Iconic Characters Who Had To Be Recast

Rachel Dawes (The Dark Knight)

The recasting of Rachel Dawes in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is viewed as one of the stronger regenerations. Originally played by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins, Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role in its sequel, The Dark Knight. 

Holmes’ reason for leaving the project was that she wanted to make the long forgotten 2008 comedy, Mad Money, instead. Poor choice, Katie!

Clarice Starling (Hannibal)

After having won an Academy Award for her portrayal as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, everyone expected Jodie Foster to return for its sequel, Hannibal. 

Foster however, was tied up with trying to direct failed project Flora Plum, and so Julianne Moore stepped into the FBI jacket. While less iconic, Moore's performance was still memorable.

Professor Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

The late Richard Harris portrayed Hogwarts’ kindly headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the first two movies. Ahead of production of the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harris died aged seventy-two. 

With six Potter films left to be made, the part was recast, with Michael Gambon almost seamlessly taking over the role. 

Jennifer Parker (Back the the Future Part II)

Whilst Marty McFly was busy travelling through time, he failed to notice that his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, had changed into a different person. The role was played by Claudia Wells in the original film.

Unfortunately, Wells had to leave ahead of the sequels so she could tend to her sick mother. A young Elizabeth Shue took over girlfriend duties.

The Incredible Hulk (The Avengers)

The dual characters of Bruce Banner and the Hulk have a long history. Eric Bana attempted the role first before Edward Norton starred in The Incredible Hulk. 

Despite the film’s end sting featuring Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, the next time the Hulk appeared on screen, he was played by Mark Ruffalo. Norton passed on the project due to not enjoying the superhero movie machine.

Aunt Viv (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air)

For the first three seasons of sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the part of beloved Aunt Viv was played by Janet Hubert. However, whilst on screen Aunt Viv and the Fresh Prince Will Smith were sweetness and light, behind the scenes, the two infamously hated each other. 

Hubert was unceremoniously fired, and replaced by Daphne Reid, leading to a more harmonious set experience for all members of the Banks family.

Victoria (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse)

The replacement of vampire Victoria in the Twilight Saga is a sore point, with various stories behind the swap. The studio cited scheduling clashes, but original Victoria, Rachelle Lefevre, insists that she was more than accommodating with the production schedule. 

Whatever the reason, the role was recast during the third film, with the more high-profile Bryce Dallas Howard taking over the role.

Daario Naharis (Games of Thrones)

Games of Thrones was a show that had a reputation for swapping the faces of its cast. Whilst most were due to the series moving forward in time, some were for other reasons. 

The character of Daenerys Targaryen’s lover, Daario Naharis, for example, changed from Ed Skrein to Michiel Huisman after Skrein left to pursue a movie career.

Reggie Mantle (Riverdale)

During season one of Riverdale, Reggie was played by Ross Butler. Though initially small, the role was developed to be more central for the second season. 

By then, Butler was a key cast member in 13 Reasons Why, and had to leave. He was replaced by Charles Melton, but the two did share the screen during the sixth season when the show explored parallel dimensions.

Hellboy (Hellboy)

Hellboy was a part that actor Ron Perlman seemed born to play. The actor portrayed the character in both Guillermo Del Toro movies, and whilst the pair were hoping for a third movie, unfortunately that idea was tanked when Neil Marshall’s reboot was announced. 

Rather than keep Perlman, the part was recast with Stranger Things’ David Harbour donning the red horns. Unfortunately for Harbour, Perlman left some pretty big horns to fill.

Evelyn Carnahan (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor)

The world fell in love with both Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser in 1999’s The Mummy, but whilst Weisz was happy to reprise the role in The Mummy Returns, she passed on the third film in the series, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. 

Allegedly, Weisz was not happy with the script and Maria Bello joined the cast in her place.

Meg Griffin (Family Guy)

Though Mila Kunis is now famous for voicing Family Guy’s Meg Griffin, she is actually the second actor to play the character. In the first season of the animated comedy series, the teenager was voiced by Mean Girls star, Lacey Chambert. 

The actor had to leave the show due to other obligations and is now a staple star of Hallmark movies - a far cry from the lewd, crude humor of Family Guy!

Zee (The Matrix Reloaded)

Although audiences only ever saw Nona Gaye in the role of Zee in The Matrix Reloaded, the part originally belonged to Aaliyah. The young musician-turned-actor had filmed several scenes already.

Sadly, Aaliyah passed away in a tragic plane crash before she could complete her work. The production had no option but to recast the part and re-shoot her scenes. 

War Machine (Iron Man 2)

Terence Howard starred in the first Iron Man as James Rhodes, a character who would go on to become War Machine. Howard however, never got to step into the suit. 

The reason for this is that he had disagreements with Marvel Studios and was let go. His replacement, Don Cheadle, has remained in the role ever since.

George McFly (Back to the Future Part II)

It wasn’t just Marty McFly’s girlfriend that changed during his jaunts through time – his father did too. George McFly was famously played by Crispin Glover in the original film.

However, Glover opted out of the sequel after he discovered he was being offered far less to return than his co-stars. Jeffrey Weissman eventually came on to take over parental responsibilities.

April O’Neil (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze)

Channel Six reporter and mutant turtle ally April O’Neil was a key figure in the nineties live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. The role was originally played by Judith Hoag, but she was replaced by Paige Turco for the next two films. 

Hoag was replaced after criticizing the film’s treatment of the stunt crew. Megan Fox provided the most recent iteration of the character.

John Connor (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines)

Whilst Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg is a constant of the Terminator movies, the human cast have been in flux. The plot of the third film in the franchise saw John Connor as a man in his early twenties. 

Although original John Connor, Edward Furlong, was the right age to play the character, his issues with substance abuse ruled him out, and so Nick Stahl was cast.

Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

After the success of 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, studios set about remaking as many classic horrors as they could, including A Nightmare on Elm Street. 

After Robert Englund was reluctant to put on Freddy Krueger’s fedora and razor glove again, the part was recast. Although Jackie Earle Haley did the best he could in the role, hardcore franchise fans weren’t happy.

Sabretooth (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)

In Bryan Singer’s X-Men, Sabretooth is the right-hand henchman of the villainous Magneto. Played by the aptly named Tyler Mane, everyone assumed he would be back for future instalments. 

However, when it came time to cast Sabretooth in prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the role was given to Liev Schreiber under the reasoning that Schreiber was more passable as a brother to Hugh Jackman than Mane.

Brian O’Connor (Furious 7)

Sometimes a character is recast, but not in the conventional way. In 2013, Paul Walker tragically died in a car crash. Production of Furious 7 was well under way, and after several discussions the production found a way to keep Brian O’Connor present. 

The method involved ultilizing a combination of footage from previous films, and Walker’s two brothers, Caleb and Cody, as stand-ins.

Eric Draven (The Crow)

Another example of a mid-production death seamlessly recasting a character was in 1994’s The Crow. Lead actor Brandon Lee was killed in an on-set accident days before the film was finished. 

In a film history first, Lee was resurrected with the use of CGI, with stunt doubles Chad Stahelski and Jeff Cadiente providing the bodies for Lee’s computer generated face to be put onto.

James Bond (James Bond Franchise)

Ladies’ man and super spy James Bond has changed face a lot throughout his sixty year reign. The character has to be recast every few years so that Bond can retain his youth and ensure the franchise’s immortality. 

Thus far there have been seven Bond actors: Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

Kitty Pryde (X-Men: The Last Stand)

Despite the character being present in both X-Men and X2, it wasn’t until Bryan Singer’s third film, X-Men: The Last Stand, that Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat, really came into focus. 

Having previously been played by both Sumela Kay and Katie Stuart, it was Elliott Page who made the role their own.

Tommy Jarvis (Friday the 13th Series)

After loving his time on 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Corey Feldman was devastated when he was let go from the franchise. The story required that Feldman’s character, Tommy Jarvis, be a much older teenager for 1985’s Friday the 13th: The New Beginning. 

Sadly, Feldman was unable to gain an additional five years overnight and so John Shepherd took over the role.

Pinhead (Hellraiser Franchise)

Hellraiser is a horror series that should have stopped years ago, but somehow, the franchise has amassed eleven movies. The series grew tiresome for everyone involved, including lead Cenobite actor Doug Bradley, who left after the eighth film.

Bradley cited reduced budgets as the reason for his departure, and since then there have been three new Pinheads - played by Stephan Smith Collins, Paul T. Taylor and, most recently, Jamie Clayton.

J. Paul Getty (All the Money in the World)

Although neither the character nor the film are particularly iconic, the actions of All the Money in the World’s director, Ridley Scott, are. In 2017, a string of allegations of sexual misconduct arose around the film’s original star, Kevin Spacey.

In a move praised by many, Scott made the quick decision to wipe the actor from the movie entirely. He brought in Christopher Plummer who re-shot all of Spacey’s scenes in just nine days.

Red Skull (Avengers: Endgame)

After having seemingly been killed off during the climax of Captain America: The First Avenger, fans were shocked to see Red Skull return in Avengers: Endgame. 

Whereas the character returned, original actor, Hugo Weaving, did not. The role was instead fulfilled by master impressionist, and star of The Walking Dead, Ross Marquand.

Kaitlyn Cooper (The OC)

In season one of The OC, Kaitlyn Cooper was the pony-obsessed little sister of Marissa Cooper. First played by Shailene Woodley, after being shipped off to boarding-school, Kaitlyn returned with a new face, that of Willa Holland, during the third season. 

Holland and Woodley are roughly the same age, so reasons for the recast remain a mystery.

Gellert Grindelwald (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore)

At the end of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the ‘true’ face of the evil wizard was revealed to be that of Johnny Depp. The actor was then encouraged to resign before his defamation trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard. 

The role was taken over by Mads Mikkelsen for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, with the series now on an indefinite hiatus.

Toby Cavenaugh (Pretty Little Liars)

In television it is quite common for characters to be recast after the pilot. One example is the role of Toby Cavenaugh in Pretty Little Liars. 

In the pilot, the role was played by James Neate before being replaced by Keegan Allen. Neate went on to star in The Man in the High Castle instead.

Hicks (Aliens)

Although now made iconic by Michael Biehn, the role of Corporal Hicks in James Cameron’s Aliens was intended for James Remar. The actor was days into filming when police raided his London apartment and discovered a ton of illegal substances. 

Remar was swiftly replaced by Cameron’s Terminator star, though still remains in the film for one whole frame when the marines enter the xenomorph nest.

Batwoman (Batwoman)

Upon being cast as Batwoman in the CW TV show, Ruby Rose was elated. Unfortunately her joy was short lived as she sustained an injury during a stunt. 

Unhappy with how she was treated, Rose left the show after one season, meaning the role of the female caped crusader needed to be recast, with Javicia Leslie stepping into the role.

The Predator (Predator)

During the filming of Predator, there was originally a very famous face underneath the alien hunter’s suit. The muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme, was the first iteration of the creature. 

Van Damme struggled with the constraints of the suit, and after passing out, he was replaced by Kevin Peter Hall, which in turn bore an entirely new design.

Jack Ryan (Patriot Games)

Harrison Ford famously played the character of Jack Ryan in both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. He was however, the second to play the part after Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October. 

The reason for the change was never fully explained with many enjoying Baldwin’s performance. In later years, the role was also played by both Ben Affleck and Chris Pine.

Lisbeth Salander (The Girl in the Spider’s Web)

When Rooney Mara signed on to play the role of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the actor was prepared for a long-term commitment. 

With three more books to be adapted, Mara expected to be playing Salander for a while. However, when a follow-up did come, Mara found herself replaced by The Crown’s Clare Foy.

The Doctor (Doctor Who)

Doctor Who lore states that every so often they will regenerate into a different form. The handy trick has enabled the show to sustain itself from the sixties to the present day. 

Over the years the likes of Tom Baker, Matt Smith, David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker have all wielded the Sonic Screwdriver, with Ncuti Gatwa the current version of the Time Lord.

Cher Horowitz (Clueless)

Alicia Silverstone became a megastar after starring as Cher Horowitz. The character became an instant icon and although a sequel was never made, there was a spin-off television show. 

The series managed to secure several of the movie’s original stars, but Silverstone was busy with other film projects and so newcomer Rachel Blanchard stepped into Cher’s designer wardrobe.

Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

Angelina Jolie was the perfect casting choice for Lara Croft. Jolie inhabited the role beautifully and whilst the Tomb Raider films she appeared in weren’t great, the actor was a firm highlight. 

However, when the film series followed in the footsteps of the game and made Croft younger, Jolie had to step aside so that Alicia Vikander could don the shorts and tank top combo.

Carol Young (After We Fell)

Whilst the core pairing of Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Josephine Langford remained in place for every instalment of trashy romance ‘After’ series, those around them were constantly changing. 

The pandemic meant that key cast members were unable to travel and so were all recast. One such change saw Tessa’s mother change from Selma Blair to Mira Sorvino.

Jason Voorhees (Freddy Versus Jason)

Although the face behind Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask has changed hands many times during the course of the Friday the 13th series, the switch between Jason X and Freddy Versus Jason hurt the most. 

The then reigning Jason, Kane Hodder, had spent years drumming up support for the movie, but found out he had been replaced by Ken Kirzinger at the very last minute.