10 Wonderful Casting Decisions That Made Fans Unnecessarily Angry

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Fannish enthusiasm can be a wonderful thing. But sometimes it can go a bit too far, as when hardcore fans are absolutely convinced that they, and only they, know how to properly adapt their beloved franchise into a feature film. When someone is cast who doesn't fit their vision of a favorite character, things can get nasty. As these 10 casting backlashes prove, it's usually best to wait and see how someone does in a role before bringing out the pitchforks.

1. Heath Ledger // The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker has become the litmus test for fans overreacting to a casting decision. Much of the backlash against Ledger stemmed from his roles in teen-centric comedies such as 10 Things I Hate About You. GeekTyrant has a time capsule of Reddit reacting to the news: “Heath Ledger has the charisma of a lettuce leaf.” “The Joker is a character that needs an actor with gravity. Not some little twerp who got lucky.” “Probably the worst casting of all time.” “Let’s reminisce on the days of a A Knight’s Tale and Ten Things I Hate About You. Heath? The Joker? Bad casting. Bad joke.” And [sic all]: “There are better choices in my own opinion, but what do I know, its only been my life enjoying these comics?” But the Academy really had the final say when they awarded Ledger a posthumous Oscar for the part.

2. Michael Keaton // Batman (1989)

Ledger wasn’t the first Batman actor (Bactor?) to suffer the rage of fanboys: When Michael Keaton was cast as the Caped Crusader back in the late '80s, fans sent physical complaint letters (oh, pre-Internet days) to the studio—by one account, more than 50,000 of them. The primary complaints: Keaton was a comedian, and he wasn’t physically intimidating enough. A 1998 article in The Toronto Star noted that Batman “may turn out to be a wimp,” as Keaton was “no Sylvester Stallone.” Director Tim Burton responded to the backlash, explaining that “I met with a number of very good, square-jawed actors, but the bottom line was that I just couldn’t see any of them putting on a bat suit.”

In 2015, Keaton reflected on the time comic book fans the world over hated his guts, saying that “I heard about the outrage, and I couldn’t get it. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. It made me feel bad that it was even in question.” But Keaton was in good company; the Star article also mentioned that some fans disliked "the casting of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, a pathologically evil Batman archenemy. Mr. Nicholson, it seems, is guilty of having a sense of humor."

3. Jennifer Lawrence // The Hunger Games (2012)

The biggest complaint against Jennifer Lawrence being cast as The Hunger Games' heroine Katniss Everdeen? She wasn't skinny enough. Because the character comes from the impoverished District 12, Katniss—some argued—should be stick-thin. Her hair color was also a point of contention, with some fans dismissing the Oscar-winning actress as a “beach bunny blonde” with “chubby cheeks.” In an interview with Teen Vogue, Lawrence said she understood the casting backlash: "The cool thing about Katniss is that every fan has such a personal relationship with her, and they understand and know her in a singular way. I'm a massive fan too, so I get it." The Hunger Games franchise went on to earn close to $3 billion globally.

4. Daniel Craig // Casino Royale (2006)

In 2005, layered popped collars were in, Fox canceled Arrested Development, and people just could not handle a blonde guy being cast as the world’s most famous super-spy. Daniel Craig’s height and general appearance were also an issue—the site DanielCraigIsNotBond.com wondered how “a short, blonde actor with the rough face of a professional boxer and a penchant for playing killers, cranks, cads and gigolos [could] pull off the role of a tall, dark, handsome and suave secret agent." An actor "with his looks,” the site suggested, should instead star in a Caddyshack prequel. Most of the world left the “James Blonde” hatred behind when Casino Royale came out to excellent reviews, but the website is still going strong: Earlier this month it posted a story titled "Daniel Craig: Worst Spy Ever."

5. Anne Hathaway // The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

You’d think Batfans would have learned their lesson by now, but no such luck: Fans were skeptical when the squeaky-clean Anne Hathaway was cast as Catwoman/Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, and it only got worse when the first picture of her in costume leaked. The word “underwhelming” was used a lot. Speaking with MTV, Hathaway responded to the criticism and warned the Internet at large about rushing to judgment based on a single promo pic: “What I’m happy to say is, if you didn’t like the photo, you only see about a 10th of what that suit can do. And if you did like the photo, you have excellent taste.”

6. Robert Pattinson // Twilight (2008)

Given how The Twilight Saga launched Robert Pattinson to the heights of teen heartthrob-dom, it can be easy to forget that, when he was cast, the majority of fans were not pleased. His only major movie before then had been Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where he played Cedric Diggory, whose clean-cut, good boy image was a far cry from the brooding sexiness that fans wanted from vampire Edward Cullen. French actor Gaspard Ulliel was a fan favorite choice to fill the role, a fact referenced by author Stephenie Meyer in a blog post where she named future Superman Henry Cavill as her preferred actor for the part. Pattinson would later describe the fan reaction as “unanimous unhappiness” to MTV. He told the Evening Standard that he “got bags of letters from angry fans, telling me that I can’t possibly play Edward, because I’m Diggory,” and to Entertainment Weekly, he noted that "I stopped reading [blogs] after I saw the signatures saying 'Please, anyone else.'"

7. Keira Knightley // Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice was ill-fated from the very start as star Keira Knightley committed the great sin of not being Jennifer Ehle, who played the role of Elizabeth Bennet in the beloved 1995 BBC miniseries. Shocking! When BBC News asked readers about the movie back in 2004, there was a fair amount of general handwringing of the "how dare you remake a classic?!" variety. Some mega-fans of the 1995 version, though, flipped their pretty beribboned bonnets about Knightley specifically: "The disaster is the casting of Kiera [sic] ‘Bones’ Knightley as Elizabeth," said one anonymous commenter from Pasadena, California. Others chimed in: "This other actor [Matthew Macfadyen] seems to [sic] young for the roll [sic] and Keira too beautiful and thin for playing Lizzy too." "Knightley is too pinched and one-dimensional, not solid enough!" "Keira Knightley is too attractive and rather bad at acting." “Kiera [sic] Knightley should never be Elizabeth Bennet ... she’s not that type of actress.” The Academy disagreed, granting Knightley one of the film’s four Oscar nominations. But that vitriol was nothing compared to the fan reaction to…

8. Matthew Macfadyen // Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Again, from the BBC: “There is only one Mr. Darcy and that is Colin Firth.” “[Firth] ‘is’ the one and only Mr. Darcy.” “No one will compare to Firth.” “Colin Firth is the definitive Mr. Darcy, never to be matched at least not for many a year.” “Matthew Macfayden is not a bad looking chappy but he’s not Colin Firth and cannot possibly live up to the expectations of my comrades and I!” And the nastiest: “You must have someone dashingly handsome as Darcy ... try Rupert Everett, Hugh Jackman, or someone of the tall, arrogant, but handsome calibre. Macfayden doesn't have a masculine enough jaw, I suspect he'll need a seriously good wig to make up for his own rather thin, receding, floppy hair." Not that it wouldn’t be amazing to see a version of Pride & Prejudice with the “masculine-jawed” Jackman as Darcyeven better if he played it in character as Wolverinebut somehow Macfadyen’s turn as the “darkly handsome but socially paralyzed Darcy” pleased critics and audiences alike despite him not being Colin Firth emerging wet from a lake.

9. Vivien Leigh // Gone with the Wind (1939)

Even in pre-Internet times, fans would get demanding about the casting of their favorite characters. With Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, the problem was that she was a British actor playing the world's most famous Southern belle. Producer David O. Selznick tried to downplay Leigh's nationality in the official casting announcement, instead saying that she was educated in Europe and did some "recent screen work in England." Outraged fans wrote letters to newspapers that slammed Leigh's casting as an "insult to Southern womanhood” and "a direct affront to the men who wore the Gray and an outrage to the memory of the heroes of 1776 who fought to free this land of British domination." The President of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which initially planned to boycott the film, eventually warmed up to Leigh; according to the film’s historical advisor, Susan Myrick, she believed that an Englishwoman was preferable to “a woman from the East or Middle West."

10. René Zellweger // Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Call it a reverse Scarlett O’Hara: instead of being angry that a British actor was playing a Southern character, Bridget Jones’s Diary fans couldn’t imagine the Texas-born Renée Zellweger playing Bridget Jones, who is a modern-day version of Pride & Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet. (What you can take away from this piece: Batman fans and Jane Austen fans are equally hardcore.) “The criticism has been hurtful,” noted Zellweger in a 2000 interview with The Guardian. “Not the bit about the fact that an American girl is playing this part. I can understand that. But it's the extremes to which it's taken. They'll slip something else in there like, ‘Nobody has even heard of her before;' ‘What's she ever done?;' ‘The unknown Texan comic.’ That's hurtful, d'ya know?”

Co-star Hugh Grant came to Zellweger's defense, telling Entertainment Weekly, “She's very funny, and she's been living in England a long time now, mastering the accent. It'll be a triumph. I know it will." The time with a vocal coach—Barbara Berkeley, who worked with Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare In Love—paid off, and Bridget Jones’s Diary became a modern rom-com classic.

8 Facts About Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon
Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon

Longtime Harry Potter fans who feel like first-years at heart may find it hard to believe, but the books have been around for decades. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, which follows Harry as he faces Dementors, investigates the mysterious Sirius Black, and gets through his third year at Hogwarts.

From Rowling’s writing process to how it changed The New York Times Best Sellers list, here are some facts you should know about the wildly popular book.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was J.K. Rowling’s "best writing experience."

In a 2004 interview with USA Today, Rowling described the creation of Prisoner of Azkaban as “the best writing experience I ever had.” This had more to do with where Rowling was at in her professional life than the content of the actual story. By book three, she was successful enough where she didn’t have to worry about finances, but not yet so famous that the she felt the stress of being in the public eye.

2. The Dementors represent depression.

Readers who live with depression may see something familiar in Prisoner of Azkaban’s soul-sucking Dementors. According to the book, “Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself ... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."

Rowling has stated that she based the Dementor’s effects on her own experiences with depression. "[Depression] is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again," she told The Times in 2000. "The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It's a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different."

3. Rowling regretted giving Harry the Marauder’s Map.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, the Marauder’s Map is introduced as a way for Harry to track Sirius Black and learn of the survival of Peter Pettigrew. But this plot device proved problematic for Rowling later on this series. In Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, she wrote, “The Marauder’s Map subsequently became something of a bane to its true originator (me), because it allowed Harry a little too much freedom of information.” She went on to say that she sometimes wished she had made Harry lose the map for good in the later books.

4. Rowling was excited to introduce Remus Lupin.

One of the aspects Rowling most enjoyed about writing Prisoner of Azkaban was introducing Remus Lupin. The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and secret werewolf is one of the author's favorite characters in the series, and as she told Barnes & Noble in 1999, “I was looking forward to writing the third book from the start of the first because that's when Professor Lupin appears.”

5. Crookshanks is based on a real cat.

Harry had Hedwig the owl, Ron had his pet rat Scabbers, and in book three, Hermione got a pet of her own: an intelligent half-Kneazle cat named Crookshanks. J.K. Rowling is allergic to cats, and she admits on her website that she prefers dogs, but she does have fond memories of a cat that roamed the London neighborhood where she worked in the 1980s. When writing Crookshanks, she gave him that cat’s haughty attitude and smushed-face appearance.

6. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book Americans had to wait for.

Harry Potter fans based in America will no doubt remember waiting months after a book’s initial release in England to buy it from their local bookstore. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book with a staggered publication date: Beginning with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the rest of the books in the series were published in both markets on the same date.

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban broke sales records.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban sold 68,000 copies in the UK within three days of its release, making it the fastest-selling British book of all time in 1999. The book has since gone on to sell more than 65 million copies worldwide and helped make Harry Potter the bestselling book series ever.

8. It changed The New York Times Best Sellers List.

For part of 1999, the first three Harry Potter books—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which is known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone pretty much everywhere besides America), Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban—occupied the top three slots on The New York Times Best Sellers list. It didn’t stay that way for long, though: Prisoner of Azkaban was the book that pushed the paper to create a separate list just for children’s literature, leaving more room on the original list for books aimed at adults. That’s why Harry Potter is missing from the famous bestsellers roundup during the 2000s, despite dominating book sales at this time.

Game of Thrones Star Emilia Clarke Turned Down the Lead in 50 Shades of Grey

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

Though Emilia Clarke is undoubtedly best known for her starring role on Game of Thrones, she has landed some other plum parts over the past several years, including Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys, the role of Qi'ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the lead in Phillip Noyce's upcoming Above Suspicion opposite Jack Huston. But there's one major role Clarke passed on, and has no regrets about it: Anastasia Steele in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise.

The movies, based on E. L. James's erotic book series, trace the sadomasochistic/romantic relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and millionaire businessman Christian Grey. Both the books and the movies have garnered a lot of criticism for their graphic nudity and sex scenes. While Clarke is no stranger to appearing nude on film for her role as Daenerys Targaryen, she said that 50 Shades of Grey would have taken her too far out of her comfort zone.

“There is a huge amount of nudity in the film,” the British actress told The Sun of her reasons for not wanting to get involved with the film series. “I thought I might get stuck in a pigeonhole that I would have struggled to get out of.”

Even without 50 Shades of Grey on her resume, Clarke says she has dealt with a lot of negative backlash because of the nudity in Game of Thrones. “I get a lot of crap for nude and sex scenes,” the 32-year-old star said. “Women hating on women. It’s so anti-feminist.”

When we last left Daenerys, she seemed to be getting serious about Jon Snow—who, unbeknownst to the two of them, is her nephew. We'll see how that unpleasant discovery plays out when Game of Thrones returns on April 14, 2019.

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