A bad casting decision won’t hinder a bad movie, but put the wrong person in the wrong role and a good movie becomes “Golden Razzie” fare. Since the first silent films, casting agents have made some dubious choices to portray legendary or pop culture figures. John Wayne was a western movie legend, but was horribly miscast as Ghengis Khan in The Conqueror. I am sure Khan never waddled up to one of his enemies and said “Wa-Ha, pardner, care ta taste some of ma cold steel.” The Conqueror was universally loathed for both Wayne’s acting and Howard Hughes heavy handed direction.
Wayne’s unfortunate turn as a Mongol was not the most egregious choice ever, but it certainly took his Hollywood cred down some. Mickey Rooney suffered the same fate, having to portray an Oriental man in the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He did it in what can only be described as the most racist portrayal of a Japanese man ever, complete with round glasses, mouth prosthetic and ‘yellow face’. With that in mind, here are 30 casting decisions that qualify as stinkers.
30. Cameron Diaz – Gangs of New York
It’s no secret that Daniel Day Lewis completely steals the show in Martin Scorsese’s 2002 Best Picture nominee Gangs of New York, delivering one of the most memorable villain performances in cinematic history as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting. With such a commanding on-screen performance, anyone who isn’t up to Day-Lewis’ level is bound to stand out but while the rest of the cast hold their own, the totally miscast Cameron Diaz sticks out like a sore thumb. Diaz plays Jenny Everdeane, a pickpocket with connections to Bill the Butcher who ends up becoming a love interest for Leonardo DiCaprio’s protagonist, Amsterdam Vallon.
Gangs of New York was a rare serious dramatic role for Diaz and unfortunately, she just wasn’t up to snuff, giving her character a spotty-at-best Irish accent and simply not being convincing as a 1860s pickpocket/prostitute. It doesn’t help that she’s often the focus of the film’s weakest scenes, as the love story between Jenny and Amsterdam feels forced and takes away from the much more compelling revenge plot driving the narrative. It’s a shame because Diaz is playing the only prominent female character in the film and it’s hard not to think that the role would have been better served by a more capable actress.
29. Jake Gyllenhaal – Prince of Persia
It feels weird to include Jake Gyllenhaal on a list like this as he’s one of our favorite actors, but it’s hard to deny that he was woefully miscast in Prince of Persia. Gyllenhaal does a fine job as the film’s central hero, Dastan, and certainly looks the part when it comes to having a ripped physique, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that this casting decision reeks of whitewashing. Gyllenhaal, an American actor of Swedish and Jewish descent, was cast in a role that really should have gone to someone with a Persian or Middle Eastern background.
While it’s true that this whitewash extends to pretty much all the rest of the film’s principal cast, Gyllenhaal is the most prominent miscast, primarily because Prince of Persia was adapted from a series of successful video games that feature a lead character who clearly comes from a much different racial background than the Donnie Darko actor. Oh well, at least Prince of Persia is still one of the few tolerable video game movies out there, even if its casting decisions are questionable at best.
28. Scarlett Johansson – Ghost in the Shell
Another prominent example of whitewashing in genre filmmaking, Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Ghost in the Shell Motoko Kusanagi was simply an unacceptable move for a major studio to make in 2017. Much like with Jake Gyllenhaal’s casting in Prince of Persia, there is nothing inherently wrong with Johansson’s performance. She’s a great actress and we genuinely enjoy most of her performances. That being said, handing a prominent Asian role to an already successful white actress at a time when Asian actors as a whole are hugely underrepresented in Hollywood reeks of poor taste, so it’s little surprise that a petition was circulated by fans of the Ghost in the Shell manga demanding that the role be miscast. At least Ghost in the Shell fans got some karmic justice in that the Rupert Sanders-directed film was both a commercial and critical flop. Hopefully, if someone takes another stab at a live-action adaptation years from now, they’ll start off on the right foot by getting the casting right.
27. Jake Lloyd – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
We don’t want to turn this into another dumpfest on Jake Lloyd, as he’s received enough flak from Star Wars fans as it is. The problem lies more with George Lucas and the casting director on The Phantom Menace for putting so much of the film’s focus on an eight-year-old kid. As everyone knows, Anakin Skywalker grows up to become the powerful villain Darth Vader but in The Phantom Menace, we don’t get so much a hint of that inner darkness in Lloyd’s performance because he’s just a kid with wonder in his eyes. This may have actually been an interesting angle to take with the character had Lloyd not had to carry so much of the film on his young shoulders.
Even the most talented child actor can be cringe-inducing at times and Lloyd’s reading of certain lines — “Are you an angel?” comes immediately to mind — is just unbearable at times. It’s unfortunate that things played out the way they did for Lloyd, as he’s been up front about how the fallout of playing Anakin convinced him to quit acting altogether, but there’s no getting around how unsuited he was for this role.
26. Jesse Eisenberg – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
There is so much wrong with Batman v Superman’s rendition of Lex Luthor it’s hard to even know where to begin. Setting aside that his motivations seem to change from scene-to-scene — first he wants to kill Superman because he just doesn’t like him, then he wants Superman to kill Batman instead, then he wants to play God because the film needs someone to create Doomsday — Luthor’s poor characterization may have been somewhat forgivable if Jesse Eisenberg wasn’t delivering the hammiest comic book villain performance this side of the 60s Batman (though unlike Eisenberg, Adam West made that work).
Now, this is not an attack on Eisenberg as an actor, as he has delivered some fine performances in the past, but this is a case of miscasting on an epic scale. It only becomes more disheartening when you realize that Snyder had been actively looking at casting Bryan Cranston for the role before coming up with the “brilliant” idea of casting Eisenberg as a younger, maniacal turd version of the character. Yeah, thanks for that one Zack.
25. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
Prior to release, the Suicide Squad marketing machine hit us over the head for months about the extreme lengths Jared Leto went to get into character as the Joker, from sending used condoms to his costars, to staying in character so much that Will Smith claims he never actually “met” Jared Leto on set. With that kind of dedication, you would expect that Leto’s Joker, good or bad, would at least be captivating to watch; even more so when you consider that he doesn’t actually have very many scenes in the film. Unfortunately, the only truly memorable thing about Leto’s performance is how forgettable it is.
The big question on everyone’s mind going into Suicide Squad was how Leto would compare to Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight, but Leto doesn’t even do anything to distinguish himself as being worthy of comparison. His “Scarface” Joker is outclassed by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn at every turn and he lacks the danger and chaotic nature that Ledger had in spades. On the bright side, at least he’s only one of the many, many problems with Suicide Squad.
24. Ronda Rousey – Furious 7
Before she was famously upset in the UFC octagon by Holly Holm in December 2015, Ronda Rousey was the “it girl” of the pop culture world. She was the most dominant female athlete on the planet, with a blond California surfer girl look that made movie producers weak in the knees. Naturally, she began to make the celebrity crossover from incredible athlete to movie star. After making her film debut in the largely forgettable Expendables 3, Rousey saddled up next to Vin Diesel and The Rock for another installment of Drive Fast and Steal Things. Err… wait — we mean Furious 7. Rousey plays the head of a security for an Abu Dhabi billionaire. Mostly she just stands around in an evening gown, doing her best to look grumpy. She gets one small fight scene and then disappears from the film. It felt like the producers just wanted to be able to advertise that Rousey was in the film, and shoe horned her into some made-up role just to fulfil that wish. Rousey will back in theaters in 2016 with a remake of the Patrick Swayze classic Road House. Maybe having some actual lines will redeem her lackluster performance from Furious 7.
23. Kristen Stewart – Snow White and the Huntsman
First of all, the world did not need a live action remake of Snow White. Don’t try to convince us otherwise, we’re not changing our minds. But since we did get Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, and Kristen Stewart, we will definitely take this opportunity to rag on it. Stewart, who has a reputation for having the acting range of an overripe banana, plays the iconic Snow White with a performance so bad that one critic summed it up like this: “Stewart’s Snow White… pouts her lips, bats her bedroom eyes, and scarcely seems to have more on her mind than who might take her to the senior prom—let alone the destiny of an entire kingdom.” Ouch.
22. Seth MacFarlane – Ted’s Voice
Look, there’s nothing wrong with doing voice acting. In fact, given the explosion of animated features from the likes of Dreamworks and Pixar Studios (not to mention regular Disney Animation Studios), the chance for big celebrities to make some extra cash by doing a couple weeks in the recording studio is fantastic. But here’s an example of what not to do: use the most famous voice in your arsenal for a brand new character no one has ever heard of. When Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) used the iconic voice of Peter Griffin for the foul-mouthed teddy bear in Ted, it literally ruined the whole experience. Sure, the movie was kind of funny at times, and Mark Wahlberg plays a loser from Boston better than anyone. But whenever Ted spoke, all we heard was Peter Griffin. And no, making some meta joke about it in the middle of the movie is not enough to make us forgive you.
21. Johnny Depp – The Lone Ranger
At this point, we feel there’s a whole new genre of films called “Put Johnny Depp in Some Weird Make-Up and Costume and Turn On The Cameras.” That definitely seems like it was the pitch for The Lone Ranger. We’re not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to cast Johnny Depp as Tonto, a Native American, even though Depp once claimed he believes he is part Native (from his great-grandmother). Regardless, we’re in a new era of political correctness. Johnny Depp might be a guaranteed box office success, but can we please stop casting white people as Native Americans, Latinos, or basically any other unrealistic nationality. There are plenty of good minority actors and actresses out there who deserve a shot.
20. Jeremy Renner – The Bourne Legacy
Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. If you’re going to make a Bourne movie, put Matt Damon in it. These are simple movie making rules that shouldn’t need to be explained. Instead, Universal Pictures decided to cast the forgotten Avenger in a Bourne movie that doesn’t even include Jason Bourne. Like, not even a little.
After three films in the series, Damon decided not to return for a fourth. But the studio wouldn’t be deterred by a small detail like having the star of the series be left out. Instead they crafted a weird tale about a character named Aaron Cross, a black ops agent played by Renner. Maybe the movie wouldn’t have been that bad if they didn’t try to cash in on the popularity of the Bourne series. But they did, and movie goers were frustrated by the lack of Damon. To the surprise of literally no one, Damon announced he will return for fifth film in the series, simply titled Jason Bourne.
19. Emilia Clarke – Terminator Genisys
Look, we have nothing against Emilia Clarke. We think she’s great, and are especially fond of her role of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. But there’s no getting around the fact that Sarah Connor from the Terminator series is an iconic character who should never have been recast. After Linda Hamilton knocked the role out of the park in Terminators 1 & 2, they should have realized that no one else would ever compare. And we’re going to ignore the fact that the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles even exists for our purposes here. With a convoluted story set in multiple years due to the time traveling mechanic, Terminator Genysis fails to live up the lofty expectations of its name. Likewise, Clarke fails to live up to her characters, despite her best efforts.
18. Ashton Kutcher – Jobs
We understand that sometimes comedic actors want to try their hand at something a little more serious, and vice versa. But did anyone really think that Kelso from That 70s Show would be believable as Steve Jobs, the computer genius/giant jerk who helped revolutionize the way we interact with modern computers and technology? Sorry Ashton, but you can’t go from Dude, Where’s My Car to playing the guy who helped invent iconic things like the iPod and iPhone without us being skeptical. For a much better biopic about the Apple founder, check out Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs.
17. Russell Crowe – Noah
We’re not sure why Hollywood continues to think that epic portrayals of bible stories make for good movies. Yes, we know that The 10 Commandments is a classic and that The Passion of The Christ made about a bajillion dollars. But seriously, stop. No one believes that Russell Crowe, a short-tempered white guy from New Zealand, can accurately play Noah, a guy from the Middle East who built a giant wooden arc (by hand!) to save all the animals from a global flood brought on by God’s wrath. The film made pretty much everyone angry, religious and non-religious alike. Some Muslim countries even banned the movie for contradicting the teachings of Islam.
16. Everyone in Fifty Shades of Grey
Starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as the infamous couple, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie attempted to capitalize on the phenomenon that was the novel with the same title. Unfortunately, the movie fell short in almost every way. Most notably, Dornan and Johnson had such little chemistry together that the film could have easily been called Fifty Shades of Oh God My Eyes This Is So Boring. Capturing none of the sexual tension or interesting power dynamic of the literary version of the couple, reports began to leak out that Dornan and Dakota legitimately hated each other on set. With sequels tentatively scheduled for 2017 and 2018, audiences are set for at least two more snore-fests as we try to pretend that these two actually like each other.
15. George Clooney – Batman & Robin
Lots of famous names have played the Dark Knight, to varying degrees of success. We were temped to put Ben Affleck on this list for his turn as Bruce Wayne, but we decided to withhold judgement until we at least see the movies. After all, fans were outraged when it was announced that Heath Ledger would play The Joker, and that turned out pretty well. Anyway, back to Clooney. He only played Batman once, in the critically panned Batman & Robin. Ya know, the movie with the bat nipples. The film stunk so bad that Clooney vowed to never don the cowl and cape again, leaving plans for a second Clooney/Batman flick stuck in purgatory.
14. John Wayne – The Conqueror
We know we mentioned this one in our opening paragraph, but we really need to hammer the point home about how awful it was. Genghis Khan was born in Mongolia, which is part of Asia. John Wayne was born in the middle of Iowa, perhaps the whitest part of the entire United States. After starting his movie career in 1926 and making a name for himself on the big screen, mainly as the star of numerous great Western flicks, Wayne decided to play the role of Khan in the 1956 disaster The Conqueror. Maybe he was just bored after 30 years in the business. Or maybe producer Howard Hughes just drove up to his house with a dump truck full of money. Either way, the movie and the casting choice was terrible and is routinely cited as one of the worst in film history.
13. Kelsey Grammer – The Expendables 3
Sylvester Stallone. Jason Statham. Antonio Banderas. Jet Li. Wesley Snipes. Dolph Lundgren. Randy Couture. Terry Crews. Harrison Ford. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Kelsey ‘effin Grammer? What?
As a movie series, The Expendables has never taken itself too seriously, which is part of its charm. Bringing together all the biggest action movie stars from the last two or three decades and putting them in one big, over-the-top, muscle-bound, blow-everything-up extravaganza has been fun. But what the hell is the guy from TV’s Frasier doing in the third one? He is literally the last person we would associate with this movie. He plays a retired mercenary-turned-recruiter for tough guys, but it’s barely believable. And that’s saying something, since the whole movie requires us to suspend our disbelief in reality.
12. Nicolas Cage – Ghost Rider
We know that Nicolas Cage doesn’t like to turn down roles. Partly because he likes to make outlandish purchases like dinosaur skulls. And partly because he has a history of not paying his taxes. Regardless, when the studios asked him to play Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle stuntman who agrees to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for his father’s life, Cage quickly signed on. Rather than playing Blaze as a hard drinking badass adventurer, like he is in the comics, Cage decided to give a more brooding, emotional performance. It wasn’t a good choice. Critics and fans hated the film, leading it be one of the worst rated superhero films ever made. Maybe Marvel studios will be able to reboot this character in their shared Cinematic Universe.
11. Rosie O’Donnell – The Flintstones
We admit that we’re not huge fans of Rosie O’Donnell. When she was cast alongside John Goodman and Rick Moranis in the live action adaptation of the animated classic The Flinstones, we weren’t thrilled. O’Donnell played Betty Rubble, who was typically shown in the cartoons as a quiet, mild mannered follower. Does that sound like Rosie to you? Obviously not. The film was met with mixed reviews, as Goodman and Moranis have great chemsitry as Fred and Barney, respectively. However, critics panned O’Donnell’s performance as Betty Rubble — she was even awarded the Razzie that year for Worst Supporting Actress.
10. Sofia Coppola – Mary Corleone, Godfather III
She is the daughter of a famous director (Francis Ford), cousin of a famous actor (Nic Cage) and a great director and screenwriter in her own right (won a screenwriting Oscar for Lost In Translation, was nominated as best director too). But as an actress in the The Godfather III, Sofia was about as wooden as a barstool. Nepotism is nothing new in Hollywood and in her defence, Coppola was uncredited for two appearances as a child in The Godfather and The Godfather II. However, Daddy Francis must still shake his head at casting his progeny as an adult in his third, critically acclaimed effort. Sofia Coppola’s Mary Corleone was monotone and as uninteresting as watching grass grow. That she was killed off before the final act was a blessing.
9. Jack Black – Carl Denham, King Kong
Jack Black is a manic, slightly chubby, man-boy best known for playing loveable losers and misfits, like his hilarious Dewey Finn in School of Rock. Cast as an old school movie director in Peter Jackson’s not-totally-horrible remake of King Kong was a foolish decision. From the time Carl Denham hustles correctly cast Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, you know the decision was flawed. Neither as dashing or as debonair a character as the prettily shot period movie needed, Black’s Denham comes across only as a desperate Schlub. Without mania, Black is way out of his element. The film needed a suave yet slightly sinister Denham, what it got was Shallow Hal playing film director.
8. Ryan Reynolds – Hal Jordan, Green Lantern
Hollywood loves a superhero. Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern (aka Hal Jordan), not so much. Director Martin Campbell probably figured he was going to get some Robert Downey Jr./Tony Stark magic from his handsome and snarky leading man. He figured wrong. Reynolds doesn’t have the gravitas of Downey, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s just more suited to playing a too-handsome-for-school wisecracker, as he did in Van Wilder. Seeing Reynolds in a green crime-fighting suit dealing out retribution to bad guys is just all kinds of wrong. The film bombed as bad as Reynolds did in a role he wasn’t suited for.
7. Hayden Christensen – Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars Ep. II & III
Pretty boy Christensen “won” not one, but two, Golden Raspberries for his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader. That George Lucas’ three prequel films were rather craptacular is beside the point. Casting the handsome Canadian, who did well in Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, went way against the type of actor needed to play moviedom’s most heinous villain. That we already knew the ‘adult’ Vader didn’t help matters. Leo DiCaprio, among about 400 other hopefuls, was turned down for the role. Enough said.
6. Colin Farrell – Alexander
Like superheroes, Hollywood is absolutely enamoured with epic, biblical fare. A biopic of The King of Macedonia, Alexander, seemed like a good idea at the time. And having Oscar winner Oliver Stone direct? A slam dunk. Problem was, they cast a hard-partying Irishman with a thick brogue as the eponymous character. Don’t get us wrong, Colin Farrell has put in yeoman’s work in great movies such as In Bruges and Tigerland. Heck, even his fat suit, balding turn as Bobby Pellit in Horrible Bosses was a tour de force. Alexander The Great, though, was blond, gay, and bloodthirsty. Which Farrell got right on only one count in the role — the blond part.
5. Vince Vaughn – Norman Bates, Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock would roll in his grave if he saw Gus Van Sant’s remake of his classic, as well as Vaughn’s interpretation of Norman Bates. Put it this way, casting fast-talking funnyman Vaughn as Bates would have been like Hitchcock picking Jerry Lewis to play Bates back in the day. A better fit as Bates in Van Sant’s ode would have been someone suitably creepy like Steve Buscemi, not Trent from Swingers. The rest of Van Sant’s cast was solid, loaded with great talent like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Viggo Mortensen (another great would-be Norman) and Philip Baker Hall. Vaughn’s choice to play the villain seems downright idiotic in retrospect.
4. Ben Affleck – Matt Murdock, Daredevil
Good thing that Affleck has a couple of Oscars for writing, directing, and acting in some really good films over the last 20 years or so. Because in 2003, he nearly hit the trifecta of bad acting and movie choices. Gigli was one thing, but playing the titular blind comic book hero was as against the grain as roles get. A self-professed ‘Southie’ playing a sight-challenged criminal attorney is the stretch of stretches. Daredevil never did pan out as it should have, generally because of Affleck’s mis-casting. Well, at least he got to hang out with future wife Jennifer Garner (Elektra) on set.
3. Denise Richards – Christmas Jones, The World Is Not Enough
Richards could never be mistaken for an actress of any note. That she played a nuclear physicist in a Bond film is even more ludicrous. The blonde, pneumatic, former Mrs. Charlie Sheen is mostly known for titillating fluff like Wild Things and Blond and Blonder. And pardon us if we’re wrong, but Bond girls in the past haven’t been just pretty faces, but fairly brainy women with outrageous names. Monikers like ‘Pussy Galore’ (Honor Blackman), ‘Solitaire’ (Jayne Seymour), and ‘Octopussy’ (Maud Adams). Richards couldn’t hold a candle to any of them.
2. Keanu Reeves – Johnathan Harker, Dracula
That playing the titular John Wick has sort of resurrected Keanu Reeves career is a curious bit of business. The man who made a stoner slacker famous, though, was horribly, outrageously mis-cast as vampire hunter Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. His English accent was deplorable and he played Harker like Ted Theodore Logan. “Excellent” it wasn’t. This role is but one of many that Reeves was never destined to play. It’s like pretty much his whole career has been one big accident.
1. Kevin Costner – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
A non-English-accented, long-haired Californian playing Robin Hood, you say? Pity. Costner set the legend back immeasurably with his bogus portrayal of one of England’s most beloved mythical characters. What made it worse was that this was his follow up to the acclaimed Dances With Wolves, making it even harder to stomach. Costner’s Robin Hood was a cross between his earnest Elliot Ness from The Untouchables and crass Crash Davis of Bull Durham. Except he left out the acting part. Ugh, what a terrible film and role.