Replacing a lead actor has been seen as the kiss of death for a franchise. Other times, however, it’s been a source of creative rejuvenation.
Not necessarily replaced, Emily Blunt steps away from “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” the second entry in the series. The sequel frames the story around Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, both characters in the original film.
In honor of the switch in perspective, let’s look at 10 examples where replacing an actor or shifting perspective has been a good thing:
10. Don Cheadle (“Iron Man 2”) joins the MCU in Terrence Howard’s place (“Iron Man”)
Terrence Howard was at a high career point when cast in “Iron Man” in 2008. Fresh off an Oscar nomination for “Hustle and Flow,” he was the highest paid actor in the original film as James Rhodes, Tony Stark’s U.S. Military best friend. Howard declined the offer to do the second film when presented with a pay cut. Thus, Marvel replaced him with Don Cheadle. Granted, Don Cheadle gets to do more with the role. He’s no longer just James Rhodes. Cheadle gets to be War Machine and get involved with the action during the coming MCU films. However, War Machine isn’t the only role to be re-cast during the past decade of MCU (we’ll get to that later).
9. Andy Serkis takes over with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
The Godfather of MoCap, Andy Serkis, can do no wrong in bringing to life any version of fantasy creature or animal. In “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” Serkis begins a long journey to show how the apes took over Earth, which leads to “Planet of the Apes,” the Charleton Heston classic. However, the film technically plays like a continuation of the original franchise. The third installment, “Escape from the Planet of the Apes,” uses time travel to show us how Cesar (Serkis) was born. All three films in Serkis’ Apes trilogy have made stunning use of the motion capture technology. Not only that, they’ve proven to be compelling features on how ape could one day take over mankind.
8. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman take over the reigns of the Cloverfield franchise (“10 Cloverfield Lane”)
Moving the “Cloverfield” franchise into an extended universe has been a mixed bag. Most recently, “The Cloverfield Paradox” was a misbegotten misfire dumped on Netflix during the Superbowl. Still, “10 Cloverfield Lane” proves the strategy can work. The first “Cloverfield” was a disaster movie about a guy’s going away party interrupted by a monster. The second installment, “10 Cloverfield Lane,” clears very little up. Instead, it functions as a stand-alone film with an entirely new cast. It looks at a woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) running away from her life who ends up in a creepy bunker with a doomsday preparer (John Goodman). The change in the genre does more for its world-building than any other direct sequel idea could have. We see that how other different groups of people reacted to this strange invasion and what that means for those in these different circumstances.
7. Katie Holmes (“Batman Begins”) replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Dark Knight”)
The summer of 2005 was all about Katie Holmes. How could it not be? Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch and proclaimed it. The “Dawson’s Creek” star got the prime role of Rachel, Batman’s childhood friend and love interest, in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.” Unfortunately, the finished project wasn’t too kind to Holmes. Nearly all scenes render her catatonic. In fact, the liveliest part of her performance is when she’s poisoned and asleep. When 2008’s “The Dark Knight” came around, Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role of Rachel. Her characterization focuses on the tough as nails attitude that made her a successful Gotham DA. Our newfound care for this character plays well as a pivotal plot point hinges on her fate. This marks one of the few cases where re-casting was the right choice.
6. Russell Brand earns a spin-off in “Get Him To The Greek”
Few side characters can handle a movie to themselves. Everyone loved Russell Brand’s hilariously aloof rock star Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Few probably thought there was a full movie’s worth of material for the guy. Bold statement: “Get Him to the Greek” is better than “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Remove sad sack Jason Segal and his pining for a girl who doesn’t want to be with him. “Get Him to the Greek” is a raunchy, fun comedy about a rock star realizing what’s missing in his life. Brand is just as funny in this film. However, he gets to add more depth to Aldous Snow. Bonus points for Rose Byrne first showing us she can do comedy. Now, where’s her movie?
5. Edward Norton (“The Incredible Hulk”) replaced by Mark Ruffalo (“The Avengers”)
Following “Iron Man” is a hard task for anyone. To be fair, Edward Norton equips himself well as the Hulk. Unfortunately, “The Incredible Hulk” (and Norton) remains a footnote in the grander story of Marvel. It’s the lowest grossing of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe features. It boasts no standout sequence. Even more damning, Edward Norton isn’t nearly as charismatic as Robert Downey Jr. That’s where Mark Ruffalo comes in during “The Avengers” in 2012. He draws an interesting dichotomy between a relaxed Bruce Banner and rage-fueled Hulk. He gives the character interesting dimensions as he tries to not lash out. As the series goes on, Ruffalo gets many chances to shine. Most recently, he stole the show in “Thor: Ragnarok” and was a crowd-pleasing welcome presence in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
4. Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer leave “Magic Mike XXL”
The beginning of the McConaissance came when a leather-clad Dallas (McConaughey) outlined the rules of the strip club in “Magic Mike”’s opening scene. Come year’s end, many were petitioning for McConaughey to earn his first Oscar nomination. However, as his star rose, McConaughey said goodbye to starring in the sequel. Alex Pettyfer also bowed out in reprising his role as The Kid, the naive new stripper. Luckily, “Magic Mike XXL” has other things on its mind. By focusing on being a road trip movie about female pleasure, the film opens itself up to be something completely different. More freeform and carefree, it’s not that the film improves upon the original. Instead, it acts as a welcome departure. Even better, it gives Dallas and The Kid an open-ended future where they take their toxic show on the road.
3. Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson for “Mad Max Fury Road”
Who would’ve ever thought that the fourth entry to the “Mad Max” franchise would win the most Oscars of 2015? Thankfully, George Miller’s genius shows up when needed. “Mad Max: Fury Road” exists as this galvanizing action tale and feminist manifesto. Charlize Theron owns the movie as Furiosa, an Imperator with a grudge who uses her rage and fury to take down the patriarchy. What’s smart about Tom Hardy’s performance as Max is he knows where he belongs. Max hands Furiosa the shotgun. He doesn’t try and compete with Mel Gibson’s star turn. He lets us into this mad world run by a dictator. However, he also cedes narrative power to the more dynamic Furiosa.
2. Anthony Hopkins (“The Silence of the Lambs”) takes over the role of Hannibal Lecter from Brian Cox (“Manhunter”)
Some forget that “The Silence of the Lambs” wasn’t the first Hannibal Lecter story to be told. Brian Cox originated the role in the small film “Manhunter.” While Cox was perfectly adept and creepy in the role, few compare to Hopkins. In just a small amount of screentime, Hopkins hissed his way into history. Lecter is a threatening villain and alluring challenge all at the same time. It’s no wonder he won the Best Actor prize, setting a record for the shortest amount of screen time for a lead winner. In fact, “Silence of the Lambs” became the third film in history to sweep the top five Oscar prizes. The appeal of Hannibal has spanned multiple films and even a network TV show. However, the lambs haven’t stopped screaming. “The Silence of the Lambs,” and Hopkins’ performance, are high watermarks future projects haven’t met.
1. Sean Connery, replaced by George Lazenby, replaced by Roger Moore, replaced by Timothy Dalton, replaced by Pierce Brosnan, replaced by Daniel Craig (James Bond series)
No series has made frequent cast replacements so smooth as the James Bond franchise. In fact, changing out Bond has become the key to the series’ over 50-year success. Just as the times change, so does Bond.
Sean Connery introduces us to the suave secret agent with a license to kill and weakness for women. In “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” George Lazenby layers Bond with an extra layer of fun and tragedy in his lone outing. Roger Moore recognizes the camp value of Bond, as he pushes him to space and beyond (literally). Timothy Dalton starkly contrasts this. His Bond comes with lots of baggage, as we have the darkest Bond to date. The series course corrects with Pierce Brosnan, who encompasses the dignified, yet cheeky archetype of Bond with utter class. Most recently, Daniel Craig has brought Bond to new, gritty roots. Rebooting with “Casino Royale,” Craig makes Bond more relatable and palatable for a modern generation. It remains up in the air who will be the next Bond. The only thing that is for certain is that Bond will return.