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Hollywood's Trip to the Casting Couch: 10 of the Biggest Mistakes in Movie History

Updated on November 17, 2019
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Heather has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Moravian College and has been freelance writing for more than 14 years.

The Black Dahlia Poster
The Black Dahlia Poster
Shadow Conspiracy Poster
Shadow Conspiracy Poster
Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Poster
Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Poster
Superman Returns Poster
Superman Returns Poster
The World is not Enough Poster
The World is not Enough Poster
The Bonfire of the Vanities Poster
The Bonfire of the Vanities Poster
The House of the Spirits Poster
The House of the Spirits Poster
The Debt Poster
The Debt Poster
The Godfather: Part III Poster
The Godfather: Part III Poster
Mirror Mirror Poster
Mirror Mirror Poster
The Godfather Part III Poster #2
The Godfather Part III Poster #2
Catwoman Poster
Catwoman Poster
Catwoman Poster #2
Catwoman Poster #2

What does it mean to cast an actor or actress in a movie role? The process seems random at best, because Hollywood usually focused on what was new and not what was right. This type of approach can overlap with casting the latest crop of Hollywood films based on the newest rising stars. Sometimes, the ideas are inspired like Lily Collins' increased presence on the big screen, but others tend to leave moviegoers disappointed. A prime example would be most of Robert Pattinson's post-Twilight film work that tried making him a romantic leading man when he should've taken a different direction.

When it comes to making movies, Hollywood has to put in a lot of time and money to make things come together. The biggest mistake that most movie studios tend to do is allow the wrong star to be cast in a career changing role which could advance or hurt their career for a while. (Robert De Niro's forgettable turn as Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is likely one role everyone would love to forget.) Look at Julia Roberts' turn as the evil queen in last spring's Mirror Mirror. She had a ball playing someone so evil, but Roberts still played her role as if she was America's Sweetheart disquised as a villain.

Luckily, Roberts' good girl image won't be tarnished for too long because her career has survived worse. Sadly, the same can't be said for the following 10 movies who made some deadly casting mistakes that ended up wrecking their films worse than a poor script ever could. Let's focus on the movie themselves and the casting misfires that helped sink them even further. Read on to see if you agree with the choices or if anything should be added to the list.

Poor Conspiracy Thrillers

Murder at 1600 (1997)- After the success of Clint Eastwood's Absolute Power, Hollywood attempted to duplicate Power's White House conspiracy storyline with mixed results. Most of Power's carbon copies failed to ignite at the box office because their plots were all too familiar and have been done much better in All the President's Men and Three Days of the Condor. In 1600, a D.C. cop (Wesley Snipes) is thrown at the center of a murder plot that could destroy the President of the United States. He had the help of a young Secret Service Agent (Diane Lane) to solve the mystery.

Snipes and Lane had a strong chemistry that was never truly explored, but they seemed almost too good to do a half baked thriller like this. Snipes was perfect as the flawed cop, but he would've been better by playing a villain instead of the usual good guy. In terms of Lane's performance, she did the best she could with such a limited role, but the upside was that 1600 put her on Hollywood's radar where she has been ever since.

Shadow Conspiracy (1997)- Like 1600, Conspiracy attempted to weave an intricate web that indicated how it could affect the highest level of government. A young White House aide named Robert Bishop (Charlie Sheen) was thrown in the middle of a murder plot that threatened to take down the President (Sam Waterston). Robert has to rely on a reporter (Linda Hamilton) and his closest ally (Donald Sutherland) to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. What Robert finds out will shake him to his very core, but he knows that he has to see it through to the end.

Sadly, Conspiracy failed to ignite at the box office because of a lukewarm story and some wildly poor casting choices. A prime example would be making Hollywood bad boy Sheen the poster child for doing your civic duty. It rang about as true as Lindsay Lohan's casting as Elizabeth Taylor in an upcoming Lifetime movie. The only actor who seemed to come out unscathed from this misfire was Waterston who played a convincing President in his limited screentime. He had a decent rapport with Sheen, which was never explored because it would explain why the most powerful man would hire someone so young to work so closely with him.

Artistic Flops

The House of the Spirits (1993)- Spirits had the making of a great film with an Oscar caliber cast that included Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons in a multi-generational story of a very complicated family. The only problem was that it was poorly adapted from the classic Isabela Allende novel that tended to leave the strongest material on the cutting room floor. Moviegoers only saw a glimmer of the cruelty that Esteban (Irons) inflicted on his loved ones. It also didn't help that Irons shouldn't have been cast as Esteban, because Irons' strong British accent made it hard to believe that he was a powerful South American man. Of course, Irons did his best to be a convincing Esteban as he chewed the scenery, but his superior acting skills couldn't make audiences ignore that he shouldn't have been in this movie at all.

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)- Unfortunately, many movie critics and viewers alike cannot find anything positive to say about this movie adaptation of the popular novel. A lot of mistakes were made from start to finish. The biggest offense was that Tom Hanks' casting as the unlikable businessman when he was anything but. He was too nice of an actor to play someone without any redeeming qualities. Melanie Griffith may have looked the part of Maria, but she lacked the charming Southern accent that made her a draw in the book. Her voice was so irritating that it was hard to listen to her talk for the entire film. Vanities was a major movie misfire, which has proven to be a valuable lesson for Hollywood to not sanitize their movie adaptation and to choose actors who were actually right for their roles.

Credibility Stretching Action Movies

The World is not Enough (1999)- Pierce Brosnan's turn at James Bond helped to revive the long stagnant franchise with 1995's Goldeneye, but his last two films threatened to ruin it again. World mixed plots of intrigue, terrorism and a romance with the most unlikely Nuclear Scientist (Denise Richards). It was hard to take her seriously when she was walking around in nothing but a pair of very short shorts and a tank top. Richards would've been better served if she switched roles with Sophie Marceau and was the movie's female villainess. She could've easily chewed some major scenery as she toyed with Bond's emotions. Sadly, that's an idea that will never come to pass, which is a shame. Now, that would be a movie worth seeing.

Superman Returns (2006)- Returns had the makings of a great film that featured a stellar performance by Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Spacey clearly made the most of his role, which can't be said for Brandon Routh's generic portrayal of Superman. Routh played Superman like he was a catalog model who had been invited to walk the runway for the first time. He fared better as Clark Kent, but he seemed to go nowhere once he became the "Man of Steel." Hopefully, a possible new movie adaptation will revive the franchise once and for all.

Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)- Once upon a time, George Lucas' popular Star Wars franchise was something to behold. Episodes 4 through 6 told great tales of heroism and love, but the movie's prequels attempted to rewrite history in some disappointing tales. The biggest mistake was casting the virtually unknown Hayden Christensen as the future Darth Vader. He didn't have the acting ability to carry off such a complex role. A more established actor would've been off playing Anakin/Darth Vader in the long run. That would've made Revenge of the Sith a little more tolerable to watch, even as Anakin became Darth Vader. Oh well, it's a wrong that Lucus will never be able to make right.

Poor Timing, Wrong Role

The Godfather Part III (1990)- When it comes to sequels, timing and casting is everything. The two reasons why Part III failed to make a good impression with moviegoers proved to be the same. Too much time had passed between the second and third film for viewers. They believed that the magic was lost. It also didn't help that legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola cast his daughter Sofia Coppola, as a last minute replacement for Winona Ryder, to play Mary Corleone. Coppola's portrayal of the mob princess has been widely panned and she gave up acting to be a widely praised film director as well.

The Black Dahlia (2006)- In 1997, L.A. Confidential was the toast of Hollywood because it mixed mystery and brilliant casting. Nine years later, The Black Dahlia tried to duplicate its success with mixed results by combining a true murder mystery and stellar casting. What was released on the big screen was something entirely different. The story's uneven pace and strange casting choice ended up ruining the movie long before the end credits were over. Oscar Winner Hilary Swank was cast the resident movie bombshell and movie sexpot Scarlett Johansson was the troubled good girl. Director Brian De Palma should've had Johannson playing the bad girl, while Swank played the damaged good girl. That would've made much more sense than seeing Swank attempting to seduce her male suitors and the audience to no avail.

The Debt (2011)- The Debt had the makings of a decent thriller, but it was hindered by a bad release date and some mismatched casting. Tom Wilkinson (Stephan) and Ciaran Hinds (David) weren't the right fit in their respective roles because they didn't physically match up to the film's flashback scenes. Wilkinson should've played the troubled David because he strongly resembled Sam Worthington's younger version of David. Hinds would've been a more convincing Stephan due to his strong onscreen presence like Marton Csokas' Young Stephan. If those roles were reversed, the movie's alternating plots between the past and the present would've been a lot more entertaining to watch.

In the end, not every idea deserved to make it to the big screen. Was it really necessary to give Catwoman its own movie franchise? Sure, Halle Berry was an Oscar with her own star power, but the movie attempted to change Catwoman's origins with some embarrassing results. It's a movie that Berry and everyone involved would love to have taken off their resumes because the movie did nothing to further their careers. There have been no other attempts to revive the long forgotten possible Catwoman franchise, which is a blessing in disguise in the long run. No movie studio would like to make the same mistake twice.


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