6 Ironic Casting Decisions in Movies and TV

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF A MOVIE OR TV SHOW IS THE CAST. A lot of thought and effort goes into the casting process, because the actors you choose can either make or break a role.

However, sometimes when an actor accepts, rejects or is turned down for a role, there’s something about their life that makes that decision seem slightly ironic. Here are 6 examples of ironic casting decisions in movies and television.

6. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

In 1990, NBC made the controversial decision to give a TV show to rap star Will “The Fresh Prince” Smith, notorious for his anti-authoritarian music:

But the show was a hit, and soon hundreds of women were clamouring for a guest spot as one of Will Smith’s girlfriends. Of course, many just weren’t a good fit for him.

One of those who didn’t make the cut was a young actress named Jada Pinkett. If that name isn’t familiar, try adding “-Smith” to the end of it. Yeah, it seems Jada just didn’t have a lot of chemistry with the man that she’s been married to for over ten years.

These same casting people would later tell Jaden Smith that he was completely wrong for the part of Will Smith’s son in The Pursuit of Happyness.

5. The Social Network

In the surprisingly interesting movie about the creation of Facebook, Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg: An Aspergian prequel-era Anakin Skywalker whose ambition would lead to him betraying his friends in order to gain the power needed to rule the galaxy. That might seem a tad hyperbolic, but the movie makes a point to emphasize the enormous impact that Facebook has had on how people communicate.

People who aren’t Jesse Eisenberg, that is. You see, he doesn’t use Facebook. This is pretty strange because Eisenberg is a young adult with a social life, one of Facebook’s core demographics along with stalkers and cat enthusiasts.

Then when you find out that co-star Justin Timberlake doesn’t use Facebook either, you start to wonder if anyone involved with the movie knows anything thing about the friending each other up. For all we know, The Social Network was supposed to be about MySpace.

4. Will and Grace

In everyone’s twelfth favorite sitcom, Eric McCormack stars as Will, the gay BFF to Debra Messing’s Grace. As one of the first shows with a gay lead character, it was important that the person they cast would seem like a genuine homosexual and not someone just faking it. Some actors were actually turned away for being ‘too straight,’ like the exact opposite of the fifth grade.

Eric McCormack is straight (but not ‘too straight,’ apparently). While this isn’t the first time a straight actor has gone gay for pay, as the porn industry calls it, again, they were rejecting some people specifically for not being gay enough. This includes genuinely gay actors such as Doctor Who/Torchwood star John Barrowman.

It doesn’t say a lot about forward-thinking television that a straight man doing an impression of a gay man seemed gayer than an actual homosexual. That’s kind of like saying Eminem would have been a better choice to play Muhammad Ali than Will Smith.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon’s intention with Buffy was to subvert the scared girl gets chased by monsters cliché. His actress had two responsibilities:

  • She needed to seem tough, confident and unafraid of things that go bump in the night.
  • She needed to be someone that hormone-addled teenagers could use as masturbation fodder for years to come.

Sarah Michelle Gellar seemed to fit the bill nicely.

turns out that this fearless hunter of all things that rise from the grave is afraid of cemeteries. If you’re a fan of the show, you understand how ridiculous that is, because there are about as many cemetery scenes in an episode of Buffy as there are vampires and heavy-handed metaphors for teen issues. Had those scenes been shot on location as opposed to in a studio, Buffy would have been less about spunky teens fighting monsters and more about Sarah Michelle Gellar crying in the fetal position. Which, admittedly, the show kind of turned into in season 6.

2. James Bond

Over the past 40-50 years, the role of James Bond has been shopped around to more actors than a high-class escort. In addition to the six men who have actually played 007, such diverse actors as Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood, Clive Owen and Adam West have been considered for the role at one time or another. Some didn’t make the cut, while others turned the part down (Adam West rejected it when the studio refused to meet his demands that all of Bond’s gadgets be carried on a utility belt in spray form).

In the 90s, while casting for Timothy Dalton’s replacement in Goldeneye, the filmmakers began eyeing Liam Neeson for the role. Though he was pursued heavily, Neeson turned down the offer…because he wasn’t interested in doing action movies.

Now, think back to the last thing you saw Liam Neeson doing in a movie. Was it shooting people in Taken, shooting people in The A-Team, shooting people in Unknown or punching wolves to death in The Grey? If you’re a few brain cells short, you might even be looking forward to seeing him in Battleship later this year. If Neeson had known where his career was going back when he was offered James Bond, he would have taken that role. And we could have had an extra ten years of Liam Neeson kicking ass in movies.

…We’ll give you all a moment to wipe away those tears.

1. The Terminator

When James Cameron began casting for The Terminator, he faced a major challenge: finding an actor who could exhibit the cold, heartless presence of a machine wearing sunglasses. And though eventually Cameron was able to squeeze an uncharacteristically emotionless performance out of Arnold Schwarzenegger, there were plenty of other actors who were first considered for the role.

One of those considered was beloved ex-football star OJ Simpson, and the studio thought he was perfect for the part. The man had previous acting experience, was physically imposing and would be a decent box-office draw (it’s very difficult to get people to see a movie about killer robots). However, Cameron was dead-set against it. Why? He didn’t think anybody would believe OJ Simpson as a ruthless killer.

Of course that seems ridiculous, given the wealth of evidence presented at his murder trial and his controversial “If I Did It” book. But let’s not be too harsh on James Cameron. After all, at least twelve other people couldn’t see OJ as a killer either.

Simon Bower gets lonely sometimes, so you should follow him on Twitter.

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