In a time when Hollywood are obsessed with remakes, reboots and re-imaginings, it is now becoming the trend to consider recasting roles made famous and iconic by one specific actor. Some roles have managed to survive this, notably James Bond, Batman, Dracula or Sherlock Holmes but these roles were also timeless and not directly from film initially.
The roles below are mostly from the movies originally or made so famous by one specific actor that recasting will ultimately fail or mean that the version that the audiences gets will pale in comparison compared to what has gone before.
1 – Han Solo
This one is happening. Disney and Lucasfilm are making a prequel to Star Wars that focuses on the formative years of Harrison Ford’s smuggler. This is also a bad idea. If we put aside the fact that prequels rarely work and that the Star Wars universe has struggled with this particular area before, can anyone really replace Harrison Ford? The man made that role, with his arrogant, lovable rogue and then created a older, wiser version for the more recent The Force Awakens. The shoes to fill are huge and could well mean that we never truly accept the “younger version.”
2 – Indiana Jones
There is a pattern forming here. It seems Harrison Ford has not only been responsible for two of the greatest roles of all time but also two of the most irreplaceable. The “fly-by-seats-of-pants” action hero who is always one step behind but relentless became so successful because of Ford’s delivery of both the bigger action scenes but also the cooler one-liners and comedy. There are people that could do a passable version (Chris Pratt being one) but why imitate when you could just leave the series alone to grow-old gracefully.
3 – John McClane
This is another role which seems on the verge of a recast. The fifth installment of Die Hard was poor and part of this was due to the lazy, non-McClane that Bruce Willis embodied, which has spurred-on talk of a sixth movie which is part prequel and sequel. That means someone new donning the dirty vest and everyman-attitude. The problem with this is the balancing act that Willis perfects, elevating McClane from just another generic action hero to someone that could do incredible things in extraordinary situations but is also fragile and kill-able. In a time when superheroes tear-up the big screen, only Willis could keep McClane grounded.
4 – Jason Bourne
Bourne is not Bond. Not just in quality or style but also legacy and because of that it doesn’t have the ability to transcend actors like the British spy does. Plus, Bourne is Damon and vice-versa. He brings an intensity to the role that nobody else could comfortably match. Even trying to make a “side-quel” to his character in Bourne Legacy failed because it didn’t have what Damon brings.
5 – Captain Jean-Luc Picard
The producers behind the Star Trek reboot got lucky. Those characters were iconic and the actors that played them were a big part of that. It helped that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were not doing impressions of the original crew of the Enterprise and that Leonard Nimoy was on-board to “pass the torch” but still, it could have been disastrous.
For a lot of people, The Next Generation is their Star Trek and Captain Jean-Luc Picard is their leader. Nobody else can deliver his role like Patrick Stewart though. It would inevitable be a prequel but would you want a Picard who had a full head of hair? A Picard who delivered his lines with anything less than British thespian gravitas? A Picard who looked old but could handle action scenes with the best of the younger crew?
Overall, some of these roles are being recast and others have the potential to be but don’t. Some roles are so intrinsically linked with the actors that play them that recasting would be a disaster or put an actor at a disadvantage before they even start. Tomorrow – Part 2.