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“We Had A Different Idea Of How The Character Should Look”: 15 Actors Who Were Famously Recast, Plus Why


1.

Before Mark Wahlberg was cast as Susie Salmon’s grieving father Jack in The Lovely Bones

…Ryan Gosling was fired from the role. Gosling told the Hollywood Reporter that director Peter Jackson let him go after Gosling purposefully gained a significant amount of weight in order to portray Jack. Gosling said, “We had a different idea of how the character should look.”

He went on, “We didn’t talk very much during the preproduction process, which was the problem. It was a huge movie, and there’s so many things to deal with, and he couldn’t deal with the actors individually. I just showed up on set, and I had gotten it wrong.” And according to what Fran Walsh, Jackson’s wife and a screenwriter and producer on the film, told the outlet, Gosling was always concerned about being too young to play Jack.

Walsh said, “Ryan came to us two or three times and said, ‘I’m not the right person for this role. I’m too young.’ … It wasn’t until we were in preproduction and we had the cast there that it became increasingly clear: He was so uncomfortable moving forward, and we began to feel he was not right. It was our blindness, the desire to make it work no matter what.”

2.

Before Scarlett Johansson voiced the virtual assistant Samantha in Her

…Samantha Morton got the gig. Director Spike Jonze explained why Morton’s casting didn’t work out to Vulture.

He said, “I think, unfortunately, it’s pretty normal in terms of my not-quite-painless-for-everyone-involved ‘process’ of discovering what the movie is. Samantha was with us on set and was amazing. It was only in post production, when we started editing, that we realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and I had created together. So we recast and since then Scarlett has taken over that role.”

3.

Before Viggo Mortensen took on the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy…

…the king-to-be was played by a 27-year-old actor named Stuart Townsend. Mortensen told Yahoo Entertainment, “I understood from the filmmakers that Stuart Townsend — who is a great actor, and was really perfect for the part — was too young, because he was the same age as the actors playing the Hobbits. They just needed someone who was a little bit older. It was just a bad luck situation.”

Mortensen himself wasn’t sure whether to take the job, but his son, a fan of the books, convinced him to say yes.

4.

Before Ben Whishaw voiced beloved Peruvian expat and friend of the Queen, Paddington Bear…

…Colin Firth left Paddington after it became clear to both him and director Paul King that his version of the character wasn’t quite working. Firth told Entertainment Weekly, “After a period of denial, we’ve chosen ‘conscious uncoupling.'”

Firth went on, “It’s been bittersweet to see this delightful creature take shape and come to the sad realization that he simply doesn’t have my voice. I’ve had the joy of seeing most of the film and it’s going to be quite wonderful. I still feel rather protective of this bear and I’m pestering them all with suggestions for finding a voice worthy of him.”

In a statement, King wrote, “We love the voice and we love the bear, but as our young bear came into being we agreed that the two didn’t seem to fit. So, with somewhat heavy hearts we decided to part ways.”

5.

Before Helena Bonham Carter took on the mantle of the Harry Potter franchise’s sadistic witch Bellatrix Lestrange…

…Helen McCrory was cast, but decided to leave the role after she got pregnant, according to the Independent. McCrory later took on the role of Narcissa Malfoy, the imperious sister of Bellatrix and mother to Draco, for the final three films in the series.

6.

Before Rafe Spall played a writer interviewing an adult Pi Patel in Life of Pi

…the role was played by Tobey Maguire, who director Ang Lee decided was simply too big of a celebrity to play such a small part. Lee told USA Today, “I misjudged the situation. I underestimated the power of stars.” He went on, “I love Tobey. But it’s a small part. So when it’s a movie star sitting there, it captures attention. It didn’t really work out.”

Irrfan Khan, who plays the adult Pi, reshot the scenes with Spall. Khan said that while the reshoots required a “huge emotional investment” to turn in a performance he thought he’d already done for the last time, the recasting “gave [him] an opportunity to work on it again.”

7.

Before Kyndra Sanchez played Dawn on the well-loved (and, sadly, short-lived) Netflix series The Baby-Sitters Club

…Xochitl Gomez played the character in Season 1, but decided to leave the show when she was cast as America Chavez in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Gomez told Entertainment Tonight, “I felt really sad, but I knew that, just because of COVID, I couldn’t be at one place and then another and then have to just switch all the time. But I think Kyndra Sanchez is going to do an amazing job and I’m really excited to see her in Season 2 of Baby-Sitters Club as Dawn.” Gomez added that she and Sanchez “just clicked” when they met one another.

8.

Before Claire Danes played the ill-fated heroine of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet

…Natalie Portman almost took the role. In an interview with Forbes, Luhrmann said that Portman simply looked too young when compared to costar Leonardo DiCaprio. He explained, “And really, it’s that Leonardo looked so young and Natalie was so mature for her age. The truth is that when they were together, it was really clear that Nat was just too young to do the idea.”

According to Luhrmann, it was director Jane Campion who recommended Danes for the role. Campion was a fan of Danes’ work on My So-Called Life.

9.

Before Emilia Clarke turned in her iconic performance as the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, and Owner of Too Many Titles, Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

…the role was played by Tamzin Merchant in the (famously disastrous) original pilot. Merchant told Entertainment Weekly, “Shooting that pilot was a really great lesson. It was an affirmation about listening to my instincts and following them, because I tried to back out of that situation and, during the contract process, I did back out. I was talked back into it by some persuasive people. Then I found myself naked and afraid in Morocco and riding a horse that was clearly much more excited to be there than I was.” She called Clarke’s performance “epic and excellent,” but noted that it “wasn’t in my heart” to play Dany herself.

In an excerpt from the book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon: Game of Thrones and the Untold Story of the Epic Series by EW’s James Hibberd, producer and writer Bryan Cogman commented, “I thought Tamzin did a really good job. It’s hard to say why things didn’t work out. Ultimately, it’s obvious Emilia Clarke was born to play that part.”

10.

Before longtime Winnie the Pooh and Tigger voice actor Jim Cummings voiced Tigger in 2018’s Christopher Robin

…the role was played by Irish actor Chris O’Dowd. CinemaBlend reported that Cummings said in a roundtable interview that audiences were so familiar with him as Tigger that introducing a new voice actor proved distracting. He explained, “I think what happened was you just get used to a sound, a voice, an attitude. And in this case, it was decades old, you know, they were used to me for forever. I think they just said, ‘Well, gosh, it’s such a wonderful project…maybe we don’t want to introduce such a radically new wrinkle, maybe, and maybe we just go back with something that everybody’s going to glom onto, and something that they’ve heard.'”

11.

Before Jane Krakowski took on the role of Jenna Maroney in 30 Rock

…the character was named Jenna DeCarlo and was played by SNL alum Rachel Dratch. In 2006, Dratch told New York Magazine about her recasting, “I think the big thing was — at least what they told me — that at first they wanted to have more comedy sketches in the show. Then they decided they weren’t going to focus on the sketches, so they needed more of a sitcom actress, as opposed to a character actress.”

Instead of playing Jenna, Dratch played smaller comedic roles through the season. She said, “Well, when Tina told me I was going to play different characters each show, I was actually psyched about it, because it sounded really unique. But then the media kind of ran with this ‘demotion’ thing, so that was kind of a bummer. But whatever, I’m over it.”

12.

Before Bob Saget played Danny Tanner on the beloved sitcom Full House

…the role went to John Posey, who told Yahoo TV that he was initially offered the role when the producers’ first two choices, Bob Saget and Paul Reiser, weren’t available. He shot the pilot, which was reshot with Saget as Danny once he became available. Posey heard the news from his agent while he was in the midst of a cross-country drive to move to Los Angeles.

Posey reflected, “That’s just the nature of the business. I’ve since been in a number of sitcoms where people have been fired, and there’s just no easy way to handle it. You know, they just say, ‘Hey, thanks for being here. It didn’t work out. Sorry.'”

13.

Before Dick Sargent took over the role of Darrin Stephens on Bewitched

…the part was originated and played by Dick York for five years. However, according to York’s obituary, published by the Los Angeles Times, the actor became addicted to drugs following a back injury suffered on the set of a 1958 film. Sargent replaced him in 1969 when York “collapsed on the set.”

Prior to his 1992 death, York worked to convince the government to give away thousands of Army surplus supplies such as clothing, mattresses, and foodstuffs to people who were experiencing homelessness. In an interview, he said, “There is no program — drug addiction, homelessness — that I would not give whatever I can. I’m fortunate I still have my voice.”

14.

Before Charles Melton took on the mantle of Reggie Mantle (Get it? Never mind, actually, there’s not much to get) in Riverdale

…Ross Butler decided to leave the show after Season 1 to focus on another teen drama: 13 Reasons Why, in which he played Zach Dempsey.

In an interview with Vulture, Butler explained that rather than “split two characters and have a smaller role on both shows,” he decided to give up Reggie in favor of Zach. He said, “I connected with Zach on a much more real level where I didn’t have to create so much of a character for him. Reggie’s more outspoken, like that jock archetype. Zach is too, but Zach has more colors, at least from what I saw.” Butler said he was in a “weird floating space” when Reggie was recast before 13 Reasons Why was renewed for another season, but his gamble paid off when Netflix confirmed that Season 2 was a done deal.

15.

And finally, perhaps the most famous recasting of them all: Before Michael J. Fox played Marty McFly in Back to the Future

…Eric Stoltz played the part for the first six weeks of production before being fired. In a career retrospective video for GQ, Christopher Lloyd, who played Marty’s mentor/friend Doc Brown, reflected on the recasting. Lloyd said, “They just decided that they needed somebody with a comic flair, you know. Stoltz is a wonderful actor. I had no idea the change was coming.”

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