Subbing In: Strange Moments in Replacement Actor History

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07142008_mummy3.jpgBy Matt Singer

When adventurous treasure hunters Rick and Evelyn O’Connell return for their third film, this summer’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” one of them will look a bit different than they had previously. That’s because Evelyn was once played by Rachel Weisz, who passed on this sequel and was replaced by Maria Bello. Likewise, the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes from “Batman Begins” continues in this summer’s “The Dark Knight,” without Katie Holmes; Maggie Gyllenhaal fills in there.

It’s a busy year for actors replacing other actors in sequels — we’ve already had a new Hulk (Edward Norton) and this fall, we’ll have a new Punisher to match (Ray Stevenson) — so it’s a good time to look back at some of the most notable substitutes. Sometimes new actors in old roles can make a huge impact; Antonio Banderas broke through with American audiences with “Desperado,” but he was the second “El Mariachi” after Carlos Gallardo. Other times, you can change a performer and no one notices; a dozen guys have played Jason Voorhees’ in 11 “Friday the 13th” movies. As a general rule though, if the replacement calls attention to itself either on or off screen (as in all six of our examples), your movie’s already in trouble.

07142008_hannibal.jpgJulianne Moore for Jodie Foster
In “Hannibal” (2001)
Directed by Ridley Scott
After “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
Directed by Jonathan Demme

It’s one thing to find another dude to play Darkman beneath a couple pounds of latex gauze; it’s quite another to replace an actress in a role for which she won an Academy Award. For unspecified reasons — speculation ranges from script dissatisfaction to loyalty to departing “Silence of the Lambs” director Jonathan Demme — Jodie Foster chose not to reprise her performance as FBI Agent Clarice Starling. Ultimately, the honor of playing Clarice in Ridley Scott’s sequel fell to Julianne Moore. Demme went to great lengths to diminish Foster’s Starling physically onscreen; in a world of beefy guys, she’s always the smallest person in the elevator. Scott and Moore’s Starling, on the other hand, is some kind of supercop; blissfully snoozing seconds before she’s blowing baddies away. After seeing the performances side by side, it’s hard to believe their IMDb pages, which state that at five foot four inches tall, Moore stands just a half an inch above Foster. In, “Hannibal,” it’s more like half a foot. People joke about the camera adding 10 pounds; I never heard of it adding 10 inches before.

07142008_backtothefuture2.jpgJeffrey Weissman for Crispin Glover
In “Back to the Future Part II” (1989) and “Part III” (1990)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
After “Back to the Future” (1985)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

After its massive box office success made sequels inevitable, director Robert Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale set out to reunite the cast from “Back to the Future.” Everyone gladly signed on with one notable exception: Crispin Glover, who played Marty McFly’s dweebish dad George. According to Gale on a “Back to the Future” DVD commentary, Glover made outlandish contract demands for “Part II,” asking for things that even series star Michael J. Fox wasn’t insisting on to return. Zemeckis and Gale eventually decided to write the George McFly character out of the two sequels as best they could, but when he needed to appear they used a mixture of stock footage and an actor named Jeffrey Weissman disguised through various means (wigs, prosthetics, even hanging him upside down at one point) to look like Glover. Crispin was none too pleased, and sued the producers for using the footage from the previous installment without his permission. (The suit read something like “Hey you! Get your damn hands off me!”) Universal settled with Glover for an undisclosed amount and the affair ultimately led to a change in Screen Actors Guild policy about actors’ likeness rights for sequels.

07142008_majorleague2.jpgOmar Epps for Wesley Snipes
In “Major League II” (1994)
Directed by David S. Ward
After “Major League” (1989)
Directed by David S. Ward

Even though “Major League II” picks up just one season after its predecessor, it actually took half a decade to reunite the cast and creator of the original. Understandably, a lot of the returning Cleveland Indians look older than when we last saw them — Corbin Bernsen’s receding hairline endured a particularly rough hot stove — but one member of the team appears to have been hooked up to a serious rejuvenation machine. That’s because the Tribe’s center fielder, Willie “Mays” Hayes, reappears in the form of Omar Epps, an actor more than ten years younger than the guy who originally played him, Wesley Snipes. The weirdest part isn’t even that Epps looks so much younger than Snipes but that director David S. Ward bothered to recast such a small part of an ensemble in the first place. With Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen and Dennis Haysbert all returning, would anyone have missed a one-joke character in MC Hammer pants? Ward should have just said Willie was traded to the Astros and been done with it.

07142008_supermanreturns.jpgBrandon Routh for Christopher Reeve
In “Superman Returns” (2006)
Directed by Bryan Singer
After “Superman” (1978) and “Superman II” (1980)
Directed by Richard Donner and Richard Lester

When you get right down to it, it could be almost anybody underneath Batman’s cape and cowl, as evidenced by the fact that Christian Bale is the seventh Dark Knight (by way of comparison, there have only been six James Bonds). Actors playing Superman, on the other hand, only have that spit curl to hide behind. “Superman Returns”‘ Brandon Routh was just the fourth cinematic Man of Steel and he felt more like Superman 3A. Bryan Singer fashioned his film as a loose continuation of the Christopher Reeve films — recycling John Williams’ score and using digitally altered snippets of Marlon Brando’s performance as Superman’s papa Jor-El — and he cast Routh accordingly as a borderline eerie doppelgänger of Reeve. Close your eyes when Routh says, “Good night, Lois,” and the similarity between the men’s voices is downright uncanny. Is it an extravagant homage or the most expensive piece of fan film ever made? I’m still not sure; oddly Singer didn’t require the same level of mimicry of Kate Bosworth or Kevin Spacey, who gave their own interpretations of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, rather than impersonate Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman, respectively.

07142008_thesting2.jpgJackie Gleason and Mac Davis for Paul Newman and Robert Redford
In “The Sting II” (1983)
Directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan
After “The Sting” (1973)
Directed by George Roy Hill

To take nothing away from George Roy Hill’s perfectly understated direction, Marvin Hamlisch’s adaptation of Scott Joplin rag, or Robert Shaw’s sneering villainy as the evil Doyle Lonnegan, the relationship between stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford was the engine that drove “The Sting.” I’d be first in line for a “Sting” sequel that reunited Newman and Redford — after all, “The Sting” itself was an unofficial reunion of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — but what’s the point of a follow-up without the two charismatic stars? The movie seems to acknowledge its impertinence in recasting two irreplaceable actors by taking the unusual step of altering their characters’ names. In “The Sting” Newman and Redford play Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker respectively. In “The Sting II,” Gleason and Davis are “Fargo” Gondorff and “Jake” Hooker. Whatever; for all the chemistry these two drum up, they may have well changed their names to Henry Capulet and Johnny Montague. The “same guys, sort of” vibe may have been intended as a gracious tip of the hat, but it just comes off as an entirely accurate admission of inferiority. On a tangential note, David S. Ward, director of both “Major Leagues” wrote both “Stings,” making him perhaps the most actor replacement-friendly filmmaker in Hollywood.

07142008_terminator3.jpgNick Stahl for Edward Furlong
In “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003)
Directed by Jonathan Mostow
After “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)
Directed by James Cameron

Edward Furlong had one of those great Hollywood success stories: a 12-year-old plucked from obscurity in a Pasadena, CA Boys Club to play opposite the biggest and thickest accented movie star in the world in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” But by the time “Terminator 3” rolled around a dozen years later, the weight of the responsibility of being humanity’s future savior had gotten to Furlong. After numerous drunk driving arrests and trips to rehab, “T3” producers decided to bring in reliable Nick Stahl as the now twentysomething John Connor. Stahl gives a fine performance, though I continue to wonder how guys as shrimpy as Furlong and Stahl wind up leading humanity’s armies against evil future deathbots. Still, there’s no doubt that the callbacks to “Judgment Day” (“Hasta la vista, baby? Ring any bells?”) would have landed better coming from Furlong. We can’t blame the Terminator for not recognizing John Connor — we don’t either. By the way, the Connor role is quickly becoming something of the town bicycle; McG’s upcoming “Terminator Salvation” will feature Christian Bale (already a skilled replacement actor as Batman) as the third John Connor in three films.

[Photo: “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” Universal Pictures, 2008; “Hannibal,” MGM, 2001; “Back to the Future Part II,” Universal Pictures, 1989; “Major League II,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 1994; “Superman Returns,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 2004; “The Sting II,” Universal Pictures, 1983; “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 2003]

This list marks day 14 of IFC’s List Month — check back here for a new list every weekday!

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.