The Top Eight "Replacement" Actors in Movie History
When we talk about our favorite movies, they typically vary from films with great writing, or those with lots of great action and special effects to the ones that feature our favorite actresses finally getting naked. But what they almost all share, without exception, are great, iconic characters. What you might not know, however, is that some of those characters almost turned out very, very different, and it was only a last second recasting of the role that helped propel them into cinematic lore.
Source: 20th Century Fox
By Jeff Kelly
8. Wolverine – X-Men
When it comes to the X-Men, there’s no more iconic character than Wolverine. Maybe it’s the awesome claws, the biting sarcasm, his berserker rage, or that absolutely ridiculous haircut. Naturally, when it came to casting the first X-Men movie, finding the right person to embody the role was a long, arduous process, but finally the filmmakers found their man: Dougray Scott.
Wait, what? No, that’s not right at all. And that’s why it turned out to be a blessing in disguise when Scott found himself up against scheduling conflicts with Mission: Impossible II and Bryan Singer and company were forced to reopen their search for an actor to play everyone’s favorite mutant with anger management issues. Finally, they actually did find their man in Hugh Jackman, whose turn as Wolverine catapulted the Aussie to stardom in America, at which point he immediately tried to piss it away by starring in an awful Ashley Judd romantic comedy.
7. Axel Foley – Beverly Hills Cop
Source: Paramount Pictures
When the action comedy rose to popularity in the '80s, it was in large part due to the release and success of Beverly Hills Cop, the movie that turned Eddie Murphy into a bona fide movie star. The wise cracking Foley became an icon, and two sequels were made. One of those sequels was pretty good and the other took place at an amusement park. Of course since you’re reading this list, you can probably guess that Eddie wasn’t originally cast as Detroit cop Axel Foley.
But what you might not have realized is that something as simple as replacing the lead actor completely changed not just the feel of the character, but of the whole movie. See, Beverly Hills Cop was originally a gritty, action packed vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. When Sly wanted to basically rewrite the screenplay to focus less on laughs and more on explosions, he and the filmmakers found themselves at an impasse. So what did Sly do? He took his vision of what the film should have been, and he went and made Cobra.
6. The Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz
Just admit it: before you read this article, you had probably never heard of Margaret Hamilton, unless you’re a really old school film history buff. The emphasis there is on the “old” by the way. But if we were to say "Wicked Witch of the West," you would immediately know who we’re talking about, right?
Well, the Witch and Margaret Hamilton are one and the same. However, like everyone else on this list, she was a replacement. The Wizard of Oz was one of those notoriously difficult film productions that included the departure of original witch Gale Sondergaard, clearly having no concept of what a witch actually was, who complained about the fact her character was an old hag. So, Hamilton was thrust into the role, and the rest is history. As a bonus “famous recast,” Buddy Ebsen was set to play the Tin Man…you know, before the silver paint nearly killed him.
5. Aragorn – Lord of the Rings
Source: New Line Cinema
Like so many other epic films, Lord of the Rings proved to be a little difficult to cast, particularly when it came to the role of Aragorn. Believe it or not, Nicolas Cage was originally offered the role, but thankfully passed. Vin Diesel auditioned, too, and Russell Crowe was approached before Peter Jackson settled on Stuart Townsend. Of course that didn’t last long; Jackson said it was because Townsend was too young, while anyone who has seen him act said it was because he just generally sucks out loud.
So with filming already having started, Viggo Mortensen was approached, read the book on the plane, and within days of being offered the role was on set turning in one of the most iconic performances of the early 21st century. He got so into the role, in fact, that he actually carried his sword around with him off screen. So just remember, when you’re wandering around with your cape and plastic lightsaber, you’re not being a tool--you’re just a really committed method actor. Only, you know, without an actual role.