A lot of moviemaking entails Hollywood hoping you don’t notice something is off. Sometimes that means making a backlot in Los Angeles look like the deep South. Other times it means making that movie star who isn’t Tom Cruise look like he can actually do crazy stunts. Movies are, have been, and will always be a matter of smoke and mirrors, tapping into an audience’s imagination to fool ’em for two plus hours. This might require elaborate makeup, CGI effects, or just some clever casting.
Done poorly, re-casting a character in a major series can draw attention not only to a seeming disregard for continuity, but also to a studio’s failure to keep their actors happy. Marvel got a feel for this when swapping out Terrance Howard for Don Cheadle in the role of James Rhodes. But done correctly, re-casting can elevate a new actor’s rendition of his predecessor’s role into pop culture iconography.
Some famous parts were re-cast without you noticing, either because of expert casting or because you didn’t realize a character appeared outside of their big break. These are 15 Characters You Didn’t Know Were (Or Will Be) Played By Multiple Actors.
15. Hannibal Lecter
Contrary to popular assumption, Anthony Hopkins was not the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter. Before The Silence of the Lambs scooped up five Oscars in 1992, the serial killer from Thomas Harris’ novels was brought to the screen in Manhunter. Brian Cox played Dr. Lecter in Michael Mann’s film version of Harris’ first Hannibal Lecter book, Red Dragon. Manhunter was well received upon its release, but couldn’t quite make the impact Hopkins and director Jonathan Demme would make with Silence of the Lambs.
Hopkins played Lecter for two more films, the second of which was another adaptation of Red Dragon (this time keeping the book’s title). After Hopkins retired the part, French actor Gaspard Ulliel portrayed Lecter in the critically reviled Hannibal Rising. After Rising, Lecter seemed as dead as his myriad of victims.
Then, Hannibal was resurrected by the unlikeliest savior: NBC. The TV network aired three seasons of Bryan Fuller’s moody, grotesque, David Lynch-inspired Hannibal. This time, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen became Lecter, bringing nonchalant creepiness to the villain’s life as a working psychiatrist.
14. Indiana Jones
Producer Frank Marshall’s adamance on Harrison Ford being the only Indiana Jones seems strange, considering actors besides Ford have had a crack at Indy’s whip. Ford was the one and only Indy until The Last Crusade, which, in an opening scene set during Indy’s adolescence, features River Phoenix as the burgeoning archeologist. Phoenix came at Ford’s own recommendation. The two played father and son in The Mosquito Coast.
Indy’s Boy Scout adventure at the start of Crusade inspired George Lucas to create The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Lucas offered Phoenix another chance to play young Indy, but the actor declined, uninterested in returning to TV. In his stead, Sean Patrick Flanery fulfilled the part. Flanery played young Indy for over twenty episodes as well as several TV movies. During the show’s run, an elderly, eye-patched Indy was played by George Hall. Perhaps someday Marshall will allow another actor to try on Indy’s fedora. But for now, neither he nor Spielberg are willing to entertain anyone but Ford.
13. Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan is an ordinary man. Strange for the lead in an action series. Some believe Ryan’s best onscreen appearance is his first in The Hunt for Red October, where Alec Baldwin plays him. Baldwin does a commendable job as Tom Clancy’s office-bound CIA analyst, who’s been thrust into a high stakes game of Battleship.
Sadly, Baldwin’s inaugural turn as Ryan was his last. In his absence, Harrison Ford served as a more expected substitute for the action franchise’s headliner, starring in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Surprisingly, though he had just played a string of larger than life heroes, Ford showed he could play “down to earth” very well.
After Ford, Ryan’s casting got further away from his initial everyman persona. Ben Affleck and Chris Pine each took a shot at Clancy’s creation, neither claiming the same praise Baldwin or Ford received. Soon Ryan will reemerge in an Amazon original series, this time with John Krasinski in the part. Hopefully Jim Halpert can ground Ryan once more, and revitalize him the way Mikkelsen did for Hannibal Lecter.
12. Albus Dumbledore
When he died, children everywhere mourned Richard Harris’ loss without even knowing his real name. They just knew him as Dumbledore. Not as the actor who played Dumbledore, mind you, they knew him as the Dumbledore. Harris actualized the aged wizard with a clarity that no other actor, not even the talented Michael Gambon, could emanate.
Gambon started playing Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Though at first he played the character as bizarrely and inappropriately gruff, Gambon eventually found his footing. He was good enough by the end that, when he communed with Harry in wizard limbo, fans got teary eyed bidding him farewell.
But of course, no character ever truly perishes in a profitable enterprise like Harry Potter. Dumbledore will return as a younger man in the next installment of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While fans have voiced their picks for the role, and some actors have even advocated for themselves, no decision has been made regarding young Dumbledore’s casting.
11. Han Solo
It’s official: Harrison Ford used to be Han Solo. Of course, no matter how many feet below ground he buries Solo, Ford will remain eternally synonymous with the character. Still, with the actor gone and the character a perpetually hot commodity, Disney needed a young actor talented enough (and ballsy enough) to strap on the black vest.
For their upcoming Han Solo solo movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller picked Alden Ehrenrich out of a casting shortlist longer than any in recent memory. There’s a wide margin for error with any actor taking on a young Han Solo. But Ehrenrich’s standout performance in Hail, Caesar! narrows that margin substantially.
Look, you already know Ehrenrich will Solo. So to satisfy the “Didn’t Know” bit in this article’s headline, it should be mentioned that an actor besides Ford has already played Han Solo in a big screen release, albeit one further outside Star Wars canon than any Legends. In The LEGO Movie, the always busy voice actor Keith Ferguson voiced everybody’s favorite smuggler.
10. Slinky Dog
Theoretically, switches between voiceover actor should be easier than those between live action parts. Assuming the replacement actor does a perfect duplication of the original actors’ voice. Blake Clark did this for Toy Story 3, taking over the part of Slinky Dog from the sadly deceased Jim Varney.
Varney, best known for the Earnest movies, played the loyal Slink in Toy Story and Toy Story 2. About a year after Toy Story 2‘s release, Varney died from lung cancer. Ten years later, Pixar decided to make another movie about Andy’s covertly sentient toys. But, while the rest of the cast was able to return, Toy Story 3 had the sad duty of passing on Slink to someone new.
Fortunately, director Lee Unkrich had Clark, a close friend of Varney, to turn to. Clark not only played Slink in Toy Story 3, but also played him in two Toy Story Toons. A fourth Toy Story is slated for 2019, and will see Clark in the role once again.
Carrie Fischer wasn’t the only Star Wars actor we lost in 2016. Everyone’s least favorite year also took Erik Bauersfield (Admiral “IT’S A TRAP!” Akbar) and Kenny Baker from us. Baker was the British actor inside R2-D2 from A New Hope to Revenge of the Sith. He acted as an uncredited consultant on the set of The Force Awakens, while his gung-ho astromech droid was operated by Jimmy Vee.
Prior to R2, Baker was an ice skater. In his twenty years ice-skating he performed at rinks in Europe and South Africa. After A New Hope, Baker appeared in two other Best Picture Oscar nominees, The Elephant Man and Amadeus (which won in 1984). Baker died of a chronic condition last August.
Jimmy Vee played R2 again for The Last Jedi, set for release this year. With Baker’s passing, Anthony Daniels is the sole actor to have a part in every Star Wars film. But hopefully Baker’s watching R2’s adventures from somewhere, beaming as the droid bleeps and whirrs his way into hearts everywhere.
8. Daario Naharis
Daario Naharis made his Game of Thrones debut at the end of season three. Here he was played by Ed Skrein. Then, suddenly, Skrein departed the show’s epic ensemble, making room for Michael Huisman to play Daario. Huisman played Daario from season four onwards.
Skrein’s career since his brief time on Game of Thrones has been a bit wobbly. He attempted to take up Jason Statham’s mantle in The Transporter Refueled, a reboot that met with tepid responses on both financial and critical fronts. Skrein bounced back a smidge when he played Frances, the slimy villain from Deadpool who uses the pseudonym Ajax to cover up his real, embarrassing name.
Huisman had already spent time in HBO’s wheelhouse, playing the character of Sonny on four seasons of the post-hurricane Katrina drama, Treme. Huisman can also be found on shows like Nashville and Orphan Black, as well as The Invitation, a brilliant and under-seen horror film.
Though the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe started out with a male protagonist, it paved the way for some spectacular female characters. Toph, Azula, and Katara are just some of the women in Avatar with strong compelling arcs independent of male influencers. Luckily for fans, Katara’s story passed over into Legend of Korra, The Last Airbender‘s spinoff.
Mae Whitman first played Katara, the kind, fierce-willed waterbender who discovers the last airbender in question. Within the span of a pilot episode, Whitman made Katara a fan favorite, embedding the character with warmth and power. Sadly, as is the case with all good things, The Last Airbender finished it’s run and Whitman’s time with Katara finished in tandem.
Then Korra came around, and with it Katara’s resurgence (ignoring that movie where Nicola Peltz played her). To play and elderly Katara, creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko managed to get Hollywood legend Eva Marie Saint, the star of hallmark films like On the Waterfront and North by Northwest.
6. Buffy Summers
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the “Elevator Pitch That Could.” It’s that kernel of an idea that not only refused to die, but also rose above a terrible film to become one of the best television shows in history. Today, people acknowledge Sarah Michelle Gellar as the Slayer. But somebody else played Buffy before Gellar in a flop movie that almost anchored Joss Whedon’s idea to absolute obscurity.
Buffy started as a movie in 1992. In the film she was played by Kristy Swanson, who at the time was best know for a bit part in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Swanson took the part of Buffy, which was initially set to be Alyssa Milano. Unfortunately for Swanson, the Buffy movie tanked and became a footnote in the superior TV show’s history.
Gellar became the Buffy we all know and love, but this almost wasn’t the case. Charisma Carpenter auditioned for the role of Buffy while Gellar auditioned for Cordelia, the role Carpenter ultimately got.
5. Man in Black
Last year, Westworld gave compulsive conspiracy theorists a new obsession (and HBO a hit that could fill the massive gap Game of Thrones will soon leave). But before it became a prestige TV drama, Westworld was the directorial debut of sci-fi author extraordinaire, Michael Crichton. Much was changed in Westworld’s shift to television, especially the Man in Black.
Back when he was played by acting titan Yul Brynner, The Man in Black was originally called The Gunslinger. In the Westworld film, the Gunslinger was a robot host who wreaked havoc on tourists at the all too real amusement park.
In it’s TV reboot, writer Jonathan Nolan made the shocking decision to have the Man in Black be a human patron of Westworld instead of a vengeful host. This time it was Ed Harris filling the black boots, and his Man in Black had more complex intentions with the wild west resort.
4. Felix Leiter
James Bond is the type of person who’d like to believe he’s a one-man-army, deserving of the “I Work Alone” catch phrase. But Ian Flemming’s spy was never without someone watching his back. M, Q, Moneypenny, Bond always had somebody looking after him as he philandered his way through missions. One of his lesser known associates throughout the years was Felix Leiter.
Leiter, a CIA agent, first showed up in Dr. No. The first actor to portray Leiter onscreen was Jack Lord, who’d later achieve fame for Hawaii Five-O. After Dr. No, Leiter made several more appearances in James Bond films, each time played by a different actor. Cec Linder, Rik Van Nutter, and Norman Burton all played Leiter for one single time.
The only actor to portray Leiter more than once is Jeffrey Wright, another star from Westworld. Wright lent a grizzled cool to his Leiter in Casino Royale, rivaling Bond himself. Quantum of Solace saw Wright’s return to the role. Wright and Leiter both sat out Skyfall and Spectre.
3. Dwight McCarthy
Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, based on Frank Miller’s acclaimed comic series, made waves as a stunning endorsement of digital filmmaking. Sin City laid flashy photography on a cast all stars like Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, and Benicio Del Toro. Clive Owen played the role of private investigator Dwight McCarthy in Sin City. He was then replaced by Josh Brolin for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, but not without a story-motivated reason.
A Dame to Kill For acts as both sequel and prequel to its predecessor. Sin City picks up with Dwight after his facial reconstruction surgery, brought on by events in A Dame to Kill For. Dwight reconnects with with a former lover in Dame, and needs the surgery after she shoots him in the face.
Owen was originally meant to return as Dwight post-facial reconstruction in A Dame to Kill For, but his job on The Knick kept him from returning. So Brolin played Dwight through the entire movie, wearing prosthetic makeup in his scenes post-surgery.
2. William Stryker
A great enemy of the mutant cause, William Stryker popped up constantly throughout the X-Men’s timeline (and alternate timeline). Because the X-Men films covered multiple phases of Stryker’s life, it would’ve been unfair of Fox to bestow that challenge onto one actor. Instead, three actors have played Stryker over the course of his storied life (or lives).
Stryker was first played by powerhouse Brian Cox in X2: X-Men United. Before X2, Cox had dominated the screen in movies like Braveheart, 25th Hour, and Adaptation. The veteran actor was a fine choice to play an imposing threat to mutantkind.
But when a Wolverine prequel was (unfortunately) imminent, Fox asked Danny Huston to play a younger Stryker. Following the success of X-Men: First Class, the 70s rolled around for mutants and yet another actor, Josh Helman, was needed to play Stryker in Days of Future Past. Helman played Stryker again in Apocalypse, but with the future of the major X-Men film series in flux, it’s dubious when or how we’ll see Stryker again.
1. Ted Mosby
Yes, two actors played hapless architect Ted Mosby: Josh Radnor in person and Bob Saget in voiceover. Radnor played Ted onscreen while Saget narrated his adventures as Ted’s older self, relaying to his children the painstakingly long story of his pre-marital life.
How I Met Your Mother discovered a competent actor in Radnor, who kept Ted’s antics engaging for nine seasons even as the character’s likeability wavered throughout. But creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas were wise to hand off Ted’s older self to Saget. The former Full House star offered dry but compassionate foresight to Ted’s younger days, when he had a lot of difficulty navigating the dating game.
Bays and Thomas’ beloved CBS sitcom ended on a divisive note, and soon after plans were made for a How I Met Your Dad series. Unexpectedly, CBS passed on the project, which would have enacted the same casting method for its main character. Greta Gerwig was slated to play the protagonist while Meg Ryan was set to narrate.
Which character can you think of who was played by multiple actors?
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