Good Casting can make all the difference between the success or failure of a film. After all, many great films have been buoyed more than anything by the strength of their performances. But when you choose actors for films adapted from popular source material, there’s added pressure from a committed and established fan base with very strong opinions about how they think their favorite characters should be portrayed.
Superhero and comic book enthusiasts have long been particularly vocal about the casting choices studios and filmmakers make when it comes to bringing iconic heroes and villains to life on the big screen. And many of them were not friendly. In a few instances, some legitimate points were probably raised. But mostly it just seemed like people were whining and arguing over petty reasons. And, of course, there were the instances where actors were cast, berated, and then everyone was blown away by how well they played the part, whatever anyone’s concerns might have been.
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when no one could have imagined that Hugh Jackman in the role of popular X-Men member Wolverine/Logan. In the comics, Wolverine was gruff Clinton Eastwood Loner type with literally monstrous temperament. And he was small. This was something that many fans held onto: Wolverine was a stocky midget of a man. So when Hugh Jackman, a 6ft tall Australian who was unknown at the time and whose previous work was song and dance theatre, was chosen to play the character in it X-Men (2000) raised eyebrows.
And yet, Jackman embodied the essence of Wolverine to such an extent that fans quickly forgot their physical differences. Now it seems sacrilegious to think anyone else could be a better match for the clawed mutant anti-hero than Jackman.
Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man
Spider-Man was Wonder‘s flagship character and the inevitable film adaptation went through quite a turbulent development before it was finally filmed. Still, there were some doubts about the main star, Toby Maguire. In front Spiderman (2002) Maguire was known for dramas such as The cider house rules (1999), which was hardly a bad resume, but nothing that screamed superhero potential. He certainly didn’t look like it either.
But not only has he geared up for the role, Maguire endeared himself to audiences by effectively capturing the bumbling “everyman” persona of Spider-Man’s alter-ego Peter Parker. Since then, several actors have filled his footsteps in subsequent reboots and spin-offs, arguably outdoing him in representing other aspects of the web-slinger’s character, but Maguire forever remains a favorite among Spider-Man fans.
Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man
It definitely seems ridiculous today, but before iron man (2008) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Pour Robert Downey Jr. in a leading role (or really a bigger role) was considered an understandably risky move. It wasn’t that he lacked talent, quite the opposite. Downey’s past personal troubles and fickle reputation only made people (especially studio heads) nervous, even if he really did get his life in order.
Then the movie was released, a groundbreaking franchise was born, and a legend was cemented. Downey actually upgraded the source material by giving Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, an endearingly narcissistic aura that made Downey synonymous with, and interest in, a character not as prominent as other Marvel properties reignited.
Heath Ledger as the Joker
The dark knight (2008), the sequel to Batman begins (2005), Christopher nolanThe mature and grounded reimagining of Batman on screen has been eagerly awaited, perhaps primarily to reintroduce Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, to the cinematic landscape. However, confidence was shaken by the revelation Heath Ledger play the character. How could a guy known as the romantic lead for a pretty boy believably portray Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime?
Well, as soon as the film started running and Ledger’s performance was noticeable, he completely disappeared behind it, not only the makeup but also the voice, the tics and the frightening yet mesmerizing unpredictability that Ledger had skillfully created for his Interpretation of the Joker. It was a master class in acting that ensured a lasting legacy for an artist taken too soon.
Anne Hathaway as Catwoman
Here was an example of fresh ideas being crushed by what came before them. Michelle Pfeiffer‘s sultry and deranged portrayal of Batman’s romantic interest in Catwoman/Selina Kyle in Tim Burton‘s Batman returns (1992) has long been considered the final version of the character outside of the comics. When it came time to revise them The Dark Knight rises (2012) and Anne Hathaway was cast, people were predictably unhappy.
Sure, Hathaway had already demonstrated strong acting skills, but she was still primarily associated with her “healthy girl” image from films like The Princess Diaries (2001) and endless comparisons with Pfeiffer. Hathaway didn’t let that stop her, however, and she made the role her own, evoking a sly and cold femme fatale who better suited the world Christopher Nolan had envisioned.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
A live action theatre wonder woman Film was something fans wanted for a while. As Warner Bros. and PattyJenkins finally got around to making one, the original shortlist for the eponymous heroine consisted of some unexpected names before the Israeli model became an actress GalGadot if she were, a decision by Zack Snyder. Criticism that followed focused on Gadot having too small and slender a physique to be believable as the Amazonian warrior Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. In fairness it was a reasonable point that just wasn’t delivered reasonably.
But whatever her physical lack of muscle strength, before or after training for the role, Gadot more than made up for with the amount of humanity she infused wonder woman (2017) with their performance. The film was Gadot’s first film as a full-fledged leading lady, and it might have felt some growing pains, but she exceeded expectations and has only continued to prove herself as the ideal wonder woman ever since.
Tilda Swinton as the old woman
It was a fascinating and extremely tricky situation. The Ancient One, as known in the pages of Marvel Comics, was a Tibetan wizard who trained Doctor Strange, Marvel’s famous mystical superhero. While working on a film about Strange, the filmmakers wanted to avoid a perceived stereotype with his mentor, but in doing so also risked angering those who might feel that the film had been stripped of an Asian presence. Significant creative changes were made in the end, the Ancient One was gender-swapped and a veteran British actress Tilda Swinton was cast. Needless to say, few liked this compromise.
It was a catch-22 that everyone had to make the best of. Swinton certainly did. When the old man Doctor Strange (2016), she created an enigmatic and complex individual with apparent wisdom that belied her relatively youthful looks and mischievous demeanor, one that would continue to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe/Multiverse beyond her introductory part.
Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck and Robert Pattinson as Batman
When will people learn? There’s never been a bad Batman/Bruce Wayne cinematic, except George Clooney, but even then it’s debatable how much of it was miscast or just a (delightfully) awful movie that drained Clooney of all desire to make an effort. From all the Batman actors, Michael Keaton, Ben Affleckand Robert Pattinson have received most (if any) backlash.
Keaton was known as a comedic actor. Affleck fell and was already on fire with another beloved superhero. And Pattinson had the ghosts of dusk franchise hanging over his head. But they all managed to realize their own versions of the Caped Crusader. Keaton paved the way with his portrayal of an eccentric and misunderstood hermit who hides a subtle dark nature. Affleck brought seasoned experience to a graying and world-weary vigilante. And Pattinson channeled a quiet rage primed for an explosion into a younger Dark Knight still figuring himself out.
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