Casting makes so much of a movie, get it wrong and the rest of the film can be wrecked, irrespective of how good the writing or direction might be, maybe even an Oscar-winning performance.
Here are 10 Movie Casting Choices That Were Total Misdirection:
Bryan Cranston – Godzilla
With Cranston’s hit series Breaking Bad resolving in months before the movie was due to release, the studio was trading on the hype of a Walter White vs. Godzilla showdown to put fans in seats, with the movie’s trailers cut to put Cranston’s Joe Brody front-and-center.
Cranston’s cast was a crass bait-and-switch, as he dies precisely one-third of the way through the movie. Afterward, his son Ford reveals to be the secret protagonist.
Ben Kingsley – Iron Man 3
Ben Kingsley, casting as Iron Man‘s iconic comic book antagonist The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Both of his Oscar-winning acting and the fact that Kingsley’s casting would avoid any potentially Asian stereotypes connected with the source material.
As in the movie, Kingsley wasn’t performing The Mandarin at all, but rather an actor. Trevor Slattery, who engages to act as a substitute Mandarin, allowing the seemingly “real” Mandarin, Aldrich Killian. And while the Mandarin twist left many fans offended, it was at least a quick destruction of audiences’ expectations based on an actor’s influence.
Drew Barrymore – Scream
Given that she was by far a well-known member of the cast, it was reasonable to assume that she was at least a main character. Drew Barrymore was featured widely in the marketing for Wes Craven’s famous horror-satire Scream, given the significant placement on all posters.
Casey is Ghostface’s primary victim in the movie casting. The second, if you count, is her boyfriend. Barrymore lasts barely 12 minutes on the screen before making her exit. It set a pattern of unpredictability, which carried throughout the remainder of the movie.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Many fans saw the movie for the first time, considering that Schwarzenegger was the evil T-800. Robert Patrick was the warrior sent to defend John Connor (Edward Furlong) from the machines.
It’s clear to say that had T2 significant vanity would’ve been ruined for everyone during production. Notwithstanding pre-Internet, it was easier to keep spoilers under control. Only in the film’s last marketing push, there was the glorious reveal.
J.B. Smoove – Spider-Man: Far From Home
One of the most comprehensive strengths of the MCU Spider-Man movies has been their diverse and universal casts. So it thrilled the fans when to Curb Your Enthusiasm’s brilliant J.B. Smoove casting in an undefined yet clearly “major” role in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
But the real genius of Smoove’s casting is that it got people so involved in thinking about him probably being Jameson that they forgot about J.K. Simmons. He made a jaw-dropping return as Jameson in Far From Home’s mid-credits scene. While we can argue this misstate was more an issue of fans playing themselves rather than any overt trickery on Marvel Studios’ part, it worked well, whether intentional or not.
Jon Bernthal – Wind River
His unusual absence in trailers and he played a criminal in the Sheridan-scripted Sicario. It seemed likely that he’d end up revealed as the movie’s dark serial killer.
Bernthal only appears in the film for a single scene, and he’s a good character. It is more bizarre this scene is a flashback that ends with Bernthal’s nice guy being beaten to death. It is for trying to prevent the rape of the film’s murder victim, Natalie. Hiding Bernthal from audiences helps preserve the belief that he’d be the third-act big bad. This was a majorly smart misdirect, especially for a first-time director.
Janet Leigh – Psycho
Janet Leigh had more than 30 feature film roles when she starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Audiences quite rightly thought that her character Marion Crane would be the protagonist.
Perhaps the first renowned instance of a fake protagonist confusing viewers, Marion is dead less than half-way through the film. She stabs to death in one of the most iconic movie murders of all time. Legend talks that Hitchcock asked upon no late clients being admitted to screenings of the movie casting. In case they arrived after Leigh’s death and grieved about her absence from the film.
Sean Bean – Flightplan
He was the cast of the airplane pilot in 2005’s Hitchcockian thriller Flightplan. Most of the audience believed they were being fixed up for yet another criminal Sean Bean reveals. The trailers were implying that Bean’s character was trying to gaslight Foster’s hero into believing she’d lost her mind.
Though the film does smartly play with the audience’s perception of Sean Bean. As it turns out, his character is just a regular guy with no further motives. He only doubts Foster’s protagonist because her story does sound far-fetched out of context and there’s no proof sustaining it.
Tom Skerritt – Alien
The chief of the Nostromo and audiences quite reasonably assumed between his honor and rank onboard the ship. He was to be the protagonist of the fear to follow.
Though Scott’s film focuses more closely on the whole cast than any one character or actor. Dallas does seem to be the hero at first until he becomes xenomorph’s victim mid-way through the movie. As such placing Skerritt as our hyper-masculine hero was a perfect bait-and-switch. It allowed Weaver to fill the void in his loss and deliver a surprising, star-making appearance in the process.
Steven Seagal – Executive Decision
When he cast opposite Kurt Russell in the 1996 action-thriller Executive Decision. Audiences anticipated a Seagal-led genre romp. Hilarious that Seagal doesn’t even make it inside the hijacked aircraft with his Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis. He sacrificed himself at the end of the movie’s first act, most viewers’ slack-jawed surprise. Either way, with the film publishing at a time when Seagal was an untouchable, on-the-rise badass, him being removed from a plane so unceremoniously was a superior shock.