Pity the poor casting agent who has to fill roles with people who audiences will flock to see, while making sure they’re appropriate for the part, and are also actually good actors.
Sometimes not all of those ambitions can be achieved, leading to some of the most bizarrely miscast movie roles of all time.
Here’s eleven of the worst offenders.
Tom Cruise is… Tall!
The movie: ‘Jack Reacher’ (2012)
Six-foot-five, 220-250 lbs, with a 50-inch chest… No, we’re not describing Tom Cruise (obviously), he’s five-foot-seven, for a start. So it’s understandable that when he was cast in the movie adaptation of Lee Childs’ famous book series (who that description does apply to), fans reacted strongly.
“When I heard about the choice of Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher, I was stupefied. This casting has ruined it for me. Even reading and listening to the books are spoiled now, since as I’m reading/listening, I keep trying to imagine Tom Cruise as the hero Reacher. Simply not possible. Most ridiculous casting ever — and I will not be able to go to the movie. Am totally perplexed by this choice. Such a shame, since I would have LOVED to see a REAL Jack Reacher on the screen,” Sally Ross said.
“It appears that I am not the only one who believes that Cruise is too short (6-8″), too small (70+ lbs), and too old (10-12 years). Even the best of actors (which Cruise is not) would not be able to overcome these handicaps. Better luck next time for the ”franchise,'” Jere Seibert agreed.
And with news that the role is about to recast for a TV series, it appears Hollywood finally agrees. Our money’s on Dave Bautista to fit the role more snugly.
Sean Connery is… Spanish!
The movie: ‘Highlander’ (1986)
When Sean Connery shows an interest in your movie, all logic and reason go out the window: just shay yesh.
Who cares if the role called for a Spanish actor? Who cares that the character is called Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez? Just ask Sean very politely if he’d mind attempting an accen- what’s that? He’s not going to do the accent? Oh well. Stuff it.
Connery’s mentor was still head and shoulders above the rest of the cast and even helped deflect attention away from the fact the casting agents hired French guy Christopher Lambert to play a Scot. Did they just spin the globe and stick their finger on it or something?
Denise Richards is… a Scientist!
The movie: ‘The World Is Not Enough’ (1999)
Denise Richards, by her own admission, is not the sharpest tool in the box. (She even starred in a movie opposite Pamela Anderson called ‘Blonde & Blonder’, which basically rehashed every ‘dumb blonde’ joke you’ve ever heard).
Therefore, it was a very big leap – like, Sylvester Stallone in ‘Cliffhanger’ big – to believe Denise Richards was a nuclear physicist in 1999 Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’. We had a hard enough time believing that she wouldn’t pronounce it ‘nucular’. Could it be that Bond producers only hired her for her pouty good looks and her penchant for wearing short shorts? Scandal!
John Wayne is… Genghis Khan!
The movie: ‘The Conqueror’ (1956)
John Wayne is a cowboy. John Wayne is America. One thing John Wayne is not is Mongolian. By any stretch of the imagination. No one has ever asked John Wayne “So where are you from? I mean, originally?” Casting oater icon John Wayne as Mongol warlord Genghis Khan might have got bums in seats in 1956, but those bums were soon shaking with laughter at the sight of Wayne wearing a silly little pencil moustache and delivering lines like “Dance for me, Tartar woman!” in his iconic Iowan drawl.
‘The Conqueror’ went on record as being the most mocked movie of all time; suitably chastised, Wayne went back to the well and played approximately five thousand more cowboys before his death in 1979.
Mickey Rooney is… Chinese!
The movie: ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ (1961)
One of cinema’s sparkling diamonds will always be tarnished by a yellowface smear. Audrey Hepburn is radiant in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, a classic of the swinging ’60s, but it’s a film that’s always put firmly in its place by Mickey Rooney’s character, Mr Yunioshi. Rooney is very much… how do we put this?… not Asian. But put some fake teeth and a big pair of comedy glasses on him, and… Yeah, still not Asian. Just hugely offensive.
The ‘Me so solly!’ school of stereotypes might have been borderline acceptable back in 1961, but it’s just plain embarrassing today, and it remains a stain on Rooney’s career, not to mention that of Blake Edwards: it’s a comic character ever David Brent would refuse.
Anthony Hopkins is… Black!
The movie: ‘The Human Stain’ (2003)
Spoiler alert! The big twist in this adaptation of the Phillip Noth novel is that Anthony Hopkins’ character, Coleman Silk, is actually an African-American who has been masquerading as a Jewish white man his whole life. Hopkins – whose skin shade in the movie can be described kindly as ‘two week suntan’ – isn’t believable as a man of colour, nor is his glamorous co-star Nicole Kidman believable as, get this, a janitor.
Put them together in an unconvincing romance and you have the perfect storm of miscast actors – if you’re going to suspend your disbelief for this one you’ll need industrial strength suspenders.
Johnny Depp is… A Native American!
The movie: ‘The Lone Ranger’ (2013)
Memo to Hollywood: Johnny Depp wearing white makeup was funny once, maybe two times at best. Tim Burton made ‘Depp paleface’ a thing, not only in ‘Edward Scissorhands’ but again in ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and ‘Dark Shadows’. Gore Verbinski was of the belief that Johnny Depp + paleface makeup = box-office success, but he learned how flawed that formula was with ‘The Lone Ranger’, an epic flop which put a $200 million crater in Disney’s earnings report.
Playing Tonto like Jack Sparrow dipped in Tippex, Depp did a great disservice not just to the role but to the thousands of qualified Native American actors that could have played it.
Idris Elba is… Nelson Mandela!
The movie: ‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ (2013)
Idris Elba is a very fine actor of no small repute. Idris Elba also just happens to be black. These two things alone should not have been enough to merit his casting as South African leader Nelson Mandela; a great man but not a man anyone ever suggested looked like an aged Stringer Bell.
Elba gave it his all, but the role of Mandela is one that requires the gravitas that only old age can bring – even Morgan Freeman struggled to play Mandela in ‘Invictus’. Even in full flow, a little bit of Elba’s East London accent was still detectable in amongst the South African vowel sounds
Nicolas Cage is… Ghost Rider!
The movie: ‘Ghost Rider’ (2007)
Cage’s credentials for playing Johnny Blaze in the ‘Ghost Rider’ movie were better than most: a life-long fan of the comic-book, Cage even rocked a flaming skull tattoo to prove his dedication to the role. The only problem was, Nicolas Cage – even under the most punishing studio lights – was not a young man in 2007.
In fact, he was 43 – at least 20 years too old to play the motorcycle stunt rider. Still, you can’t keep a good Cage down, so we were treated to the sight of ‘Young Nic’ wearing a weird thatched wig and a scene where he flashes his (fake CG) abs in a mirror. Somehow, in a movie about the devil’s own bounty hunter taking the form of a flaming skeleton, Cage’s casting was the hardest part to swallow.
Gary Oldman is… A dwarf!
The movie: ‘Tiptoes’ (2003)
How does this movie exist? What unlikely series of events occurred in order to get this movie off the page and into reality? I’ll write slowly so you can accept the full horror of the film’s plot: pregnant Kate Beckinsale learns that her partner Matthew McConaughey’s family is prone to dwarfism, and his dwarf twin brother is played by… Gary Oldman.
Gary Oldman! Regular-sized Gary Oldman! How! Was this! Allowed! To happen! Not even early career, skeletons-in-the-closet Gary Oldman – 2003 Gary Oldman! Post-‘Nil By Mouth’ Gary Oldman! A dwarf! Sorry, we need to sit down. A wag at Variety summed up the movie perfectly, saying it “comes up short in many departments”. Gary Oldman! Unbelievable.
Emma Stone is… Asian!
The movie: ‘Aloha’ (2013)
I mean, she’s not Asian, obviously. That much is obvious. Emma Stone is quite clearly caucasian. She’s white as toothpaste. She could star in the movie ‘White Chicks’ and no one would bat an eyelid. She white. Cameron Crowe, however, saw past Stone’s gleaming whiteness and cast her as Allison Ng, a character who is one quarter Hawaiian and one quarter Chinese (FYI: Stone is four quarters white and hails from Arizona).
The casting quickly stoked a whitewashing controversy, and the actress admitted she wasn’t right for the role in a statement: “I’ve learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is.”
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