When an actor commits to playing a role in a franchise you kind of expect them to be in it for the long haul. They learn the source material (usually a book or video game), cultivate the character as their own, and spend the next five years playing them. Right? Not always. Sometimes by the next sequel, the actor you expect is gone and a replacement is in their place.
This can happen for a lot of reasons. Salary negotiations, no longer having a desire to be locked into a franchise, or, unfortunately, death. Sometimes their replacements are even better — and sometimes you wish they would’ve just ended the films altogether. Here are some of the biggest franchise roles that were randomly recast!
17. Crispin Glover replaced by Jeffrey Weissman in the Back to the Future franchise
When the Back to the Future films dropped Glover due to a salary dispute they did the most logical thing: got a look-a-like. They replaced the role of George McFly with Weissman, who looks surprisingly like the star he replaced. They shied away from close-ups and filmed in mostly wide shots to make the character look the same as he had in the previous movie. Weissman went on to play McFly in the second and third installments of the series, effectively playing him longer than his predecessor.
16. Kimberly J. Brown replaced by Sara Paxton in the Halloweentown franchise
After doing three Halloweentown films, Brown was suddenly replaced by newcomer Sara Paxton playing Marnie Piper. What gives?! While the original story was that Brown was unavailable due to filming another movie, she has a different take. In a interview she said she was fully available and willing to do the film and didn’t know why she was recast. Whaaaa–? A possible reason: age. Though the first movie premiered in 1998, movie #4 didn’t debut until a full eight years after that! At that point, it just becomes hard to imagine a full grown adult (Brown was 22 by then) as a teenager. Considering how long the franchise went on for there was already a fair suspension of disbelief by Halloweentown High!
15. Jodie Foster replaced by Julianne Moore in the Hannibal franchise
After her hit performance as Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, Foster decided to not reprise her role again. Her official reason? She was filming another film: Flora Plum, and would be unavailable. That totally wasn’t the whole story though and she later said she didn’t agree with the depiction of her character in the sequel. She also hardcore hinted that the film was not-so-great and that she knew it wouldn’t be, which contributed to her bowing out. In the end, the film got mixed reviews and made a ton of money, paving the way for a couple prequels.
14. Verne Troyer replaced by Warwick Davis in the Harry Potter franchise
Yep, you read that right, the original Griphook was mini-me from Austin Powers. When the character was first introduced, he was played by Troyer but voiced by Davis. By the final two films, Davis completely took over the role. Interestingly, Davis also plays Professor Flitwick in the films, giving him a whole lotta work. There’s no real good reason for the swap, other than them probably only wanting to play one actor for the role instead of two.
13. Rachel Weisz replaced by Maria Bello in The Mummy franchise
Weisz was in the first two Mummy films as Evelyn Carnahan until there was suddenly trouble in franchise paradise with film number three. Reports are that the script was so bad that she was hesitant to sign on. And when it didn’t get any better with time, she bowed out completely. Bello was hired to replace her and really took the role on as her own, reinventing the character. It didn’t save the franchise, though, and the film was negatively received.
12. James Bond in the James Bond Franchise
The role of sexy spy James Bond has been recast eight times over the character’s long history! It’s one of the most famous, and most normalized, recastings in a franchise ever. As the times evolve, so does Bond, and his recastings tailor to the changing world. Obviously, this means the canon is a mess and nothing makes any sense. But, whatever, who needs sense when you have great suits and badass gun fights?
11. Rooney Mara replaced by Clair Foy in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchise
This is probably the most recent franchise recasting on the list. It was announced earlier this year that for The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a new actress would be playing Lisbeth Salander. At the time there was no actress in mind, until a few months ago when The Crown actress Claire Foy was picked for the role. The only real reason is a new director wanted to put his own spin on the world and gave the boot to all of the actors in place of new picks.
10. Kirstie Alley replaced by Robin Curtis in the Star Trek franchise
Alley’s first big role was as Saavik in the sci-fi films, making her big-screen debut in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. When she fought for money in the sequel contract negotiations and they refused to heed her demands, she decided not to return. Some reports say she was asking for too much money, and some say she just wanted to be compensated fairly. Regardless, she was replaced by the next film by Curtis and the franchise has gone on to insane success regardless of the recasting.
9. Eric Stoltz replaced by Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future franchise
This one is a little different since the franchise actor was recast before the first film was even released. It’s notable, though, since a huge portion of the film was shot with Stoltz as Marty McFly before they decided to scrap it and try again with a different actor. Reportedly, Stoltz just didn’t nail the tone they were looking for, and instead of producing an “okay” movie they started from scratch. This was definitely the right choice as the films are great mostly based on Fox’s performance alone!
8. Michael Keaton replaced by Val Kilmer replaced by George Clooney in the Batman franchise
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin are all in the same universe. The only thing different is the men placing the caped crusader. The first two were directed by Tim Burton, giving them a darker, distinctive vibe. When his films didn’t make as much money as the studio wanted, he was replaced by Joel Schumacher. Schumacher replaced Keaten with Val Kilmer to give the films more commercial success. Due to scheduling conflicts when they fast-tracked the sequel, Kilmer couldn’t return — so Batman was recast once again, this time with Clooney. And that was a disaster. Batman & Robin‘s failure halted the franchise, ending any plans for more movies. Batman didn’t resurface again until 2005 when Christopher Nolan rebooted the superhero and made him his own.
7. Richard Bremmer replaced by Ralph Fiennes in the Harry Potter franchise
Remember Voldemort with a nose from the first film? That was original Voldy actor Richard Bremmer. He lived on the back of a professors head for a year and then got recast, which has to sting a little. When the role expanded and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named became more prominent in the films, they recast the role in favor of a more experienced actor and Fiennes was chosen. He completely reinvented the role from what it was in the first few films, making the villain a true threat. When they brought him in, they got rid of the nose… and that definitely makes him more menacing.
6. Rachelle Lefevre replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard in the Twilight franchise
This recasting has a bit of drama attached to it. After playing villainous vampire Victoria for the first two films, Lefevre was suddenly ousted and her role was recast. She maintains that she was committed to the role, and that a ten-day overlap in shooting for Twilight and another film caused the producers to fire her. Oof, harsh. Extra harsh considering Victoria gets the most screen time in that third film! Howard was chosen to replace her, likely because of the similarities in their appearance.
5. Claudia Wells replaced by Elisabeth Shue in the Back to the Future films
There was a lot of cast shuffling in these films! This replacement is a bit sad, though. While Wells enjoyed her role as Marty McFly’s girlfriend Jennifer she was unable to return for the sequel due to her mother being diagnosed with lymphoma. She had to step aside from her career for a bit to care for family, which is quite admirable. She was replaced by up-and-comer Shue, and they even had to recreate the final scene of the first movie shot-for-shot with her for the second film!
4. Katie Holmes replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the Batman franchise
This is one of those instances where an actor just decides not to reprise a role. While Batman Begins was one of the biggest hits of Holmes’s career, she decided to say ‘byeeee’ to her role as Bruce Wayne’s love interest Rachel in the sequels, saying that it just wasn’t right for her at the time. Rumor has it that Holmes’s hubby Tom Cruise wasn’t a huge fan of her continuing with the role at the time because of some discomfort he had with Christian Bale. Seems like pure speculation, though. Gyllenhaal became Rachel for the sequel, though the character was gone by the final film in the trilogy anyways.
3. Terrance Howard replaced by Don Cheadle in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
This one is full of crazy dirt. After helping to usher in the MCU in the first Iron Man film, Howard was replaced as James Rhodes in the sequel. So what happened? Well, turns out Howard has a lot to say about the matter. He claims he was offered less money than promised for the sequel since they said it would do well “with or without [him].”
When he pressed Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. about it, he didn’t hear back from his “friend” for three months. At this point, the role has been completely defined by Cheadle, and no one really remembers Howard was in the role. While he may not have a spot in the MCU, maybe he and Downey will patch things up one day? We hope so, at least.
2. Richard Harris replaced by Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter franchise
This one is definitely a sad replacement. The original Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films was Richard Harris, who sadly passed away two weeks before the second installment premiered. At that time, the character was recast with Gambon, who was tasked with the weightier parts of the character as the films progressed. Both actors brought different traits to the role, with Harris being a bit more whimsical and calm whereas Gambon brought intensity to the role. Everyone has an opinion on who ~the real~ Dumbledore is, but they both did a fantastic job.
1. Edward Norton replaced by Mark Ruffalo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
It’s easy to forget that Norton was the original MCU Bruce Banner/The Hulk since Ruffalo has become known for the part. But he is the one who brought the character to life on the big screen for the first time, only to opt out of the time-consuming franchise. He declined to return for more Hulk-ing out, saying he wanted more diversity in his career and didn’t want to be locked into a franchise for the foreseeable future. Understandable, we suppose. The silver lining is, of course, that we all get to see Mark Ruffalo shirtless a lot so it’s a win-win!