News, , , , , , , , — August 19, 2011 13:35 — 0 Comments

10 big movie roles that were horribly miscast

Halle Berry

Halle Berry as Catwoman: let's not go there

John Wayne as Genghis Khan anyone — or Halle Berry as Catwoman, meeow. Ten movie roles where the casting director got it wrong

A movie can go wrong at just about any point in production, but there’s no error quite as noticeable as bad casting. The dialogue, costumes, and atmosphere can totally line up, but if you’ve got the wrong person in a key role, the magic just isn’t there. Sometimes it’s just a little off — George Clooney was a pretty awkward Batman, but then, Batman & Robin had much bigger problems — but other times it’s enough to totally derail every scene in which the miscast actor appears, or even sink the entire movie.

These are the roles that made the biggest mistakes, lost the biggest gambles, and proved just how awful things can get.

Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone, The Godfather: Part III

There was no way The Godfather: Part III could ever have hoped to live up to the first two films, which are some of the best American movies ever made. Even so, Francis Ford Coppola dropped the ball in a major way by casting his daughter as Mary Corleone, daughter of the aging Michael (Al Pacino). Winona Ryder was set to play the role but dropped out, leaving the spot open for Sofia, who was lambasted by critics for her clunky performance. The film was never going to be a game-changer like its predecessors, but it had a shot at being a whole lot better with a more confident actress in such a pivotal role.

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, Superman Returns

Bryan Singer’s loving homage to Richard Donner had plenty of good moments, but the choice of Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was a total tonal misfire. It’s understandable to want to cast pretty young things in a modern superhero movie; after all, Brandon Routh was just 25 when production began and he donned the blue tights and red cape to play the Man of Steel. But Bosworth was even younger, and it showed, which made the whole casting decision too curious to ignore. She was only 22 when filming began, yet the Lois Lane of the film has a five-year-old son. Bosworth didn’t look old enough to have paid back her student loans, much less have a five-year-old, and it doesn’t feel right to imagine Superman hooking up with a 17-year-old. She was a nice enough presence, but far too young and weak for the role. In the upcoming Man of Steel, set for release in 2013, Amy Adams will take over the role. She’s got a decade on Bosworth, which is a good sign.

John Wayne as Genghis Khan, The Conqueror

The 1950s and ’60s were the peak of a very awkward time for Hollywood: Still clinging to a fading studio system and unwilling to do anything remotely progressive, many movies used white actors to play characters of different ethnicities and backgrounds. As a result, you get monstrosities like 1956′s The Conqueror, in which John Wayne — as American as can be — plays Mongol warrior and emperor Genghis Khan. The racial insensitivies here can’t be overstated: Wayne’s a swaggering, drawling, empty-headed hero in a movie that deserved to be so much more interesting and honest. Images of him as Khan are hardly flattering to anyone, either. It’s a classic cast of racist miscasting thanks to bigoted mindsets. In a sad postscript, though, the film wound up harming Wayne more than he could have guessed. Exteriors were shot in Utah downwind of the Nevada test site where the government had worked out the kinks in its nuclear weapons, and some of the ground was even transported back to the studio to re-create the look for further shooting. Wayne, though also a heavy smoker, died of cancer in 1979, and Conqueror director Dick Powell died of cancer months after the film wrapped. Of the 220 cast and crew, 91 developed cancer.

Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones, The World Is Not Enough

James Bond movies have never really been serious, but that’s not to say they aren’t smart, entertaining rides. However, the series got a little too bloated in the 1990s and early 2000s, eventually requiring a new Bond and stylistic reboot with Casino Royale. The 1999 entry, The World Is Not Enough, is a good example of how the franchise went crazy. Denise Richards co-stars as Dr. Christmas Jones — every part of that name is true, seriously — a nuclear physicist who helps James Bond save the world in some generic way. Even by Bond Girl standards, Richards is wooden and forgettable, and plays a scientist about as convincingly as you’d expect from the star of Wild Things. Her name was chosen just to set up one of the worst sexual puns in James Bond history. From top to bottom, she just shouldn’t be there.

Charlton Heston as Miguel Vargas, Touch of Evil

Charlton Heston played outside his ethnicity more than once — 1961′s El Cid has him playing a Spanish military leader c. 1050 AD — but it’s 1958′s Touch of Evil that really bends the rules and breaks the illusion. Heston plays Miguel Vargas, a Mexican official in drug enforcement, and he couldn’t look or sound any more like plain old Charlton Heston with a bad mustache. Heston was a compelling actor but only within a certain range, and not even a performer of his strength could overcome the awkwardness of having a white guy from Illinois play a Mexican drug agent.

Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Keanu Reeves gets a lot of grief, but he’s actually been an ideal fit for his biggest roles: the blank slate of Neo in The Matrix, the stripped-down action hero of Speed, etc. Basically anything that stays pretty simple and superficial and doesn’t require an overabundance of emoting. Sadly, he wasn’t up the challenge for Francis Ford Coppola’s atmospheric and gorgeous take on the Dracula legend, and just about every one of his scenes feels stagey and uncomfortable. (Not to mention the fact that Reeves’ throaty dialect has a hard time grasping British pronunciations.) The movie’s got some fantastic moments; Reeves isn’t in any of them.

Mickey Rooney as I.Y. Yunioshi, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Another staggeringly awful race mistake. When bringing Truman Capote’s novel to the screen, director Blake Edwards cast Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese neighbor to heroine Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn). Rooney is, well, extremely not Japanese. But rather than cast someone else or at least play it low-key, Rooney appears in the film with heavy make-up and a mouthpiece to turn him into a horrifyingly racist cartoon. It was an awful choice born of 1960s stereotypes and a wildly bad sense of what was actually funny. Although producers have since apologized for the role, Rooney stands by his performance, saying he would never intentionally offend “any person, be they black, Asian or whatever.” So, um, there’s that.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith

It’s unfair to put too much of the blame for the Star Wars prequels on Hayden Christensen. George Lucas wrote and directed some pretty boring movies, and it’s not like Christensen got to call the shots. He just showed up and tried his best. Unfortunately, his best was so astronomically bad that the movies took on new levels of infamy. He’s whiny and mealy-mouthed, unable to make the character remotely likeable or interesting, which means there’s no real reason to care when he starts misbehaving and going all Vadery on baby Jedi and innocent aliens. He’s cowardly instead of vulnerable, and petulant when he should be conflicted. He just doesn’t work.

Halle Berry as Catwoman, Catwoman
Making a Catwoman movie that doesn’t have anything to do with the Batman universe is strike one; casting Halle Berry is strikes two, three, and the end of the ballgame. She gives a performance that’s almost daringly bad, bouncing from hysteria to weird psycho-sexual pandering at will. The role and movie were so mismanaged that Catwoman picked up a slew of Razzies that year, including Worst Picture, Actress, Screenplay, and Director.

Kevin Costner as Robin Hood, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Robin Hood: British. Kevin Costner: not British. More than that, he’s terrible at pretending to be British. He doesn’t even bother with an English accent for the role, which makes him a bad Robin Hood and a lazy actor. The film’s actually got a few other bad casting decisions, notably a ranty Christian Slater as Will Scarlett, but it’s Costner’s bland Robin Hood that really ruins the mood. He should’ve stuck to baseball.

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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