Funk’s Top 10: Smart 2nd Choices in Casting

Every movie goes through a long casting process and sometimes decisions are made in haste only for the producers to make a switch later in the game. Sometimes it happens before shooting, sometimes during – they generally don’t get mentioned again. There’s plenty of surprising potential films out there. Such as…

10. Sandra Bullock decides not to strap on black leather

You can’t blame the studio for wanting to get themselves a known actress for this risky venture. Names attract audiences, and nobody was confident that ‘The Matrix’ would be successful. But how’d they figure that this would be a good fit? Seen by many as the female Hugh Grant, it’s difficult to imagine the bumbling, goofy archetype translating well into leather-clad ass kicking kung-fu awesomeness. Luckily she turned down the role citing that she couldn’t see herself acting alongside the lead actor (I’ll get to that later).

9. The Batman/Iron Man conundrum

It’s never a good situation for a director when a key actor jumps ship between films. This can happen for various reasons – pay disputes can rear their ugly head, falling out with the director, etc. – and there are different ways to deal with it. When Megan Fox butted heads with Bay and Spielberg, they replaced the character for the third outing and when Zoe Wanamaker tried to extort a pay rise from Warner Brothers they dropped the character of Madam Hooch from the rest of the Harry Potter franchise.

This situation can be a blessing in disguise. When Katie ‘Weak Link’ Holmes decided to pass on the offer to reprise the role of Rachel Dawes in ‘The Dark Knight’ the studio had no choice but to recast the essential part. Step in the more talented (and hot) Maggie Gyllenhaal. It happened again with ‘Iron Man’ when various issues with Terrance Howard led to his offer for ‘Iron Man 2’ evaporated leaving the role open Don ‘Oscar Magnet’ Cheadle.

8. Nicholas Cage wrestles with the decision to do the Ram Jam

Nicky Cage has made a name for himself in the past for playing nutso characters (and generally being a crap actor in the past decade) and it’s hard to imagine him being restrained enough to convey the depth of character required for The Ram. It was Aronofsky who approached about Rourke taking over the role, and full credit to Cage for graciously stepping aside.

7. Gwyneth Paltrow should’ve gone down with the ship

Paltrow has been on the receiving end of a fair amount of criticism following her parenting ‘advice’ coloumns (that run on the assumption that everyone reading them can afford a full time nanny for each child), but those people really should’ve begun criticising her the moment they saw her acting. There was a time when Paltrow was the go-to girl for any shallow romantic lead, so it’s not far-fetched to understand why she was considered for ‘Titanic’. Of course, thinking that Paltrow would be considered for any role that the awesome Kate Winslet was in the running for is an insult to the profession. Even if they were listed alphabetically, Kate Winslet would still come first.

6. More Matrix Mix-Ups

Sandra Bullock wasn’t the only person to get shuffled in and out of the virtual reality that is the Matrix. In some cases the studio was pushing for a particular actor and sometimes it was those wacky Wachowski Brothers (or sisters, whatever the hell you call them after the sex change). It’s well known that the studio pushed for the radiant star power known as Will Smith, favourably passed over for the suitably less expressive Keanu Reeves, but less known is the Wachowski’s choice for Morpheus. Val Kilmer was reportedly offered the role ahead of Fishbourne, which could’ve worked pretty well as long as he could rock the pez-nez.

5. Eric Stolz fails to go back to the future. And skateboard

This one’s a bit of a cheat, as Michael J. Fox was always the first choice for Marty McFly, yet filming went ahead with Eric Stolz in the role. Fox was committed to his show ‘Family Ties’ and the producers were forced to move ahead without him. Stolz became Marty McFly, but struggled to bring the funny. His dry, dramatic performance failed to deliver the material as intended and, on top of everything, he couldn’t skateboard. Eventually negotiations with Fox’s producers allowed him to step in and Spielberg injected an extra $3m into the budget to allow for reshoots.

4. Stuart Townsend couldn’t handle the power of the ring

Like Back to the Future, this is a case where they’d gotten well into filming before pulling the plug on this filming. Making the leap from B grade to A, Townsend was cast in the key role of Aragon, essentially carrying the trilogy alongside Elijah Wood and Sir Ian McKellen. Two weeks into filming, Townsend was starting to feel out of his depth and the film-makers knew it. They had a hasty decision to recast and got Viggo Mortensen on the phone. Having not read the book or the script, Mortensen was understandably reluctant to commit to a project that would mean moving to New Zealand for over a year, but his young son convinced him that it was an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up.

3. Haley Joel Osment gets animated as Harry Potter

Sometime between seeing dead people and getting tossed in the slammer for drug possession, Spielberg envisioned this once golden child as the lead role in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. This was met with a large amount of opposition from fans – he’s not British, he’s too old, nobody likes him – but they were mostly countered by the claim that Spielberg intended this to be an animated feature. For good or bad, the movie never went ahead.

2. Dougray Scott almost gets his claws into Wolverine

Know this guys name? He should as well known as Hugh Jackman, but fate was against him. So was Tom Cruise. Dougray Scott was all signed on to play everyone’s favourite Canadian mutant in ‘X-Men’, scheduled to begin filming after he’d finished his role as Generic Badguy in ‘Mission: Impossible II’. Sadly for Scott, the shooting of MI2 went two months over schedule and the role went to the second choice, Hugh Jackman. Obscurity beckoned.

1. Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio fail to go psycho

Casting can make or break a movie and needless to that the success of ‘American Psycho’ was due to the perfect casting of Christian Bale. It seems shocking in hindsight that anyone else could even be considered for the part, but almost the phonebook of A-Listers was approached. Some turned it down, some almost signed the dotted line and some got signed only to be dropped amid the director changes. Leonardo DiCaprio was signed up for the role until director Mary Harron threatened to walk unless he was replaced. For the rest – Depp is to nice, Pitt is to soft, Ewan isn’t tough and Leo is a complete mismatch.

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