Imagine being the guy who once played the most important villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before he was important. Or turning your back on being Batman's love interest just before you would have got a juicy chance to die. Or suffering the sting of being the only one unceremoniously booted out of a film and watching your former colleagues get back together for sequels without you.
That ignominy is a surprisingly regular thing for actors who have taken on a comic book movie role. In rare cases, they're sacked spectacularly for being rubbish, while in others they turn down the chance to return (because they're idiots who want to star in a Queen Latifah movie). And some simply stop getting calls from their former employers.
In every case we're supposed to go about our business without acknowledging the change, as if a character once played by a 6'4" African American man could suddenly turn into the very white, very not 6'4" Peter Dinklage. Those are the kind of bumps we have to endure when studios decide they just want someone different/better...
15. Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent)The Replacement: Tommy Lee Jones
You would be forgiven for thinking that Tim Burton's departure from the Batman series (albeit sideways into a producer role after his vision was deemed too dark) meant what followed was an entirely different continuity. But that's simply not the case: despite Warner Bros' desire to distance themselves from Burton's weirdness that wasn't selling toys, there was no hard or soft reset between Batman Returns and Batman Forever.
So the fact that Harvey Dent, who had been played by Billy Dee Williams in Batman, was replaced by someone decidedly more caucasian is cause for confusion.
Williams was actually screwed out of playing Two Face twice: originally he was supposed to turn into the monster at the end of Batman Returns, only to see his role written out in favour of Max Schreck, and then when Joel Schumacher decided to bring in the split personality element, he simply chose to forget about Williams:
"I always wanted Tommy Lee Jones. I didn't consider Billy Dee Williams for the role, because I think that he is a hero. I always see him like Clark Gable. I had just finished working with Tommy Lee Jones on The Client, and I thought he would be a great Harvey Dent\Two-Face."The hero thing of course is actually the point, but whatever.
14. Terrence Howard (War Machine)The Replacement: Don Cheadle
The Empire star's acrimonious departure after just one performance as James Rhodes is arguably the most famous tussle between studio and talent outside of Edgar Wright's fall-out with Marvel over Ant-Man. And while it was widely assumed that Howard was the problem (based on unreasonable wage demands), it seems the reality is a little more damning for the studio and its biggest star:
It turns out that the person I helped become Iron Man when it was time to re-up for the second one, (he) took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out.Not that there's any hard feelings, of course.
We did a three-picture deal, so that means that you did the deal ahead of time. It was going to be a certain amount for the first one, a certain amount for the second one, a certain amount for the third. They came to me with the second and said, Look, we will pay you one-eighth of what we contractually had for you, because we think the second one will be successful with or without you. And I called my friend that I helped get the first job and he didnt call me back for three months.
When Howard passed, Don Cheadle stepped in, and was just about charismatic enough to survive Iron Man 2's silliness. Whether he was paid an eighth of hat Howard was paid for Iron Man remains to be seen.
13. Sumela Kay And Katie Stuart (Kitty Pryde)The Replacement: Ellen Page
In the first two films, Shadowcat wasn't deemed enough of an important character to warrant a high-profile casting.
In X-Men, she is seen briefly phasing through a wall into Professor X's classroom, played by Sumela Kay (whose biggest role was a supporting one in A History of Violence). Then when the role was expanded slightly for the sequel, Katie Stuart was cast, though her scenes were limited after a couple (including one with dialogue between Shadowcat and Rogue) were cut in the edit.
Then by the time X3 came about, Kitty Pryde was expanded significantly to become a rival to Rogue and a fully paid up member of the X-Men in the run up to the final battle. That obviously required an actor with a bigger profile, so Ellen Page was brought on board and returned for her key role in Days Of Future Past.
12. Omari Hardwick (Detective Marcus Williams)The Replacement: Morris Chestnut
In the first Kick-Ass, Marcus Williams wasn't that much of a major character: he was the Jiminy Cricket figure who questioned Big Daddy's morality and whether Mindy should have been allowed to take on the role of Hit Girl. He had initially been Mindy's guardian while her father served time in prison, and really he's no more than the audience's representative on screen, standing in for the outrage of our seeing a kid play the hyper-violent hero.
The exact reason original actor Omari Hardwick was replaced in the sequel - where Marcus' role was expanded to fill the vacuum left by Big Daddy's death - isn't clear, but judging by Morris Chestnuts comments around the time of his casting, it wasn't Hardwick's choice. The two are friends, and Chestnut called it a bittersweet opportunity:"It was weird. You know, he's a friend of mine, and I kinda felt bad about that. But it was an opportunity for me to step into a big movie and it was a great experience. You know, I just hope the audience responds to that as well, because it's gonna be a kick-ass ride." The two performances are pretty similar, so it's not like the recasting actually made much sense anyway.
11. Bill Duke (Bolivar Trask)The Replacement: Peter Dinklage
As if we wouldn't notice that gigantic cult actor Bill Duke, who stands over 6 foot 4 inches tall, was replaced in the same film timeline (sort of) by the excellent, but very small Peter Dinklage.
Despite being fans of messing up the timeline without any explanation, Fox actually did seem to downplay the fact that Duke was playing Bolivar Trask, and there was some suggestion in the run up to Days Of Future Past's release that his surname was no more than a coincidence. But that's retconning.
In truth, the Trask role in X-Men: The Last Stand is entirely superfluous, as Duke just turns up looking pretty menacing. In stark contrast, Dinklage's performance was brilliant and hugely important to the plot, so it's an entirely forgivable replacement.
10. Peter Fonda (Mephistopheles)The Replacement: Ciaran Hinds
In the original, terrible Ghost Rider, Mephistopheles was cast brilliantly, with legendary actor Peter Fonda offering a divertingly charismatic performance opposite the God-awful flamboyance of Nic Cage and Wes Bentley. He didn't have a great deal to do, other than acting vaguely sinister and convincingly playing the grand tempter, and there's nothing really wrong with his part in the film at all.
When the studio decided to basically reset the canon for a sequel (without removing Nic Cage, who was seemingly deemed fine from the first film), Fonda actually expressed an interest in returning, but ultimately Ciaran Hinds was cast.
He plays the host to the Devil's spirit on Earth - falling to pieces as the film progresses - and it's a far more lunatic performance than Fonda's. That might have suited the second film's sensibilities, but it didn't help make it any good.
9. Josh Dallas (Fandral)The Replacement: Zachary Levi Originally, the role of Asgardian Fandral was set to be given to Zachary Levi, but when the third season of Chuck was extended from 13 episodes to 19, there was a clash of schedules and Levi was forced to pull out. Fellow TV actor Josh Dallas stepped in and took on the supporting role for the first movie. However, history would repeat itself when it came to filming the sequel: Dallas was enjoying success as part of Once Upon A Time and it was too much of a struggle to shoot the two things at once, much to his disappointment:
"Of course there was disappointment there. It was a movie I loved doing, and I was super-excited by going into . That was always the plan, to do the second one. But unfortunately flying from the Once Upon a Time set in Vancouver to London where the second one was shot just made my head explode. So unfortunately I had to bow out of that role..."
In a pleasant twist of fate, Zachary Levi was available at that point and took on the role he had been destined for in the first place. Whether he returns for Ragnarok isn't yet confirmed, but he did ok as the warrior despite the film struggling badly.
8. Damion Poitier (Thanos)The Replacement: Josh Brolin
Just as the original Voldemort was replaced after his first appearance in Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, Thanos' brief cameo at the end of The Avengers was the only chance original actor Damion Poitier will get to pull on the famous giant purple chin.
The stuntman was no more than a stand-in until Marvel got round to casting a bigger name (though it honestly wasn't necessary, given how unrecognisable the Thanos look makes any actor) and he was inevitably jettisoned from the role. He will appear in Captain America: Civil War, but it would have to be a pretty big shock for him to be playing Thanos again.
The duty of fleshing out the character fell, of course, to Josh Brolin, who has flirted with audiences over a couple of movies now, and will presumably get a much greater chance to shine as Phase 3 progresses. But so far, he's done nothing to suggest he's not well cast.
7. Everyone - Superman ReturnsThe Replacements: Lots of really well cast people (no really)
Superman Returns is something of an odd project to mention alongside the rest of these straight up sequels, but it would be wrong not to acknowledge that it was at least partly intended to be a sequel to Superman II. And adding "homage" to the "sequel" label doesn't really make it any other way.
So, though Superman II and Superman Returns were separated by an almighty 26 years, we were supposed to think of Brandon Routh's Superman as the same guy played by Christopher Reeve, and Kate Bosworth's Lois Lane is just what Margot Kidder would have looked like 5 years into the future.
Perhaps that proximity to the better Superman movies is why Superman Returns failed so miserably? The decision to cast Brandon Routh made it impossible to think of him as anything other than a doppelganger stand-in whose acting skill was entirely secondary. And to have everyone else look so different to the original characters just made the decision to cast Routh based on his looks seem even more odd.
6. Thomas Kretschmann (Johann Krauss)The Replacement: Seth MacFarlane
Hands up if you knew Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane had been in a comic book movie... No, thought not.
In this case, the original actor suffered the ignominy of being replaced partway through the sequel he'd been cast in.
Originally, steam punk hero Johann Krauss was played by German actor Thomas Kretschmann was first cast as Johann Strauss. It was an authentically German performance (obviously), but director Guillermo Del Toro recognised unfortunately that the clash of Kretschmann's accent and the sound effects of his suit wasn't a good mix.
Whenever Krauss was required to speak softly, his voice was basically obliterated, so the decision was taken to remove Kretschmann and bring in someone more adept with vocal performances. The man chosen was Seth MacFarlane, who brought something more cartoonish - but ultimately more sucsessful - to the role, without the issues of clashing.
5. Tyler Mane (Sabretooth)The Replacement: Liev Schreiber
As with Bolivar Trask's sort-of recasting, the issue of Sabretooth existing twice in the X-Men films was mostly ignored in the hope that nobody would ask too many questions about the mangled timeline.
Had there not been a significant redevelopment of Victor's relationship to Logan between the main trilogy and the regrettable Origins spin-off, Fox could easily have gotten away with it. In fact, they could still have got away with the issue of why the older Sabretooth doesn't seem to recognise his half-brother by simply having him suffer some sort of memory wipe/reconditioning at the end of Origins.
Instead, WCW star and former partner of Kevin Nash, Tyler Mane's performance in X-Men was basically just steamrolled out of history by an almost unrecognisable version played by the excellent Liev Scheiber, who added about ten more layers of depth to the performance.
That still doesn't make up for the almost provocative timeline ignorance, though.
4. Steve Bacic (Hank McCoy)The Replacement: Kelsey Grammer
It's almost unthinkable to imagine that Kelsey Grammer wasn't the first man cast to play the loquacious, refined Hank McCoy in the original X-Men series. He was basically made for the role; intelligent, charming and with a smooth voice that could melt toffee at a hundred paces.
But he was a replacement, thanks to a brief cameo by bit-part actor Steve Bacic (mostly known for the Andromeda TV series), who appears as the mutant rights advocate in a TV interview in X2. For X-Men: The Last Stand, Fox went with the right choice, conveniently forgetting to bring Bacic back in favour of Grammer.
Beast had actually been planned as part of the first X-Men film, but was cut over budgetary concerns. Quite who was in line back then has remained a mystery.
3. Katie Holmes - (Rachel)The Replacement: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Daughter of the help Rachel Dawes was originally played - without much skill, sadly - by Katie Holmes, who was fatally boring and is perpetually mentioned in run-downs of the worst acting performances in Batman movies. That's a little cruel, when actually she just doesn't do anything, but it is hard to see why Bruce is so besotted with her.
When it came to Rachel reappearing in the sequel, Holmes proved that beggars actually can be choosers by turning down a reprisal of the role in favour of the not at all worthwhile Mad Money with Queen Latifah and Diane Keaton. That ended up being counted as one of the worst films of 2008, so that was a good choice.
She was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Dark Knight, after Emily Blunt, Isla Fisher, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Rachel McAdams were all considered, bringing a lot more to the role than her predecessor.
2. Ed Norton (Hulk)The Replacement: Mark Ruffalo
No matter how hard some Marvel fans might wish it, The Incredible Hulk is genuinely part of Phase 1, and the fact that the Avengers version of the character actually mentions a scene from it double-downs on its status as canon.
The film was a notoriously troubled production: more than an hour of footage was cut out when a negative test audience reaction inspired major change, and there were rumours that Ed Norton had taken a stand on Marvel and Universal's over-zealous editing demands. Some suggested that that was why he didn't return to the character for the Avengers, but Norton himself suggests the friction was over-played:
"Our healthy process , which is and should be a private matter, was misrepresented publicly as a 'dispute', seized on by people looking for a good story, and has been distorted to such a degree that it risks distracting from the film itself, which Marvel, Universal and I refuse to let happen. It has always been my firm conviction that films should speak for themselves and that knowing too much about how they are made diminishes the magic of watching them."Ruckus or not, Norton had to step aside for Mark Ruffalo, whose performance as Bruce Banner was more nuanced and more obviously broken, which was allowed somewhat by his more limited screen time.
1. Michael Keaton And Val Kilmer (Batman)The Replacement: George Clooney
Just as Batman Returns is a direct sequel to Batman, Batman & Robin was intended to be a straight follow-up to Batman Forever: all four films exist on the same timeline, and it was only the recasting of the lead actors that really made that continuity somewhat confusing.
Michael Keaton was originally intended to reprise his role, but after Warner Bros insisted on a lighter tone and moved Tim Burton aside, he refused lucrative offers to put the cowl back on because he didn't like the new direction. In stepped Val Kilmer - the most under-rated of all the Batman actors - and though his Bruce Wayne was far removed from Keaton's, he did well to steal any focus from Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones' scenery chewing.
Then, when Warners decided to fast-track the sequel, Kilmer claimed he was forced to step aside because he'd already agreed to play the lead in The Saint (another spot on career choice). Joel Schumacher admitted he had difficulty working with Kilmer and remembers it differently:
"He sort of quit and we sort of fired him."He was then replaced by hot young(ish) thing George Clooney, who hit the bottom of the Batman performances ranking by mostly sleepwalking through Schumacher's awful second go.
Which of these actor replacements do you think were the most successful? Share your favourites below in the comments thread.