All comic book fans have this ideal casting for their favorite comic book characters. We all have an idea of who should play whichever superhero or supervillain and we always think we’re correct. Which is why a lot of us will moan and complain whenever Hollywood makes a big comic book movie and then decide to cast someone who is clearly wrong for the part. Well, there have been a lot of times when they have made some very obvious mistakes, like getting Halle Berry to play Catwoman, Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider and *shudder* Seth Rogan as The Green Hornet.
However, there have been more than a few times when an actor seems to be totally wrong for the part but, by hook or by crook, wins fans over with their performance, making it seem like, in retrospect, they were the best fit for the role. So, let’s go look at five times when it seemed like Hollywood proved us wrong when they cast these actors to play these comic book characters.
#1 Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne
“You’re telling me that crazy guy who played Beetlejuice is going to be the next Batman?”
I remember when I was a kid and I first heard the news that Michael Keaton, a man known for comedic roles like Mr. Mom, Gung Ho and, of course, Beetlejuice, was going to play the super serious Dark Knight in the next Batman film. The casting immediately has fans, such as myself, up at arms as this seemed to denote they were going to make another slapstick-fest out of the Caped Crusader like they did in the ’60s. What we didn’t consider was Michael Keaton’s incredible acting chops and Tim Burton’s dark and macabre style to turn us around.
Suffice to say, the 1989 Batman film was a huge success and a lot of fans saying Michael Keaton was wrong for the role were eating their own words. For me personally, the reason his performance won me over is because you can’t really picture this version of Bruce Wayne as Batman. This version of Bruce Wayne isn’t all that big and muscular and he even acts a little aloof and forgetful. This is nicely counterbalanced the the ethereal way Batman moves, which was necessary since Michael Keaton actually couldn’t turn his head with that solid cowl on. Whatever the reason, it just worked and I’m super glad it did.
#2 Heath Ledger as The Joker
“They get the guy who played a closeted gay cowboy to be the next Joker? You gotta be kidding!”
Sticking with Batman, another bit of casting controversy was caused when Heath Ledger was chosen to put on the makeup to become the next Clown Prince of Crime. A lot of fans were confused and outraged by this casting choice. At this time, Heath Ledger was mostly known as a pretty boy who would take on roles like the handsome guy from the romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You and the lead in A Knight’s Tale. What made it worse is that he was saddled with the label of being one of the gay cowboys in Brokeback Mountain. There was utterly no way he would be even a half decent Joker!
Well, he certainly proved us wrong, didn’t he?
Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker may have been totally different from other live-action iterations. He certainly wasn’t all about making jokes! Instead, Heath Ledger’s Joker was a very disconcerting figure and someone who you would be deathly afraid of because you have no idea what he’s thinking… which is very Joker-like. I remember watching The Dark Knight and hearing all the little “ohmygod” low screams during the cam scene. In fact, I read somewhere Michael Caine was so taken aback by his performance during those scenes he forgot his lines because he was so frightened by his performance! When a person of Michael Caine’s caliber watches you and forgets its just a performance, that’s really saying something. It is very unfortunate that he died shortly after the release of the Dark Knight because I would say Heath Ledger would have gotten a lot more respect after that.
#3 Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
“Some skinny woman is going to play Wonder Woman? Somebody stop them from making a huge mistake!”
When you look at the modern iteration of Wonder Woman in the comics, she’s usually depicted as this tall, statuesque Amazon with a really toned and well-developed muscular structure on her still very sexy and attractive frame. So it surprised many fans to hear that Gal Gadot, former Miss Israel, was going to play the Amazon Princess. While she was actually relatively toned as she has appeared in action movies like the Fast and Furious series, she didn’t exactly exude the impressive aura of Wonder Woman.
Thankfully, Gal Gadot proved a lot of her naysayers wrong. It took us a while to warm up to her as she only got minimal screentime as the character in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, she definitely proved her mettle with the solo Wonder Woman movie. Her overall build, while maybe not as big as many would’ve liked, didn’t matter because she took ownership of the role. I do have to say the accent, which I originally couldn’t place, really added a lot for me because it did really make her sound like a stranger in a strange land.
#4 Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
“How could they get some washed up actor to play one of Marvel’s premier superheroes? Blasphemy!”
Switching over to the Marvel side of things, there was some controversy when they announced that Robert Downey Jr. was donning the iconic red armor of 2009’s Iron Man. It’s wasn’t like he was an unknown at the time but there was a general feeling he was already an over the hill actor. And making him the lead of your big budget film? That has box office flop written all over it! In fact, Marvel Studios didn’t want to cast him and it was only through the persistence of Jon Fabreau, Iron Man’s director, that Robert Downey Jr. was cast by highlighting the actor’s history and how it mirrors Tony Stark’s comic book life.
Flash forward to today and it’s virtually impossible to picture anyone else portraying Tony Stark/Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr’s charismatic performance also laid the foundation of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel owes a lot to the actor as he became the backbone of one of the biggest film franchises ever.
#5 Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
“They got a six-foot Australian to play Wolverine, who’s a five-foot Canuck? How dare they?”
To be fair, there wasn’t a whole lot of controversy over this casting. Most of the people complaining about getting Hugh Jackman to play Wolverine wasn’t because of his acting chops. He was a relative unknown at that time. It was mostly the die-hard Marvel comics readers who threw a fit when they learned they were getting a pretty tall guy to play the comparatively small superhero. They got hung up on the fact that the movie isn’t going to be comic accurate so it’s automatically a miscast. That tends to happen a lot with Marvel movies, come to think of it, because it did happen again with Idris Elba being cast as Heimdall in the Thor movies. But that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, the first live-action X-Men movie was a huge hit and a lot of the credit does have to go to Hugh Jackman going all in with his character. Like in the comics, Wolverine became the most popular character from the X-Men movies and he even got his own origin movie… but the less we talk about that, the better.
BONUS: Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
“Chris Evans is a bad choice to play Captain America! I should know; I’m Chris Evans!”
This falls in the bonus category as I don’t recall much controversy with casting the former Human Torch actor as Captain America. Marvel already proved they knew more than us because they (with a little arm twisting) got it right with casting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. So a good number of folks figured out they were going to be correct with Chris Evans as well. However, the only person who didn’t think he was the right fit for the role was Chris Evans himself!
Other actors would’ve pounced at the chance to become the next Marvel superhero but not Chris Evans! He actually turned down the role twice and the only reason he did finally accept was because Robert Downey Jr. and his other friends convinced him! So, while the general public didn’t think there was any problem with him inhabiting the role of Captain America, it was the actor himself who thought it would be a bad move. Life is interesting, isn’t it?
What other controversial comic book casting choices can you think of? Let me know in the comments section below!