The production of a sequel to a film relies on the success of the one that came before it, and this success can depend on anything from special effects to the actors cast. So what happens when a studio wants a sequel but an actor wants out?
If the company is lucky, they’ll have got their stars to sign at least a three-picture deal, keeping them chained to the project whether they like it or not. Lacking this foresight, they are forced to consider a tactic which can make or break the entire film: recasting.
Unusually, two of this year’s biggest sequels have been hampered by this problem, with Katie Holmes’s character Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Rachel Weisz handing Evelyn ‘Evie’ O’Connell, the part that made her famous in the Mummy films, to Maria Bello.
Whilst replacing Holmes is rumoured to have been more the director’s choice than her own, Weisz cited scheduling conflicts: movie nerds everywhere await with bated breath to see if the American Bello can pull off the role and, of course, the accent.
Recasting is certainly a prominent feature in some of the summer’s most eagerly anticipated cinematic events, but it’s nothing new, and while the success of The Dark Knight hardly depends on Gyllenhaal, pulling off a flawless recast is sometimes a lot more important. When Jodie Foster declined to step back into Clarice Starling’s shoes for 2001’s Hannibal, Julianne Moore beat a host of major stars for the role.
Critics and fans were satisfied (if a little underwhelmed), and Hollywood could sleep easy in the knowledge that they had made the right choice. Unfortunately, not all choices are chased up by a similar success story: poor casting can scupper an entire franchise.
Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns is one of the most universally derided recasting choices in history, and fans were left yearning for the spunky self-sufficiency characterised by both Margot Kidder and Teri Hatcher, women who made Lois Lane more than a love interest. If rumours of Superman: Man of Steel are true, then recasting is inevitable.
For some films, of course, novelty is exactly what people want. A new Bond, Batman or Doctor Who can breath new life into each series following stagnation, ageing (see Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in Starsky and Hutch) or, in the cases of Richard Harris or Heath Ledger, untimely death.
A fresh face can be the kiss of life to a tired formula, but it can also hammer the final nail into the coffin of a decaying concept. Sadly for the studios, it’s impossible to know what your new face will do with a role potentially loved by millions. So if Maria Bello fails to capture the essence of Evelyn, then perhaps it is time to finally allow The Mummy to rest in peace.