horrible miscasting of the late Mickey Rooney as the Japanese supporting character Mr Yunioshi.

Yunoshi is the ill-tempered upstairs neighbor of lead character Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) and Rooney portrays one of the most offensive Asian stereotypes to ever grace (or shame) the silver screen. His cartoonish makeup adds insult to injury.

Rooney, for his part, was unhappy with the backlash, saying in 2008 that "It breaks my heart. Blake Edwards, who directed the picture, wanted me to do it because he was a comedy director. They hired me to do this overboard, and we had fun doing it."


What other bizarre casting choices do you think made (or ruined) a film? Tell us in the comments!

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