Saturday, March 13, 2010

Top 10 Miscast Movie Roles

When an actor and a character gel, there is magic on the screen. Unfortunately, some casting decisions leave us scratching our heads in wonder. It’s not necessarily a question of bad acting, although this is the case sometimes. Here is a list of roles that were too much of a stretch.

10. Geronimo

Directed by Arnold Laven
Chuck Connors as Geronimo

At 6’ 5’’, Chuck Connors had a physical presence and an athletic build. Audiences knew him from a number of roles in TV westerns. This time, he was the Apache leader, Geronimo, who tries to keep his people free and out of the reservation. He has the toughness of a warrior but rubbing something on his face and letting him loose in the dress up box fails to make him an Apache. He just looks like a longhaired quarterback about to make a touchdown. He leads with his jaw but he still has piercing blue eyes and he’s still from Brooklyn. Photo:

9. Days of Thunder

Directed by Tony Scott
Nicole Kidman as Dr Claire Lewicki

Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise fell in love on the set of this homage to the exciting world of NASCAR. Cruise plays a headstrong driver and Kidman is his love interest, who just happens to be a leading brain surgeon. This begs the question, doesn’t she look a little young to be a leading anything, never mind a medical professional? There’s supposed to be the brain of a neurosurgeon under the appalling 1980s perm. She looks like she’s thinking about boys or shoes or earrings or something equally frivolous, and it’s hard to take her seriously.  Would she really be able to save our Tom if he crashed and his brain fell out and she had to operate in an emergency? Also, she rides a motorcycle without a helmet, surely a faux pas for a brain surgeon?

8. Comanche Blanco

Directed by José Briz Mendez
William Shatner as Johnny Moon / Notah

Shatner took a hiatus from being Captain Kirk to play dual roles in this low budget western, filmed in Spain. Johnny Moon is a cowboy and Notah is his Indian half brother. They are bitter enemies and Shatner has to fight himself (he also has to do this in the Star Trek episode Whom Gods Destroy). The dialogue is poor and badly dubbed. As Johnny, Shatner is perfectly fine, but the Indian with short, blond hair and a bit of war paint is not so convincing. Notah is like an over the top version of The Shat. He rides around shirtless and says deep things like the dead will find their place.  Chewing too much peyote could be a contributing factor to this philosophizing.  Thankfully, Shatner tied up his horse and returned to the Enterprise. It’s still not as cringe worthy as his cover of Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, because nothing is.

7. The Conqueror

Directed by Dick Powell
John Wayne as Tem Ujin – later Genghis Khan

We are used to seeing the Duke as a cowboy taking care of the bad guys or as a soldier single-handedly winning the war. However, this story charts the rise of Tem Ujin, who became Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire. Tem Ujin must do battle and try to win his beloved’s heart. The dialogue is stilted but the epic battle scenes are well executed. William Conrad (Jake and the Fatman) played Wayne’s brother. Wayne said that he played Khan like another gunfighter and the movie was really a western. Let’s face it; Wayne played everything like it was a western. That was part of his charm, but when you cast him as a Mongolian warrior, he still looks and sounds like Wayne and he maintains his distinctive drawl. There was a slight attempt to make Wayne look Asian in that they altered his eyes slightly. They also gave him a sword and a funny helmet but he’s a Mongol by way of Iowa.

6. The Greatest Story Ever Told

Directed by George Stevens
John Wayne as a Roman Centurion

Max von Sydow took the role of Christ in this biblical epic. In an ensemble cast that included Charlton Heston as John the Baptist and Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate, the appearance of Wayne as a centurion in the crucifixion scene is jarring, to say the least. As Christ suffers on the cross, what should have been a moving scene descends into farce, as the Duke drawls his line, ‘truly, this man was the son of Gaaard’.

5. The Teahouse of the August Moon

Directed by Daniel Mann
Marlon Brando as Sakini

It is politically incorrect today to cast a Caucasian actor as someone of color, but it used to be common practice (Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is just one other example). Along with the ignominy, the choice of Brando to play a Japanese interpreter was a daring one. One of the finest actors to grace the screen, Brando acts the clown as Sakini in a satirical story about relations between the Japanese and the American forces in the aftermath of WWII.  The film has its amusing moments and Glen Ford is his usual, excellent self but Brando looks like a cartoon character and a grinning doll. It comes across as oh, so patronizing.

4. Behind Enemy Lines

Directed by John Moore
Owen Wilson as Lt. Chris Burnett

Set in war-torn Bosnia, this is a kick-ass action flick starring Wilson as a Navy flight navigator shot down over enemy territory. The action is fairly engaging but the attempts at humor are lame and it’s a hackneyed script. Gene Hackman plays the commanding officer intent on bringing his boy home to safety. It isn’t as suspenseful as it should be partly because Wilson isn’t convincing. He’s more suited to being a laid back dude than someone fighting for survival. He always looks like a puppy. An alternate casting choice would have made it grittier and when is he going to get his nose fixed?

3. The Black Shield of Falworth

Directed by Rudolph Maté
Tony Curtis as Myles Falworth

Tony Curtis proved himself to be a great actor when he was allowed to stretch himself in The Boston Strangler and The Sweet Smell of Success, but a kid from the Bronx was never going to pass himself off as an English knight in the time of King Henry IV. The miscasting makes it an entertaining yarn in fact and Curtis is very watchable. Highlight of the movie is the famous quote,  ‘yonduh lies duh castle of my fadduh’. Photo: Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans

2. The World Is Not Enough

Directed by Michael Apted
Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones

Denise Richards is famous for her on and off screen relationships: she paired up with Neve Campbell onscreen in Wild Things and had a volatile off screen marriage to Charlie Sheen. She also has a long sitcom history, appearing in: Spin City, Melrose Place, Friends, Two and a Half Men, and Seinfeld. She has appeared in Playboy at least twice and most recently, she had her own reality show. Not the most serious body of work.
So perhaps that’s why her portrayal of Doctor Christmas Jones won her a Razzie (“the foremost authority on all things that suck on the big screen”) for worst supporting actress. It’s not surprising that audiences found it difficult to believe Richards in the role of “tough American nuclear physicist.” More surprising? The unquestionably attractive Denise Richards and Pierce Brosnan were also nominated for the “worst screen couple” Razzie. While they rush to recapture and disarm a nuclear warhead and disarm it, their lack of onscreen chemistry is anything but explosive.
Yes, we expect Bond films to be campy – that’s what we like about them. We also expect the Bond women to be smoking hot and Richards’ performance in this flick is uncharacteristically cold. It also doesn’t take a brain scientist to figure out that casting Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist is just silly.

1. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Directed by Kevin Reynolds
Kevin Costner as Robin Hood

When Hollywood studios insist on shoehorning in an American actor to star in a quintessentially English film, it is really annoying to the Brits. OK, Errol Flynn was an Aussie but he was a lot more convincing, plus there is the added insult of Christian Slater as Will Scarlett and Michael McShane as Friar Tuck. Morgan Freeman was cast too but that man can play anything. It’s doubtful that Robin Hood, if he ever existed, was quite so clean cut as Mr. Costner. He is perfectly groomed despite living rough in the forest. He makes no attempt at a suitable accent and he doesn’t appear to have any sense of impending danger.