Monday, February 3, 2014

Surprise Comic Book Casting

In my many discussions I've had with others about Jesse Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor, I began reflecting on other surprise casting moves in comic book films.

(I'm going to avoid any of the Joel Schumacher movies, since even the perfect actor would have had an impossible time giving a good performance in one of those films)

ACTOR: Michael Keaton
photo by George Biard

This is the quintessential odd casting as Tim Burton hired someone who was best known as Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice.  Fears were sharp that this Dark Knight would be too comedic.

Keaton's Batman was dark, brooding, serious, and brought a gravitas to the role that very few people believed was possible.  For many, he surpasses even Christian Bale as the embodiment of Batman

ACTOR: Tobey Maguire
photo by David Shankbone

Spider-man is arguably the most popular comic book character out there.  Maguire was known mostly for his indie work and people weren't sure if he could be an action man.

Maguire not only captured Peter Parker's dorky side, but he embodied the physical heroism of the character.

ACTOR: Kate Bosworth
photo by MARVEL

As with most expected franchise movies, the studios wanted a younger cast so that over the course of a decade or so, they would not get too old.

Cast way too young, Bosworth lacked all of the maturity and sense of history required of a character who is a pulitzer prize winning single mom in love with an alien.

ACTOR: Nicholas Cage
photo by Kirk Weaver

Cage is a long time comic book fanatic and finally got a chance to jump in as one of Marvel's darkest characters.

Besides the movie itself being terrible, Cage's performance doesn't capture any of the brooding melancholy of Johnny Blaze, but instead made him closer to insane.

ACTOR: Hugh Jackman
photo by Franz Richter

No one knew who Jackman was when he had to come in at the last minute and replace Dougray Scott in the first X-Men movie.  All we knew about him was that he was a song and dance man who had most recently played the lead in Oklahoma!

I literally cannot imagine anyone playing the part better, so iconic is his turn as Wolverine.  It was such a delight to see him fully realize the concept of the character onto the screen.

ACTOR: Heath Ledger
photo by Howie Berlin

The Australian actor was best known for his indie fare like Brokeback Mountain and a few spots in popular films like 10 Things I Hate About You and The Patriot.  But nothing in his resume portended a successful interpretation of the Joker like Jack Nicholson.

Winning a posthumous Oscar was only a token tribute to a performance that rocked the cinemas.  I believe so much of The Dark Knight's success rested on Ledger's mesmerizing turn as the Clown Prince of Crime.

ACTOR: Adrianne Palicki

Wonder Woman had been out of commission since the Lynda Carter era.  Mega Producer David E. Kelly thought he could bring back the magic with Palicki

(click link to see the infamous costume)

I'm not sure how much of the failure rests on Palicki as opposed to the overall vision of the production department.  But she could not carry the regal power of the character with believability.

ACTOR: Ian McKellen

While everyone paying attention was stoked at the idea of Patrick Stewart playing Professor X, not many were familiar with McKellen.  They weren't sure if he had the menace of fan-favorite Terence Stamp (an incidentally, doesn't Michael Fassbender look like a young Stamp?).


While McKellen did not present the obvious evil that Stamp would have, he instead brought an intelligence, charisma, and humanity to a character that caused the audience conflicting emotions (in a good way).

ACTOR: Jessica Alba
photo by Mark J. Sebastian
Sue Storm is one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe whose mind is every bit as sharp as Reed Richards or Victor Von Doom.  Some questioned whether Alba could match that level of believable intelligence.

This may have been a problem of age.  Like the nuclear physicist played by Denise Richards in a James Bond movie, Alba did not project the requisite bookishness that is inherent to her character.

ACTOR: Chris Evans
photo by MyCanon

Cap is the embodiment of all that is good about America, full of strength of body and character.  Evans was best known for his loutish, immature Johnny Storm.  Some questioned if he could play sincere as well as sarcastic

Evans not only physically embodied the character, but you can feel his straight-as-an-arrow earnestness throughout his movies.

ACTOR: Jackie Earl Haley

The central character of Watchmen was given to an actor who was best known for his role as a child in The Bad News Bears.

A fantastic and powerful performance that captured the character's righteous insanity.

ACTOR: Matthew Goode
photo by ASingleManCastVenhice66

A pivotal character in the story, he must embody a complete sense of heroism and virtue

Everything about Goode's performance was creepy.  His smile, his looks, his voice… all of it drew suspicion on him rather than making us admire him by all outward appearances.

What about you?  Any thoughts on surprise casting hits or misfires?  Share in the comments below.

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