Casting is arguably the most important aspect of putting a film together. It’s pertinent to find the right actors for each role, whether it’s the movie’s lead or a minor cameo for a single scene. In today’s day and age of social media, everyone thinks they have what it takes to be a casting director and frequently offer their two cents whenever a major part is up for grabs. Unfortunately for them, the filmmakers don’t always see eye-to-eye with the fans’ choices.
Sometimes, a director can go with someone that’s so out of left field, that he or she will draw the ire of moviegoers before a single frame is shown. One only has to look at Ben Affleck as Batman for a recent example. But the DC Extended Universe’s new Dark Knight is hardly the first to suffer this fate.
Here are Screen Rant’s 10 Most Controversial Castings In Popular Movies.
The Dark Knight
Batman fans could not believe it when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s sequel. At the time, the actor was known for his roles in the rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You and romance drama Brokeback Mountain. Though he had proven himself as a talented thespian with range, few saw how Ledger could bring one of the most terrifying evildoers in comics to life. However, Nolan apparently knew something the rest of us didn’t, and the rest is film history.
Thanks to supreme commitment to the role, Ledger blew audiences away with his take on the Clown Prince of Crime. He earned a plethora of accolades for his performance (including a posthumous Oscar) and raised the bar for cinematic villainy. Jared Leto – as great as he is – has some large shoes to fill in Suicide Squad. Many fans will retroactively say now that they were always for the Ledger casting, but the Internet archives prove otherwise. The odds were against him, and he proved the doubters wrong, becoming Exhibit A for the “wait and see” approach to casting reactions.
Josh Trank’s reboot of Marvel’s First Family was doomed from the start, as many fans were displeased with the director’s picks to portray the superhero team. The one that caused the biggest uproar was Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch. Jordan earned acclaim for his turn in Fruitvale Station, but since Johnny Storm is typically portrayed as Caucasian in the comics, longtime readers were upset by his involvement. The controversy seemed silly, and sported some ugly undertones, since race is not a primary aspect to getting the character right on-screen.
Once the film was released, the furor surrounding Jordan’s hiring became a quick afterthought, as the final product left plenty to be desired. Jordan (and the rest of his co-stars) actually gave it their all and weren’t bad, but the movie’s story let them down. And after Jordan won audiences over in Creed as Adonis Johnson, many are thrilled that the talented actor will not have to be locked in for Fantastic Four sequels. He has a boxing franchise now.
Even before the Internet, fans were getting outraged over casting decisions. Many bemoaned the notion of Michael Keaton as Batman, since he was primarily known as a comedic actor known for movies such as Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice prior to singing on as Bruce Wayne. More than 50,000 protest letters were sent to Warner Bros. offices, and even Batman co-creator Bob Kane questioned Keaton. The fear was that the first live-action Batman film was going to be campy like the 1960s television series, but Keaton had another thing coming for fans of the Dark Knight.
He quickly established himself as Bruce Wayne for an entire generation of fans, and truly set the template for the modern superhero film. Even though there have been plenty of big screen Batmen in the years since, many view Keaton as the definitive version. The actor has said he’s proud of the work he and director Tim Burton did, and it’s easy to see why. They had a tremendous impact on the industry and became the gold standard for years.
When fans think of the cinematic James Bond, images of a suave, dark-haired gentlemen come to mind. So when EON Productions went the other way and cast the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig as 007 in the Casino Royale reboot, few were pleased. The website craigisnotbond.com was created, and viewers launched petitions asking for Pierce Brosnan to return to the role. But Craig took it all in stride and quickly silenced the haters with his performances.
Starting with the black-and-white cold open of Casino Royale, Craig showed he was more than capable of portraying the iconic spy, nailing key character traits and presenting them with a slightly different spin. He’s now seen as one of the better incarnations in the long-running franchise, helping humanize Bond and make him a stronger character than he was before. After four pictures, it looks like Craig’s tenure is up, and he won’t be an easy one to replace. Though the films overall were uneven, it was always a treat watching Craig play Bond.
A romantic comedy starring Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper seems like a charming winner and breezy fun, but director Cameron Crowe learned otherwise with his flop, Aloha. There was much controversy surrounding the casting of Stone as Allison Ng, a character of Hawaiian and Chinese descent. The defense presented was that Ng was not supposed to overtly resemble an individual from that background, but most moviegoers weren’t buying it. Stone’s casting was seen as the latest example of Hollywood whitewashing.
Unfortunately for Crowe, Aloha could not bounce back from the negative buzz, which was only made worse by the poor reviews. That was a deadly combination and killed any chance this film had of becoming a box office hit. Stone should emerge relatively unscathed; many are looking forward to Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land later this year, in which Stone co-stars with Ryan Gosling. Whether Crowe can recover from Aloha remains to be seen.
The Hunger Games
Getting Jennifer Lawrence on board a new project is a surefire way of selling tickets and raising awards pedigree these days, but before her big breakout into fame, she was the subject of controversy. Cast as protagonist Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise, fans of the novels did not approve of the actress’ involvement. For starters, a primary complaint was that Lawrence herself did not resemble someone who could be from the impoverished locale of District 12. In addition, the book describes Katniss as an olive-skinned, dark-haired tomboy, an appearance Lawrence did not have.
Changing her hair color for the part, Lawrence proved to be the right choice for Katniss in the end. She was a big reason why the series was so successful; Katniss became an action heroine an entire generation could look up to. Whether it was fighting to the death in the Hunger Games or diving into the character’s vulnerability, Lawrence was at the top of her game throughout. She may have outgrown the role as time went on, but it’s difficult to see anyone else playing Katniss.
Spider-Man fans could not wait to see the villain Venom in Spider-Man 3, but that enthusiasm died down pretty quickly when Sam Raimi made his decision. Topher Grace of That ’70s Show is hardly the living embodiment of Eddie Brock. He clearly did not have the physical stature to convincingly portray one of Spidey’s greatest foes, and he wasn’t all that intimidating even when he got the suit. Brock is known for being large, muscular, and somewhat threatening, making Venom’s big screen debut a major fail on all accounts.
It probably didn’t help matters that Raimi did not want to include Venom in the first place, wishing to focus more on the Sandman and New Goblin subplots. The studio knew Venom was marketable and pushed for his inclusion, and Raimi cracked in the end. Hopefully with the new reboot, Marvel Studios and Sony can work together to do the villain justice on the big screen in an upcoming film. Venom is too strong a character to not get a second chance.
Interview With The Vampire
In the 1990s, few actors were more of a box office lock than Tom Cruise, so the decision to cast him as Lestat in Interview With The Vampire made great business sense. However, there were many that didn’t sign off on the idea, including author Anne Rice, who penned the source material. There were questions concerning how the diminutive Cruise was going to play a character known for his imposing figure, but the actor quickly won people over.
Playing against type, Cruise showcased he had what it took to play a compelling villain. He gave a great performance and was one of the highlights of the film. His work even impressed Rice, who said Cruise did a fantastic job after she saw the film. Cruise’s commitment to the part represented why it’s usually best to wait and see what happens on the screen, especially when an A-lister like Cruise is involved.
The Lone Ranger
Johnny Depp became a global superstar by playing quirky, oddball characters like Jack Sparrow and the Mad Hatter. That said, not every role is meant for him. There was much controversy over his casting as the Indian Tonto in Disney’s Lone Ranger reboot. Depp is not a Native American actor, despite his statement that he is of partial Native descent. When the trailers and eventually the finished film came out, people were angry for another reason. Tonto’s portrayal was seen as reliant on stereotypes instead of doing something interesting with the Lone Ranger’s famous companion.
Dismissed as another example of “Johnny Depp in makeup,” The Lone Ranger failed to impress many who ended up seeing the film. Critically panned and a box office disaster, any franchise hopes were quickly dashed. Depp has had a lot of success working with the Mouse House, but even his luck can run out after a while.
Replacing the incomparable William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk is a daunting task, and when J.J. Abrams went with Chris Pine for his Star Trek reboot, there weren’t too many celebrating. At the time, Pine had only appeared in a few mediocre rom-coms and had done nothing to even suggest he was ready to be a charismatic leading man in an action franchise. Some fans wanted Paramount to go with someone like Matt Damon, but Pine and Abrams put an end to that talk fast when the film was released in 2009.
Though it’s hard to say Pine is better than Shatner, he did make for a fine successor to the original Enterprise captain. Pine was able to capture the essence of Kirk, giving audiences a charming, roguish hero that was easy to root for. The entire cast of the Trek reboot was great, but Pine carried the film and helped really make it what it was. His performance was one of the reasons why the relaunch was able to bring the property back to the spotlight and give it new life. Pine is signed on for at least a couple more Trek films, so he’s definitely part of the lore now.
Those are our picks for the most controversial casting decisions in popular movies. Are there any we missed? Which ones get your blood boiling? Sound off in the comments section below and be sure to subscribe to our channel for more fun videos like this one!