As we look back at the year in film, we find — as always — there’s room for improvement. Often by simply replacing a lead actor, a world of difference could be made on the overall effect of the film. Films come together the way they do for a reason. Often it’s more about a star’s marquee value or perceived bankability than it is about the part they are playing. Alas, here are the 2012 Movie Roles That Should Have Gone to Someone Else.
Colin Farrell in “Total Recall”
Farrell’s casting as Douglas Quaid/Carl Hauser in Len Wiseman’s remake of the Paul Verhoeven 1990 original–in which Arnold Schwarzenegger starred–was the first of many mistakes. Watching his co-star Kate Beckinsale kick more ass than him was just a reminder of how lacklustre Farrell’s presence and performance was in such a CGI-heavy environment. We like him weak and pathetic, as in “In Bruges.” Enough with trying to making him an action star.
Ideal Replacement: Angelina Jolie. If you’re going to remake a silly ’90s movie, make it great and unique. Shifting the central role to Jolie would have made for an inspired, modern film with huge potential–especially if someone like Ridley Scott circa 1990 directed it. Plus, Jolie’s “Salt” made almost double what “Total Recall” made at the domestic box office.
Russell Crowe in “Les Miserables”
Well at least he embodied the title, but sitting through numerous scenes with Crowe’s Javert looking like he’d rather be sitting on a toilet just dragged the whole experience down. Luckily he didn’t entirely ruin the film–Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman picked up a lot of slack from the film’s less engaging singers–but with a more appropriate actor in this leading role (and one who has as much enthusiasm to be there as Hathaway and Jackman) this film would actually have a clear shot at Best Picture.
Ideal Replacement: Liam Neeson. So what if he played Valjean in Bille August’s 1998 version of “Les Mis,” he’d make a great Javert as well. And as evidenced by Crowe, it doesn’t really matter if Neeson can sing.
Aaron Johnson in “Anna Karenina”
I mean, come on now. We’re talking about a role (Vronsky) that’s been played by Sean Bean (1997) and Kieron Moore (1948) and Fredrick March (1935). Johnson and his adorable face just don’t cut it. The role demands a man less callow, more vital and, well, masculine.
Ideal Replacement: Any of these manly men could have brought an interesting spin on Vronsky: Michael Fassbender (“Jane Eyre,” “Shame”), Andrew Lincoln (“The Walking Dead”), Jason Clarke (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Luke Evans (“Immortals”) or Tom Hiddleston (“The Deep Blue Sea”).
Bill Murray in “Hyde Park on Hudson”
There’s a lot wrong with Brit Roger Michell’s take on a memorable visit by the British Royals to stamp-collecting womanizer Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s country home Hyde Park on Hudson. While this slight film might have wound up where it belonged– on Masterpiece Theater –without Bill Murray, he just doesn’t cut an impressive figure as one of America’s greatest presidents. He basically comes off as a pipe-sucking dirty old man.
Ideal Replacement: John Lithgow–who admittedly would not have gotten the film financed– would have made a great FDR, upper-class, witty and sharp, yet powerful. (For the moment you can check out his supporting role in “This is 40.”)