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The 25 Most Controversial Recasting Decisions in TV and Film History

"House of the Dragon" has officially swapped Milly Alcock for Emma D'Arcy and Emily Carey for Olivia Cooke. IndieWire rounds up more contentious actor shakeups, from "The Mummy" to "Bewitched."

The Most Controversial Recasting Decisions

The Most Controversial Recasting Decisions

Everett Collection/HBO

Just five weeks into its run and HBO’s “House of the Dragon” looks wildly different from the series’ pilot.

Titled “We Light the Way,” the fifth episode in the widely watched “Game of Thrones” prequel encompasses a decade-long time jump: effectively forcing forward the Machiavellian maneuvers of the conniving courtiers at its center and putting Westeros on the fast track for war-time drama. It’s a smart enough tactic for a sweeping fantasy epic to use, but the resultant aging-up of multiple characters also means saying goodbye to numerous “House of the Dragon” stars when audiences were just getting to know them.

Thus far, Rhaenyra Targaryen has been played by the fiery Milly Alcock: a 22-year-old Australian actress who has garnered extensive praise for her reserved but still mischievous take on the dragon-riding princess. The part has since been taken over by 30-year-old English actress Emma D’Arcy, known for films such as Eva Husson’s “Mothering Sunday” and TV series like Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s “Truth Seekers.”

Queen Alicent Hightower has also been recast. The cunning ruler was initially played by 19-year-old British actress Emily Carey, who has previously portrayed the younger counterparts of both the “Wonder Woman” and “Tomb Raider” heroines. 28-year-old English actress Olivia Cooke — who most recently played a pivotal role in Apple TV+’s “Slow Horses” but has also appeared in films such as “Ready Player One,” “Thoroughbreds,” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” — now reigns as the second wife of King Viserys Targaryen.

Other “House of the Dragon” characters you’ll see played by new actors going forward include Laenor Velaryon (previously Matthew Carver and Theo Nate, now John Macmillan); Laena Velaryon (previously Nova Foueillis-Mosé and Savannah Steyn, now Nanna Blondell); among other more minor Westeros players. Only time will tell how fans react and relate to the massive mid-season overhaul, but the personnel pivot will undoubtedly mark one of the most memorable in TV history.

To honor the occasion, IndieWire looks back at 25 of the most controversial recasting decisions on screens big and small, from Evie O’Connell in “The Mummy” franchise to Darrin Stephens of “Bewitched.”

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