A whimsical collection of reviews, essays, and pieces on the film arts from an analytical amateur movie critic.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The Hits and Misses of Actor Replacement
Occasionally it so happens that when sequels or series are made, that a character must be portrayed by an actor other than the original choice. This history of replacement has seen a diverse pattern of successes and failures, such as the following.
In the grand Harry Potter series, Richard Harris owned Albus Dumbledore. Harris exuded the grace and wisdom that his character demanded, carrying off the presence and power of a regal wizard without even a half-effort. Following his death after only two movies, another actor had to be cast to take up the mantle of the memorable mentor figure. The choice was British film veteran Michael Gambon. Gambon took the character of Dumbledore in an entirely new direction, giving the Hogwarts Headmaster a personality that was trustworthy, personable, and grounded, but quirky in a manner more consistent with the books. HIT!
When Jodie Foster took the role of Clarice Starling for The Silence of the Lambs, it was hard to believe that anyone could ever fill her petite shoes after the now legendary chemistry with Anthony Hopkins. Anthony Hopkins returned for the sequel Hannibal, Jodie Foster did not. The character was portrayed by Julianne Moore instead. Julianne Moore was not Jodie Foster, but it worked in her favor not to imitate her predecessor when her scenes with Anthony Hopkins proved every bit as electrifying. HIT!
Bruce Wayne does not have a reputation of picking particularly level-headed women as love interests, so the character of Rachel Dawes was a breath of fresh air to the Batman franchise when she debuted in Batman Begins. The character was written specifically for Katie Holmes, and when she could not reprise her role in The Dark Knight, Maggie Gyllenhaal filled in. Gyllenhaal's Rachel just didn't cut it, and the character fell flat, failing to be convincing in her most important moment. MISS!
On second thought I'll leave this one alone because the character has been played by so many actors and has seen its fair share of hits and misses. For the record, I maintain that Daniel Craig is a HIT.
Tom Clancy¹s classic American hero has eased in and out of action movies of the 90's like our very own James Bond, his shoes being filled by no less than three popular actors. The Hunt for Red October saw a young Alec Baldwin holding his own opposite the ever-incomparable Sean Connery. The Hunt for Red October went on to become a classic, but Alec Baldwin did not go on to become the golden boy. The next string of Jack Ryan movies were carried by action hero Harrison Ford, who brought Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and other such intrigue and adrenaline flicks to the big screen. As Ford aged however, Jack Ryan's popularity began to fade and it was decided that someone younger and more popular was needed to reboot interest in Clancy's hero. Ben Affleck was cast for The Sum of All Fears and we haven't heard from Jack Ryan since.
Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford: HIT.
Harrison Ford to Ben Affleck: MISS.
Col. Rhodes "Rhodey"
Forever doomed to be seen as Tony Stark/Iron Man's sidekick, Rhodey still has an important part to play in Tony Stark's life. While Iron Man 2 had disappointments throughout the overrated sequel, the greatest letdown was replacing Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle. Don Cheadle is a fine actor, but he was miscast in the role as Rhodey, and the rapport between Rhodey and Tony that fueled the dialogue of the first Iron Man film was painfully absent. MISS!