My Favourite Movie Casting Oddities

For my first article I thought I'd begin with those moments when you're watching a movie and suddenly an actor or actress appears in a role and your mind just boggles, for better or worse. It would be very easy to take the piss here, but I'm going to try to be constructive. Here goes...
1 - Denise Richards as Dr Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough: OK, so I admit it's hardly difficult to find fault with the lovely Denise, but even with her limited range (she can just about do ditzy comedy) this really is pushing it for her to be believed as a nuclear scientist, especially when they relegate Sophie Marceau to little more than a cipher, and the "Christmas" joke at the end still makes me clench.
2 - Richard Burton as Father Philip Lamont in Exorcist II: The Heretic: A hard one to get my head around this, as was the film in general as the original is my favourite film of all time; I just don't get who was directing Burton here, and how. The film has flashes of great ideas, and God knows Louise Fletcher wrestles bravely with a bonkers screenplay that takes in synchronized hypnosis, Linda Blair's Regan as a "healer" and some wildly bizarre African set nonsense, but the real oddity is Burton. He's not awful per se, but rather seems beamed in from a completely different movie, him treating it as a Hammer-esque skin-creeper in his amazing baritone ("She warned us!") against Fletcher's more modern, straight-faced take. No studio would touch it now, but one that I feel deserves a proper attempt at a remake.
3 - John Wayne as The Centurion in The Greatest Story Ever Told: Director George Stevens was never knowingly subtle in his storytelling or direction, but having John "don't let him speak more than two lines at a time" Wayne as a southern-accented centurion - "This man is truly the Sonnagaad!" - is unintentional comedy masterstroke.
4 - Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston in The Shadow: Not a bad casting here, just sadly before it's time, as back in 1994 superhero movies were treated with as much respect as slasher horrors. Shame really, as Baldwin turns in a really good, thoughtful performance with a good character arc in a faithful story with some great (for the time) effects. If made today with someone like Guillermo Del Toro attached, this could be great fun. As long as they keep the Jim Steinman theme tune too though.
5 - Sharon Stone as Gloria in Gloria OR as Laurel Hedare in Catwoman: A double-whammy of bad decisions here from Stone, a talented actress with a sad history of dubious choices. For me personally, John Cassavettes's "Gloria" should never have been touched in the first place, being one of Gena Rowlands defining roles, so no-one was going to come close. And with the farrago of "Catwoman" already widely documented, all I can say is something must have went seriously awry between page and screen. Makes "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction" seem quite appealing in comparison.
6 - Andie MacDowell as Jane Porter in Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan: Little to say here other than, even given that she was just starting out, just exactly HOW bad does an actor have to be before their entire voice is redubbed by another, especially in a modern, English-language film (Glenn Close in this case)?
7 - Faye Dunaway as Selena in Supergirl: A classic case of "I'm bored Mr Agent, find me a role", the former Oscar winner pushes camp to the limit (backed by an equally hammy Peter O'Toole) in a performance that would have made Divine blush.
8 - Raul Julia as M. Bison in Streetfighter: Back in the dark days when video-game adaptations were in their infancy (not that they are exactly masterpieces today) this must have seemed like an interesting diversion for the thoroughly likeable Julia, so let's just pretend this wasn't his final role and try to remember him as the brilliant Gomez Adams.
9 - Frank Langella as Skeletor in Masters Of The Universe: Made almost completely after the fact of the animated TV series, one can only imagine that arguably America's greatest living stage actor was convinced to do this piece of weak-even-for-five-year-olds silliness either for the money, or that he owed some pretty big favours to someone at Golan-Globus at the time. Just awful all round; creepy (in the wrong way) make-up, nonsensical plotting, and a leading man with acting ability and screen presence of a cauliflower, Langella at least seems to make up for it by being the only one who seems to be having any fun.
10 - Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt For Red October: Almost as notorious for his lack of effort with accents as Meryl Streep is revered for her skill with them, here even Connery seems so uninterested he may as well be reading from an auto-cue for all the dramatic tension his character provides.
11 - Peter Saarsgard as Gene Carson in Flightplan: One of my favourite movie turd-polishers (along with Julie Walters, Stellan Skarsgard (no relation) and Brian Cox), Saarsgard can normally be relied on to inject a bit of depth and reality to even the most preposterous of films. Sadly, in this case, his not-much-of-a-red-herring character is so moustache-twiddlingly obvious from the start, there is really no point bothering. And that's before you factor in Jodie Foster's histrionic paranoid mother and Sean Bean's plummy-accented pilot.
12 - Ralph Fiennes as Christopher Marshall in Maid In Manhattan: No-one is denying that Fiennes is one of Britain's finest acting talents of his time (Quiz Show, Spider and In Bruges being stunning examples of his craft) but this awful vanity project by Jennifer Lopez - determined to make her name as a romantic lead for some unknown reason - should really be forgotten by all concerned, with Fiennes's character being bland almost to the point of non-existence.
13 - George Clooney as Bruce Wayne in Batman And Robin: Talk about second chances; here the freshly-minted Clooney almost derailed his Hollywood career before it started, in what is now famed as possibly one of the worst films of any genre, and certainly a benchmark in franchise-killing. How he must thank his lucky (Hollywood) stars for that first meeting with Steven Soderbergh.
14 - Madonna as Abbie Reynolds in The Next Best Thing: As with Ms Lopez, a woman of great talent and sex-appeal on stage that somehow assumes this will translate into celluloid presence, she really should stick to comedy (A League Of Their Own) or a film where she is willing to REALLY be directed (Evita or the little-seen Dangerous Game/Snake Eyes by Abel Ferrara), and not indulge in patronizing (to just about every demographic) schmaltz like this. And finally...
15 - Ben Affleck, Peter O'Toole, Rose McGowan and Liev Schrieber as Sheriff Bryce Hammond, Dr. Timothy Flyte, Lisa Paige and Deputy Stuart 'Stu' Wargle (dis)respectively for Phantoms: And we finish on a flourish (of sorts). Dean Koontz adaptations don't exactly come with high expectations, but somehow this more-than-capable cast manages to make a fist of what is really little more than a remake of The Fog, with a screenplay that seems to require every character to try to be more obnoxious than the other in order to confuse/bore the viewers/victims into not giving a shit what is happening in their badly-designed and built movie-set of a town. Lessons were learned thankfully; O'Toole stopped doing the schlock, Affleck finally found his groove behind the camera, McGowan went on to reinvent herself as the action chick with actual acting talent, and Schrieber quietly took his rightful place as Frank Langella's rightful heir to the throne of the US theatre (and making remakes vaguely respectable).

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