Not all casting decisions can be as iconic as Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) or Heath Ledger as the Joker in “The Dark Knight” (2008). There are plenty of great movies we all know and love that nonetheless missed the mark on casting their lead roles. No matter how talented the actor might be, the role just wasn’t the right fit. These eight casting blunders from our favorite movies are ones we just can’t get over.
Do you agree with these casting blunders? Let us know which castings you’re not a fan of in the comments below!
Marwan Kenzari — ‘Aladdin’ (2019)
“Aladdin” was one of my favorite movies growing up, so, naturally, I was eager to see the live-action Disney version of the movie. Overall, the remake was excellent, but my only issue was the role of Jafar, played by Marwan Kenzari. In the animated film, Jafar is truly terrifying and evil, with a commanding presence and devilish acts. Kenzari portrays an exceptionally conniving character, but the fear he instills is lackluster at best.
Johnny Depp — ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (2016), ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ (2018)
Johnny Depp is skilled at playing eccentric characters such as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films and the titular role in “Edward Scissorhands.” His attempt to portray Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts films, however, missed the mark.
Grindelwald is a charismatic and manipulative wizard who plays a significant role in the wizarding world’s history, but Depp’s portrayal didn’t capture the essence of the character’s complexity and charm. His performance lacked the depth needed to convey Grindelwald’s motivations and manipulative nature.
Josh Hutcherson — ‘The Hunger Games’ Trilogy (2012 to 2015)
It can be frustrating as a reader to go into a movie with expectations of a character only to be let down by the casting choice. Josh Hutcherson in the role of Peeta Mellark in the Hunger Games franchise was one such disappointment. In the book, Peeta undergoes so much adversity — from having to compete twice in the Hunger Games to being tortured by the Capital — and his resilience through it all is unwavering. Hutcherson’s portrayal of that journey is a huge letdown.
Another key plot point throughout the series is Peeta’s relationship with the main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). The two begin as friends, but — spoiler! — they end up together by the end. The chemistry between Hutcherson and Lawrence, however, isn’t there. They give off great friend energy, which is certainly needed throughout the story, but their romance isn’t believable enough.
Maggie Gyllenhaal — ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
In “Batman Begins” (2005), Rachel Dawes was played by Katie Holmes, but the role was recast with Maggie Gyllenhaal for the sequel. It’s always disappointing to see a new actress step into an established role, but it was especially jarring here since Holmes set a strong precedent with her portrayal.
Gyllenhaal is talented, but she simply wasn’t suited for this role. Her chemistry with star Christian Bale was underwhelming, especially for fans who experienced his amazing chemistry with Holmes. In “The Dark Knight,” Rachel plays an integral role in the arcs of both Bruce Wayne (Bale) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), but Gyllenhaal fails to capture the emotional depth and complexity of the character’s connections with those two central figures. In a film filled with such incredible performances, her portrayal left something to be desired.
Gary Oldman — ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004), ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ (2005), ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ (2007)
Gary Oldman is a fantastic actor and did a fine job as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter film series, but the portrayal couldn’t compare to the character from the books. Throughout the books, Sirius is deeply tortured, erratic and juvenile. After being in Azkaban prison for years, he still had a youthful quality that made him connect with Harry in a brotherly role rather than a paternal one.
With the aging up of the character for the movie, however, Oldman’s Sirius leans more into the godfather aspect of his relationship with Harry. That naturally makes him appear much more mature than the book version. As a character with such a significant role in the books, the movie version of Sirius was disappointing.
Sofia Coppola — ‘The Godfather Part III’ (1990)
The Godfather films are still a massive part of the zeitgeist today. For the third installment, however, the casting of Sofia Coppola in the role of Mary Corleone is seen as a casting blunder — especially considering the controversy surrounding how Coppola got the role. The actress is the daughter of the film’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, and she had very little acting experience before filling a starring role.
Coppola had a significant lack of chemistry with her co-star Andy Garcia, who played Vincent Mancini. The romantic subplot between their characters felt awkward, and their interactions lacked the emotional depth needed to portray a convincing relationship. “The Godfather Part III” certainly isn’t the best in the franchise, but Coppola’s weak performance didn’t do the film any favors.
Mickey Rooney — ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961)
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is one of Audrey Hepburn’s most classic films, but it also has a wildly offensive casting choice. The late Mickey Rooney, a white actor, plays Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese photographer, while perpetuating stereotypes and using yellowface. The character and performance relied heavily on racial stereotypes, including an exaggerated accent, physical mannerisms, and comedic antics.
Casting a non-Asian actor in yellowface for an Asian character perpetuated inaccurate stereotypes and denied authentic representation to Asian actors, who could have portrayed the role more sensitively and accurately. Rooney’s performance is a reminder of the problematic practices prevalent in Hollywood during that era and underscores the importance of critical media examination, promoting accurate representation, and avoiding the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes in film and entertainment.
John Wayne — ‘The Conqueror’ (1956)
Similar to Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” John Wayne’s portrayal of a character of color in “The Conqueror” is still widely criticized. Wayne played Genghis Khan, a Mongol warrior and leader who lived in the 13th century and whose conquests profoundly impacted world history. Casting a white actor to play the iconic figure not only perpetuated the Hollywood practice of whitewashing ethnic roles, but also undermined the historical and cultural accuracy of the story.
Wayne’s portrayal of Genghis Khan was hindered by his distinctly non-Asian appearance, voice, and mannerisms. The result was a jarring performance that was difficult to take seriously, since it contradicted the known characteristics of the historical figure. The film’s negative reception has overshadowed its intended historical and epic narrative.