Photo: Photo credit: Barry Wetcher/TM and ? 2007 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Spyglass Entertainment Funding, LLC. ?All rights reserved. ?Not for sale or duplication.
We freely admit that we’re mostly curious about The Green Lantern (which premieres on Friday) because it’s roughly two hours of Ryan Reynolds’s naked body in a CGI green suit. But we’re also intrigued by the deliciously train-wreck-y possibility of what feels like a major casting misstep: Gossip Girl’s sunny, blithe Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, pilot and go-getter vice-president of a major aircraft company. During every preview we saw, the audience chortled at the sight of her, perhaps thinking of the many pilots and go-getter VPs they know whose predominant traits do not involve hair-flipping. While awaiting the verdict on Lively’s blockbuster debut, we’ve reminisced here about the miscastings that have most made us snicker over the years, for reasons cinematic, historic, and personal. Here’s hoping that after Friday, Blake still isn’t on the list. For her sake.
Okay, it’s an obvious starting point: calling her miscast as Dr. Christmas Jones in this 1999 James Bond flick is like saying that Anna Wintour is fond of large dark sunglasses, but that doesn’t detract from the hilarity of having the beautiful-but-vacant-eyed Richards play a bright, young nuclear physicist. We know a Bond girl isn’t necessarily supposed to radiate brains more than she radiates boobs, but asking Richards to look like she knows her way around a warhead is like asking Charlie Sheen to be celibate and drink O’Doul’s: It’s a setup for failure.
One would think it was a truth universally accepted that Keanu Reeves does not possess an enormous acting range. But apparently not, or he never would have been cast as Eddie Kasalivich, a genius grad student who manages to create nuclear freaking fusion in Chain Reaction. All we know is, we need a spinoff film in which his character hooks up with Dr. Christmas Jones and they produce a minivan full of incredibly good-looking yet slightly slack-jawed physicist children. They can call it Chain Reaction Is Not Enough and name all the kids after major federal holidays.
This is a classic: take a famously gregarious and gorgeous blonde actress and cast her as a dowdy sad sack whose boss overlooks her obvious crush on him and decide this can be made believable by giving her brownish hair. As if there are no mousy-hot actresses looking for work in Los Angeles, and also — brown- or blue-haired — we are pretty sure Ed Burns would have taken one look at this woman in real life and said, “Hi, Hotface McChesty, let’s have sex.”
It may not surprise you that the producers originally wanted My Cousin Vinny’s Joe Pesci to play Jackie, a charismatic mobster who defended himself in court rather than rat on his family. It should shock the pants off you, however, that producers settled for Diesel in that hellacious roadkill toupee. Vin shouldn’t have been let out of his trailer wearing that, much less in front of a camera. So in the end, it wasn’t playing a lawyer that was Diesel’s undoing; it was playing a man with hair.
In some ways, this echoes Lively’s casting: Biel, at this point known
chiefly for schmaltzy 7th Heaven and playing a privileged rich girl in
Catch, got tapped to bring “It” Girl cachet (read: a shapely rear and a
pout) to the role of an elite pilot. Despite her ability to do a pull-up
look fierce in a tank top, though, Biel simply lacked the grit to
she could even sit right in a bajillion-dollar sentient stealth jet (!),
less get shot down over North Korea and survive on her wits.
Photo: Jasin Boland/? 2005 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
As wild-eyed, wild-haired Doc Brown in Back to the Future? Oh yes. As Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Of course. And we’re onboard with pompously awkward Professor Plum in Clue and Uncle Fester, and even as an inmate in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest … basically, when we’re talking about the frothing edge of sanity, we’re talking Christopher Lloyd’s best work. So when he popped up in full Klingon makeup in Star Trek III, deadly and deadly serious, all we could think was, Wait, why is the stoner from Taxi wrestling with William Shatner?
It wasn’t just that heroic bra that won her the Oscar for Erin Brockovich: With her wide smile and blasting laugh, Julia plays loud gumption better than anyone. So she never worked in what was, admittedly, a half-baked attempt to give a vagina to Robin Williams’s character in Dead Poets Society. It didn’t matter how many bikes she rode, long skirts she wore, or berets she sported: Julia’s Katherine Watson felt like Major Movie Star Tries to Be Important, rather than an actual wounded woman trying to find her place in the world while encouraging girls to do the same. She’d have been more believable if she’d played it chortling in that bra.
Here’s the thing about Ralph: He excels at being the Hot Asshole. He was prickly-sexy in The English Patient and troubled-sexy as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights; he was a big dreamy cheater in Quiz Show, and even as noseless demi-human Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series he musters the charisma required to lead a legion of Death Eaters. It is a real achievement when an actor can play a freaking Nazi (Schindler’s List), the embodiment of modern non-wizarding evil, and you still can’t help thinking, That guy is kind of hot. So it’s extremely bad news when you watch him in a rom-com, romancing a gutsy chambermaid (J.Lo, obviously) with all the right kindnesses and you find yourself wishing he were still a Nazi.
Miraculously, Elisabeth Shue pulled off the transition from being best known as The Girl in Cocktail, The Girl Who Had Adventures in Babysitting, and Replacement Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future II to being an Oscar nominee for her role as a prostitute in Leaving Las Vegas (and for outstanding achievement in the art of pretending that Nic Cage’s hair isn’t terrifying). But going on to play a brilliant electrochemist was a step too far. It didn’t help that she was costumed in knee socks and cutesy barrettes — if you want a serious scientist, start by not dressing her like she’s still either the babysitter, or a much cleaner hooker — but we wish Shue hadn’t left Harvard before the class where they teach you how to say “positively charged deuterons” without looking terrified.
As Wolverine, Hugh is charismatically cunning and cranky, growling a lot while wielding his fancy-pants metal — sorry, Adamantium — manicure. In musical theater, he can light up the stage in a fizzy, lighthearted number. But as Swordfish’s gritty brainiac who hacked the FBI and can type code at expert speeds even while being distracted with oral sex, he only works in scenes where he’s wearing a towel, and that’s just because we’re distracted. Jackman may in fact be smart, but on film he is more believable with grunts than a genius I.Q.
If this movie had been made more recently, it would’ve been the Kate Hudson vehicle it seems suited to be: Sandra plays a “free spirit” who, after a plane grounding, freely bops her way across the country and tempts Ben Affleck not to attend his own wedding. It’s a terrible movie, and it would’ve been terrible even with another actress in that role, but — with the exception of her great broad comedy in Miss Congeniality — Sandra is much better when she’s the comically uptight one in need of unbuttoning and not the other way around.
It’s not that we can’t believe Ben Affleck as a hotshot WWII flyboy — although his anachronistically frosted tips aren’t doing him any favors. It’s that we cannot believe Ben “City Boy” Affleck as a good ol’ boy from Tennessee who just wants to get back to his farm. Every time Affleck needs to force out his “Southern” accent past his giant veneers, he looks like he’s in actual physical pain.
Sienna Miller as a brainwashed super-villain running around with a bunch of megadeadly warheads? Sure, maybe if by “deadly warheads,” you mean “pointy stilettos.”
Prinze’s perpetually dopey expression, although put to good use in She’s All That, did him no favors when he had to pretend to have the steel-trap mind of a master government agent in Head Over Heels. And it inspired zero confidence when he was cast as a space marine with special navigational abilities in Wing Commander. But it’s possible that Prinze’s least-convincing filmic foray was as … a blonde. To play Fred Jones in Scooby Doo, he wore what looks like an old Tom Petty wig, turning a childhood cartoon into a follicular horror movie.
We love Emma. She’s the pretty, sassy, smart redheaded star we all wanted Lindsay Lohan to be. As such, she is utterly unconvincing for the first section of Easy A, in which we’re asked to believe that her Olive is invisible to everyone at school until it gets around that she puts out. Points for not insulting us with some kind of she-takes-off-her-glasses-and-turns-hot plot twist, but frankly, with a girl this stunning and sarcastic, you know the entire football team would’ve been waiting in line to try to hook up the moment puberty hit.
Because obviously when you think Zen Master, you think the star of Pulp Fiction. No one, anywhere, ever, wants to see Sam Jackson close his eyes and will those motherfucking snakes off that motherfucking plane. Give the man, the master, some ass-kicking to do.