10 Controversial Comic Book Movie Castings — Besides Ben Affleck as Batman
The internet nearly collapsed underneath all the Matt Damon as Robin jokes and cries of “doesn’t anyone remember ‘Daredevil’??” that came with the casting announcement of Ben Affleck as Batman in Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ follow-up.
Never mind the fact that we all loved Ben just a few months ago when he was robbed of the Best Director Oscar for ‘Argo.’ The internet remembers how terrible he was in a superhero movie from 10 years ago — which, let’s be honest, would’ve been unwatchable with anyone in the lead — so let’s all collectively freak out.
When it comes to comic book movie castings, this sort of outrage is nothing new. Just about every announcement comes with some sort of protest, as fans have their own preconceived notions of what the big screen version of their favorite hero or villain should look and sound like. Sometimes these opinions are justified (ahem, Ryan Reynolds), but often we forget that these people are actors and their job is to convincingly portray a character. It’s not like we’re watching Ben Affleck circa the ‘Gigli’ era put on the Batman costume. As history shows, there have been many casting choices made for comic book movies that met with controversy. Take a look below for a little perspective on the whole “Batfleck” situation.
Michael Keaton, ‘Batman’
If you’re a Batman fan of a certain age, Michael Keaton will always be your favorite actor to wear the cape and cowl. But what many of us were too young to realize at the time was that Keaton’s casting was met with more than a few guffaws from DC Comics fans.
Remember that Keaton was mostly a comedy star at the time, with roles in films like ‘Beetlejuice’ and ‘Mr. Mom’ that didn’t exactly scream “tortured cape-wearing vigilante.” His casting came at the height of the age of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and many fans felt that Keaton lacked the proper action-movie chops and traditional leading-man features. While you’re signing the petition to get Warner Bros. to dump Affleck, keep in mind that they went through this already back in 1988 when 50,000 fans wrote in protesting Keaton’s casting. (And back then, they sent letters. That takes a lot more dedication than signing an online petition.)
Thankfully, Tim Burton knew what we all saw in the film — that Keaton had the crazy, obsessive edge needed to bring Batman into the modern age of dark and tortured heroes.
Heath Ledger, ‘The Dark Knight’
It’s easy to forget now after he delivered one of the most iconic movie villain performances of all time, but the casting of Heath Ledger as Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ was met with many groans and more than a few ‘Brokeback Mountain’ jokes. (Even Jack Nicholson was against the casting, saying he was “furious” that he wasn’t asked to reprise the role.)
Fans feared that Ledger, who was mostly known for romantic leads in films like ‘Casanova’ and ’10 Things I Hate About You,’ lacked the grit to play Batman’s greatest nemesis. And there were more than a few idiots who assumed he’d play the role as gay after his acclaimed turn in ‘Brokeback.’
Everyone underestimated Ledger, who had previously given a deep, soulful performance in ‘Monster’s Ball,’ and thus were blown away by his take on Joker. Now, it’s hard to think of anyone else in the role.
Keanu Reeves, ‘Constantine’
Fans of DC/Vertigo’s ‘Hellblazer’ series cried into their trenchcoat sleeves over the casting of Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, a character who is both British and blonde in the comics. (His look was based on Sting circa the early days of the Police.)
While Keanu is nothing like John Constantine, the movie made plenty of other changes like moving the character from London to Los Angeles and giving him a gun shaped like the Holy Cross. At least fans have a chance of finally seeing a snarky British Constantine on the big screen if Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Justice League Dark’ movie ever happens.
Idris Elba, ‘Thor’
It isn’t strictly lead-role casting news that causes fanboys to freak out — more than a few folks took to the internet in protest of ‘Pacific Rim’ star Idris Elba being cast as Heimdall in ‘Thor.’
Some people, like the group Council of Conservative Citizens, took issue with a black English actor portraying a (fictional) Norse God who is white in the comics.
Despite a “Boycott Thor” website, the film ended up being a blockbuster, and Elba was praised for his commanding performance. The actor and the character are set to return for ‘Thor: The Dark World,’ while the CCC is probably busy coming up with a reason for why ‘The Smurfs 2′ is pushing a liberal agenda on our children.
Mark Ruffalo, ‘The Avengers’
Don’t pretend for a second that you didn’t make a joke when it was announced that Mark Ruffalo, an actor known for his low-key performances in indie movies, would be taking over the Bruce Banner role from the far more volatile Edward Norton. Ruffalo himself even said he was nervous joining ‘The Avengers’ cast onstage at Comic-Con prior to the film’s release because, “the fans — they have strong feelings toward their comic book heroes.”
As it turns out, Ruffalo was ‘The Incredible Hulk’ director Louis Leterrier’s first choice all along for Banner. Now those same people who made fun of the casting choice are probably quoting Ruffalo’s “I’m always angry” line from ‘Avengers.’
Kelsey Grammer, ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’
When it was announced that ‘Cheers’ and ‘Frasier’ star Kelsey Grammer would be playing beloved mutant Beast in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand,’ message boards lit up with jokes about the character sitting down with Wolverine for a therapy session. No one believed that Grammer, who cut his teeth in dramatic Shakespearean roles, could bring any soul to Beast, a character who longs to not look like Cookie Monster.
In hindsight, Grammer’s Beast ended up being one of the best things about the abysmal third ‘X-Men’ installment. He captured the character’s jovial attitude without making him too jokey while also adding a bit of depth to the otherwise lightweight film. While ‘X-Men: First Class’ star Nicholas Hoult has claim to the part now, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Grammer returned as an older version of Dr. Hank McCoy.
Megan Fox, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’
Following her roles in the ‘Transformers’ films and ‘Jonah Hex,’ it’s safe to say no one is looking forward to seeing Megan Fox as April O’Neil in Michael Bay’s upcoming ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ reboot. Thus, the collective groans that met her casting announcement in the controversial film.
Photos of Fox doing some sort of exercise routine on set haven’t done much to squelch the negative feelings. Outside of squeezing into April’s classic yellow jumpsuit from the ‘TMNT’ cartoon, there’s not much Fox could do to win over fanboys.
Brandon Lee, ‘The Crow’
While his final performance is beloved today, it’s important to remember that Brandon Lee wasn’t exactly known for serious roles at the time. As the son of Bruce Lee, Brandon got his start in chop-socky early ’90s flicks like ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Showdown in Little Tokyo,’ in which he starred opposite the acclaimed dramatic actor Dolph Lundgren. Few predicted he’d be able to capture the intense, soulful avenger from James O’Barr’s comic. Now, we all wish he had been able to (pardon the pun) spread his acting wings sooner.
Michael Clarke Duncan, ‘Daredevil’
When making their case for why Affleck shouldn’t play Batman, people like to cite his 2003 bomb ‘Daredevil.’ Of course, when the cast was announced, few had problems with Affleck — then a huge action-movie star — playing the title role. Stubborn fans were more concerned about the casting of the late actor Michael Clarke Duncan in the role of The Kingpin, a character who is drawn as a rotund white man in the pages of Marvel comics.
Duncan proved to be perfectly fine in the role, and the bulk of the derision ‘Daredevil’ received was aimed squarely at Affleck’s admittedly stiff performance. A criticism that still persists today, despite the fact that the movie is over a decade old, and Affleck is now a multiple Oscar winner.
Robert Downey, Jr., ‘Iron Man’
Whether we can admit it now or not, many Marvel fans had concerns over RDJ playing Tony Stark. Sure, he had a handful of acclaimed roles in films like ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and ‘Zodiac,’ but nothing in his filmography suggested that he’d be the perfect fit for the Iron Man armor.
Plus, Downey, Jr.’s checkered past had both fans and Hollywood insiders concerned that the film would be derailed by his frequent legal troubles. In fact, it was exactly that sense of danger that made the casting exciting and made him ideal for the superhero who lives life on the edge. Now, it’s hard to imagine any ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Avengers’ movie without one of RDJ’s trademark quips.