Thanks to the advent of the Internet, fan outrage surrounding Hollywood casting decisions can help make or break a role before films even enter theaters. We’ve seen several instances of this kind of outcry, which we explore past the break, but the latest big-screen casting fans are questioning relates to Emile Hirsch playing John Belushi in Steve Conrad’s biopic about the outrageous comedian. Read about other casting controversies, below.
50 Shades of Grey
Fans can be fickle — and then fans can be downright ridiculous, as in the case of the casting controversy surrounding the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation. The media trotted out a short list of names that included Garrett Hedlund, Christian Cooke, Elizabeth Olsen, and Shailene Woodley, but the roles of naive college student Anastasia Steele and kinky billionaire Christian Grey ultimately went to Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson. “I felt really intrigued and excited about it so I went and read the first book to get a clearer idea of who this character was, and I felt even more excited at the prospect of bringing him to life,” Hunnam said of the part. “As soon as we got in the room and I started reading with Dakota I knew that I definitely wanted to do it. There’s just like a tangible chemistry between us. It felt exciting and fun and weird and compelling.” Despite enthusiasm from author E. L. James, fans fiercely rebelled, insisting they knew better and that the actors were “unknown.” Petitions were signed (87,000 strong) and death threats were issued to producer Dana Brunetti. Following the scrutiny, Hunnam dropped out of the project, citing scheduling conflicts. Irish actor Jamie Dornan, a former model, replaced him — and celebrity support for the decision (from Lena Dunham and Crystal Hefner) seemed to satisfy fans.
Ben Affleck in Batman
Nothing will outrage fans more than miscasting a superhero. In the case of Ben Affleck, who was currently attached to the role of the Caped Crusader for the 2015 sequel to Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, fans rallied all the way to the White House. A petition on the We the People section of the government website, which was promptly removed, called for Affleck’s ousting, while haters on Change.org ripped on Affleck’s skills as an actor, mocking his work in Daredevil and Gigli. Over 96,000 tweets about the casting circulated in the first hour of the announcement, most of them negative. Even Affleck himself was weary about accepting the part. “Initially I was reluctant as I felt I didn’t fit the traditional mold but once [director] Zack [Snyder] showed me the concept, and that it would be both different from the great movies that Chris [Nolan] and Christian [Bale] made but still in keeping with tradition I was excited,” he told 411 Mania.
Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire
Fan hatred is always difficult for actors to contend with, but when the creator of a work leads the charge against you, things can get ugly. Take Anne Rice and the casting of Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire as the “Brat Prince” vamp, Lestat. “I was particularly stunned by the casting of Cruise, who is no more my Vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler,” the author told the LA Times. Rice’s readers supported their favorite author and made noise about the Cruise casting. Eventually Rice heaped praise upon the actor:
“Let me say here that anyone who thinks I did an ‘about face’ on Tom just doesn’t know the facts. My objections to his casting were based on familiarity with his work, which I loved… That Tom did make Lestat work was something I could not see in a crystal ball. It’s to his credit that he proved me wrong.”
Daniel Craig as James Bond
James Bond is one of cinema’s most iconic characters, which is why there’s always a kerfuffle over the casting of 007. Fans felt Roger Moore was too cheeky, and others despised George Lazenby’s version of the secret agent, but when English actor Daniel Craig took over the role, the Internet propelled the Bond controversy to the extreme. Craig was dubbed the “bland” Bond, and fans felt he didn’t fit the part physically whatsoever. They even threatened to boycott the movie. Craig eventually won them over, coming to embody author Ian Fleming’s vision of the character.
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
After a turn as a lovesick, gay cowboy in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, fans weren’t ready to accept Heath Ledger as their new Joker — Batman’s arch nemesis. Homophobic comments abounded (“I won’t be able to watch it. I’ll keep expecting him to have sex with Batman. Yuck!!!!”), and other Batfans wondered why favorites like Sean Penn, Robin Williams, and Johnny Depp were passed over. Many of the haters wound up eating their words, preferring Ledger’s astounding performance over Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson’s classic takes on the villain.
Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind
It’s hard to imagine the classic Gone with the Wind starring anyone other than Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, but the British actress was almost passed over for the part of Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara. The studio and fans weren’t convinced the English unknown could depict an American in the antebellum South, but producer David O. Selznick called her the “Scarlett dark horse,” championing her to opening day.
Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger
Early footage of Johnny Depp in Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer’s reboot of The Lone Ranger pissed off fans and Native Americans, depicting what many felt was a racist caricature of the famous sidekick. Depp’s comment to Rolling Stone about his motivation for the role, which felt patronizing to many, didn’t help matters: “I wanted to maybe give some hope to kids on the reservations… They’re living without running water and seeing problems with drugs and booze. But I wanted to be able to show these kids, ‘Fuck that! You’re still warriors, man.’”
Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra
Elizabeth Taylor’s unprecedented million-dollar contract for Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra wasn’t the only production decision that made headlines. The part resurrected the age-old Hollywood dispute about whether white or African-American actresses should play the Egyptian queen. The casting of Taylor led to accusations of whitewashing the role. The same controversy surrounded the recent planned Cleopatra biopic, set to star Angelina Jolie.
Mos Def in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The casting of Mos Def in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy first created controversy amongst fans, because many had preconceived expectations about the character’s ethnicity (that he was white). They became more upset when Def changed the tone of Ford Prefect from a slacker who manages to succeed even when he shouldn’t, to a fully capable character that exuded cool — essentially Mos Def playing Mos Def.
Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary
We can’t blame fans for their initial contempt toward the casting of romantic comedy darling Renée Zellweger as British heroine Bridget Jones, but a perfect accent and Zellweger’s goofy charm quickly erased their concerns.