Why Casting for Modern Movies Is Rarely Successful
Sticking to certain genres in acting careers has been there since ancient times: a comedian could never play in a tragedy, and vice versa. That’s why seeing a slim Hamlet or a blonde Carmen on stage was simply impossible. However, today Hamlet is no longer associated with plumpness, and Carmen is no longer associated with dark hair. Today, anyone can play these characters. And oftentimes these casting results cause a lot of public resentment.
Bright Side editorial figured out why the casting in modern movies is often so unsuccessful.
There is a stronger desire to sell the movie than to diversify the cast and represent the role the way it was intended.
Historically, Hollywood has been into inviting actors of European descent to play almost any role, even if the character has features of a different race. Despite the strong criticism from the audience, this tradition is not going to just stay in the past.
For instance, the movie Pan was released in 2015. When the audience learned that it was Rooney Mara who was chosen for the role of the Indian princess, Tiger Lily, it created a lot of controversy and a flurry of public indignation. By the way, the actress admitted that she shares the public opinion and regrets having played this role.
A similar situation arose when people watched the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings in 2014. The roles of Egyptians were played by actors of non-Arabic origin, which made it hard to believe their acting.
Criticism also reached the creators of The Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp. The audience resented the fact that this American guy was playing the role of an Indian.
The same issue appeared in the screen version of the manga cartoon called Ghost in the Shell, where Scarlett Johansson got the main role. The audience was very indignant about the fact that the leading role didn’t go to a Japanese actress. However, the Japanese themselves were quite satisfied with the choice and didn’t understand why there was such a controversial reaction in the West.
This list could go on endlessly: viewers were disappointed seeing Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow (the movie was created based on a Japanese novel, therefore, the main character was supposed to be Japanese), Analeigh Tipton in Warm Bodies (her character was half-Ethiopian in the novel), Angelina Jolie in Wanted (her character had Afro-American origins and resembles Halle Berry), etc.
Why can’t this tradition stay in the past? Experts explain it by the fact that cinema studios opt for actors who are comfortable to work with — the ones who have a similar experience and some background knowledge of the world.
The pursuit of famous actors and actresses
It’s a totally natural wish when cinema studios want to get an actor or actress who’s just starred in another popular movie. It helps them to get bigger returns at the box office and earn more money. But it’s more theoretical than it is a practical approach, because sometimes an actor who had a successful role in one movie seems helpless and weak in another.
For example, Emilia Clarke is known to the whole world because she played Daenerys Targaryen in the cult TV series, Game of Thrones. It’s difficult to imagine the actress in another role and it’s even more difficult to see her playing Sarah Connor in the Terminator series.
Let’s recall the evolution of this character:
- In the first Terminator, Connor is a normal girl who finds bravery and power in herself, to use when facing unexplainable and frightening things.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah is a well-trained, rigid woman who turned herself into a weapon against machines.
- Sarah Connor played by Emilia Clarke didn’t have many differences from the previous Sarah. She was the same strong and fearless woman, but the movie lacks any scenes where these qualities reach their peak and can be seen clearly.
The actress herself confessed that it was hard to act for her, because the process of working on creating the movie was chaotic and the plot was far from being ideal. That’s why when Terminator Genisys underperformed in the box office, Emilia Clarke felt some kind of relief because it meant there would be no continuation.
When their physical appearance is off
The best casting is when the actor is chosen based on the type of character they are going to play. It’s a bad idea to opt for a 5’6″ man to play the role of a basketball player, or a 110-pound woman to play the role of a curvy girl. However, sometimes studios break this rule too.
Tom Cruise is very popular as the hero of action movies, and films that he participates in rarely fail. However, it’s impossible to deny that he was feeling a bit off his game in the movie Valkyrie. The very fact that the actor is much shorter than the colonel who he plays in the historical drama (5’6″ versus 6’3″).
Moreover, the aforementioned colonel was German, meaning that the actor was supposed to be speaking with a German accent, which the movie lacks. Of course, this fact didn’t go unnoticed by the critics or the viewers. At the same time, the actor explained it in the following way, “What we’ve seen when audiences see it that’s not an issue — you just get involved in the story.”
One of the worst superhero movies of our time is Ghost Rider with Nicolas Cage in the main role. Instead of adapting and fitting himself into the role of a cool guy, Cage created his own version of Blaze (the main character) — he decided to play it thoughtfully and extremely emotionally.
This choice was wrong and resulted in making critics and fans dislike the movie.
There have even been complaints about actors like Keanu Reeves. Do you remember his role in Dracula (1992) where Reeves played Jonathan Harker — one of the central characters.
The movie was conceived as a dark, creepy, and Gothic one, but in the end, it had some comedic elements that almost spoiled the entire movie. The issue was that Reeves was totally lacking a British accent but he was still desperately trying to reproduce it. By the way, the viewers had the same complaint about Winona Ryder, who played Harker’s bride, Mina, in the movie.
When an actor or actress tries to cross genres
Maybe it’s difficult and boring for actors to play similar roles in movies. Comedic actors want to try themselves in tragedies, while tragedy actors want to try themselves in comedies. Unfortunately, these experiments often end up failing, though some nice exceptions do happen occasionally.
If we say ’Elijah Wood,’ will your mind come up with the image of a badass? Of course not. The whole world knows this actor in the role of Frodo from The Lord of the Rings and no one can change this perception. Wood is good at playing nice, innocent, and foolish characters, but choosing him for the role of a gangster is pure craziness.
That’s what the creators of the movie Hooligans did. Wood played the role of a student who started hanging around the wrong crowd and became part of a gang that terrorized local residents. Saying that Wood was not convincing in this role is to say nothing. His participation brought a pinch of parody to the film, although the picture was positioned as dramatic.
Many of us remember Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez in Starship Troopers. 2 years after the premiere of this movie, the James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough, came out where Richards played the role of Dr. Christmas Jones — James Bond’s new girlfriend.
According to the plot, Richards was a nuclear physicist whose speech was full of highly specialized terms. But no one believed Richards’ acting: her overall look (a crop top and shorts that look more like underwear) couldn’t be associated with her Ph.D. in nuclear physics, while her near-scientific monologues caused more laughs and were very unconvincing.
In the end, Dr. Christmas Jones was voted James Bond’s worst girlfriend.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, sometimes there are nice exceptions to this rule. For example, Jim Carrey who is known to the whole world as a great comedian. It’s hard to imagine him in a serious role, isn’t it? However, the actor has proven that he can play as well in a drama, as he can in a comedy. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Number 23 are proof of that.
Of course, the presence of a negative experience doesn’t mean that actors should stop trying themselves in other genres. It’s just that casting should be done a bit more thoughtfully.
Do you know of any movies where actors played characters that were not suitable for them?