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When Casting Goes Wrong… Or Does It?

Affleck1by Maggie Kruger

Poor Ben Affleck. There he is, snagging the most coveted role in Hollywood, and there’s 99.9% of the interwebs being mean to him.

Personally I think the most worrying thing about him playing Batman is less to do with his acting, more to do with Zach Snyder’s explode-by-numbers school of directing.

Anyway, these past few days I’ve had one or two….heated, shall we say…. discussions about his casting.

I maintain that Affleck’s a good enough actor to give us a convincing Caped Crusader; others hold up Daredevil as the prime example of why he’ll balls it up (you know who you are).

It got me to thinking, though, about other unexpected casting choices and whether or not they succeeded. Here are some of my favourites.

tom-cruise-lestatWee Tommy O’Cruise – Interview With The Vampire (1994)

I’ve written about this before – when they announced that Tom Cruise was going to play Lestat, the amoral, raunchy, sexually ambiguous vampire, Anne Rice (Lestat’s creator) threw her toys out of the cot:

“I was particularly stunned by the casting of [Tom] Cruise, who is no more my Vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler. ”

She did a superb 180 on this (perhaps persuaded by the studio) when the movie released, saying he was the best thing since sliced Brad Pitt. For my money I think Cruise is great in this movie: naughty, funny and not in it for about half of the running time.

Honorable mention should go here to the casting of Wee Tommy as Jack Reacher. That’s Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. You know, the character who is 6 foot 5 inches tall. Maybe the casting director was number dyslexic and inverted the numbers by mistake…?

Idris Elba – Thor (2011)

idris-elba-thorFanboys went to Crazytown when it was announced that Elba had been cast as Heimdal, Gatekeeper of Asgard, because… well, let’s just say there’s a certain scene in Lethal Weapon 2 that sums it up perfectly.

As it was, Elba picked up the baton and ran as far away as possible with the part, and most people agree that he is a very brilliant thing in a movie packed with brilliant things (Chris Hemsworth’s biceps, I’m looking at you). As Sir Ken himself said:

“Idris Elba is a fantastic actor – we were lucky to get him. He provides all the characteristics we need from Asgard’s gatekeeper, the man who says, “Thou shalt not pass”. When Idris Elba says that, you know you’re gonna have a problem. He’s smart, intelligent, handsome and an absolute joy to work with. If you have a chance to have a great actor in the part, everything else is irrelevant.

“If you’re going to say the colour of his skin matters in a story like this, look at 50 years of Thor comics to see how many ways great artists have bent alleged ‘rules’. Look at the Norse myths to see the way they confounded and contradicted themselves. That whole ‘controversy’ was a surprising – and daft – moment.”

If Branagh says it’s a daft thing to get bent out of shape about, then it probably is.

The-Godfather--Part-III-sofia-coppola-561823_320_480Sofia Coppola – The Godfather, Part III (1990)

When it was announced that Coppola Sr had cast Coppola Jr as Mary Corleone, the screams of NEPOTISM! rang loud and clear throughout Hollywood.

Then the movie actually came out and no-one really knew what to say, mainly because the last time anyone saw a character so wooden, he was arguing with Jiminy Cricket and singing about not having any strings.

Jim Carrey – The Truman Show (1998)

carrey_truman01On the one hand, you have Peter Weir, legendary director of such classics as Gallipoli (sob); Witness and, erm, Green Card (pretend I didn’t mention that one). Aside from his overuse of Maurice Jarre synth soundtracks, the man has made some Pretty Damn Awesome movies.

On the other hand, you have Jim Carrey, who up till that point was best known for playing Ace Ventura. Sure, he could bring in the Box Office dollars, but could he do serious?

The short answer? Hells yes. The Truman Show is an amazing film, and apart from one (to my mind) misplaced scene with Carrey pulling faces in the mirror, he gives a beautifully nuanced and subtle performance.

Now people know he can do serious, Jim Carrey’s gone on to play some excellent dramatic roles, particularly in Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. You can almost forgive him for Dumb and Dumber.

Almost.

Robin Williams – One Hour Photo (2002)

OneHourPhoto-3-bigAs Jim Carrey was to slapstick comedy, Robin Williams was to diabetes-inducingly saccharine family films, although he was also partial to throwing in the odd serious role and, for the most part, TOTALLY nailing it.

I love him in The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting (‘That sonofabitch stole my line!’) and The World According to Garp. Funny? Check. Dramatic? Check. Scary? Not so much.

Then I saw One Hour Photo and a) slept with a light on that night and b) switched to a digital camera. The imdb description says “An employee of a one-hour photo lab becomes obsessed with a young suburban family.”; saying much more than that would give it away.

Go find it if you haven’t seen it. You’ll never see Mork in the same way again.

Steven Seagal – Hard to Kill (1990)

Gotcha.

Mickey Rourke  – Sin City (2005)

MickeyRourkeMarvBack in 2005, Mickey Rourke was the punchline to a very bad Hollywood joke. Handsome, charismatic leading man jacks it all in to go back to boxing then ruins his face with a series of ridiculous plastic surgeries and can’t get arrested (actually he may have managed that, I’ll have to check).

Anyway, when I went to see Sin City with My Mate Terry, I was quite surprised to see Mickey Rourke in the cast, and thought he’d probably be a bit shit. After all, Mickey Rourke was a bit mental and had forgotten how to act, right?

Wrong.

His turn as Marv was possibly my favourite performance in the film (with Bruce Willis a close second, because Bruce Willis). Sad and beautifully ugly, apparently he’s returning for the sequel. Hope so.

Anyhoo, I think Ben Affleck will be a solid Batman. No-one wanted Michael Keaton to play him and he’s my favourite Dark Knight thus far.  Everyone said Heath Ledger would suck as the Joker and look at what happened there. Give Batben a chance, Internet!

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3 comments for “When Casting Goes Wrong… Or Does It?

  1. September 13, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Great article Maggie! I’ll admit, I was one of the initial haters. Though I didn’t badmouth him in comment sections, upon reading the news, I did cross my arms and fiercely turn my head away from the screen. However, I have a tendency to give entertainment related things second chances. (I boycotted Sons of Anarchy after Opie’s death but tuned in for the season premiere Tuesday and am catching up on Season 4 as we speak). As I sat and thought about Affleck’s filmography, I found that, for the most part, I have not been disappointed in his ability to hold his own in a leading role. (Though if we are going for an older, more rugged Dark Knight, I will always be Team Michael Keaton.) I think the ball will truly be in the court of the superhero mash-up plot for Batman vs. Superman.

    • Mags
      September 13, 2013 at 9:55 am

      Thanks Kimster! I think with Affleck the problem is that he’s a good actor who’s been in some very bad movies (gobble, gobble). Also I think I’m probably more positive about his casting because (whisper) I’m not a fan of the Nolan/Bale films – I much preferred the Burton movies. That said though, unless Zach Snyder learns to direct in the next year or so the whole argument about Affleck is going to be moot, Batman v Supes is just going to be a terrible movie!!

  2. Jay
    September 13, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Nice article Mags. I’ll join you with the casting of Affleck for Batman. Its not the disaster people are making out. He’s not the same actor he was back in the daredevil days. I’d say he’s matured in his craft quite a lot. You just have to see his recent work to see that. I think he wants to be DC’s Downey Jnr to be honest. (Not that I blame him), Its a role that has a decent amount of clout behind it. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does. Especially as they’ve gone the route of a tired, worn in Batman.

    And if I may Touch on a couple of your examples too Mags. I loved Tom Cruise as Lestat. He had a real wicked/funny streak in him, from dancing with the dead woman to complaining about Louis when he takes control of Slaters car.
    Robin Williams was a real head spinner in one hour photo. I’d have ever thought of him being just so creepy. He was Mork for godsakes!! Some genius casting for that role.

    Again, great article, Whats coming next??

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