It happens all the time in soap operas: actors playing characters, major or minor, are replaced for a variety of reasons. Disputes with producers, wishing to pursue other acting objectives, the list is not small.
While this has become an accepted part of soap opera operations, it doesn’t seem like something viewers would accept when it comes to movies. The idea that an iconic character immortalised by a beloved actor could be replaced seems inconceivable; but it’s happened more often than you might realise. We look at a few examples below.
- Don Cheadle in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
With Robert Downey Jr.’s considerable star power, it’s difficult to believe that Terrence Howard was actually the highest paid actor in Iron Man, for his role as James Rhodes. Apparently director Jon Favreau was less than happy with Howard and his money matters, leading to Howard’s replacement. In the film’s two sequels the part was taken over by Don Cheadle who has since also appeared as Rhodes in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.
- Ed Skrein in The Transporter Refueled
The Transporter movies made Jason Statham and Jason Statham made The Transporter movies, so it came as something of a surprise to see the role go to another actor for the reboot film, The Transporter Refueled. Considering that Statham was offered less money for another three films than he’d received for one, and that there was no script to speak of, it’s not that surprising that he decided to bow out. Even though no one can match Statham as Frank, the filmmakers nevertheless found a decent replacement in the form of Skrein, whom you’ll recognise as Ajax from Deadpool. Skrein himself was replaced, when he left the role of Daario Naharis after appearing as the character in three Game of Thrones' episodes. Rumour has it he left the latter show to take on the role of Frank Martin.
Watch The Transporter Refueled, your Sunday night movie on 30 October at 20:05 on M-Net and 20:30 on M-Net Movies Premiere.
- Jeffrey Weissman in Back to the Future II
Money was also an issue for Crispin Glover, who played Marty McFly’s father, George, in the first instalment of the time-travelling franchise. Unhappy with an offer that was half of what he’d received for the first film, he opted out. Glover was replaced by Weissman, who played George for the two sequels that followed. In order to make Weissman resemble Glover, the filmmakers suited him up with prosthetics, leading Glover to successfully suing them for reproducing his likeness without his consent.
- Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight
In a very bad move, Katie Holmes declined to return to the role of Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, after playing the character in Christopher Nolan’ first Batman film. Instead, she opted to appear in the comedy Mad Money, which performed poorly with critics and only somewhat better at the box office. Gyllenhaal took over the role, in what has been lauded as the standout film in Nolan’s trilogy.
Watch The Dark Knight on 19 November at 20:00 on M-Net Movies Action+ channel 106.
- Mark Ruffalo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
This replacement story goes back to Ang Lee’s poorly received Hulk, in 2003, which had Eric Bana in the title role. Trying to rescue the film, the producers overhauled everything, including the actor, casting Edward Norton as the titular green hero for the reboot, The Incredible Hulk. Unfortunately Norton’s interest in the role was seriously lacking and he left the superhero role, leaving it open for Ruffalo to take over. Filmmakers, fans, and Ruffalo have not looked back since!
- Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter Universe
Gambon’s entry into the Harry Potter universe was unfortunately due to the death of Richard Harris, who played the headmaster for the first two films. To Gambon’s credit, he infused his performance with a creative verve that set it apart from Harris’ portrayal but stayed true to the spirit of the character.
- Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road
From 1979 to 1985, across three movies, Mel Gibson played the titular character in George Miller’s post-apocalyptic vengeance drama. Thirty years later, Miller resurrected the character for his fourth film, but replaced him with Hardy after the idea of casting Gibson became less than savoury thanks to the actor’s derogative verbal shenanigans.