12 times major movie roles were recast

Tom Beasley
·Contributor
·10 min read
These major movie roles were recast. (Credit: Universal/Warner Bros/Orion)
These major movie roles were recast. (Credit: Universal/Warner Bros/Orion)

In the wake of his failed libel action against The Sun for calling him a “wife beater”, Johnny Depp has been forced out of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, after appearing in the first two movies. Mads Mikkelsen has emerged as the likely frontrunner to replace him in the role of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.

Read more: Fans call for Colin Farrell to return to Fantastic Beasts

The idea of recasting a major character in the midst of a franchise — or during the process of making a movie — is not an uncommon one. James Bond has changed his face many times over the years and there have been more Spider-Man leads than you could possibly trap under a pint glass.

But here are some of the times when movie studios felt they had to change their casting, whether they wanted to or not...

Back to the Future Part II — Crispin Glover/Jeffrey Weissman

Crispin Glover and Jeffrey Weissman as George McFly in the 'Back to the Future' franchise. (Credit: Universal)
Crispin Glover and Jeffrey Weissman as George McFly in the 'Back to the Future' franchise. (Credit: Universal)

Crispin Glover played both the young and old George McFly in Back to the Future, but could not come to an agreement with Universal over his salary for the sequel. The studio was unwilling to acquiesce to his cash demands and promptly pursued a series of tricks to make it look like nothing had changed. New actor Jeffrey Weissman was covered in prosthetics and frequently filmed from obfuscating angles — or even upside down — in order to make him look more like Glover.

Glover was, unsurprisingly, not remotely pleased about this. The actor filed a lawsuit, which was resolved out of court and led to clauses in Screen Actors Guild agreements stating that actors must not reproduce the likenesses of other performers.

Paddington — Colin Firth/Ben Whishaw

Ben Whishaw replaced Colin Firth as Paddington. (Credit: David M. Benett/Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty/StudioCanal)
Ben Whishaw replaced Colin Firth as Paddington. (Credit: David M. Benett/Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty/StudioCanal)

This one was far more amicable. Colin Firth was announced as the big screen voice of Michael Bond’s iconic ursine creation Paddington Bear in 2013. In the summer of 2014, though, the movie had wrapped and the studio came to a mutual agreement with Firth that his voice was not the right fit for their youthful take on the bear.

Read more: Paul King will not direct Paddington 3

James Bond’s new gadget specialist Ben Whishaw was cast in the role and, since then, it has been impossible to imagine anybody else voicing Paddington. Whishaw reprised his voice for Paddington 2 and has also played the character in TV animated series The Adventures of Paddington.

The Avengers — Edward Norton/Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo took over from Edward Norton in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Credit: Marvel/Universal/Disney)
Mark Ruffalo took over from Edward Norton in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Credit: Marvel/Universal/Disney)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the very definition of a cinematic juggernaut but, in its early stages, it wasn’t such a no-brainer for actors. As it happens, Edward Norton was keen to play Bruce Banner again after 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, but Kevin Feige and the studio opted to take things in another direction.

Mark Ruffalo stepped into Norton’s shoes for The Avengers, bringing his green rage monster skills to the burgeoning super-team. A solo Hulk movie has not happened since, but Ruffalo’s take on Bruce Banner has become one of the lynchpins of the MCU, appearing in five Marvel outings to date, as well as a handful of post-credits scenes.

Iron Man 2 — Terrence Howard/Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Rhodes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Credit: Marvel/Paramount/Disney)
Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Rhodes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Credit: Marvel/Paramount/Disney)

Another tale from the early days of the MCU focused around the supporting character of James Rhodes — aka War Machine — in the Iron Man sequel. Terrence Howard had played the character first time around, but Marvel wasn’t prepared to meet his financial demands for the sequel. According to Howard, it was Robert Downey Jr. who took the money that was originally in his contract.

Don Cheadle, apparently, was willing to take up the pay packet that Howard turned down and the rest as they say is history. Cheadle has played Rhodes on several occasions, serving as a close buddy of Tony Stark throughout the series.

The Dark Knight — Katie Holmes/Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in 'The Dark Knight'. (Credit: Warner Bros)
Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in 'The Dark Knight'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

Finances weren’t a part of the issues that caused Katie Holmes to step away from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies after playing love interest Rachel Dawes in 2005’s Batman Begins. Scheduling was the problem here, with Holmes simply opting to make Mad Money with Queen Latifah and Diane Keaton instead.

Read more: Actors who walked away from famous roles

Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped into the vacant role, taking part in the character’s heart-breaking death scene in The Dark Knight. Meanwhile, Mad Money was a box office disappointment and it has mostly been lost to the sands of time. Some decisions age well; some don’t.

Hannibal — Jodie Foster/Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore took over from Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in 'Hannibal'. (Credit: Orion/MGM/Getty)
Julianne Moore took over from Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in 'Hannibal'. (Credit: Orion/MGM/Getty)

Jodie Foster won an Oscar for playing FBI agent Clarice Starling in the brutal, brilliant horror movie The Silence of the Lambs. Given the film’s impressive numbers at the box office and the rare feat of winning the “Big Five” awards at the Oscars, a sequel was very quickly greenlit and got moving at the studio in a hurry. Director Jonathan Demme declined to be involved and Foster wasn’t a fan of the book’s treatment of Clarice, so said no as well.

Read more: Anthony Hopkins regrets Hannibal Lecter sequels

Anthony Hopkins did agree to play Hannibal Lecter again in Hannibal and Julianne Moore was drafted in to replace Foster. The reviews were very mixed indeed and the subsequent Hannibal Lecter movies opted to go down the prequel route instead.

All the Money in the World — Kevin Spacey/Christopher Plummer

Kevin Spacey was replaced by Christopher Plummer in 'All the Money in the World'. (Credit: Sony)
Kevin Spacey was replaced by Christopher Plummer in 'All the Money in the World'. (Credit: Sony)

Kevin Spacey’s career collapsed at the tail end of 2017. Multiple allegations of sexual assault emerged against the Oscar-winner and he was sacked from his lead role on Netflix series House of Cards. All of this created a headache for director Ridley Scott, who had filmed with Spacey over the summer for his awards season contender All the Money in the World.

Rather than diminish the role of industrialist J. Paul Getty in the story, Scott opted to carry out eleventh hour reshoots with Christopher Plummer replacing Spacey. Scott and his team reshot 22 scenes over the course of eight days and turned everything around within a month or so, hitting the Christmas release date. Not only did they get the film finished, but Plummer earned himself an Oscar nomination.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse — Rachelle Lefevre/Bryce Dallas Howard

Bryce Dallas Howard took over from Rachelle Lefevre as the vampire Victoria in the 'Twilight' movies. (Credit: Summit Entertainment)
Bryce Dallas Howard took over from Rachelle Lefevre as the vampire Victoria in the 'Twilight' movies. (Credit: Summit Entertainment)

The primary antagonist of the first half of the Twilight franchise is vampire Victoria, who sees her lover James killed by the Cullen clan at the end of the 2008 original movie. She looms in the background of second film New Moon before taking centre stage in the action-packed third instalment Eclipse. Only she did so with a different face.

Read more: Anna Kendrick says she was “miserable” on Twilight set

Rachelle Lefevre played Victoria in the first two films, but Summit Entertainment drafted in Bryce Dallas Howard — who had deemed the part too small back in 2008 — to take on the role in Eclipse. Summit blamed scheduling, but Lefevre disagreed and said she was “stunned” and “greatly saddened” in a statement to EW, which the studio later refuted. A decade later, it’s still not entirely clear what happened.

Her — Samantha Morton/Scarlett Johansson

Samantha Morton recorded the voice role for 'Her', before being replaced by Scarlett Johansson. (Credit: Jeff Spicer/Sony/P. Lehman/Barcroft Media/Getty)
Samantha Morton recorded the voice role for 'Her', before being replaced by Scarlett Johansson. (Credit: Jeff Spicer/Sony/P. Lehman/Barcroft Media/Getty)

The Oscar-winning Spike Jonze movie Her features one of cinema’s most unconventional romances, between Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely Theodore Twombly and his operating system — named Samantha. In the finished movie, Scarlett Johansson provides the computer’s voice, but she was brought in to do so very late in the process. Samantha Morton was originally cast in the role and performed it live on set, ensconced within a soundproof booth and concealed from Phoenix.

During the editing process, Jonze found that the voice wasn’t quite right for the relationship he envisaged. He drafted in Johansson and she recorded her lines on a dubbing stage, occasionally joined by Phoenix so that he could react as he had with Morton. The result is one of the most admired movies of Jonze’s career.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor — Rachel Weisz/Maria Bello

Maria Bello took over from Rachel Weisz in the 'Mummy' franchise. (Credit: Frank Trapper/Corbis/Getty/Universal)
Maria Bello took over from Rachel Weisz in the 'Mummy' franchise. (Credit: Frank Trapper/Corbis/Getty/Universal)

One of the joys of Stephen Sommers’s blockbuster 1999 version of The Mummy is Rachel Weisz’s sparky performance as librarian and Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan. Weisz reprised the role for the 2001 sequel The Mummy Returns, but declined to do so for the 2008 follow-up Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. She was replaced by ER and Coyote Ugly actor Maria Bello.

Read more: Weisz on mature female roles in Hollywood

Reports at the time blamed troubles with the script for Weisz’s departure and the actor’s representative said she didn’t want to leave her young child behind to jet off to China. Director Ron Cohen, though, claimed she simply didn’t want to play an older character — the mother to a 21-year-old son.

The Lovely Bones — Ryan Gosling/Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg replaced Ryan Gosling in 'The Lovely Bones'. (Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for HFA/Paramount)
Mark Wahlberg replaced Ryan Gosling in 'The Lovely Bones'. (Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for HFA/Paramount)

Ryan Gosling was once sacked from a movie for being too fat. As crazy as that might seem to anyone who has Googled a picture over the course of the past decade or so — or seen Emma Stone’s reaction to his abs in Crazy, Stupid, Love — Gosling’s weight was a big issue when it came to production on The Lovely Bones.

The star had decided that his character — the father of a murdered teenager — should be 210 lbs and put on the weight without discussing that with director Peter Jackson. He was fired a month before shooting and replaced with Mark Wahlberg. Gosling revealed this a year after the movie’s release, telling The Hollywood Reporter: “I just showed up on set and I had gotten it wrong. Then I was fat and unemployed."

Home Alone 4 — Macaulay Culkin/Mike Weinberg

Mike Weinberg played Kevin McAllister in 'Home Alone 4', taking over from Macaulay Culkin. (Credit: Fox)
Mike Weinberg played Kevin McAllister in 'Home Alone 4', taking over from Macaulay Culkin. (Credit: Fox)

You probably don’t remember Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House. Notably, it’s not even on Disney+, despite the presence of the other movies in the series. After pushing ahead with Home Alone 3 without Macaulay Culkin, Fox decided to bring back Kevin McCallister for the made-for-TV fourth film. They just gave him a different face.

Read more: Chris Columbus not keen on Home Alone reboot

Mike Weinberg stepped into the role as a nine-year-old Kevin trying to fight off his old nemesis Marv — also recast — and his wife, Vera. It only has two reviews listed on Rotten Tomatoes, and they’re both negative. Hopefully the upcoming reboot will fare better.

Watch: Mads Mikkelsen in talks to replace Johnny Depp as Grindelwald