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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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