The Controversial Casting Choices That Hollywood Decided Were Worth the Risk

Mon Dec 20 2021

Hollywood casting producers are always faced with a task in which it’s impossible to please everyone. People build up characters in their heads and expect the movie version to match their mental image. While some are bound to be disappointed, these particular casting choices angered pretty much everyone.

But did these major casting risks pay off? Some of these actors proved the critics wrong by owning their roles and some simply couldn’t meet the, already low, expectations. See which controversial casting choice made Hollywood say “we told you so,” and which ones made them hang their heads in shame.

Focus Had a Problem We Can’t Help but Focus On

Viewers struggled to focus on the plot of Focus, due to the completely inappropriate casting of Margot Robbie. Will Smith, an established actor, was already chosen as the movie’s lead, long before newbie Margot Robbie was cast. Therefore, it seemed completely inappropriate that 24-year-old Margot play the love interest of 46-year-old Will. The 22 year age gap meant that Will could have been Margot’s father!

The ridiculous, and unnecessary, age gap sparked a discussion about Hollywood’s reluctance to cast older women. There are plenty of beautiful and talented actresses who are age-appropriate love interests for Will and could have played Margot’s role. No disrespect to Margot, who is excellent at her craft, but Hollywood shouldn’t have even considered her for this one.

The Prince of Persia Is Not From Persia

When Jake Gyllenhaal was cast for the leading role in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, fans were left scratching their heads, as Jake is American. Even though Hollywood casting directors haven’t learned anything, Jake certainly has. He’s taken the backlash as a learning experience and vowed to do better, a promise which he’s made good on, thus far.

Jake was quoted as saying, “I think I learned a lot from [Prince of Persia] in that I spend a lot of time trying to be very thoughtful about the roles that I pick, and why I’m picking them.” At least this particular controversy seems not to have been a wasted learning experience.

This Was Not Music to Our Ears

Sia’s movie Music was widely criticized, largely due to her choice to cast Maddie Ziegler as the lead character. Maddie is a neurotypical dancer who Sia often collaborates with, and she inappropriately played the role of a non-verbal autistic person. Fans mostly recognized that Maddie was young and didn’t really know better and she had trusted her mentor, Sia, to guide her in the entertainment industry. Therefore, the blame fell on Sia’s shoulders.

Sia has admitted that Maddie expressed concern that her performance would appear to mock people on the spectrum, and Sia assured her that she “won’t let that happen.” It seems that she spoke too soon as viewers expressed disdain over Maddie’s overexaggerated performance. To this day, Sia maintains her decision, saying that her heart has always been in the right place.

Let’s Be Clear: This Is a Fantasy Movie

When Idris Elba landed the role of Heimdall in Thor, white supremacists called for an immediate boycott of the film. Their anger stemmed from the fact that a black actor was playing a Norse god, and it wasn’t realistic. To clarify: the concern was that the color of the actor’s skin would make a movie about gods, superpowers, and mythical creatures unrealistic.

Idris has expressed a total of zero patience for the backlash, which is understandable. He’s said, “It’s so ridiculous. We have a man who has a flying hammer and wears horns on his head. And yet me being an actor of African descent playing a Norse god is unbelievable?” Seriously, if realism is so important to people, they should just watch a documentary instead.

Maybe We Should’ve Left This One Alone

Ghost in the Shell is a Hollywood remake of a Japanese anime. The Hollywood version stars Scarlett Johansson, a white actress, which begged the question: Why couldn’t they cast a Japanese actress for the role? However, not unlike Idris’s casting in Thor, Ghost in the Shell is a fantasy movie in which the race of the actor isn’t crucial to the plot. In fact, Scarlett got the thumbs up to take the role from a very important person…

Mamoru Oshii, the director of the original Ghost in the Shell, approved of the choice to cast Scarlett in the film. Mamoru explained about the character, Motoko, “Her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name Motoko Kusanagi and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actor must portray her.” Despite his clarification, fans still insisted that Mamoru should have an issue with the casting.

This Joker Got the Last Laugh

When casting for the Joker in The Dark Knight, it was well-known that this new actor would have big shoes to fill. Jack Nicholson had previously played the Joker and his depiction was universally loved, so when Heath Ledger got the role, fans were furious. They didn’t feel that Heath had what it took to be Jack’s successor. Well, it’s safe to say that he definitely proved them wrong…

The Internet doesn’t agree on too many things, but we’re all in agreement on this: Heath Ledger was the best Joker. In fact, Heath’s portrayal was so incredible that he set a record as being the first actor to win an Oscar for his work on a superhero movie. We bet that Heath’s haters are realizing the joke’s on them.

We Have Trouble Taking This Complaint Seriously

When Alicia Vikander was cast as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, she knew that she’d have a lot to prove. The role was extremely physically demanding, and Alicia was prepared to show that she could handle the stunts and action scenes. What she wasn’t prepared for, though, was to defend her physical appearance.

The stunning Alicia was criticized for not having the right body type to portray Lara. Yes, seriously, people were upset that this human actress did not have the measurements of an animated video game character. After the movie was released, and viewers could see Alicia’s portrayal, they decided that looks don’t matter so much after all. How evolved of them.

The Critics Got Their Way on This One

The whole world cringed in unison when it was announced that Ben Affleck would play Batman in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Despite Ben’s undeniable talent, he’s been in enough flops to make him unreliable. Fans were worried that he simply didn’t have what it took to play such an iconic role.

It seems that, for once, initial outrage was the correct reaction. After two attempts at the character, Ben has decided to give up on trying to portray Batman. Ben explained that he “couldn’t crack” the role and he understands the immense pressure that comes with playing a superhero, “That’s why I’m not going to do it unless I really feel confident about it.” We respect that.

At Least They Tried?

Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto in The Lone Ranger was confusing on many levels. Fans weren’t too upset over Johnny playing the Indian character, given his own ambiguous heritage, it was more about the way he chose to play Tonto. Essentially, Johnny utilized every single stereotype possible for this role.

While Johnny had intended to make Native American viewers proud by bringing Tonto into the spotlight, he ended up doing the exact opposite. Everything, from the choice of the bird on his head to the exaggerated makeup, made a mockery of the culture. One particular critic pointed out, “This represents a major setback in our efforts to combat stereotyping our image.” It looks like Tonto did everything that The Lone Ranger was supposed to counteract.

Rational Thinking Was Nowhere to Be Found

When Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, the haters quit rational thinking altogether. As with pretty much any actor cast as a superhero, everything about Gal was criticized. The main complaint was that she was too skinny to play the physically strong character, which Gal rectified easily enough with a strict workout regime. There were also complaints that her chest was too small because people seem to think chest size is crucial in the art of acting.

After they were done scrutinizing her physical appearance, the haters began to criticize Gal’s lack of a resume. While that was fair and true, Gal was able to prove herself worthy over time. Nowadays, Gal is hailed as an excellent choice for the feminist superhero, which just goes to show that sometimes it’s best to ignore the haters. Especially when their biggest concern is the size of your bosom.

Aren’t We a Little Old to Be Saying ”No Girls Allowed?”

When it was announced that the Ghostbusters reboot would feature a female cast, some men inexplicably panicked. For some incomprehensible reason, they felt that the female reboot threatened their masculinity. Maybe they didn’t realize that they simply don’t have to watch it, and could re-watch the original instead?

Sadly, both sides were guilty here. When no one liked Ghostbusters, the cast was quick to claim that the haters were sexist. Let’s be honest: No one who’s sexist watched it anyway. It was watched by feminists who wanted to like it but couldn’t honestly say that they did. The movie was simply bad, and that had nothing to do with the gender of the leads.

This Movie Was Anything but Fantastic

Fantastic Four was anything but fantastic, which had nothing to do with the cast, and everything to do with studios’ lack of interest in creating a decent version of this movie. However, before we had a chance to hate on how bad the film was, some people had already decided not to watch it for a very different reason… Once again, people were concerned that a completely fictional movie would be unrealistic due to a make-believe character being black.

Michael B. Jordan was cast as Human Torch and received backlash that he was more than prepared for. He said, “Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, ‘I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.’ I put that responsibility on myself.” So…. he’s basically a real-life superhero.

Maybe No One Else Wanted the Role?

When Dakota Johnson was cast as Anastasia in 50 Shades of Grey, everyone was upset. The first complaint was that she wasn’t pretty enough, which is arguable depending on one’s taste. Anyway, Anastasia from the book isn’t supposed to be a classic beauty. The other argument is that Dakota had no chemistry whatsoever with her on-screen love, Jamie Dornan, for which they both share equal responsibility.

While fans had entire lists of actors they wanted in place of Dakota and Jamie, it was clear that not too many A-list talents wanted these roles. The controversial S&M film simply couldn’t attract some of the stars that the public was asking for. We were left with Jamie and Dakota in a film that truly would have been terrible anyway.

This Actress Proved the Critics Right…

Emma Stone proved critics right with her uncharacteristically terrible acting in the movie Aloha. Emma, who is white, inexplicably portrayed a part-Hawaiian and part-Chinese woman in the movie. No, it is not a fantasy movie. Yes, her ethnicity was relevant to the story. As if to add insult to injury, Emma gave what was arguably the worst performance of her entire career.

Emma seems to be aware of how horrible Aloha was, as she said, “I’ve become the butt of many jokes.” While that entire movie was a complete dumpster fire, we did expect more from the incredibly talented Oscar winner. At least she’s committed to making better choices, in regards to roles she accepts in the future.

This Actress Wasn’t at Fault

Sometimes, casting backlash occurs in order to protect an actor, not criticize them. The controversy of Jodie Foster’s role in Taxi Driver was one of these cases. Jodie was just 12-years-old when she played a child sex worker in the movie. Critics argued that Jodie was simply too young to play the character demanded of her, and despite her excellent performance, we have to agree.

Years later, Jodie explained that she had to undergo psychological testing before doing the film, to ensure that there wouldn’t be any psychological scarring. Despite Jodie’s undeniable talent, we don’t see why the casting producers couldn’t find an older actress who simply looked young.

This Actor Is One of Many to Spark This Debate

When Jared Leto was cast as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club, he became one of several actors to spark the debate of whether or not a cis-gender person can play a transgender character. Hollywood hasn’t seemed to come to a consensus on this particular issue, but the public certainly has.

Jared responded to the backlash by saying, “Because I’m a man, I don’t deserve to play that part? So you would hold a role against someone who happened to be gay or lesbian – they can’t play a straight part?” Hollywood promptly rewarded Jared with an Oscar for his role. Meanwhile, the public is saying that there are too many transgender people who can’t find work in Hollywood, why not give parts like Rayon to one of them?

We Can Admit It: We Were Wrong

No one expected Steve Carell to do a good job in his role of John Du Pont in Foxcatcher. The world was accustomed to seeing Steve as the funny guy who simply wasn’t cut out for serious roles. Well, this funny guy got the last laugh as he proved us all wrong.

Steve was completely unrecognizable as John and showed the world the true depths of his talent. This never-before-seen side of him created an opportunity for Steve to pivot his career, an opportunity which he utilized beautifully. Nowadays, Steve stars in dramas and comedies alike, reminding us all never to underestimate him again.

This Actor Went From Unwanted to Icon

Robert Downey Jr is undoubtedly the perfect person to play Iron Man and he’s turned his portrayal of the superhero into an icon. His success must be all that much sweeter, given that he had to fight tooth and nail to get the part. In fact, studios originally said that they “will not cast him at any price.”

Robert was a full 10 years older than casting directors wanted, he was wildly unpopular with the public, and he had a checkered past. Robert’s past issues with substance abuse made studios distance themselves from him and his reputation. In the end, that’s actually why cast directors chose him. They realized that Iron Man could be Robert’s comeback, and a triumphant story of redemption is what superhero movies are all about.

This Actress Proved That Good Girls Can Be Sexy Too

Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises was not well-received by the public, at all. Catwoman is known to be sexy and dangerous, while Anne is known to be Hollywood’s sweetheart and an overall “good girl.” People simply couldn’t see the teen-movie star as a sexy femme fatal.

Anne proved everyone wrong but not by changing herself to match the role, instead, she changed the role to match her. She brought sophistication and class to a role that, historically, was treated as overtly sexy. While some fans prefer to cling to previous versions of Catwoman, there are plenty of people out there who appreciate Anne’s modern depiction.

The Critics Weren’t Wrong, but This Actor Makes up for It

Ryan Gosling did an incredible job portraying Sebastian in La La Land. That being said, not too many people believed in his ability to play the part, and they kind of had a point… Sebastian is an aspiring musician, something which Ryan is not. While he’s definitely a talented actor and dancer, Ryan does not sing on a professional level. Certainly, not at the level necessary to portray a soon-to-be jazz superstar.

Luckily for Ryan, La La Land had enough going for it that his questionable vocals were hardly noticed. His acting and dancing made up for what he lacked as a singer. Furthermore, his sizzling chemistry with co-star, Emma Stone, didn’t leave anyone with enough energy left to question his singing. The magic of La La Land made up for whatever Ryan may have been lacking.

This Movie Has Issues, but Casting Isn’t One of Them

When John Krasinski was cast as the male lead in A Quiet Place, viewers were concerned that he didn’t have what it took to carry a horror film. The actor is mostly known for his comedic roles and, at first glance, doesn’t seem like he has the ability to keep us on the edge of our seats.

John did an incredible job at keeping us in suspense and carrying the terrifying drama on his back. That being said, A Quiet Place isn’t without its flaws. Namely, the sequel had the opportunity to treat us to seeing the family survive on their own, and instead, we got yet another story about a man saving a “helpless” woman and her children.

The Oscar That Almost Didn’t Happen

Jennifer Lawrance won an Oscar for her portrayal of Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, but she almost didn’t get the part at all. Although she’s now an A-lister, Jennifer wasn’t too well known at the time, and it still wasn’t clear if she had the acting range necessary for the role.

Furthermore, a then 21-year-old Jennifer was seen as too young to play the widowed Tiffany. Casting directors were concerned that the actress would lack the emotional depth required for the part. Despite all of that, Jennifer was eventually chosen, paving the way for and Oscar and endless collaborations with the director, David O. Russell.

Once Again, This Actor Made a Strange Choice

Once again, Johnny Depp confused viewers. And once again, the issue wasn’t the fact that he was cast in the role, it was what he chose to do with the role that no one quite understood. When playing Willy Wonka in the Tim Burton version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny had a controversial choice of inspiration…

Johnny says he played Willy Wonka as he imagined Goerge Bush to be if he were “incredibly stoned.” However, fans couldn’t help but notice that Johnny’s Willy Wonka has an uncanny likeness to Michael Jackson. Whichever man inspired this version of the character, it’s still an odd choice, which is probably why this portrayal was so poorly received.

A Classic Case of Controversial Casting

Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a classic case of controversial casting. Mickey, who is white, played the role of Yunioshi, who is Japanese. Mickey portrayed Yunioshi with every stereotype imaginable, and even wore fake teeth for the role. The role was meant to be comedic, as opposed to offensive, which just shows how out-of-touch our society used to be.

Mickey initially expressed shock and dismay that his portrayal of Yunioshi is no longer well-received. However, he has since come around and apologized for his part in the racism of the film. This just goes to show that society is slowly, too slowly, but surely, starting to do better.