Top 10 Miscast Movie Roles

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When an actor and a character gel, there is magic on the screen. Unfortunately, some casting decisions leave us scratching our heads in wonder. It’s not necessarily a question of bad acting, although this is the case sometimes. Here is a list of roles that were too much of a stretch.

10. Geronimo

1962

Directed by Arnold Laven

Chuck Connors as Geronimo


At 6’ 5’’, Chuck Connors had a physical presence and an athletic build. Audiences knew him from a number of roles in TV westerns. This time, he was the Apache leader, Geronimo, who tries to keep his people free and out of the reservation. He has the toughness of a warrior but rubbing something on his face and letting him loose in the dress up box fails to make him an Apache. He just looks like a longhaired quarterback about to make a touchdown. He leads with his jaw but he still has piercing blue eyes and he’s still from Brooklyn. Photo: rOmerO.com

9. Days of Thunder

1990

Directed by Tony Scott

Nicole Kidman as Dr Claire Lewicki

Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise fell in love on the set of this homage to the exciting world of NASCAR. Cruise plays a headstrong driver and Kidman is his love interest, who just happens to be a leading brain surgeon. This begs the question, doesn’t she look a little young to be a leading anything, never mind a medical professional? There’s supposed to be the brain of a neurosurgeon under the appalling 1980s perm. She looks like she’s thinking about boys or shoes or earrings or something equally frivolous, and it’s hard to take her seriously.  Would she really be able to save our Tom if he crashed and his brain fell out and she had to operate in an emergency? Also, she rides a motorcycle without a helmet, surely a faux pas for a brain surgeon?

8. Comanche Blanco

1968

Directed by José Briz Mendez

William Shatner as Johnny Moon / Notah

Shatner took a hiatus from being Captain Kirk to play dual roles in this low budget western, filmed in Spain. Johnny Moon is a cowboy and Notah is his Indian half brother. They are bitter enemies and Shatner has to fight himself (he also has to do this in the Star Trek episode Whom Gods Destroy). The dialogue is poor and badly dubbed. As Johnny, Shatner is perfectly fine, but the Indian with short, blond hair and a bit of war paint is not so convincing. Notah is like an over the top version of The Shat. He rides around shirtless and says deep things like the dead will find their place.  Chewing too much peyote could be a contributing factor to this philosophizing.  Thankfully, Shatner tied up his horse and returned to the Enterprise. It’s still not as cringe worthy as his cover of Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, because nothing is.

7. The Conqueror

1956

Directed by Dick Powell

John Wayne as Tem Ujin – later Genghis Khan

We are used to seeing the Duke as a cowboy taking care of the bad guys or as a soldier single-handedly winning the war. However, this story charts the rise of Tem Ujin, who became Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire. Tem Ujin must do battle and try to win his beloved’s heart. The dialogue is stilted but the epic battle scenes are well executed. William Conrad (Jake and the Fatman) played Wayne’s brother. Wayne said that he played Khan like another gunfighter and the movie was really a western. Let’s face it; Wayne played everything like it was a western. That was part of his charm, but when you cast him as a Mongolian warrior, he still looks and sounds like Wayne and he maintains his distinctive drawl. There was a slight attempt to make Wayne look Asian in that they altered his eyes slightly. They also gave him a sword and a funny helmet but he’s a Mongol by way of Iowa.

6. The Greatest Story Ever Told

1965

Directed by George Stevens

John Wayne as a Roman Centurion

Max von Sydow took the role of Christ in this biblical epic. In an ensemble cast that included Charlton Heston as John the Baptist and Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate, the appearance of Wayne as a centurion in the crucifixion scene is jarring, to say the least. As Christ suffers on the cross, what should have been a moving scene descends into farce, as the Duke drawls his line, ‘truly, this man was the son of Gaaard’.

 

5. The Teahouse of the August Moon

1956

Directed by Daniel Mann

Marlon Brando as Sakini

It is politically incorrect today to cast a Caucasian actor as someone of color, but it used to be common practice (Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is just one other example). Along with the ignominy, the choice of Brando to play a Japanese interpreter was a daring one. One of the finest actors to grace the screen, Brando acts the clown as Sakini in a satirical story about relations between the Japanese and the American forces in the aftermath of WWII.  The film has its amusing moments and Glen Ford is his usual, excellent self but Brando looks like a cartoon character and a grinning doll. It comes across as oh, so patronizing.

4. Behind Enemy Lines

2001

Directed by John Moore

Owen Wilson as Lt. Chris Burnett

Set in war-torn Bosnia, this is a kick-ass action flick starring Wilson as a Navy flight navigator shot down over enemy territory. The action is fairly engaging but the attempts at humor are lame and it’s a hackneyed script. Gene Hackman plays the commanding officer intent on bringing his boy home to safety. It isn’t as suspenseful as it should be partly because Wilson isn’t convincing. He’s more suited to being a laid back dude than someone fighting for survival. He always looks like a puppy. An alternate casting choice would have made it grittier and when is he going to get his nose fixed?

3. The Black Shield of Falworth

1954

Directed by Rudolph Maté

Tony Curtis as Myles Falworth


Tony Curtis proved himself to be a great actor when he was allowed to stretch himself in The Boston Strangler and The Sweet Smell of Success, but a kid from the Bronx was never going to pass himself off as an English knight in the time of King Henry IV. The miscasting makes it an entertaining yarn in fact and Curtis is very watchable. Highlight of the movie is the famous quote,  ‘yonduh lies duh castle of my fadduh’. Photo: Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans

2. The World Is Not Enough

1999

Directed by Michael Apted

Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones

Denise Richards is famous for her on and off screen relationships: she paired up with Neve Campbell onscreen in Wild Things and had a volatile off screen marriage to Charlie Sheen. She also has a long sitcom history, appearing in: Spin City, Melrose Place, Friends, Two and a Half Men, and Seinfeld. She has appeared in Playboy at least twice and most recently, she had her own reality show. Not the most serious body of work.

So perhaps that’s why her portrayal of Doctor Christmas Jones won her a Razzie (“the foremost authority on all things that suck on the big screen”) for worst supporting actress. It’s not surprising that audiences found it difficult to believe Richards in the role of “tough American nuclear physicist.” More surprising? The unquestionably attractive Denise Richards and Pierce Brosnan were also nominated for the “worst screen couple” Razzie. While they rush to recapture and disarm a nuclear warhead and disarm it, their lack of onscreen chemistry is anything but explosive.

Yes, we expect Bond films to be campy – that’s what we like about them. We also expect the Bond women to be smoking hot and Richards’ performance in this flick is uncharacteristically cold. It also doesn’t take a brain scientist to figure out that casting Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist is just silly.

 

1. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

1991

Directed by Kevin Reynolds

Kevin Costner as Robin Hood

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When Hollywood studios insist on shoehorning in an American actor to star in a quintessentially English film, it is really annoying to the Brits. OK, Errol Flynn was an Aussie but he was a lot more convincing, plus there is the added insult of Christian Slater as Will Scarlett and Michael McShane as Friar Tuck. Morgan Freeman was cast too but that man can play anything. It’s doubtful that Robin Hood, if he ever existed, was quite so clean cut as Mr. Costner. He is perfectly groomed despite living rough in the forest. He makes no attempt at a suitable accent and he doesn’t appear to have any sense of impending danger.


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61 Comments

      • Actually that's rubbish. If you watched the original TV series and read the comics, you'd realise bug eyed Maguire was an excellent choice for the role. It's just a shame the 3 movies were all so emo with less emphasis on action.

  1. That's the tough part of making these lists. When I did one (http://www.anotherwineblog.com/archives/7521) everyone had one they said I left off. Most of them I had considered, but you can only have so many. For me, though, Tom Cruise in Interview With the Vampire is the very first role that came to mind. He could have been Louis, but was beyond awful as Lestat.. Kudos on the John Wayne picks, he was horrible as anything but himself, but especially in historical epics. The same for Tony Curtis. Sparticus is one of my favorite movies, but how anyone can keep from giggling at a centurian with that accent is beyond me.

  2. :O:O:O no way RH prince of theives has stolen the theme tune from willow am i the first person ever to realise this????????????

  3. How could you leave out Jessica Alba as Susan Storm? I thought everyone else was at least passable (and I thought Chiklis was great as Ben Grimm) but as cheesy as the movie was she destroyed any credibility they might have had. That franchise was doomed from from the start simply due to her unbelievability.

  4. Errol Flynn was a Kiwi, not an Aussie, and was known to punch out people who made that mistake when he was drinking.

  5. Owen Wilson as Lt. Chris Burnett -I had the same feeling

    Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones not seen but I can imagine that it was awful

    I would add Toby Maguire as Spiderman (I could watch it only beacuse he wore a mask for most of the time)

  6. In the World is Not Enough while Bond is in bed with Denise Richards he says: "I thought Christmas comes once a year", classy.

  7. There are so many actors for roles I could list but the one that sticks out the most to me is Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men movies and her role in Catwoman. I mean come on now. She was only cast in those roles because the casting directors wanted a chance to oggle her in those outfits. That and they believed that her presence alone would pull in comic book nerds (like myself) and non-nerd/casual movie goers alike. I hate when they do that. Casting an actress (or actor) just because of their "hotness factor" (of which hers is highly exaggerated) is irresponsible. Sure she has skill as an actress but I can think of tons more actors better for those roles.

  8. No 5

    The story is that Wayne spoke that line in his normal drawl, and the director shouted at him to say it

    with AWE! OK, says Big John.

    "Awwww, truly that man was the the Son of God."

  9. There's another thing about The Conqueror–where it was filmed.

    Almost half the cast and the crew developed some form of cancer and many died.

    Check the Cancer Controversy section of the film's Wikipedia entry.

    • Dangerous Minds was the movie…Ms. Phiefer does get pretty annoying in the movie, but I give it a pass just based on the Coolio song alone

  10. Michael Keaton as Batman

    George Clooney as Batman

    and yes, Val Kilmer as Batman

    Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett

    I agree with Costner being #1. Good list.

  11. You forgot to mention one of the greatest Miscast of all times >>> Richard Gere as "First Knight" from 1995. This movie shows how can miss those who are called cast-directors

    • I agree, First Knight was the worst telling of the Arthur story ever – but the other actors might have been able to over come the horrible costuming and the ridiculous cheese for dialog, but Gere made the film as bad as Zucker intended it to be.

  12. The Robin Hood one is actually a stupid reason. Complaining about accents is worthless because the English of the day was not the same as English in England or America now. However, there is evidence that the colloquial accent of the day was closer to the general American accent than it was to the British one.

  13. It seems that the author of this list, as well as those commenting, lost track of what the list was supposed to be about. What began as a list of mis-casting became a list of poor performances. For example the person who complained about Halle Berry being cast as Storm in the X-Men. In the comics Storm was an attractive African American woman Halle Berry is an attractive African American woman. The casting makes sense. The ensuing performance may or may not have been one’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean that the original casting decision was the mistake. If we truly want to look at instances of mis-casting how about we discuss Laurence Olivier (white Englishman) cast as Othello in the 1965 movie, or any of the leads in The Shining. Shelly Duval as the woman described in the book as an attractive blonde or Jack Nicholson as the normal man who decends into insanity. Jack Nicholson has a dangerous aspect to his persona which mitigates the power of the haunted hotel. In short he was kinda crazy to begin with.

    • Eyeless Dog Pawless Dog Loveless Dog on

      Storm is African in the comic, by your reasoning the cast was bad ( and let’s not kid ourselves that woman can’t act)
      agree about the shining, the performances are terrific though

  14. With the exception of Risky Business, where he played a rich spoiled brat, Tom Cruise has been miscast in every movie he has been in. This short cult obsessed narcisist should of only played roles such as the quirky friend in rom-coms or the guy that gets killed at the start of an action movie so the star has motivation for killing the bad guys.

  15. OK, I can find some fault with most of your Top Ten lists mainly because a lot of them seem to be written by people who do not know their subject matter.

    THIS list however is dead on. Obviously written by either someone who watches movies, or has a great assistant doing their research for them.

    Good job and spot on with every one.
    Sometimes you have to wonder what pictures these actors had to blackmail themselves into these roles.

  16. Well, for me, the worst bit of casting is Kate Winslet in Titanic. Paired with Leonardo di Caprio (sorry to say, another miscast in my eyes) she just looks like his “big sis”. She’s completely “wrong” for that period and the two have no chemistry whatsoever. This was again demonstrated in Revolutionary Road. Whoever thought that these two looked good or credible together? Ridiculous!

    Also, Nicole Kidman in anything! How long are we going to have to put up with being forced to believe she can act. Every time I watch her in something I think of someone else who could have done it so much better.

  17. Denise Richards was just as good as any other bond girl, no problem there. Also no problem with Owen Wilson in Behind Enemy Lines or Kidman in Days of Thunder. When I think of miscast roles I think of quality movies. Most of these movies are nothing to get uptight over.

  18. Jennifer Grey as “Baby” in Dirty Dancing. She and Patrick Swayze didn’t have any chemistry as couple and I wasn’t surprised to hear that they didn’t like each other during filming, because it showed. To be brutally frank, she wasn’t attractive enough for a good looking, “cool”, guy like Johnny Castle to be interested in.

  19. I think Meg Ryan in City of Angels as a surgeon was too hard for me to believe. But then again, don’t know why I watched it in the first place because I find anything Nicholas Cage in to usually be a waste of time. I liked the story of the movie but I think it could have been much better with two other cast members. Cage looked constipated.

  20. IMO Tom Cruise was great as Lestat and Pitt as Louis. I can think of no-one who could have done it better. I remember this scene where Lestat said: “Why should I know these things?And that noise…”
    That scene was great, check it out if you haven’t. It looked as if he was not acting but so in the zone that he was really angry, you can see the spit flying! After seeing him perform even Anne Rice apologised and said he was great.She thought he was wrong for the role before they started filming.This is one of my favourite films and I thought all the actors were excellent-even Banderas.

  21. Belated thanks to RobG for mentioning Constantine. I’ve always felt the role should have gone to Jamie Marsters (Spike from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer).

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