5 Controversial Casting Choices That Turned Out Well
The news landed late on Thursday, with people primed to hate and/or love whoever got the role, and it turns out that Hollywood-movie-star-turned-point-of-ridicule-turned-Oscar-winning-director Ben Affleck will be the guy feeling the force of a thousand angry comic-book fans. Affleck will play Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, opposite Henry Cavill’s Superman, and it’s fair to say that the internet wasn’t universally pleased by the announcement.
We could all talk for days about why passionate fans react in this way and whether it’s justified but, for now, let’s just take a look at five other controversial casting decisions that turned out great:
Starting with the same franchise (if you count Man of Steel as a Nolan project), the announcement that 10 Thing I Hate About You star Heath Ledger had won the role of The Joker in The Dark Knight sparked a very strong reaction.
Looking back on Ledger’s career now, it’s clear that he’d only just reached his peak when it was tragically cut short, so the assumption that the actor didn’t have the chops to portray such a complex villain is kind of understandable. Now, however, we know that the react against Ledger’s Joker was foolish, and it’s gone down as most people’s definitive portrayal.
Aside from the titular part in Doctor Who, the most hotly anticipated casting in Hollywood has to be for the James Bond franchise. Thus, when Daniel Craig won the part, succeeding Pierce Brosnan, he was subjected to a glut of criticism and scrutiny.
This was a very different Bond for a very different set of films but, of course we didn’t know that at the time. ‘James Blonde’ was one of the puns unleashed on him, while others criticized his un-pretty looks, his age and his short stature in comparison to other actors who had previously stepped into the designer shoes. He’s now one of people’s favorite Bonds, rightly earning his place next to Sean Connery et al.
As has been the case with a lot of British actors portraying iconic American roles these days, there’s a historical problem of American actors coming in and pinching English roles, also. One such case was with Bridget Jones’ Diary, which put Renee Zellweger in the titular role and upset a lot of people in the process.
She was, admittedly, a few pounds under Bridget’s average weight, and Hollywood is littered with terrible and distracting attempts at a British accent. But against all the odds, Zellweger committed to the part by eating her way to average-woman size and mastered the character in every way – proving her detractors wrong and pleasing existing fans of the character.
A very recent example, it’s hard to believe even now that people were so against the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games. Aggravatingly, most of the resistance from fans of the books was to do with her weight, with critics even commenting on her “lingering baby fat” and “womanly” figure.
What these people failed to grasp at the outset was that, with a great actress like Lawrence, you don’t literally have to be half-starved to capture the essence of the character. Her Katniss is fantastic, and her healthy figure and blonde hair, funnily enough, didn’t negatively impact on the finished film.
It seems there isn’t a fandom more choosy than the one for Batman, as we’re back there again for Christopher Nolan’s threequel, The Dark Knight Rises. People were skeptical from the start, with the previous film being such a massive hit with critics and audiences alike but, with the prospect of another screen Catwoman, strong opinions were not held back.
Michelle Pfeiffer might still be the definitive performance, but anything to rescue the character from Halle Berry’s version should have been welcome. Hathaway, then still widely known for her Princess Diaries franchise and bad rom-com stage, didn’t elicit unmitigated joy, but she turned out to be one of the highlights of an otherwise uneven film.