AV Brew: PCU Bad Casting
A few weeks ago, a story appeared online claiming that Beyoncé may be cast as Storm in Black Panther 2. It was a fan theory that grew legs, based on a report that Mrs. Carter signed a 3-project deal with Disney. To say social media had opinions is an understatement falling along party lines. Lovers of Bey wanted to see her in the role, haters of Bey screamed, “what is Disney/Marvel thinking.”
The PCU team had a broader conversation though: if Beyoncé were to be cast as Storm it would be plain bad casting. Another example of Hollywood’s penchant to cast hot, high box office drawing actors/actresses instead of the best person for the job.
When adapting a book, graphic novel, video game, or podcast into a movie, the studios have a built-in audience. They have lived in that world and with these people. This audience is excited to see the character and story play out on screen. However, when they cast the wrong actor, they instantly lose that audience.
In our opinions here are Hollywood’s most egregious casting mistakes:
Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher
Based on the long-running book series by Lee Child, Reacher is described as “6’5″, 220-250, 50″ chest, dirty blond hair with ice blue eyes.” How someone convinced themselves that 5’7″, brown haired, brown eyed Cruise fit that description for two movies I have no idea. What they said at the time was, “Why wouldn’t I want the biggest star in the world to play my character?.” I believe there was a missed opportunity for Cruise here. If the powers that be wanted Cruise attached to a Reacher film, they could have cast him as one of the villains or as one of Reacher’s friends who he maintained contact with after his Army days. A decent movie mixed with a well written supporting role, allowing him to stretch his acting ability ala Tropic Thunder, may have garnered some Oscar buzz with a chance to win. The Academy loves seeing their beloved actors in roles they normally don’t do, like Denzel Washington in Training Day.
According to recent reports, Reacher is being adapted into an Amazon Prime series with an appropriately cast main character. The producers should take a hard look at Josh Duhamel for this role, he has the look and height of Reacher and with some workouts he could gain the weight. That combined with his lifetime of acting experience in both drama and comedy he’d bring the right mix of gravitas and wit to the role. Another option would be Michael Wayne Foster, while his career has consisted of smaller roles in TV shows he has the size and the acting chops to pull this off.
Tyler Perry and Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross
James Patterson‘s character Alex Cross has appeared in three films and each time they have cast the wrong person.
At the start of the series, Cross is in his early 40s, physically fit, and resembles Mohammed Ali. Morgan Freeman was too old when he played the part in the late 90s and Tyler Perry was just wrong for the role from top to bottom and is a mediocre actor at best. What made that even more appalling were rumors of a film starring Idris Elba around the time that Perry was working on that film. Elba is closer than either of these two.
Henry Cavill in Netflix’s The Witcher
First, let me say that I have watched the entire first season of Netflix’s The Witcher, and have enjoyed it overall. However, I feel like Henry Cavill just isn’t right for the titular role. He’s just too good-looking. Sure, it’s nice to see Cavill’s muscular visage filling out his Witcher’s armor, or sitting in a bathing tub; but that’s not what the character is supposed to look like. Even the GAMES got it wrong. According to Andres Sapkowski’s novels, Geralt is described not as a buff & charming powerhouse. Instead, the author says that Geralt is skinny, with an ugly smile and a voice that makes people uncomfortable. That’s just not Cavill.
To be honest, I think a better casting job for this character (in a perfect world) would’ve been Doug Jones. His spindly form, skill as a character actor, and ability to emote in unusual ways would’ve made for a much more physically-convincing Geralt of Rivia.
Jake Gyllenhall in Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time
This is easily one of the worst casting jobs in this list. First (and probably most annoyingly), this game takes place in Persia (what is now the Iraq/Iran area)…SO WHY IS THE PRINCE A WHITE MAN??? This is just another instance of Hollywood whitewashing a PoC character who made much more sense as a PoC. Second, Gyllenhall’s performance was incredibly lackluster – as if he had no understanding or love for the source material. There was no passion, no fury, and no real sense of who the Prince was.
You want a good match for the titular role in a film version of this game? How about all of the Middle Eastern actors out there who didn’t even get thought of for the part? If I had to pick one, though, I would probably go with Firass Dirani. The Aussie/Lebanese actor is a great cultural match for the role, and has an action background enabling him to pull off the more physically-demanding scenes.
Virtually the entire cast of Gods of Egypt – We’ve previously covered how problematic this movie was, but it’s worth repeating for this context. Considering that this movie was made a full six years after Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, one would hope that Hollywood would’ve learned a lesson. Sadly, they just seemed to double down on their whitewashing shenanigans. The filmmakers basically took an entire pantheon of deities in a geographic area where literally everyone is BIPoC, and said, “but what if they were white?” As one of the only exceptions to this, even Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the Egyptian god of writing, magic, the moon, and wisdom was just a ridiculous caricature.
It’s hard to think of how one would recast an ENTIRE movie, so let’s just talk about the 3 main characters in this one; Bek: played by Brenton Thwaites, Horus: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Set: Gerard Butler. A better option for the role of Bek would’ve definitely been Mena Massoud. His portrayal of the titular role in Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin proved that he’s got the chops. For Horus, I would’ve loved to see someone like Mido Hamada. He’s got the same smoulder & good looks as Coster-Waldau, and he’s actually Egyptian. Set, Ancient Egypt’s god of disorder, violence and more, would’ve been really well-played by Omar Metwally. Metwally’s intense look and physical stature would’ve made for a great foil against Hamada’s Horus.
Chadwick Boseman as James Brown – I’m probably going to catch hell for this but Chadwick Boseman is one of the most okay actors I’ve ever seen. Even as T’Challa he has no real fire, he’s just… there, feeding off the energy of the actors around him. This actually works for something like Black Panther, which, despite being an origin story, isn’t solely focused on him but is more about world building for an overall series. However, for something like Get On Up you need something…more and Boseman? Doesn’t have that.
James Brown was sex on wheels, hell his entire schtick was stolen in some capacity by several white artist, the most famous being Elvis Presley. Why someone thought that Chadwick Boseman, one of the most unsexy men ever placed on screen, would be able to pull this off is beyond me. He doesn’t have the intensity and certainly doesn’t have the sex appeal. Watching him play James Brown is like trying to be seduced by your little brother: icky and shudder inducing all around.
Frankly the better actor for the job was already in the cast: the late Nelsan Ellis. Ellis had the charm, the charisma, sensuality and the acting chops to pull off Brown and why the producers and casting directors didn’t just make him the lead I will never know but what a massive missed opportunity.
The casts of Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings
Le sigh. Okay. There’s so much racism here it’s… a lot. From Darren Aronofsky, who I genuinely like, not even trying with Noah’s casting to Exodus: Gods and Kings’ super racist everything… I just. I can’t.
Seriously, how did this even happen in the 21st century of our lord Beyonce? How did they not see the racism of casting every main character with white actors, in a story set in the middle east in both instances? Except, of course, anyone who would be considered a ‘bad guy’? With the exception of the wildly miscast Joel Edgerton as Ramses and poor Logan Lerman, the only 100% Jewish cast member in Noah? That’s not even getting into Ridley Scott’s and Darren Aronofsky’s utter tone deaf and racist af statements on it.
These films were messes. From top to bottom. And genuinely made me dislike both directors and write them both off as people I no longer need to hear from going forward. Just…ugh. As for who should replace them? Literally any of the many talented Middle Eastern or African actors out there would’ve been more appropriate.
Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone
Whoo child. This was so bad Zoe Saldana officially apologized for it this past month. There are so many things to unpack about how awful this performance and casting were that have been said before but I think the biggest for me is the apparent hatred for dark-skinned, full bodied and lipped black women that came across. Nina Simone was beautiful and black af. Nothing about her could be translated into palatable to white or eurocentric beauty standards. That Saldana, a black woman (when it’s convenient), would see Nina Simone and willfully chose to portray her as so utterly unattractive, even beyond the prosthetics, goes to a deeper rooted problem within the black community of how darker skinned black women who don’t have european features are perceived. To be honest this one hurt. On several levels.
Despite its box office earnings, accolades, and popularity, the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t immune to questionable casting choices.
The most obvious was in Doctor Strange when the studio decided to whitewash an Asian character using all sorts of weak excuses. Beyond Tilda Swinton‘s controversial casting, several fans also questioned the lead himself.
It’s not that Benedict Cumberbatch was a poor Stephen Strange; the issue was his casting felt out-of-place. In previous films, the MCU chose to cast everything from “fallen” actors regaining their career to past comic-adaptation failures to relative unknowns.
The choice to cast Benedict Cumberbatch, a renowned figure of stage and screen at the height of his popularity, seemed like pandering. While he was a decent Stephen Strange, others might have been just as good (if not better).
Especially an actor previously considered for a character whitewashed by Cumberbatch.
Beyond Doctor Strange, two further names stick in people’s throats. One of them is Scarlett Johansson, who we’ve mentioned multiple times. Even if you like her Black Widow, the character is often tainted by the actor’s controversies.
The other was an almost unanimous statement when asking random friends and family, “Who do you think was the worst cast actor in the MCU?” Without fail, it almost always came down to one person: Jeremy Renner.
Let’s face it – whether you like Jeremy Renner as an actor or person (and many don’t), his version of Hawkeye was far from the role in the comics.
Comic-book Hawkeye was sarcastic, witty and abrasive, often clashing with team leadership. He was also a bit of a lothario. He was more like Chris Evans’ Human Torch than the brooding, gritty S.H.I.E.L.D. agent we received.
Renner never fleshed out the character until Avengers 2, with the sudden appearance of a hidden family, who only exist in the Ultimates universe and are barely mentioned, even there. Unfortunately, they never gave any further depth, from his origin as a circus performer or aspiring superhero to the fact that he’s deaf.
(Although, we’ll forgive the latter because the last thing we want is Jeremy Renner hearing-washing a character.)
Either way, Renner was an almost unanimous choice for “worst casting” in the MCU. With Johannson’s poor life choices, Swinton’s whitewashing, and Cumberbatch’s pandering, we’ve seen that Disney/Marvel is not immune to questionable choices.
Which brings us back to the Storm casting…
Honestly, everyone who’s played Storm has been wrong, Halle Berry was poorly cast in this role and never allowed to bring her sense of humor to it, nor was she given writing that would’ve allowed her to bring the right gravitas needed. Alexander Shipp never even made a real impression though she sort of looked the part. A report recently surfaced that Janelle Monae is campaigning for the role. While we love her, again, no.
When I saw these illustrations, my first thought was Grace Jones; however, we are decades past her being able to star in this role. Frankly, what I would love to see Marvel do is find an amazing actress who is not widely known and let them build the character. Before Thor, I could not have picked Tom Hiddleston out of a lineup. He brought Loki to life all with all the depth and mischievousness that the character requires, let a lesser known actress do the same for Storm.
The media this year has been, rightly, focused on race, which always carries over into representation. Honestly, Hollywood will no longer be able to sell audiences on problematic castings just to ‘sell tickets’. There’s a demand that they do better and this is the perfect opportunity.
Storm is a character of African descent created outside the community of the African Diaspora. I have never seen Africans with natural all white hair and blue eyes. While we do get an explanation for that it’s still weird so we need to at least have an actress who’s of direct African descent in the part.
Agreed. There are certain cultural things that cannot be taught when you’re from specific countries or the child of immigrants. For Storm you need an actress who’ll be able to pull off those little nuisances. Below we pick three actresses who fit the bill…
PCU Team picks:
If Disney insists on casting an African-American actress in the role, we’ve stated before that Wesley would be amazing in the part of Storm. Daughter of legendary tap dancer Ivery Wheeler, of The Four Step Brothers, and an accomplished actress and dancer in her own right, she would bring the gravitas and earth mother nature of Storm alive while never once letting you forget that Storm is always one of the most dangerous people in any room.
Writer, director, actor and dancer, the Ghanaian-British Coel has been in the game for a minute and would be wonderful as Storm. Her ability to bring pathos and humor to almost any situation, as evidenced on her hit shows Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You, would be a much different take on the character than we’ve seen before yet would still be true to the comics.
Comedienne, actor and writer Yvonne Orji is honestly just so perfect for this part it’s insane. She legit looks like Storm come to life and as we know with her work on Insecure Orji has the acting chops to pull this off. Combined with her effortless ability to switch between her native Nigerian and American background she would bring an authenticity to the role as her actual life story most closely resembles Storm’s comic book origins.
These are our picks, what are yours? Are there any other casting choices for beloved characters that were just so bad you cringed? Let us know in the comments!
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