Worst Casting Ever

By Shamus
on Jan 23, 2006
Filed under:
Movies

Casting for an established character can be tough. The audience is going to come into the theater with certain expectations. They have played the video game, read the book, seen the play, or otherwise gotten to know this character before anyone thought of turning the source material into a movie. If you’re doing the casting in this situation, you have to take into account all the normal parameters of casting (willingness, availability, budget, acting ability, compatiblity with the rest of the cast) as well as the added challenge of finding someone who looks and sounds the way the audience expects. Obviously, a certain degree of star power is also needed. Casting directors can sometimes be forgiven when they misread the original character, or fail to anticipate the audience’s expectations.

However, in some cases it becomes clear to the viewer that casting decision were made with a complete disregard – or perhaps even contempt – for the source material. When the need for star power or the ego of a particular actor leads to a gross mis-casting, fans become irate and feel their beloved characters have been co-opted for a quick buck at the expense of the world they enjoy so much. If you’ve been telling people for years how funny a particular book is, and the resulting movie is trash, you can’t very well wait for the book to get made into a movie again. That was its one shot, and someone ruined it for you because they didn’t care.

Below you will find the ten worst. Since this is so subjective, everyone will have their own nominees for the worst casting jobs. This list is by no means complete. The comments link is down there at the bottom if you feel the need to set me straight. So here we go…

A few ground rules:

  1. No more than one character per movie. If one movie has many bad picks, just highlight the worst.
  2. Only characters that make it to the screen count. Nick Cage as Superman probably would have made my #1, but the project was thankfully aborted.
  3. I’m only highlighting casting problems. This means I won’t be picking on George Clooney as Batman. The Clooney Batman movies were some of the worst ever made, but it isn’t Clooney’s fault the dialog was drivel. He might have made a passable Batman if the script had been sensible.
  4. Obviously I’m only going to list stuff I’m familiar with. The latest incarnation of Jane Austin or Anne of Green Gables might have been a foray into the world of idiotic casting, but I wouldn’t know the difference.

#10

Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Lord of the Rings

Hugo Weaving wasn’t a horrible choice for Elrond, but in a movie loaded with inspired casting decisions he stood out as someone who didn’t fit his character. Weaving seems too grave and menacing for the part. Elrond is very old and wise, but also gentle and thoughtful. He quietly observes the ills of the world and mourns them. Weaving’s Elrond seemed bitter and full of contempt for the other races of Middle Earth.

Better choice: Liam Neeson

#9

Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp

I don’t know if you can call Wyatt Earp an established character, but he was a colorful individual, and bland man Costner feels all wrong.

Better choice: Kurt Russell gave us a very compelling Earp in the excellent Tombstone.

#8

Mos Def as Ford Prefect
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy

I had my own ideas about who should have been in this movie. Aside from the choice of Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, the whole thing seemed mis-cast from beginning to end. Ford stood out as one of the worst. Mos Def did not project the image of an eccentric party animal set loose in the universe after a long exile. He seemed just as lost as Arthur.

Better Choice: I stand by my earlier choice of Johnny Depp.

#7

Val Kilmer as Batman
Batman Forever

In the long and grotesque rape of the Batman franchise, this movie was nowhere near the worst. The Clooney Batman movies stand out as almost deliberate in their efforts to reduce the character and the story to the most two-dimensional junk possible. Still, Kilmer as Batman is just strange. He’s a brilliant actor (underrated, IMO) but he doesn’t look or sound like Batman. Patrick Stewart is a brilliant actor as well, but I wouldn’t cast him as Batman, either. You need more than acting ability and name recognition, unless all you’re trying to do is make a buck. Ahem.

Better Choice: I can’t stand Clooney, although he looked the part. (Christian Bale would have been far too young when this movie was made, so we can’t consider him)

#6

Christian Slater as Edward Carnby
Alone in the Dark

Let’s admit up front that bad casting is the least of the problems with this movie. Even if you had a perfect match, this movie was doomed from the start with a script that wasn’t worth reading, much less turning into a motion picture. Thoughtless casting is just one of countless sins this movie perpetrates without shame. Still, Carnby is supposed to be a tall, lean victorian fellow and it would be hard to get further from the mark than bad-boy Slater.

Better Choice: Don’t make the movie.

#5

Heather Graham as Dr. Judy Robinson
Lost in Space

This is one of those movies where they must have worked very hard to displease fans. This wasn’t an easy movie to screw up, but they managed to pull it off. Heather Graham comes off as abrasive, tough, and pushy. That’s great if that’s what the role calls for, but this one doesn’t. You need someone a lot more empathetic and matronly, with a lot less attitude. She never made me believe she really cared about the kids. I imagine she was chosen for her looks, without regard to the original character. She’s a mother. That’s the thrust of her character. I know that seems so dull and sexist, but if you have a problem with it you probably shouldn’t be the one making this movie. The love of a mother and her reaction when her children are in danger is a fine center for a character, even if it doesn’t fit the California mindset.

Better Choice: Nicole Kidman, and a re-write

#4

Kelsey Grammer as Beast
X-Men 3

You might argue that I should at least wait until the thing comes out before proclaiming this to be one of the all-time worst casting decisions. However, I don’t think I need to see the final product. I mean, just look at him!

Beast is supposed to be young, agile, ape-like. He also hops around like a gorilla, does things with his feet, and hangs upside down. This is simply not a role for the a stiff, middle-aged commedian like Kelsey Grammer. He does not look the part and no ammount of makeup will fix that. He could actually be a good choice if they gave up on makeup and did Beast entirely in CGI, like Gollum in Lord of the Rings. But to try and turn Kelsey Grammer in the Beast with makeup? Pathetic.

Better Choice: Ron Pearlman – he did a fantastic job as Hellboy and a similar approach could make him into a great Beast.

#3

Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic)
The Fantastic Four

How bad is it when you can’t cast for a comic book character? They have one attribute that you cannot ignore: The way they look. Reed Richards has a look that has been firmly established over many decades. The way he looks is just as important as what his super powers are, and a filmmaker deviates from the expectations of the fans at his own peril.

Reed Richards is middle aged. His hair is white at the edges. He’s tall and narrow. Are people with these attributes really that rare? Ioan Gruffudd is at least a decade too young. They weren’t even trying. The other characters in this movie were nearly as bad, with the exception of Chris Evans as Johnny Storm. A shameful mess.

Better Choice: William H. Macy or Laim Neeson

#2

Raul Julia as Gen. M. Bison
Street Fighter

I’ve never seen this, but it’s an infamous piece of cinema. In a movie based on a video game about huge musclebound men beating the crap out of each other, you would think that the most important attribute of the main villian is that he should be really big and strong. Well, it is, but he wasn’t. They hired a normal (perhaps even small) man and tried to make him look muscular using his costume. It didn’t work. All they did was make a beloved actor look like an idiot.

Better Choice: Pretty much anyone with muscles would have been a good start. This ain’t Shakespeare

#1

Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan
The Hunt for Red October

Jack Ryan is a thoughtful, intelligent, quiet man. An observer. In other words, he is someone completely unlike Alec Baldwin. Baldwin was too young, cocky, arrogant, abrasive, and stupid to be believeable as Jack Ryan. This one earns my #1 because we’re talking about the main character of the story here. It doesn’t help that I don’t think Baldwin is a very impressive actor: He’s the least talented of the Baldwin brothers in my book. I’ve never seen him play anything with much depth.

The way the character was adapted for the movie was bad enough, but Baldwin built on those changes and made someone truly at odds with the original character.

Better Choice: Harrison Ford played Ryan in later movies, and did a fantastic job of capturing the character.

LATER: (March 19 2007) Re: Kelsey as Beast. I keep hearing how great he was. I have to admit that while not ideal, this can’t be an “all time casting worst”. It worked on at last some levels, and a lot of people enjoyed it.

Yeah, I should have waited until I saw the movie. Just because I couldn’t picture it didn’t mean it couldn’t work.

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201838 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Interesting post. However, Heather Graham didn’t play the mother in LOST IN SPACE. She played the eldest daughter. The mother was played by Mimi Rogers, who did a fine job portraying the matronly mother and wife who somehow manages to keep a fractious family from falling entirely to pieces.

    I also preferred Alec Baldwin’s Jack Ryan to Harrison Ford’s take on the character. But I can definitely see different mileage being a factor there.

  2. Telas says:

    Raul Julia was brilliant as Bison. That movie is a total crapfest, but his scenes are over-the-top, scenery-devouring cheesefests (see: Jeremy Irons in the D&D movie). And you can tell he knew it, and was enjoying every second of it.

    The only other part of the movie that’s worth a damn is when the Bad Guys are watching the Good Guys assault the Compound via closed-circuit TV, and Zangief (the stupid Russian fighter) says, “Change the channel!”

    There, now I guess you don’t need to see it…

  3. Michael B says:

    Very interesting post. I was getting ready to point out the Heather Graham/Mimi Rogers mixup but someone pointed it out above.

    I don’t quite agree with the Beast but I can’t put it into words because X3 was such a terrible movie it makes me see red just thinking about it.

    Worst casting ever? Keanu Reeves as John Constantine.

    Hands down worst.

  4. Alzo says:

    Lest we forget the horror… entire generations were scarred when the part of the sexiest Flintstone character, Betty Rubble, went to Rosie O’Donnell.

    Dishonorable mention: Keanu Reeves in “Much Ado About Nothing.”

    …and it’s nice that people are finally giving Sofia Coppola a break.

  5. greg says:

    i did like weaving as elrond, however, i kept expecting him to blurt out “mr. anderson” through several of his lines…

  6. Nightward says:

    Ah, yes. Agent Elrond.

    Worst casting EVAR? Putting Orlando Bloom and Brad Pitt in the same movie.

    BAD PITT: I, Achilles, the most mightiest warrior in life or death, am PRETTY. Man pretty. Watch me flex.

    ORLANDO BLOOM: Me too, me too!

    • Ethan Perks says:

      I don’t normaly respond to sites, let alone comments. However- This comment show such complete lack of knowlege
      the characters portrayed. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE—–
      BEAUTIFUL!!! Indeed, one of the definitions for Achilles
      in Bulfinchs Mythology for him is the ideal of masculine
      beauty! He was the son of a god. And Paris was desended
      from a god.

  7. Evildave says:

    Better pick for John Constantine:

    Jason Statham

    Oh, and change it back to the original venue of London, not LA.

  8. Katy says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Hunt for Red October because who doesn’t love Sean Connery in a submarine with Sam Neill backing him up, so I pouted a bit that you were unhappy with the casting for Jack Ryan. However…I realize you’re totally right. Harrison Ford in “Clear and Present Danger” or “Patriot Games” did fabulously. I think I really would’ve been even more of a HfRO fan if Ford had been in it.

    I liked Constantine a lot, too, and thought Keanu Reeves did well with a part he doesn’t normally do, but he is unlucky in that people already have their ideas about the types of characters he plays. He also needs to have a bit of voice coaching. I can still hear “Bill & Ted” in everything he says.

    DOOD, Liam Neeson as Elrond would’ve been the best idea ever!

  9. Maggots says:

    Dude – you broke rule #1 with Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). Horrible casting… I totally agree… worst casting in the film? Nope. That honor goes to Jessica Alba as Susan Storm. At least Ioan looked nerdy enough to be Reed but just too young.

    Jessica was wrong because

    A) she has ethnic background and it shows and even if you dye her hair blonde she still looks half mexican/half dutch.
    B) she is supposed to be sister to Johnny Storm and they looked nothing alike and didn’t have any kind of chemistry on screen.
    C) Susan Storm is supposed to be smart and brave and in be unconditionally in love with Reed. None of that came across. For me it came across as Jessica Alba playing at being in a costume and reading her lines. She seemed to tolerate Reed sometimes more than be in love with him.

    Heather Graham or Scarlet Johansen would have been better choices.

  10. adrian says:

    Clive Owen would have made an awesome Mr. Fantastic.

  11. Kenny Celican says:

    A few disagreements here –
    Hugo Weaving as Elrond:
    As written in the book, you might have been right, however there were a few rewrites, one of which seriously impacts the nature of Elrond’s character.

    I’m talking about removing other characters (Glorfindel in particular) and giving their lines to Arwen, so the love story between Arwen and Aragorn didn’t seem tacked on. I originally had some problems with that, but then I reread the Silmarilion. On reading the Ley of Luthien, I realized that love story was what Tolkien was going for, he just lost it in the midst of everything else.

    Now, THAT means that Elrond isn’t just a wise old elf like he comes off in the book. He’s a father watching his daughter make the same mistake his mother made, which caused a whole world of grief (literally – his brother was Isuldur’s anscestor). Note the lines about Beren and Luthien: They’re talking about Elrond’s mommy and daddy. Now his little girl is gonna go do the same thing. I got this whole vibe of ‘keep the filthy humans off the carpet!’ off him through the movie, which worked given the script changes.

    Kelsey Grammer as Beast:
    Yeah, he’s agile and muscular, but he’s also fantastically erudite. You can put an older guy in a muscle costume (heck, beast HAS to be in full body makeup) and put him on wires, but you cannot make a young acrobat sound like a college professor. Personally, I think Beast was one of the few good points of the movie. Of course, Perlman surprises me every time I see him on screen, so he might have been better, but Kelsey wasn’t an ‘all time casting worst’.

    Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic):
    Only comment here is that he’s supposed to be playing a very young Reed, and they did add the silver streaks mid film. As noted, he had a good geek vibe going.

    While I can’t argue with your reasons for putting Alec as number one, top of my ‘miscast’ list to date has to be Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. Same basic reason as your reason for putting Alec first – he’s the main character of the story, and he not only was made of wood, he had no chemistry with the other major characters. Hell, if they’d reused Jake Lloyd it would have been better – when he and Natalie were on screen, even with him being a kid you got the ‘hey, you’re a hottie’ vibe from him, and he and Liam had the ‘big brother / little brother’ thing going on.

  12. Bruce says:

    I am firmly of the opinion that not only was Raoul Julia the only thing that made Street Fighter watchable, but also that he and the shorn clod were making two different movies in adjacent studios, and someone mixed up the reels.

  13. Chuck says:

    I’m not sure how you got “confused” and thought Judy Robinson was the mother in the movie….????
    I also don’t recall that the elves were all that fond of humans, or dwarves, or any other race. Didn’t most of them leave Middle Earth and go to the Grey Havens, literally abandoning the humans and other races to Sauron?
    I personally thought Elrond was cast quite well. For the LoR movies, I would vote for using Rhys-Davies as the voice of Tree Beard, not because he didn’t have a suitable voice, but because it was too obvious and takes you out of the fiction. Cheep!
    I also thought that Alec did a great job in Red October.

  14. Buck_Flicks says:

    Worst casting ever?
    Steve Zahn as Al Giordino in Sahara. Here is his description:

    He is described as being of Italian ancestry, 5’4″ in height, 175lb, with dark curly hair, swarthy skin, dark Etruscan eyes, and a Roman nose. He does not have an ounce of fat on his body and is stocky and strong – as wide as he is tall.

    This is so NOT Steve Zahn.

    Also bad is Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt. Dirk is supposed to be older, with greying dark hair, green eyes, tall and muscular. NOT MattMc.

    I love the Dirk Pitt books, but refused to see this movie because of the horrible casting.

  15. Big McLargehuge says:

    Sean Connery as Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez
    The Highlander

    Can anyone explain to me why an actor far more Scottish than the main character (who was supposed to be a Highland Scotsman) was cast as an ancient Egyptian who had traveled straight from the Spanish courts of King Charles V? I would have been happier if Connery took the titular role, but I still love that movie… too bad they didn’t make any sequels. (THEY DID NOT MAKE ANY SEQUELS. NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY OR WHAT EVIDENCE YOU PROVIDE, I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT. YOU SPEAK LIES!!!)

  16. DanD. says:

    Ben Affleck in Daredevil. He’s okay in some movies (like Sum of All Fears), but just looked lost in Daredevil.

  17. Bruce says:

    Nope, I think Ben Affleck did really well in Daredevil, which is one of the most under-rated of the superhero movies IMO. In the story, the Matt character is kind of losing himself in the violence and vengence of his Daredevil alter-ego, so he should look a bit lost.

  18. Lil'German says:

    i liked the discussion, except one sentence from shamus ;)
    Kilmer underrated? why. that guy simply can’t play. He looks the same as iceman than as simon templar, as this red planet guy or batman/Wayne…
    even Steven Seagal uses sometimes two different facial expressions… that’s 100% more than i ever saw of kilmer O.o
    but i have to admit that tis is personal taste as always when discussing beloved/hated movies and so on.

    @bigmclargehuge you made my day.

  19. Chthoniid says:

    I think Shamus has got it mostly right- it’s a good list of miscasts. Kelsey Grammar surpassed my (low) expectations as the beast.

    I also agree that Kilmer is under-rated…

  20. Eric says:

    I though X3 was brilliant, myself. I don’t understand the hatred others harbor for this movie. As has been said, Kelsey was good as Beast. As for your other mentions, I can agree with most of them. Scarlett would’ve made a more interesting Sue Storm, too. Ah well…

    I’ll nominate the guy who played Dr. Doom. Not nearly regal enough. I’m surprised you didn’t pick on Halle Berry.

  21. Matt says:

    I couldn’t bring myself to see Keanu as Constantine. I’d been hoping for Richard E. Grant or at least Gary Oldman, but Keanu?

    Imagine the rewrite meetings for that one:

    Producer: Right, so, I dig this Constantine guy, except for the hard-bitten, foul-mouthed, middle-aged Cockney part. Let’s have him be from LA.

    It’s like they started with the script for Star Wars and ended up with LOTR.

    And don’t get me started on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Although, on second thought, Sean Connery was the perfect choice for that, they just replaced every other aspect that was interesting with action movie cliches.

    You should do another list of perfect casting choices paired with who you’d pick to play the character if it were remade. I’ll start with Arnold as Conan. For the remake…um…anyone but The Rock?

  22. Rezdave says:

    I liked Baldwin as Jack Ryan, but he was a little too NROTC and not enough Annapolis, particularly USMC.

    Ford was wrong for the role for so many reasons.

    FWIW, Tom Clancy himself preferred Baldwin to Ford, stating that Ford was “too old” for the role.

  23. David says:

    George Clooney as Batman. I mean really, the movie “Batman and Robin” was practically Batman on Ice. (which actually if it was done in an ice arena I would probably go to see it just because of the laughter I would have to disturb the quit dull moments when there was supposed to be suspense)

  24. ShiningTed says:

    Nothing like leaving comments on 18-month old blogs… ;-)

    Many people had issues with Agent Smith as Elrond (not least Hugo Weaving himself, by the look of it) but surely the proplem was the script, not the casting. His lines were rubbish, his character was Holllywoodified to the extreme, and he basically ended up a mockery of the noble character of the book(s).

  25. Robbi says:

    How about Halle Berry as Catwoman? The movie was generally campy to begin with but… let’s just say its not my favorite comicbook adaptation.

    I’m also slightly opposed to Kirsten Dunst as MJ in the Spiderman movies. I appreciate Kirsten’s talent as an actress, but I don’t think she portrays the fiery spirit and independence of MJ. She’s comes across as too “nice”, and a little too dependant on having a man in her life. Someone like Dina Meyer might have been a better choice.

  26. In Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom was the worst cast role (IMHO). Dr. Doom as a prissy businessman? Yikes.

    On the other hand, I thought Michael Chiklis was terrific as Ben Grimm. The others…meh.

    NB: Must be nice to have folks comment on these things months, even years later…

  27. Colin says:

    I wonder what would have happened if they ended up casting David Bowie as Elrond. I know they considered him.

  28. Patrick J McGraw says:

    Regarding the comment about Elrond’s parentage:

    Elrond is the son of Earendil, not Beren and Luthien. They are his grandparents.

  29. Will says:

    Great-grandparents, actually.

    Beren & Luthien -> Dior -> Elwing -> Elrond.

  30. rayen says:

    Stamping some old thread. Kilmer is indeed underated i point to kiss kiss bang bang. my worst ever would have to be topher grace as venom. spiderman 3 was a travesty because it did the scorched earth filmmaking and it was just rubbish. casting was a problem and that and this was the worst.

  31. Jodie says:

    Here’s a funny one for ya. Shaquille Oneall as a genie in Kazaam

  32. Tobias says:

    The worst actor in the world is Steven Seagal.
    And he did a fine job fuxxing up the part as a SPANISH-speaking druglord in Machete.
    Jeez, i threw the movie away after 20 minutes.

  33. Callum says:

    How can you screw up Machete? The whole thing was one giant piss-take. I don’t think casting believable characters was the main concern when they made that movie.

  34. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    Better Choice: William H. Macy or Laim Neeson

    I didn’t know there was a Laim Neeson in the acting world, is it Liam Neeson’s brother?

  35. Borislav says:

    So I’m guessing you’d want to include the new Reed Richards in the list now, eh?

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