Making a movie or television show can be a tedious task, and the difficult personalities of actors or their out-of-whack schedules can make it even harder. So many productions have gone through considerable effort to find that perfect actor for the role, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out and a new one is called in to fill the void.
10. Jennifer Freeman – My Wife and Kids
My Wife and Kids was a light-hearted family sitcom starring Damon Wayans as Michael Kyle; a loving husband and modern-day patriarch who rules his slightly dysfunctional household with a unique and distinct parenting style. After becoming a Dad as a teenager and enduring the hardships of raising a family as a young man, Michael now lives with the fear of his children making the same mistake. In the show, eldest daughter Claire was originally played by actress Jazz Raycole for the first season. However, Raycole was pulled from production after her mother objected to a storyline where Claire’s friend gets pregnant and the showrunners hired the likeable Jennifer Freeman instead – proving that even your kids are replaceable in the world of showbiz.
9. Ian McDiarmid – Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Closing out the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi picks up with Luke Skywalker fulfilling his quest to lead the Rebel Alliance to triumph over the Galactic Empire. Leading the bad guys is Emperor Palpatine – a nasty villain who underwent a surprising gender recast for the final flick. We first met the Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back where “he” was played by Elaine Baker (the wife of make up designer Rick Baker) and voiced by Clive Revill. When we meet him again in both Return of the Jedi and the prequels, the character is played by Ian McDiarmid. It’s doubtful anyone really noticed the replacement as the Emperor only appears for less than a minute on a hologram in Empire, but McDiarmid is excellent in the role and was clearly needed when the villainous role was beefed up for the final entry.
8. Sarah Michelle Gellar – Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Buffy is the latest in a long line of young women chosen for a specific mission: to seek out and destroy vampires, demons and other forces of darkness. Her battles with evil are frequent since Sunnydale, where Buffy and her friends live, sits atop a “Hellmouth” to the realm of the demons. Originally a film starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy, when creator Joss Whedon turned the premise into a TV show he made some slight changes in backstory and changed the leading lady to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Although Swanson really had no chance of coming back because the series was made five years after the movie’s release and it would have been hard to buy her as a teenager at this point, Sarah Michelle Gellar was a marked improvement and much better fit for the spunky, ass-kicking vampire slayer.
7. Mike Myers – Shrek
Once upon a time in a far away swamp, there lived an ogre named Shrek. His precious solitude is suddenly shattered by an invasion of annoying fairy tale characters and Shrek is forced to go on an epic adventure to rescue a princess and reclaim his peace and quiet. Chris Farley was originally signed on to voice Shrek for Dreamworks breakout animation hit and he had recorded the majority of the dialogue. Tragically, he died from a drug overdose before he could finish. However, Shrek’s original script was vastly different from the version completed with Mike Myers and the ogre was originally a kind hearted teenager who wanted to become a knight. After Farley’s death, Dreamwork’s decided to start fresh with story and cast. Though we never saw any of Farley’s work (and probably never will), it’s hard to deny that Mike Myers made the role his own.
6. Viggo Mortensen – Lord of the Rings
We all know the story. The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces are unrelenting in their search for it, but fate has placed the ring in the hands of a young Hobbit named Frodo Baggins who inherits the responsibility and steps into legend. Irish actor Stuart Townsend spent two months rehearsing and training for the role of warrior king Aragorn only to be fired the day before filming on the big-budget trilogy began. At the last minute, director Peter Jackson decided that he needed someone older than Townsend – who was only 29 at the time – but there were also rumours that the two did not get along well on set. Viggo Mortensen, who was 14 years older than Townsend, accepted the role after being convinced by his son who was a fan of the novels.
5. Michiel Huisman – Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” was brought to the smaller screen by premium cable channel HBO in 2011. The powerplay antics between kings and queens and liars and honest men in the fictional world of Westeros was an instant hit with audiences and it wasn’t long before the show developed a huge global following. With so many characters recasting is an inevitability for such a massive production. but the most notable change on the show occurred between seasons 3 and 4. Actor Ed Skrien, who played Daario Naharis, was replaced by Michiel Huisman. Details as to why he was recast are sketchy, but Skrein was quick to sign on for a lead role in a reboot of the Transporter franchise after news broke. Either way, Huisman is a much better fit for the roguish sellsword than the charisma-free Skrien was. Shame he still doesn’t have a blue beard, though.
4. Daniel Craig – Casino Royale
James Bond is one of the longest running film series in history. Production has been ongoing since 1962 and eight actors have stepped into 007s boots over the years. However, the most recent iteration of the character is arguably the most important. The series had fallen into a rut following the increasingly ridiculous escapades of Brosnan’s run, and many wondered if the suave spy could work after Jason Bourne had given globe-trotting espionage a much needed kick up the arse in 2002. Thankfully, Daniel Craig proved that he was the right man to finally make Bond relevant again as his brooding, multilayered performance in the soft reboot Casino Royale brought the series newfound levels of critical acclaim and fresh energy.
3. Don Cheadle – Iron Man 2
As the superhero Iron Man, billionaire industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark uses a weaponised suit to combat crime and terrorism. Iron Man was a surprise hit and brought Robert Downey Jnr back to the A-list, but its sequel was a disappointing return of the Marvel hero which suffered from a saggy script and messy plot. However, one thing Iron Man 2 did get right is replacing Terrence Howard as James “Rhodey” Rhodes. He was perfectly decent in the role in the first movie, but Don Cheadle proved to be an excellent replacement for the series. He brought more humour and nature to the role and shared excellent chemistry with Downey Jr as his reliable sidekick.
2. Mark Ruffalo – The Avengers
The Avengers was the superhero team-up movie comic book fans had been waiting decades for, but one actor from the Marvel Movie Universe wasn’t invited back for the party. Edward Norton played the titular green-skinned smashaholic in the underwhelming 2008 solo flick the Incredible Hulk, but he clashed with Marvel during production when he insisted on rewriting the script and refused to promote the movie. Not keen to have him back, Mark Ruffalo was called in for the Avengers in Norton’s place. Even if you liked Norton as Banner, you’d be hard-pressed to think that Ruffalo is a lesser choice as he brought a tragic, complex presence to the often misunderstood green guy.
1. Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan opted for a grounded, realistic take on the superhero genre when he made Batman Begins in 2005, but he upped his game considerably for the Dark Knight a few years later. Fans couldn’t wait to see how Batman’s arch nemesis the Joker would fit into this grim and gritty universe, but there was one actress who didn’t come back for the bigger and better sequel. Katie Holmes had played Bruce Wayne’s love interest in Batman Begins only to be replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. While some may say the hate for Katie Holmes at the time was less to do with her actual acting ability and more to do with her controversial marriage to Tom Cruise, the actress was definitely not the strongest link in Batman Begins. It’s hard to argue that Maggie Gyllenhaal didn’t do a better job with the role and brought some much-needed screen presence to the strong-headed, bold character.