Musings on Hollywood Relentless Miscasting

I read the other day that Tom Hardy was being considered for lead role in the Jack Ryan spinoff Without Remorse, which prompts me to write this piece.

Filmmakers and studio executives tend to cast the wrong actor/actress for a certain role many times. Some times it works out well, but other times, not so much. For this post, I’m going to start out with my rant about Hollywood miscasting and then ask you, dear readers, some questions about casting.

With the upcoming film Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise, many fans of the books have been complaining about how Cruise looks nothing like the character from the books.

Now I’ve never read any of Reacher’s novels, but apparently he’s 6’5 and weighs well over 200lbs. (per stats on author Lee Child’s website), while Mr. Cruise is merely 5’7 and weights maybe 170lbs.? That’s definitely a miscast, but I’m still looking forward to seeing Jack Reacher this Winter. Why you ask? Well Tom Cruise is my favorite actor and I dug the teaser trailer they showed us a few weeks back.

Another book adaptation that’s coming to the big screen is Without Remorse written by Tom Clancy. I used to read a lot of Clancy’s novels and many of them were very good but my absolute favorite is Without Remorse. The book’s about a character named John Kelly who later became sort of a super spy for the CIA named John Clark; it’s basically a prequel. It tells the story of how Kelly became known as Clark, think of it as a Casino Royale type of story, instead of James Bond, it’s John Clark. His character appeared in two films, first he’s played by William Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger and then later in The Sum of all Fears, which was portrayed by Liev Schreiber. None of the actors captured the true essence of the character.

According to some reports, Paramount Pictures is trying to sign Tom Hardy for the John Kelly/Clark role. Now I like Hardy as an actor but he’s totally wrong for this part. Clark is described as lean and stands about 6’0″ to 6’4″ tall. Hardy on the other hand, is about 5’10” and rather stocky-looking. If Hardy accepts the role then I’m sure he’ll lose some weight and look leaner; but I still don’t believe he fits the character. To me the right actor for the role would be a younger version of Bruce Willis or Clive Owen, these actors are way too old for the role now though; in the book Clark’s in his 30s. The only actor I believe fits the role right now is Michael Fassbender. He’s the right age and of course he looks the part. Back in the mid 1990s, Keanu Reeves was actually cast as Clark and John McTiernan was going to direct. Fortunately the studio that owns the rights to the book went bankrupt and the film never happened. I like McTiernan as the director but Reeves would’ve been a disaster.

This kind of bone-headed decision really tick me off as a fan, I was too young to remember but apparently there was uproar by fans of the comic books when Michael Keaton was cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman back in the late 80s. My opinion, this was one of the worst castings ever, I like Burton’s two Batman films but Keaton’s no Bruce Wayne/Batman. In fact, I thought Keaton looked kind of silly when he’s in the Batman suit, with his big head and tiny body, he did not look intimating at all. Another awful casting was Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code and Angel and Demons. Hanks a great actor but he’s no Langdon, what a idiotic decision by Ron Howard and Sony Pictures.

Howard again made an awful decision by casting Javier Bardem as Roland in The Dark Tower film adaption of Stephen King’s epic novels. Thankfully the project never took off, Bardem’s a great actor but he would’ve been awful as Roland The Gunslinger. Currently they’re having trouble getting the project green lighted and Russell Crowe is now the front runner for the part of Roland, a better choice but to me the perfect actor to play Roland is Clive Owen. Take a look this drawing of Roland, to me the only actor who fits that photo is Owen. Now I know King said he wrote the part with Clint Eastwood in mind but if you’ve read the 6th book then you know that’s not true, I won’t go into it but I’m still mad about it.

Now here’s my question to you.

Say you’ve written a great script and then you’re lucky enough to have gotten a meeting with executives at one of the big movie studios. They love your script and want to make it into a film. They even agree to let you direct your own script (it’s a dream of mine and many other film maker wannabes out there), so you’re now super excited and can’t wait to get going. But before the executives signed off on the project, they give you a list of actors they want to play the lead. Unfortunately none of the actors fit what you had in mind when you wrote the script. So what would you do? Do you tell the executives that you want a certain actor for the role and risk losing the deal? Or do you suck it up and go with one of the actors they gave you?

I’m going to use myself as an example here, I’m currently finishing up a script and the actor I want to play the lead role is Clive Owen (yes I have a man-crush on Owen), so when I look at the list of actors the executives showed me, Owen isn’t on there. What I would do is tell them I want Clive Owen for this role and not only that, my agent and I have sent the script to his people and that he wants to be in the film for a very cheap price. Of course Owen is not an A-list actor, I think he’s in the C-list category now since he hasn’t starred in any big budgeted films for a while; the studio people will for certain reject him.

So what shall I do? Well it depends, I’ve spent many years writing this script and now I’m finally close to make it into a film; I will have to think hard before agreeing to the deal. Say the list of actors were Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Leo Di Caprio and Will Smith. If I agree to cast one of these actors, I will have the budget that I need to make the film the way I envisioned. If I keep insist on casting Owen then I’ll probably lose the deal with the studio. I could shop the script around and hope one of the smaller studios would bite but I won’t have the big money to spend and I won’t be able to shoot what I wrote in the script. So in the end, I will cave and go with Mr. Cruise as my lead actor.

– post by Ted S.

So what do you think of studio keep mis-casting roles? And would have cast an actor the studio insisted or do you keep your principal and tell the executives to f-off?

47 thoughts on “Musings on Hollywood Relentless Miscasting

  1. You make a very good point with miscasting, though it seems you focus more on the physical traits of the characters compared to that of the actor. In my opinion, what’s most important is whether or not the actor can bring about the personality traits. Of course, some roles need to be filled with actors who fit a specific body type–it would have been ridiculous to cast a tiny guy as Bane, for instance. I feel that Michael Keaton was perfect for what Tim Burton did with Batman, making him a dark and mysterious person, a trouble Bruce Wayne that hides from the limelight as much as Batman stays in the shadows. As for another major franchise character, I always thought that Alec Baldwin was the perfect Jack Ryan because he actually fit the personality of the character in the books the best. Harrison Ford is great, but let’s face it, he played the role as Harrison Ford and not as the literary character. The less said about Ben Affleck the better.

    1. Ted S.

      “what’s most important is whether or not the actor can bring about the personality traits.”

      I agree with that but for a certain role the actor will needs to have the physical appearance also to make him believable. I like Keaton as Bruce Wayne but when he puts on the Batman costume, he just looked silly to me. Bale on the other hand is perfect as Bruce/Batman.

      I also agree with you that Alec Baldwin was perfect as Jack Ryan, it’s too bad he got screwed out of reprising that role in the sequels. Back then when Harrison Ford wants a role, he’ll get it.

      1. It’s like in the book “Holes,” the main character starts off as being really chubby and then thins out as the story progresses. They cast the thin Shia LeBeouf and didn’t even attempt to match the physical description from the book. Thus began his turn as one of the most annoying young actors currently working in film.

        1. Ted S.

          I don’t even remember that movie “Holes” must’ve came out years before Transformers? And yes Shia annoys the heck out of me too, it’s the reason why I’m hesitant to see Lawless.

  2. I agree with Jamie in that personality traits are more important. But then again i haven’t had a book i read adapted into film yet. A book series i like called Vampire Academy got a producer, but that was like a year ago and there’s been no new info on it since. Perhaps if that gets off the ground i will have more to say on this subject

    And personally, for me when i am able to adapt my last fantasy pitch into a actual movie, i am determined to have Deborah Ann Woll in the lead role. Right now she isn’t really known outside of True Blood,and so she probably wouldn’t be seen as bankable. But i would stick to my guns on that one. Since i don’t see it being an high budget movie i am hoping i wouldn’t get too much resistance on that part. Plus there are some bigger names like Angelina Jolie that i want to cast in it too.

    1. Ted S.

      Oh yeah if my script won’t need a big budget then I’d tell the studio to f-off, unfortunately for this script, I’ll need at least $60mil to make it the way I envisioned. If say I cast Cruise or Di Caprio, I’ll probably get close to $100mil to shoot it.

  3. Melissa Bradley

    There are plenty of miscasts out there, too, like Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler… Keira Knightly in Pride and Prejudice. Keira as Elizabeth was like 50 shades of wrong. Hollywood is also forever casting younger actresses to play older. Like January Jones as Liam Neeson’s wife in Unknown.

    It’s hard to say what I would do. On the one hand, you want the movie to be made, on the other you want to cast whom you’d like. Great post!

    1. Hi Melissa, oh my I soooo know what you mean about casting young actresses against actors twice their age! January Jones was terrible in Unknown too, I just can’t stand her. I also think Keira as the supposedly plain-looking Lizzy Bennet is so wrong, though I’ve grown fond of Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy.

      I was gonna mention here about the rumored mis-casting of Ryan Reynolds as Highlander, ugh I hope they find someone better or better yet, cast Gerry Butler!!

  4. Fine piece on this, Ted. It’s something that irks me plenty, too, especially since I’ve been a reader of a number of the series you highlight. Chiefly, I think it comes down to who we have in Hollywood (in the broad sense of the word since we’re talking about a global enterprise for movie entertainment) today as ‘bankable’ stars and as producers. I’ll use another book series, recently adapted to A&E as an example. Walt Longmire is a Sheriff from Wyoming’s Absaroka County in author Craig Johnson’s series of books (The Cold Dish, Death Without Company , Kindness Goes Unpunished, Another Man’s Moccasins, Junkyard Dogs…). The guy is 6’4″. What the author found out in watching over the production, which recently completed its first successful season (which was pretty darn good, I must admit), was that you-don’t-have-ANYONE-over 6 foot tall these days for television or movies, for the most part. And no one in the industry wants to go without ‘a name’ as their headliner. They are risk-adverse like nobody’s business. Anyway, the author wouldn’t compromise with his character of Walt. Who did they get? A little-known Australian actor, at least in this country, by the name of a href=’’>Robert Taylor. Besides being talented, he was over 6 foot. Of course, for his sidekick, an ex-special forces childhood friend who is Cheyenne Indian, they compromised with Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear. That Henry is suppose to be maybe a bit taller than Walt… well, you see what we get as casting these days.

    Thanks, Ted.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Michael.

      I totally agree with you, brand name actors today just doesn’t have the physical for certain role and studios aren’t willing to cast unknowns so the filmmakers will compromise and cast whomever is available to them or who the studio demands to be in the film. I just read an interview with David Cronenberg and they asked him why he cast that pretty boy from the Twighlight films and he said Robert’s on the short list of actors he can cast. If he wouldn’t cast Pattinson then he won’t get to make the movie.

      I’ve never heard of Longmire, I might have to check it out.

      Thanks again for the Jack Reacher book!

  5. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ted and company:

    Interesting post!

    I remember shortly after Tom Clancy’s ‘Without Remorse’ made it big in paperback, HBO was kicking the idea around for a mni-series. I was hoping and praying that Clancy Brown would get the role of John Kelly/Clark. Until the project fell through.

    Tom Hardy could (iffy) pull it off. Though I’d rather see Max Martini (‘Saving Pvt. Ryan’, ‘The Unit’)

    As John Kelly and later, Clark.

    PS: Willem Dafoe was so NOT John Clark in ‘Clear and Present Danger’!
    Butchering the novel badly. While leaving out some of its most intriguing characters.

    PPS: WORST casting mistake, ever. Casting Jean Claude Van Damme as the original ‘Predator’! Until McTiernan ran out of money the first time. Talked to John Cameron on an airline flight and came up with an monster with mandibles. Then got Kevin Peter Hall for the role.

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Jack,

      Wow I didn’t know Without Remorse was going to be made into a mini-series, that would’ve been interesting. Brown would’ve been great as John Clark though. I assume with the scope of the story, they just didn’t have enough money to shoot it.

      Yeah hardy can probably play the role but since I’m such a big fan of the book, he won’t be the true Clark I envisioned.

      Oh yeah Dafoe was definitely not John Clark, I don’t know what they were thinking when they cast him. Clark was actually the main character in the book as you know and by making him a second lead, I was kind of pissed off about it. But when you have Harrison Ford in your movie, you can’t make him a supporting character.

      LOL, I remember reading about Van Damme being cast as the Predator. That would’ve been very interesting.

    2. “Willem Dafoe was so NOT John Clark in ‘Clear and Present Danger’!

      So damn true, Kevin! CaPD, though successful, managed to leave out so much from the novel.

  6. I think if you really want to use the actors you have in mind when the studio is against it, you should just shop it around for the sake of your artistic vision.

    Different appearance between the original material with the adaptation will bug me of course, but I will hold my judgment until the film comes out, because sometimes great director and material can change the outcome.

    As for Tom Hardy’s case, his agent and the studios are definitely trying to transform him into a big movie star with all the hypes from Dark Knight Rises and now the upcoming Lawless. They’re trying to get him a franchise or box office vehicle.

    Recent casting news that makes me happy is the casting of Nick Horny’s A Long Way Down’s adaptation. I’ve read it and the four actors and actresses cast in this film are satisfying: Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, and Aaron Paul.

    One casting decision that kinda bugs me is Jennifer Lawrence in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. The character is in her early/mid 30’s and she’s sexually active. So I can’t really imagine her like that at all and the trailer still doesn’t convince me.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah, Hardy is the next actor Hollywood is pushing to be the next big thing since Taylor Kitsch pulled a tri-factor of box office misfires earlier this year. Not sure if you read Without Remorse or not, but it can definitely turn into a huge franchise for the studio. If they do it right, John Clark can be as famous as Jason Bourne or James Bond.

    2. Hi Fellow, I read the back cover of ‘A Long Way Down’ once, sounds intriguing, I might pick that up. I do like Toni Collette and Brosnan is ok outside of his Bond roles.

  7. Bob Filipczak

    I think you can bend without breaking. In fact getting everything you want for your movie might be the worst thing for you and for the movie. Working with limitations is what keeps the creative gears spinning fast. Maybe getting less money and an actor you don’t want will make you work harder but in ways you didn’t expect. After all, in this scenario, they did let you write and direct it. That’s a ton of control.

    My brother was totally against casting Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury; I thought it worked pretty well.

    1. jackdeth72

      Hi, Bob, Ted and company:

      I’m with your brother on this one.

      I grew up on the Jack Kirby and later, Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury. Always thought that either Robert Culp (‘I Spy’, ‘Hannie Caulder’) or Christopher George (‘El Dorado’, ‘The Rat Patrol’) at that time would make excellent Furies.

      Samuel Jackson?… Not so much.

      Would prefer to see wither Ed Harris or Michael Biehn take on the role.

      1. Oooh I’d LOVE to see either one of those two as Nick Fury, but it could be that Whedon choose a Black actor to play the role to you know, fill the ‘quota.’ Hollywood does that a lot as to illustrate ‘diversity,’ ahah. Case in point: John Cho in the Total Recall remake, though usually they don’t survive for very long.

        1. jackdeth72

          Hi, Ruth:

          Nick Fury has been drawn as a bald Samuel Jackson character in Marvel comics and animation for more than a decade now. So his character and role is kind of locked in. 😦

          Also, Jackson’s Fury had cameos in the first ‘Iron Man’ film and ‘Captain America’ before ‘The Avengers’. So it’s more of the director giving the audience what they want, than staying true to Marvel’s roots.

          John Cho is a decent enough actor suffering from type casting jet lag dating back to ‘Harold & Kumar’. Who hasn’t found his niche yet. Hopefully, he will. And soon.

  8. Like many of the previous posters, I feel like there might be too much of an emphasis on personal appearance rather than whether the actors can get to the essence of his character. Is Tom Cruise completely unsuitable physically to play Jack Reacher? Absolutely. But we also know Cruise has done gazillions of action movies and that most likely, the character’s appearance is basically trivial detail as it pertains to the book narrative.

    Now let me ask you this: Most people enjoy Robert Downey Jr. depiction of Sherlock Holmes (at least in terms of entertainment value) but isn’t just as miscast when it comes down to how his character is imagined by Conan Doyle?

    1. Ted S.

      I guess I just want my cake and eat it too, no doubt Cruise can play Reacher and since I’ve never read any of the books I won’t complain about him not being right for the part. As I said earlier, I thought Keaton was good as Bruce Wayne but when he puts on the Batman costume, he just looked so silly to me that I didn’t believe he was Batman.

      Well unfortunately I don’t know much about Sherlock Holmes so I can’t answer that question. I’ll let fans of Doyle’s work answer that. I did enjoyed Downey Jr.’s performance in the films though.

    2. Yeah, even just reading briefly about Conan Doyle’s depiction of Sherlock, I definitely didn’t think of RDJ. But I think he was fun to watch, though I think Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series gives a far more compelling rendition.

  9. Ted S.

    Just wanted to add that even though what I wrote may sound like I only focus on the physical part of the role. I really wish the studios would focus on both the physical and acting abilities of the actor who’s being consider for a certain role. I’m going to use The Dark Tower as an example again, there’s a supporting character in the books that physically would be a perfect role for Taylor Kitsch. But if I was Ron Howard’s advisor (and I’m not) I would advise Howard to not cast Kitsch because he has ZERO charisma on the screen. There are many actors out there who fits a certain role but if they can’t act then they shouldn’t get the part.

    Anyhoo, thanks as always for stopping by and read my rambling. 🙂

  10. PrairieGirl

    Hey Ted, and I thought I was the only one who thought Keaton was horribly miscast as Batman… Thank you! He’s awesome in so many of his other roles, but really fails to convince as Batman.

    1. Ted S.

      Same here Becky, I think Keaton’s one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood BUT he’s no Batman! I prefer him in comedies or dramatic roles.

  11. Great piece Ted. Honestly, if the studio wouldn’t let me cast who I wanted, I’d probably go with an actor on the studio’s list that was the closest match for the character. Casting is an essential part of the process, but I’d rather get to make the movie than risk it not getting off the ground.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Josh, yeah that’s exactly what I would’ve done. I will go with the actor who’s most resemble the character I wrote. For my example, I went with Cruise because he’s the closest, Di Caprio, Pitt and Smith, not so much.

      I would rather have my script make it to the big screen then get the actor I wanted.

    1. Ahah yeah, Jackman is definitely NOT stocky, but neither was Dougray Scott who was originally cast. But after seeing his performance I really LOVE Jackman’s Wolverine. So I think he embodies the character very well despite his lack of physical resemblance.

    2. Ted S.

      Thanks Scott.

      Yeah I remember the fan boys weren’t too happy when Jackman was cast as The Wolverine, he’s 6’2 and Wolverine in the comics is around 5’4 inches tall. But now I think people accepts him as Wolverine since he’s been playing the role for over 10 years. Let’s hope the new Wolverine film is a great one, the last one was dreadful.

      If they ever want to recast the role, I think Tom Hardy would be perfect for it.

      1. It’s funny that a tall actor often gets roles of a short character and vice versa. I mean all the actors playing the dwarfs in The Hobbit are over 6 feet tall, ahah.

  12. Even though Bale is the best Batman I actually liked Keaton as Batman. I think Kilmer’s a d-bag and Clooney is just too smooth for the role.

    As far as casting Clive Owen… I’d shoot ten minutes of your best scene with Owen and shop that around. Lots of new directors got their stuff made based on demo reels that impressed the execs. You may get less money but you’ll keep your vision intact. Plus it’s not always about the lead actor. A great ensemble can hold up a film. Owen has respect in the acting community and can bring in other top flight actors to star with him possibly for scale. What would be the budget you’re looking to come in on?

    1. I LOVE Clive Owen, though his latest fares do not interest me (save for the HBO biopic on Hemmingway, that looks interesting). He’s great as antiheroes or reluctant hero, and who cares about the A list or C list whatever, I don’t even pay attention to that, I think actors who aren’t A-listers are more interesting anyway. Well Ted, if you get Clive in your movie, you definitely have my $10 bucks to see it on opening night 😀

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah, if I ever get to make this movie, it would a dream come true especially with Owen in the lead. The script is a bit violent but it fits the story, the violent will be a lot like No Country for Old Men, it’s violent but not gratuitous.

    2. Ted S.

      Yeah the less we talk about Kilmer and Clooney the better. Ha ha.

      That’s a great idea Dave, if/when I can ever get a hold of Owen’s people, I’ll send him the script and hopefully he’ll love it and agree to star in it. As for the budget, I need at least $30mil-50mil to make it the way I envisioned. Of course I go with the big named actor, I’ll probably get close to $100mil.

      1. Well at look what Neill Blomkamp did with $30 million for District 10 with no stars. His Alive in Joburg short, a gritty “documentary” about extraterrestrials marooned in Johannesburg got Peter Jackson’s attention. Also Soderbergh only spent his $25 million for Haywire with an unknown female lead in an action movie. What is the budget being spent on? Stunts, location, special effects, other or a combination of each?

        Nipples on a bat… you silly rabbit. LOL.

        1. Ted S.

          That’s true, District 9 looked great for such a small budget film, in fact it looked like it cost at least $80mil. For my script, most of the money will go to locations, I want to shoot it in NYC. But I can compromise and shoot it somewhere else to save money. Come to think of it I might not need big budget for this script, just need to tweak it a bit here and there.

          I can’t wait to see Elysium too, hopefully we’ll see a trailer soon.

  13. Great post! The examples you mentioned are indeed weird and the studio clearly wants to make the film more popular by hiring well known actor no matter how miscast he will be.

    The recent example is Carrie – hiring Moretz for that part is ridiculous, there are at least 15 well known, better suited and more talented actresses out there who would do better job as Carrie, but since Moretz is probably the most well known teen actress now the studio hired her. Disgusting.

    I think you should stick to your guns and fight for your vision, I would. I never compromise.

    1. Hi Sati, I’m not as um, passionate about the Carrie movie as you but I agree that Saiorse Ronan would’ve rocked the role better than Moretz would.

    2. Ted S.

      Thanks Sati.

      Yeah i don’t know about Moretz as Carrie, we’ll have to wait and see if she can pull out that role. I read the book years ago but still remember the original film quite well.

  14. I’d disagree on Keaton and Hanks. I thought Keaton is a great Batman/Bruce Wayne. At first I wasn’t diggin’ the casting of Hanks as Langdon but he was good enough, IMO. I think the worst casting decision I’ve seen lately was Alison Brie in The Five-Year Engagement. She is AMAZING in Community but she was completely wrong for the role in T5-YE.

    1. Ted S.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on Keaton and Hanks Fernado. 🙂

      I’ve never seen The Five Year Engagement so I can’t comment on that film.

  15. Ted, this is a great subject. I often wonder what goes through exec’s minds when it comes to some castings.

    I wasn’t a fan of:
    Katie Holmes in Batman Begins
    Halle Berry as Catwoman
    Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns
    Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great
    Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom
    Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker

    just to name a few I was disappointed in greatly. haha

    Best of luck in securing Clive Owen! 🙂

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