DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Great Moments in Terrible Casting

Friday 26 March 2010

Great Moments in Terrible Casting

Great Moments in Terrible Casting:
Because Keanu Reeves is not a respectable English solicitor in 18th century Transylvania.

By Blair Stewart with great help from Mr. Bacchus, Mr. Klymkiw and Mr. Crothers.

Welcome back folks, today we're here for a look at our own favorite casting disasters throughout cinema. The acumen of a filmmaker can often come down to spotting certain actors strengths in certain roles and reaping those rewards on-set. Tarantino, Soderbergh and Mike Leigh alone are some recent examples of being fine judges of talent. Sad as it is, even the great ones can often piss on their shoes by committing the hubris of casting their own daughter in a crucial role opposite Al Pacino. Or a studio executive steps over a rookie director with a 'better choice'. Or the lead actor wants in on the casting process. Or the Weinsteins' grubby little fingers gum up the works.....

Most of the actors selected below are fine if not preferred performers, but let's call a spade a spade and poor foresight for what it is. Sometimes it was their own fault for picking the role, sometimes the wrong takes were selected in the editing room, sometimes the script just plain sucked. Leave your own selections in the comments section and abandon all hope ye who enter here.

Cameron Diaz as Jenny Everdeane in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York"
Occasionally distracting from Daniel Day-Lewis speed-bagging the rest of the cast "Gangs" featured an experiment in Cameron Diaz, she of sun-kissed cheekbones and California twang, playing a filthy Irish street hustler in the diaspora of 1860's Manhattan. The experiment failed.

Gary Sinise as Gabriel Mercer in John Frankenheimer's "Reindeer Games"
If you called me in the middle of the night to tell me Gary Sinise of "Forrest Gump" fame was on his way to kill me I'd just shrug, hang up the phone and go eat a sandwich. A very good actor at times, but not a wrath I'd fear. Wake me up when I've pissed off Michael Ironside or a zombie Klaus Kinski.

Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker in Francis F. Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula"
Little known fact: When the casting took place for "Dracula" in the early 90's there were no legitimate English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Australian, Kiwi, Canadian, Scandinavian, American or Zimbabwean actors who could have possibly played the role of Harker, the vampire's pitiable young legal council. So the part went to the Zen Master and the rest is poorly-accented, nonreactive history.

Gong Li as Isabella in Michael Mann's "Miami Vice"
An arguable choice based on the ludicrous role given to her, Gong Li plays Isabella-the Cuban/Chinese-born financial advisor for a Colombian drug kingpin who goes in heat for an undercover cop played by Colin Farrell's moustache. Uh huh. Watching her phonetically recite her lines to a hilariously butch Farrell is a sight I won't soon forget. Just another nail in the coffin that was once the great Michael Mann; making me wistful for "The Insider" and "Heat" ten years ago. Did Satan reneg on a contract?

Christian Bale as John Conner in McG's "Terminator Salvation"
An unnecessary performance in an unnecessary film, the future saviour of humanity is portrayed as a pathologically flinty insomniac on the verge of collapse from the international "Dark Knight" press junket. Someone give John Conner a sleeping pill and a hug.

Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Green in Marc Forster's "Quantum of Solace"
Look out James! Ernst Blofeld's cat from "You Only Live Twice" has grown up to be an evil Frenchman and wants to steal Bolivia's water! (some of this is the actual plot) Amalric is a swell actor but a meek, forgettable Bond villain next to Mads Mikkelsen's recent Le Chiffre in 2006's "Casino Royale". Put Vincent Cassel down next time against Daniel Craig and I'll keep my big trap shut.

William Hurt as Richie Cusack in David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence"
Shove that 2006 Oscar nomination where the sun don't shine, it means nothing. (see: "Crash", "Forrest Gump", Sean Penn over Bill Murray, Costner over Scorsese) If William Hurt is running your Irish mob then your mob is going to lose vast sums of money and lives in a turf war, especially with that accent o' malarkey, "broheim".

Matthew Broderick as Dr. Nick Tatopoulos in Roland Emmerich's "Godzilla"
A 60,000 ton nuclear lizard behemoth is laying waste to New York and rapidly reproducing asexually to boot (as I slap my forehead in the theater), and only Matthew Broderick can stop him/her/fuck it! from destroying his Tony Awards collection. The disappointing box office may have saved us from a sequel with Nathan Lane as Mothra. When I pay good money to see a monster-movie spectacular "Biloxi Blues" should never cross my mind.

Adrien Brody as Inspector Enzo Avolfi in Dario Argento's "Giallo"
Whether "Giallo" is indeed a spoof of Argento's mighty slasher work in the 70's Adrien Brody still makes for one lousy, mush-mouthed Italian via-New York detective. If you watch "Giallo" you'll notice Brody sleepwalks through the film with that same damn shaggy-dog expression he's had since "The Pianist" won. Perhaps Brody and Argento should have fired their on-set Italian-English translator: "Signore Brody, the Maestro wants you to gaze at your navel some more...."

Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Blake Edwards's "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Because in the early 60's no Japanese men could speak English nor act across the globe so the role HAD to go to Mickey Rooney, aka the Man of a Million Faces. It's a good thing Rooney never ran into a moody Toshiro Mifune.

John Wayne as Genghis Khan in Dick Powell's "The Conqueror"
"Wow, Genghis sure likes chewing tobacco and baseball, huh?"

Paul Dano as Eli Sunday in P.T. Anderson's "There Will Be Blood"
The least offensive and thankless job on this list, Paul Dano's role was expanded beyond his excellent cameo as twin brother Paul to Kel O'Neill's preacher Eli when O'Neill was replaced. Dano's Eli has already drawn the mild ire of Quentin Tarantino in a recent British inteview in part for facing off with a great Day-Lewis performance. If Dano had more preparation for his part perhaps the conflict between Daniel Plainview's unchained capitalism and Dano's unfettered churchiness wouldn't have felt so one-sided. He'll have greater roles down the road.

Orlando Bloom as Paris in Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy"
"You've used a bow-and-arrow before, right?"
"Yep. Tons of times. It's my thing."
"You can just stand there and look pretty, right?"
"You got the part, 'Lando. Don't make eye contact with Mr. Pitt when he's in character, ok?"

Rebecca Pidgeon as Susan Ricci in David Mamet's "The Spanish Prisoner"
In the midst of an elaborate con involving Rebecca as a femme fatale I was confused as to who this plank of wood was. And then I found out afterwards: She's David Mamet's wife. *rubs temples repeatedly*

Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed"
In an alternate universe 'Hollywood Jack' would have acted for once instead of screwing around with his tired old gags. That or Nick Nolte/Ed Harris/Gary Oldman/Anybody Else would put in a solid day's work as the twisted Boston crime boss. Don't agree? The 'smell a rat' scene stopped the movie dead.

Brendan Fraser as Alden Pyle in Phillip Noyce's "The Quiet American"
I didn't mind him so much in this career-stretching part, but DFD's Reece Crothers submitted it and hated him opposite Michael Caine. Fraser's got the right aloof outlook as a CIA stooge but he seriously lacks the bastard charisma needed for the part.

Keanu Reeves as John Constantine in Francis Lawrence's "Constantine"
Not to pick on Keanu as I usually find myself pulling for the guy in the hope he makes a critical breakthrough-I loved his trippy dentist in 2005's "Thumbsucker". But he was asking for trouble playing the chain-smoking, sardonic, Hades-bound Englishman from the "Hellblazer" comic series. You might see this as an overreaction from a fan of the source material but I'd like to see your face if I told you Zac Efron was going to play the next Harry Potter.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Anything
Added by DFD's Greg Klymkiw and joining her husband on this list, therefore ensuring that Daily Film Dose is a no-fly zone in the Broderick-Parker household. Too many horse jokes, you know?

Thanks for your time, and may the actors mentioned above go on to better things. Except for John Wayne, due to being dead.

ps-The entire cast of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" excluding Michael Wincott and Alan Rickman also belongs here, but let's all try to forget it ever even existed.


freealonzo said...

How about Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist of some sort in that really bad James Bond film?

Libriscrowe said...

I'm one of the few out here who didn't think Christian Bale as John Connor was a bad choice! Everything else on your list I can agree with!

Alan Bacchus said...

I'm with you Layne, I actually liked the movie!

Blair Stewart said...

To Layne and Al, I worked on the european release of "Terminator: Sal" film prints last year, so after the 500+ viewing of said film my mind was made up. To even type out the title of it gives me a headache.

M. said...

Okay, Reeves was indeed 'asking for trouble playing the chain-smoking, sardonic, Hades-bound Englishman from the "Hellblazer" comic series.'
BUT when he was presented the script, Constantine wasn't an Englishman anymore. Several people in charge of the writing managed to 'adapt' the story to LA and to lay some pretty thick layers of Catholicism on it. And in spite of this, I dare say that Francis Lawrence and Keanu Reeves DID capture the essence of Constantine. Hellblazer, that movie ain't. But it made me pick up and open my first comic book ever, and it was "Hellblazer". Something that neither '300', nor 'Sin City' could do. So... they (Lawrence and Reeves) must have done something right ;)

PS- side note: the photo of Reeves you used to illustrate "Constantine" is actually from "Lake House". Attention to details ;)

Alan Bacchus said...

Hi Monica,
Thanks for our comment.. the incorrect Constantine still is my (the editor's) fault, not the writer's. I plugged in the stills, and alas I haven't seen Constantine and didn't catch the error.
Thanks for the correction.

Reece Crothers said...

this is awesome. I agree with everything except Nicholson in Departed. And thanks for the shout out. One day I may write a whole piece on why I hate Brendan Fraser, but for now, I'm trying to be nice.

Blair Stewart said...


I kid, I kid.

My issue with Keanu + "Constantine" regardless of the script changes made is the fact I needed to believe in an actor who was a sharp enough chap to outwit the Devil (played memorably by Peter Stormare) himself.
The role for me required a world-weary roguish type
and Keanu didn't feel right in that part, but was buffered by an excellent supporting cast and decent action director. Regardless I still secretly root for the day he'll have a critical breakthrough.

Oh, and I'm told that if you watch "The Spirit" you'll throw all your comic books in a bonfire as atonement.
Cheers, B.

Derek Armstrong said...

Dang freealonzo, that was the one I was going to say.

I thought Maggie Gyllenhaal was incredibly poorly cast in the incredibly overrated Crazy Heart.

While I agree with your not-so-veiled diss on Sofia Coppola, I'm also so in love with her directing career that I will no longer make the "Sofia Coppola was terrible in Godfather III" joke. I still don't think she was as bad as Talia Shire and her wild arm gestures.

William Hurt -- thank you for implying the thing I've always known, that A History of Violence was wildly overrated and he reduced the third act to utter ridiculousness.

I see your "Sarah Jessica Parker in anything" and raise you an "Andie MacDowell in anything."

Okay, one more good one. Let's see. This is an obscure one: How about Dame Helen Mirren as an assassin involved in a multi-racial, multi-generational love affair with Cuba Gooding Jr. in the movie Lee Daniels made before Precious, Shadowboxer?

Thanks for indulging the long comment - great post.

M. said...

Alan- Re: Constantine still - now that's better ! ;)
(nevermind me, just nitpicking ;) :D)

" THIS...MEANS....WAR!!!"
Bring it on ;) :D

I get what you're saying, though. And it's true that unless one knows the source material it's a bit difficult to understand what 'or is this another one of your cons' line refers to. And maybe I'm biased due to first seeing the movie and only then reading the comics but I still think Keanu fits Brain Azarello's Constantine, drawn by Marcello Frusin... Just imagine a sequel based on '...Freezes Over'. XD
okay, enough of this.

"Regardless I still secretly root for the day he'll have a critical breakthrough."
Me too. maybe not that secretly ;)
'Henry's Crime' could be it. Or not. We'll see.

" Oh, and I'm told that if you watch "The Spirit" you'll throw all your comic books in a bonfire as atonement. "
*hugs comic books, desperately.*

Anonymous said...

A good list, though I have to mention Gary Sinise. He wasn't good in "Reindeer Games," but that's because "Reindeer Games" is awful. For proof that Gary Sinise can expertly play an evil killer, just look at "Ransom." He's great as the bad guy.