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When Missing Actors Return to the Franchise Fold

When Missing Actors Return to the Franchise Fold (photo)

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Actor: Robin Williams
Film: “Aladdin and the King of Thieves” (1996)
Period Between Franchise Appearances: Four years, one film

Getting Robin Williams to play the Genie in “Aladdin” didn’t take a lot of money, but it ended up costing Disney a fortune. Williams initially agreed to take on the role for scale on the condition that the studio not use his likeness or performance to advertise the film. (Williams was already headlining Barry Levinson’s “Toys” when he signed on to “Aladdin,” and didn’t want to hurt his live-action film’s chances at the box office.) Then-Disney studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg realized Williams’ dynamic performance was the film’s most bankable element and convinced the star to permit the Genie to appear in 25% of the advertising before milking that quarter for everything it was worth. Eventually, the feud (whose full details are available here) resulted in a hurt Williams vowing never to work for Disney again, which meant his part in the 1994 sequel “The Return of Jafar” and resultant television series would be filled by voice actor Dan Castellaneta.

Castellaneta had already recorded the Genie’s lines for the third film, “Aladdin and the King of Thieves,” when Joe Roth, Katzenberg’s replacement at Disney, smoothed things over with Williams by offering him a public apology on behalf of the company. Williams accepted and returned for “King of Thieves,” bringing with him a slew of improvised characters and impressions (including Sylvester Stallone, Forrest Gump, Marlon Brando and Williams’ own Mrs. Doubtfire) and imbuing the blandly animated project with a much welcomed blast of energy. He wasn’t quite so shy about receiving credit for his work this time around, either; the other eight leads (including John Rhys-Davies, Gilbert Gottfried and Jerry Orbach) share one title card while Williams gets one all to himself.


Actor: John Franklin
Film: “Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return” (1999)
Period Between Franchise Appearances: 15 years, four films

When last we see Isaac Chroner, the diminutive leader of the first “Children of the Corn,” he’s strangling his rival in the cult in retaliation for having been crucified, consumed by a glowing red blob of energy and shot into the sky as if out of a cannon. It’s not entirely clear what happened to him after that: the film’s heroes blow up Isaac’s corn field along with the giant red cloud floating above it, but there’s no resolution for the evil little tyke himself. Fifteen years later — or 19 years later, according to the chronology provided within the film — Isaac (played once again by John Franklin) reawakens from a coma in Gatlin, Nebraska in order to fulfill some prophecy about the first-born son and daughter of the munchkins of the maize copulating in order to produce a new heir to the legacy of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.”

Franklin, who was pushing 40 at the time of the film’s release, was way too old to play a Child of the Corn, who by cult bylaw 23B must be sacrificed to the pagan gods upon reaching their 19th birthday. Still, he delivers a performance that’s arguably creepier than the one he gave in the original film. A hormonal disorder left Franklin looking younger than his years — he was already in his mid-twenties when he shot the first “CotC” — and in this film, he has the wrinkles of a middle-aged man, but the physical stature and thin, reedy voice of someone much younger. The disconnect is unsettling, to say the least.


Actor: Sam Neill
Film: “Jurassic Park III” (2001)
Period Between Franchise Appearances: Eight years, one film

The first “Jurassic Park” sequel followed Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm character on a journey to a secondary island of dinosaurs prompted by a visit with the park’s founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). The one-character-from-the-original-as-lead, another-in-a-cameo format returned in “Jurassic Park III” with different participants. In the third and, as of this moment, final “Jurassic Park,” paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) leads an expedition to the mysterious and dino-inhabited Isla Sorna after a visit with his ex-girlfriend Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern).

Neill slips comfortably back into the role of Grant, with its appealing mixture of authoritativeness and sardonic wit, and his American accent remains so airtight you completely forget the guy hails from New Zealand. Still, appreciative as his producers must have been, Neill oversold it a bit when, on the press tour for the film, he insisted that this was his definitive “JP” appearance. “I wasn’t entirely happy about what I had done in the first film,” he told the web site Dark Horizons, “and I wanted to do it right this time. I feel, in a sense, that I have, and I’m happier with the character this time around.” To me, running from one dinosaur looks a lot like running from another dinosaur, but who am I to judge? This guy’s the expert.

[Additional photos: Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween: H20,” Dimension Films, 1998; Jean-Claude Van Damme in “Universal Soldier: The Return,” TriStar Pictures, 1999; John Franklin in “Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return,” Dimension Films, 1999; Sam Neill in “Jurassic Park III,” Universal Pictures, 2001]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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