There are some movies, television shows, and plays that you can’t imagine anyone else starring in. Even though we might not always agree with casting directors’ choices for some of our favorite characters, they seem to have a method to their madness. You have to admit that an iconic performance is widely due to correct casting. Not an easy feat, mind you.
For a major role, they have to take into consideration hiring an unknown actor or an Oscar-bait name that is known for playing a specific persona. Take a look at these unpopular casting choices that ultimately have turned into some of the most memorable performances in cinematic history.
Tobey McGuire as the Title Character – Spider-Man
Though critics and comic book lovers have both come to know and love Tobey McGuire’s Spider-Man, his casting was not well received. McGuire’s roles in Cider House Rules and Pleasantville didn’t leave much hope in the audience’s mind for his performance in a superhero fantasy movie.
The 2002 version of the web-slinging superhero was a meek and socially awkward teenager. At least McGuire looked the part! But his image wasn’t what proved the critics wrong. McGuire proved the haters wrong with this quirky portrayal of Spiderman, even landing himself two more movies – how could we have ever lived without emo Spidey?
Anne Hathaway as Catwoman – The Dark Knight Rises
It’s no wonder fans of the Batman franchise weren’t sold on Anne Hathaway playing the femme fatale character that is Catwoman. She is princess Mia Thermopolis Renaldi, after all. Hathaway is known for her big smile and girl-next-door looks, and not to mention her fun good-girl roles. She was going to have to replace the crown with a black latex suit and killer heels.
Hathaway didn’t disappoint. Even Vanity Fair deemed her “the best Catwoman ever.” Huge praise for an actress who had to overcome mass adversity to be cast to the part!
Daniel Craig as James Bond – Casino Royale
Many people expressed concern when Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond. There was so much controversy over the role that fans of the franchise threatened to boycott the film. The problem was that movie-goers saw Craig as a “meathead”, whereas the master spy was supposed to be elegant and debonair.
The good news is that the criticism turned out to be completely uncalled for. Craig nailed the role, pulling off the cold-blooded charm that is characteristic of Jame’s Bond’s persona. He might not have the overly-gelled, slicked-back hair, but there’s something to be said about Craig’s steely-eyed glare.
Gal Gadot as the Title Character – Wonder Woman
People were doubtful of the Israeli model portraying Diana in Wonder Woman. So much so that think pieces and internet forums were going off at the casting decision of Gal Gadot. Arguments ranged from her looks, that she was too small and lacked the muscle of Wonder Woman, to her Israeli roots — how dare they cast a non-American!
We all know that the critics were wrong, and Gadot’s Wonder Woman was well-received. Wonder Woman is now considered the only standout movie in a slew of DC comic movie flops. Let’s take a moment and pour one out for Ben Affleck’s Batman.
Robert Downey Jr. as the Title Character – Iron Man
Although it’s impossible to imagine someone else playing the role of Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. was initially a hard sell for fans of the comic as well as the studio. In the comics, Stark is young and has more of a flamboyant adventurer personality. Downey seemed much too cynical for that role.
Director Jon Favreau ended up having to fight Marvel Studios for RDJ, “I have to admit that Robert was a tough sell. He’s a good 10 years older than what they wanted. They also wanted a lesser-known actor with no baggage.” Thankfully, Marvel backed down, and we got the playboy philanthropist billionaire we know and love.
Hugh Jackman as Logan – X-Men Franchise
Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, there would be no Logan without him, but there was a lot of controversy over the casting of the clean-shaven Broadway star. He looked nothing like the hairy immortal from the comics, and he’s Australian! That accent is not easily disguised, especially when people assumed Logan would have a grungy sounding voice.
As we all know, he nailed the part. Jackman brought a tormented, vulnerable depth to the character of Logan. His versatility with the character even made the studio do something different for an X-Men movie — the artsy, R-rated spin-off drama, Logan.
Liv Tyler as Arwen – Lord of the Rings
When the daughter of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler was cast for the iconic role of Arwen in Lord of the Rings fans were not pleased. What does a rockstar’s daughter know of acting? Liv Tyler’s lack of film credits left fans of the trilogy skeptical; she didn’t seem overly Elvish either. People knew her as the girl who wore leather pants in one of her dad’s music videos.
That bad press didn’t stop Tyler from embracing her inner grace and otherworldliness, bringing the character of Arwen to life. We can’t think of another person who would be able to walk as if they’re floating and speak with that sensual tone.
John Krasinski as Lee Abbott- A Quiet Place
Known for being the prankster Jim in The Office, John Krasinski is someone who had the potential to be typecast for the rest of his career. That’s why fans were uneasy about Krasinski taking on a horror movie. There was some confusion as to how a comedic actor was going to play a role in which there is zero laughter.
Despite the whispers about the movie inevitably flopping, Krasinski nails the role, and A Quiet Place ends up with stellar reviews. This time, he was able to use his wide-eyed looks of shock on a monstrous stalker with impeccable hearing, and not Dwight and Michael’s office antics! He also acted as the director, writer, and executive producer for the film.
Daniel Radcliffe as Alan Strang – Equus
Going into adulthood, often times child actors have a hard time breaking out of their well-known roles. That’s why when Daniel Radcliffe, also known as Harry Potter, was cast as Alan Strang in Equus, theatre-goers were questioning the decision. The play is a dark drama, showcasing ritual sacrifices, a unique relationship with horses, and religious fanaticism. It’s no wonder people were wondering how Harry Potter was going to play the eccentric role.
As it turns out, Daniel Radcliffe is quite the versatile actor, pulling off a mesmerizing performance as a mentally ill young man with dark thoughts.
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gegory House – House
Hugh Laurie is known for playing ridiculous, ditzy British characters, so it’s no wonder his casting as an American doctor received some backlash. He was a strange choice for the grumpy, snarky, and cynical character that is Dr. Gregory House.
Laurie showed us all his acting range when he seamlessly moved from comedic characters to a sardonic and seemingly bored doctor. Not to mention his convincing British-to-American accent that could have been the downfall of the show! Laurie ended up becoming his character, making it so we can’t picture anyone else playing the iconic role of Dr. House.
Jim Carrey as Joel Barish – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Even though Jim Carrey nailed the role of Truman Burbank in The Truman Show, movie lovers were still skeptical about such a prolific comedic actor playing a dramatic role. Not to mention the science fiction twist in the plotline of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a genre Carrey is not familiar with from an acting standpoint (we can categorize Bruce Almighty as fantasy).
Carrey does a stand-up job, taking the sad character of Joel Barish and portraying him in such a way that the audience can’t help but resinate with him.
Michael Keaton as the Title Character – Batman
Although it is now considered a classic, Michael Keaton’s rendition of Bruce Wayne-Batman had initially received numerous complaints. Both comic book fans and critics were concerned that Keaton would be too campy, ruining the seriousness the directors were going for in their interpretation of Batman.
But they all ate their words. Keaton’s broody and slightly manic Batman was precisely what the fans were looking for in the character. The 1989 adaptation ended up creating a new template in which future actors based their portrayal of the billionaire masked vigilante.
Heath Ledger as the Joker – The Dark Knight
When Heath Ledger was first cast as the Joker in the Dark Knight, fans were not too pleased. Ledger’s roles had always been more romantic and sensitive, not to mention he always looked dashingly handsome. People didn’t think he was going to have the manic energy that the Joker is known for, and that playing a psychotic clown was out of his skill set.
Not only did Ledger shed his boy-next-door typecast, but he also gave viewers a completely new and terrifying take on the Joker. The iconic character has never been the same since Ledger’s rendition of the unhinged psychopath.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan – The Departed
With all of his dramatic roles, it’s hard to believe that Leonardo DiCaprio used to be typecast as a hopeless romantic. When he was cast as an undercover cop who infiltrated the ranks of organized crime in The Departed, people weren’t sure how it would play out.
With this role, Leo showed viewers his depth as an actor, giving an intense and powerful performance. We couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the complex character of south Boston cop Billy Costigan. The role ended up paving the way for Leo to be cast in other dramatic films.
Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos – Monster
This film is not for the faint of heart. People weren’t sure if the beautiful, elegant Charlize Theron would be able to pull off playing Aileen Wuornos, a promiscuous woman turned serial killer. But Theron is a pro, and she killed (pun intended) the role of the crazed killer.
Theron was nominated and ultimately won an Academy Award for her performance in the film. If that doesn’t say excellent casting, I don’t know what does! Film critic Rober Ebert went as far as to say Theron’s representation is “one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema.”
Brad Pitt as Chad Feldheimer- Burn After Reading
When you think of Brad Pitt films, comedies aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. He’s more of a dramatic actor, right? That’s why his casting in Burn After Reading, a dark comedy, was met with more than a few raised eyebrows. Not to mention Pitt seemed a bit old to be playing a boyish, dumb jock.
Pitt ended up nailing the role, stealing every scene he was in and making it so we can’t picture anyone else playing the part of the air-head gym trainer.
James Marsden as Teddy Flood – Westworld
Casting James Marsden was a bold move for the HBO’s Westworld reboot. Having been in comedies such as Enchanted and 30-Rock, a role in the dark and mysterious Westworld seemed a bit out of place. However, Marsden owns his character, Teddy.
Even though it seems as though he was originally typecast, he does play the sweetheart to Dolores, after all, Marsden shows a stunning range in this role. We see him go from kindhearted robot to a cold-blooded killer at the flip of a switch, the complexity making it hard for us to imagine another playing the character.
Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder – La La Land
The problem most people had about Ryan Gosling being cast in the musical is that it’s a musical. The Notebook actor is known more for his boyish charm in dramatic movies or romantic comedies and a bit less for his singing and dancing. Looking at his resume, the casting choice seems a bit strange.
Although Gosling isn’t the greatest singer, his chemistry with co-actor Emma Stone is palpable. We can’t imagine anyone else but Ryan Gosling bringing us through that emotional rollercoaster, even if he is a bit pitchy and offbeat!
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne – The Bourne Identity
When baby-faced Matt Damon was cast as a dangerous rogue spy in The Bourne Identity, more than a few people were doubtful he would be able to pull it off. At the time, he was being criticized for being too dull to play an action hero in a thriller-chase movie. He was best known for being a genius janitor for crying out loud! Not that we don’t love Good Will Hunting.
Damon proved everyone wrong, bringing Bourne to life. We can’t picture anyone else playing the amnesia ridden action hero.
Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell – Silver Linings Playbook
At 21, J-Law was criticized for being too young for the role of Tiffany, a widowed woman suffering from depression. People worried she wouldn’t be able to bring authenticity to the part because she had no personal experience to work off of. Of course, all of this was before everyone knew Lawrence’s impeccable acting skill set — Hunger Games tribute to an X-Man is a pretty vast range!.
Of course, in typical J-Law fashion, she proved all of the haters wrong, nailing her role and even winning her first Academy Award for her performance in the film.