Casting Choices That Were More Of A Gamble Than We Remember

Ashley Hunte
Several movie posters, including for The Matrix, Spectre, Scarface, and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Unsplash | Samuel Regan-Asante

Every now and then, a casting announcement for a new movie comes out that has fans all excited. Some actors seem like they were born to take on certain roles.

Of course, the opposite is true a lot of the time, too. Some actors are better known for things that are totally different than the roles they're about to take on. So when it comes to the casting choices in this list, they definitely felt more like gambles at the time than they do now.

Michael Keaton in 'Batman' (1989).

Today, Keaton stands the test of time as one of the (many) beloved Batmans (Batmen?) to grace the silver screen over the years. But at the time, his casting was so contested by fans, they were sending angry letters to Warner Bros. in protest.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in 'The Hunger Games' (2012).

Fans of the book series were concerned with Lawrence's casting as the film's protagonist, given the fact that Katniss is described as having dark hair and gray eyes in the book, and Lawrence is blonde and blue eyes. But looks aside, her performance carried her through the film, and its three sequels.

Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany in 'Silver Linings Playbook' (2012).

Considering the fact that Lawrence was just in a book adaptation where she played a teenaged girl, critics were doubly skeptical of her ability to play a widow with depression at the age of 21. But she showed everyone, winning her first Oscar for that film.

Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in 'Monster' (2003).

There were few who believed that someone as elegant as Theron could play the monstrous serial killer Aileen Wuornos. But her portrayal was so convincing, it ended up cinching her the Best Actress Oscar that year.

Chris Pratt as Owen Grady in 'Jurassic World' (2015).

Up until this point, Pratt's brand mostly consisted of goofy, lovable, man-child roles. And while the Jurassic World series isn't peak cinema, Pratt's portrayal as a more serious, grumpy protagonist works surprisingly well.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Casino Royale' (2006).

When it was first announced that Craig would be stepping in as 007 in the latest Bond flick, the critics were out in full force. There was no way that this "Blond Bond" could be any good, right?

Well, a decade and a half and several Bond movies later, it's safe to say he's made quite a mark on the franchise's history.

Tom Cruise as Lestat in 'Interview with a Vampire' (1994).

Based on the book by Anne Rice, even she wasn't a fan of Cruise's casting. At first, that is. But once he did his job, Rice ended up praising his performance.

Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather' (1972).

Director Francis Ford Coppola really wanted Brando for the role (or Lawrence Olivier, who was unavailable). But Paramount was against it due to Brando's reputation at the time. But Coppola cast him anyway.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in 'The Godfather' (1972).

Coppola's vision for his film really differed from what Paramount wanted. While Coppola thought Pacino would make a great Michael, Paramount thought he was too short. But alongside Brando and the rest of the cast, Pacino went on to act in one of the most iconic movies of all time.

Rene Zellweger in 'Bridget Jones' Diary' (2001).

At the time, fans of the book weren't looking forward to Zellweger's take on Bridget Jones. But over two decades later, this film is still the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the actress (in a good way, of course).

Barkhad Abdi as Abduwali Muse in 'Captain Philips' (2013).

Unlike the bulk of this list that saw actors face skepticism for stepping out of their usual wheelhouse, Abdi's casting in the 2013 film stands out because it was his first-ever movie role. Considering the fact that it landed him an Oscar Nomination, the choice to cast an unknown actor really paid off.

John Krasinski in 'A Quiet Place' (2018).

Known for playing Jim in The Office and the Jack Ryan series, no one was really expecting Krasinski to act in (or direct) a horror movie. But alongside real-life wife Emily Blunt, he knocked it out of the park.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in 'Iron Man' (2008).

Although he formally departed from the role with 2019's Avengers: Endgame, RDJ is kind of synonymous with Iron Man to this day.

Which makes it so weird to think that Marvel Studios actually refused to hire the actor at first, as he'd been dealing with drug and legal troubles shortly before.

Keanu Reeves as Jack Tavern in 'Speed' (1994).

Not many were expecting Speed to be as good as it was. Reeves was a lesser known actor at the time, and the idea of him in an action movie's leading role seemed a little odd. Even Reeves himself didn't know what to think of the role.

Bruce Willis as John McClane in 'Die Hard' (1988).

Today, Bruce Willis is synonymous with a number of action movies, including the Die Hard series. But back in the '80s, he was better known for his role on Moonlighting, which caused many to question his ability to become an action star. But he did it justice.

Gal Gadot as 'Wonder Woman' (2017).

Gadot's casting as Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman, was pretty controversial at the time, with many wondering why a lesser known actress got such a huge part. But she proved the haters wrong, and has gone on to star as the superheroine in a sequel, as well as other DCEU films.

Heath Ledger as the Joker in 'Dark Knight' (2008).

Ledger was definitely better known for his roles in romantic movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight's Tale, making his casting as the Joker cause for concern for a lot of critics. But upon seeing his spine-chilling performance, pretty much everyone changed their tune. He even won a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Jonah Hill as Peter Brand in 'Moneyball' (2011).

Known for his comedy film career, no one thought Hill could pull off a role in a more serious movie. But his Oscar nom for the role kind of says otherwise.

Tobey Maguire as 'Spider-Man' (2002).

The studio executives considered a number of big names for the role, but they ended up going with Tobey, whose career completely exploded thanks to this film and its sequel (and to a lesser extent, the third in the series).