Top 5 Movie Casting Mistakes
Many a director has said that 90% of their job hinges on casting the right person for the part. So when the planets do not align and some grave mistake has transpired, is there any way to fix this glaring error? Footage somewhere exists of Michael Keaton in the Jeff Daniels role in The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Harvey Keitel in Apocalypse Now as Benjamin Willard, so there are examples of directors having the presence of mind to fix their mistakes. But for every Michael J Fox replacing Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future story, there’s ten like Keanu Reeves stumbling through Little Buddha as, ahem, Buddha. Here’s the top 5 that should have never made it to the light of day.
Top 5 Movie Casting Mistakes
John Wayne as Genghis Khan in “The Conquerer” (1956)
Howard Hughes produced this historically hysterical turkey, and Dick Powell, who I will defend as an excellent “Philip Marlowe,” had obviously no business directing. Much has been made over this stinker, including the fact that it was shot near a nuclear test site in St. George Utah, and 91 of the 220 cast and crew members developed cancer, including some people who had just visited the set. As if that wasn’t a harbinger of doom enough, John Wayne lobbied for the part of Genghis Khan, and he got it. Get your buzz on and laugh your ass off as Wayne stiltedly delivers lines like; “Dance for me, Tartar woman!” Hughes supposedly paid 12 million to confiscate all the prints and watched it endlessly until his death. P. to the U.
Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis in place of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in “The Sting 2” (1983)
In one of the most misguided attempts to create a Hollywood franchise, this miserably conceived and executed money grab was penned by the same writer as the original, David S. Ward, so he is partly to blame. But the bigger offense was the wisenheimer who thought Paul Newman 10 years older would look and act like Jackie Gleason, and that Robert Redford, obviously smacked by an Appalachian ugly stick, could be replaced by Mac Davis. This was Dead on Arrival, and audiences could smell this carcass a mile away. Sometimes Karma is a just bitch.
Denise Richards as physicist “Dr. Christmas Jones” in “The World is Not Enough” (1999)
Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone in “The Godfather III” (1990)
Our intrepid editor Brandy Dean will not even admit this film exists for many reasons, but for my money, its number one sin has to be Director Francis Ford Coppola’s decision to replace an ailing Wynona Ryder with his daughter, Sofia, in the role of Michael Corleone’s daughter, Mary. Never in the annals of moviedom has an actor appeared so uncomfortable in a role. And the audience, like a lion, senses her unease and wants to devour her. The nervously quivering lips, her head held low, her nauseating flirtation with Andy Garcia, her valley girl pronunciation of “Dad?” when she’s shot on the Opera house steps is too much for any film goer, let alone lover of the Godfathers’, to bear. Why did she have to die…so late in the film? Brandy, I feel your pain.
Stanley Tucci as Khamel the Hitman in “The Pelican Brief” (1993)
This is more a personal pet peeve, and should by no means be a reflection on Stanley Tucci, the actor. He has always been one of my favorites, which is probably why I take such issue with him being so thoroughly miscast as a sinister hitman. Maybe its that time has not been too kind to this film. But even though Tucci was not a household name when this 1993 Grisham thriller came out, I remember thinking, “why are we supposed to fear this little man?” As hard as he works the role, and he works it hard, donning a myriad of disguises, always one step behind Julia Roberts, I just can’t help but get the giggles. It’s probably because he’s given so little to work with, next to no dialogue, and is supposed to intimidate us by looks alone. And to be fair, Tucci has done “menacingly” very well since, as mobster Frank Nitti in “The Road to Perdition” and even again as a hitman, this time dying from cancer in the little seen gem “Montana.” But he is given dialogue and room to infuse the characters with his usual aplomb, whereas in “The Pelican Brief” he is supposed to be some type of living, breathing, hulking Terminator. Sorry, Stanley. I gotta call shenanigans.