I feel like this is a topic I’m not very good at writing. Certainly, there are lots of things I’ve complained about in a lot of films, but usually if it’s not very good, I’m finding problems in the writing and directing more than in the performances.
Still, there are clearly those times when something went wrong. Generally, it’s only when I have some preconceived notion of the character – eg they were adapted from another source that I’m familiar with, or they are a new actor playing someone we were familiar with in a previous film.
(Incidentally, this is #30 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written. For more information, check out #1 here.)
So, here are a few:
Halle Berry as Storm
In X-Men (2000 – directed by Bryan Singer) and its sequels
So it’s funny, usually if you think of “poor Halle Berry casting decisions in a superhero film” you right away think of Catwoman. But I always think of Storm, one of the most important X-Men from the comic book series (and this coming from a casual X-Men reader). Storm always came across as quite a tough woman, and tall. And African, of course. Halle Berry looks wispy and of average stature, and has an inconsistent accent. Halle Berry can act of course, but this always felt like the wrong role for her.
Who should have been cast? At the time, I was thinking Angela Bassett, even though in truth she’s shorter
James Marsden as Cyclops
In X-Men (2000 – directed by Bryan Singer) and its sequels
OK, so you could rename this whole post “Questionable Casting Decisions in X-Men Movies” if you wanted to. I have never seen James Marsden in anything that I really liked him in, but the real problem with him as Cyclops is just that he’s too young. He comes across as a bit of a bratty kid, especially when he’s paired with Famke Janssen as Jean Grey – Cyclops’ long-term comic book love. Janssen was fine in the part, but she’s about 9 years older than Marsden looks even more. Why find someone with such boyish looks a put him against a woman so obviously older than him? I know the opposite happens in Hollywood a lot, but that would have been strange too.
Who should have been cast? I’m not sure, but some 35 year old guy who could give the part a bit more maturity
Caleb Landry Jones as Banshee
In X-Men: First Class (2011 – directed by Matthew Vaughn)
I don’t know much about Banshee, but I do know one thing: he’s Irish. I don’t really know Caleb Landry Jones’ work very much, but clearly, he’s not Irish. Would it have killed them to just get an Irish guy to play the part? Did we need another American teenager to fill out the cast of First Class?
I feel like ragging on Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique as well, but maybe that’s enough X-Men.
Who should have been cast? Somene Irish
Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face
In Batman Forever (1995 – directed by Joel Schumacher)
Again, when one looks at Joel Schumacher’s contribution to the Batman universe, one doesn’t automatically think of Tommy Lee Jones as the worst casting decision. The idea might have even sound like it makes sense, especially since Jones was only recently off his Oscar win in The Fugitive. The problem was just that Jones was just not that interesting in the part, appearing to phone in his performance in a film that admittedly, would be hard for anyone to take seriously. At the time, my friend thought he must just be worn out from appearing in every other movie to come out the previous year. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but checking IMDb reveals that there were 10 movies that he appeared in from 1993 to 1995 (the years that The Fugitive and Batman Forever came out) so he might just have been really really tired.
Who should have been cast? I always thought at the time that a young Tim Robbins could have brought the obsessed intensity the part needed
Roy Scheider as Dr. Heywood Floyd
In 2010 (1984 – directed by Peter Hyams)
This one isn’t such a big deal but Dr. Heywood Floyd, as he appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey was a soft spoken diplomatic scientist (played by William Sylvester). When Floyd shows up in the sequel, he’s played by Roy Scheider, a quasi-tough guy whose first line is, “Who the hell are you?” I just found it instantly jarring.
Who should have been cast? Someone less committed to adding their own very different stamp on the character
Mark Harmon as Jay Austin
In The Presidio (1988 – also directed by Peter Hyams! Man, the things I learn writing these up…)
The Presidio is a stupid action thriller from the 1980’s which teamed up Sean Connery (as the old guy) with Mark Harmon (as the young guy). It was a really stupid film, but it wasn’t helped by Mark Harmon who just did not have “leading man” appeal for the big screen. Harmon has matured as an actor, for sure over his years on NCIS, but he helped make this project look a bit amateurish.
.Who should have been cast? A review that I read at the time said that The Presidio would have worked if Dennis Quaid had been in the role (that’s definitely the kind of guy that Harmon was trying to be), and I have to agree.
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), both directed by George Lucas)
Hayden Christensen co-stars in an interesting film called Shattered Glass and I thought he was pretty good in it. I mention this to say I’m not an out-and-out Hayden Christensen hater, but come on, can anyone really picture that this is the same guy we watched menace the screens in the original Star Wars trilogy as Darth Vader? He’s a weak figure on screen, lacking personality or charisma, or even a sense of presence, in spite of being quite tall in real life. His Anakin comes across as more whiny and annoying than troubled or dangerous, which may be the kiss of death if you are trying to craft a classic villain. He’s not those movies’ only problem, but he’s one of the most noticeable because of the part that he’s in.