Eight major roles that saw actors reworked into sequels: If someone were to ask you to binge-watch a movie and its sequels, you would mostly expect the same actors to be cast in the role to maintain continuity. Such continuity enhances the film in the eyes of the cinephiles and retains the attention of fans of the original.
There was just a charm to seeing Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher repeat their roles as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa over three decades after the Return of the Jedi. Would the Rocky movies have been the same if someone not named Sylvester Stallone had written ‘The Italian Stallion’?
Some movies are not so lucky as we see a new person take over the role. An example of this is Fantastic Beasts 3: The Secrets of Dumbledore; it will see the primary antagonist Gellert Grindelwald reworked. However, it is not the first such film as Hollywood is full of such cases.
While some of these roles are forced, others are due to creative differences, and some are due to personal reasons only. Here are some of the best reworked actors.
M is a high-profile recast role that will not appear here as M is a titular position that can be filled by anyone. Roles that require a recasting due to a time jump will also not be included.
Mads Mikkelsen / Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)
Audiences have seen Depp’s essay on the role in two films before. However, he did not return as the dark wizard due to legal issues in real life that prompted the studio to ask him to leave. He recorded the cloak in The Secrets of Dumbledore was Hannibal and Bond Villain fame (Le Chiffre) Mads Mikkelsen.
The shift, despite Mikkelsen’s gracious personality, had its fair share of critics, but Mikkelsen delivered a decent display. This change was perhaps not really problematic to digest, given the pattern in the Fantastic Beasts movies. The creators are wise to remember that Colin Farrell played the character in the first film, namely Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. His revelation took place after Newt used a beast to catch him and throw light over the disguise.
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This did not happen in the third round, when Mikkelsen just appeared as the primary antagonist. It’s a blessing, as the power of Newt’s being who eliminated Grindelwald’s disguise may have been diluted.
What’s lucky is that Depp did not really stamp his authority on the role, and Mikkelsen can make it his own over the course of the next three Fantastic Beasts films.
Maggie Gyllenhaal / Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes
The Dark Knight (2008)
When Batman Begins arrived to revive the fallen hero (Batman) after debacle called Batman and Robin, Katie Holmes portrayed Batman’s love interest – Rachel Dawes. She had a crucial scene in the Narrows and even knew Batman’s identity.
Her performance was not dismal either, but three years later, when The Dark Knight hit theaters, Holmes was not Dawes. Instead, Maggie Gyllenhaal wrote this character without any explanation for what changed.
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Behind the scenes, Holmes was tied up in another film and could not repeat the role that was crucial to The Joker’s plan to succeed in creating one of Batman’s greatest villains – Harvey Dent.
Gyllenhaal fit in smoothly and even had Holme’s blessing. Therefore, this replacement did not meet much backlash.
Don Cheadle / Terence Howard as James Rhodes / War Machine
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Terence Howard’s turn as James Rhodes is another Marvel role that was reworked midway through the franchise. However, it happened near the start with Don Cheadle becoming War Machine in Iron Man 2, long before the Avengers became a phenomenon.
Howard’s departure is said to be monetary, but long-term benefits could have been enormous for the first War Machine. Unfortunately, Howard will not be remembered as most Marvel fans jumped on the carriage in the ensemble films; when Cheadle was in the armor of ‘The Other Iron Man’.
Julianne Moore / Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
Jodie Foster played Clarice Starling in the cool The Silence of the Lambs. Her portrayal of the profiler won her the Academy Award for Leading Role, and co-star Anthony Hopkins claimed the lead role in one of the shortest times on screen for a lead actor victory.
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Given all the success the film saw, and already presented source material; the producers decided to make a sequel called Hannibal. The Silence of The Lambs fans were eager to see the lead roles return. While Hopkins repeated his role as a cannibal, Foster refrained from committing the role. Eventually, Julianne Moore took over, but her decent outing was not enough to darken the Oscar-winning tour of Foster.
Val Kilmer / George Clooney / Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Adam West, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck and Robert Pattinson are not included here as they portrayed Batman in films that were not direct sequels.
The 1989 film series started with Michael Keaton as Batman in Tim Burton’s film. He repeated the role in the darker Batman Returns, but hung up on the third episode, with Val Kilmer taking over without any explanation on screen at the same time. Even Alfred did not touch ‘Master Bruce’s astonishing transformation.
Keaton’s departure was due to the fact that Burton’s darker tone resulted in Warner Bros. asking him to step aside. His replacement, Val Kilmer, left after a single outing (Batman Forever) and left the reins to George Clooney for the awful fourth film, in which even Chris O’Donnell did not notice the change of actor.
Michael Gambon / Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The Harry Potter films retained much of the original cast from Sorcerer’s Stone for Deathly Hallows Part 2. Notable changes included Lavender Brown, Aberforth Dumbledore, Griphook, and The Fat Lady. While some smaller roles were adjusted, a larger role also required a small change.
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The role of Albus Dumbledore needed a reworking after the death of Richard Harris. The veteran did not reach the footage of the third episode, that is, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, leaving large shoes to fill for Michael Gambon. Gambon wore the midnight blue robes, but met with criticism as he portrayed a stern and darker version of the character rather than the calm and gleaming Harris.
Mark Ruffalo replaced Ed Norton
The Avengers (2012)
The Incredible Hulk was the second film in MCU, and it saw Edward Norton play the role of Dr. Bruce Banner. Robert Downey Jr.’s presence as Tony Stark also cemented this fact. But when Natasha Romanoff recruited Banner in The Avengers, his face had changed, and the film somehow weaved it into the story. Although the audience did not catch up, the studio may have relied on the poor commercial viewing of The Incredible Hulk to overlook the fact that Norton had the role before Ruffalo took over.
Ruffalo owned the role and is among two of the six original Avengers who are still active. It’s hard to imagine a serious actor Norton in the role, with all the comic humor that is constant in MCU.
A disagreement between the studio and the actor proved the reason for this, and Norton’s mainstream appeal could really have been bigger if he had been part of the Marvel juggernaut.
Claire Foy / Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander
The Girl in the Spider’s Net (2018)
The Swedish books (Millennium Series) received English adaptations when David Fincher directed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. He cast Rooney Mara in the role of the hacker, and she blew absolutely everyone upside down with her performance. It even earned her recognition at the Oscars with a nomination in the Leading Role category.
Unfortunately, that was the only thing fans got to see of Mara as the studio did not continue with a sequel. Instead, they chose to skip the next two books and got The Girl in The Spider’s Web with Claire Foy (of The Crown fame) to take on the role. Foy did well in a bad movie, but the change of performers in the roles ensures that it gets on this list.
The change allegedly took place due to budget constraints or the fact that the study intended this to be a soft restart.
Other similar lists of reworked actors: CBR, Insider