It isn’t uncommon for talent to come and go from a project in Hollywood. Sometimes lining up the right studio, actors and filmmakers seems like a miracle. Yet there have been times when the perfect choice for a film is taken or removed from a high-profile project. Such losses inevitably trickle down and affect the finished film, often ruining it in the process. Here are 15 films that may have turned out better had the project’s proposed talents been retained.
Oz the Great and Powerful
Oz: The Great and Powerful has garnered success despite a lukewarm critical reaction. The Sam Raimi-directed film has gotten a lot of criticism, much of it directed toward lead actor James Franco. In the film Franco, a regular actor in Raimi films, is cast as a wisecracking magician who finds himself whisked into the magical world of Oz. Interestingly enough, Franco replaced original star Robert Downey Jr, an actor perfectly suited for roguish roles who was likely the superior choice between the two.
X-Men: The Last Stand
While we can lambaste director Bret Ratner all we want, Bryan Singer is to blame for the failure of X-Men III: The Last Stand. Singer left the third sequel in the franchise to direct another comic book movie, Superman Returns. Without a director able to balance the flamboyant comic book histrionics of the property with engaging ensemble drama, X-Men III felt like a ship without a captain. Not only that, but Singer’s departure did away with lead James Marsden’s involvement, causing his character (above) to be bumped off in the first 15 minutes. The film remains the least well-received of the core franchise (spin-off movies notwithstanding).
A lot of solid talent attached to Alien 3 got the boot, but the film’s biggest loss was actor Michael Biehn. The film’s producers wrote his fan favorite character from Aliens (Corporal Hicks) out of the film (along with actress Carrie Henn). With Hicks killed off in the first five minutes, the movie took on a nihilistic tone that, while bold, ultimately lowered the stakes of the drama. Biehn later sued the studio for using his image without payment. After collecting the payday, he got a second shot at playing the character in the recent video game Aliens: Colonial Marines.
We’re stretching back to Batman Returns for this one, but if you remember these movies you’ll know it’s a valid choice. The second sequel, directed by Tim Burton, originally had Marlon Wayans cast as Batman’s sidekick, Robin. The filmmakers wrote him out just before shooting, feeling the film was too top heavy with characters. For the follow-up in question they once again bypassed Wayans in favor of Chris O’Donnell, whose flat turn as Robin made Burt Ward seem downright charismatic by comparison. Wayans got two paydays out of the films, but we can’t help but believe he would have given the more interesting performance.
The Catwoman that was made, which starred Halle Berry, was an abomination that had little to do with the character, the comic book, or the Batman film series at large. Originally the film was intended to be directed by Tim Burton with Michelle Pfeiffer (above) cast in the lead. While a script was ready to go, the series took a turn toward the campy with the aforementioned Batman Forever and the Burton vision of Catwoman, along with Pfeiffer, was thrown out by the studio.
The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises was great, don’t get us wrong, but it just felt like something was missing. It doesn’t take a lot of soul searching to realize the “something” is obviously late actor Heath Ledger, whose performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight earned him a posthumous Oscar. While The Dark Knight Rises utilized an interesting replacement villain (Tom Hary as Bane), the absence of the Joker, the quintessential Batman villain, from the final film in the series was jarring, to say the least.
This is one the may raise hackles among Tarantino fans, but let’s consider what could have been. While Jamie Foxx was excellent as the title character in Django Unchained, it’s well known that Tarantino wrote the character with his Ali co-star, Will Smith, in mind. Unfortunately, Smith turned the film down due to the fact that Django is not the total star of the film during its first half. Foxx was brought in, made the character his own and, again, while great, we can’t help but feel a mega star like Smith would have given Django’s subversive streak an even stronger edge.
Godfather Part III
Godfather Part III is a disastrous sequel. It isn’t horrible, it’s just decent, which, when compared to its predecessors (two of the best movies ever made), is an insult. This happened because of Paramount, who refused to bring back co-star Robert Duvall for the third entry. Duvall was asking for a pay grade matching his co-star, Al Pacino, and Paramount balked. Thus a film that should have been about a battle between Tom (Duvall’s character) and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino’s character) became something entirely removed from the other two films in the series. Duvall reprised his character in the later Godfather video games instead.
Twilight: New Moon
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Twilight film series has a place in cinema history. While it is generally looked down upon by non-fans, the original film did have an earnest charm and unique visual style brought to it by director Catherine Hardwicke. This, along with the casting of Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart (above), made Twilight a film phenomenon. Unfortunately, Summit Entertainment demanded a speedy follow-up with New Moon. When Hardwicke expressed she needed more prep time, Chris Weitz was hired in her place. Weitz and sequel directors David Slade and Bill Condon, spent the series attempting to ape Hardwicke’s style with little success, picking up a big payday (and negative reviews) in the process.
Richard Donner was fired from Superman II mid-shoot and, if you’ve seen the movie, you can totally tell. Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night) was brought in as a replacement, adding lighthearted slapstick in place of Donner’s epic style. The finished film is utterly at odds with itself, lacking a coherent tone of any kind. Fortunately, Donner got brought back to do a director’s cut in 2006, which helped fix most (but not all) of the sequel’s problems.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is among the black sheep of the James Bond family for one reason alone—Sean Connery refused to reprise his role as Bond for the film. In his wake, the producers turned to Australian model George Lazenby. While Lazenby gave an admirable, low-key performance, Connery proved too tough an act to follow. Lazenby was panned and the film has been mostly forgotten. Despite being obscured by Connery’s absence, many critics believe the film would have been the peak of the series had the original Bond returned.
Iron Man II
Don Cheadle is a great actor. Unfortunately, as replacement for Terrence Howard in Iron Man II, most audiences came away less than impressed. Howard brought an affability and ease to the character of James Rhodes (aka “War Machine”) in the first film. When Cheadle replaced him, all that chemistry with star Robert Downey Jr. was thrown out the window. Howard later admitted he was displaced from the series because Cheadle was Marvel’s first choice for the character, though why they bothered implementing him in the sequel we’ll never know.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Photo: Judy Eddys/WENN.com
The guy above is Guillermo del Toro. You’ve probably heard of him—he earned a lot of Academy Award nominations for his film Pan’s Labyrinth. This led to him being signed to direct The Hobbit for producer Peter Jackson in 2008. Then, after years of pre-production work, Del Toro abruptly left the project. The reasons have never been made clear and the subject is apparently a touchy one for the flamboyant Spanish director. While he retains a screenplay credit, many of his monster designs found their way into the film, teasing what could have been a far more bold vision of Middle Earth than what Peter Jackson ultimately gave us.
Photo: Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.com
42: The True Story of an American Legend was released last week. Despite the intriguing pairing of star Harrison Ford with Chadwick Boseman as baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the film has gotten a lot of criticism for taking a conventional TV-movie approach to Robinson’s life. 42‘s safe, Hollywood approach is face palm-inducing when you consider the director Spike Lee was developing a similar vehicle with Denzel Washington in 1995. That project got squashed but eventually became 42, a film directed by the far more conventional Brian Helgeland.
Okay, The Wolverine isn’t even out yet and, based on the previews, director James Mangold is doing a bang-up job in the director’s chair. While most of us are ready to fork over our cash for the movie, we can’t help but feel a unique opportunity was missed when the film’s original director, Darren Aronofsky, departed the project. Aronofsky’s version was rumored to be an ultra-violent, hard “R” take on the character. We’re imagining a Wolverine by way of Kill Bill and, as appealing as that sounds, many speculate Fox’s unwillingness to make an adult version of the admittedly juvenile character made Aronofsky walk. We can only imagine the weird, violent, uniquely Aronofsky superhero film that could have been…