By 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.
Julianne 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.
Jeffrey 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.
Omar 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.
Brandon 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 doppelgÃ¤nger 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.
Jackie 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.
Nick 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]