Some moviegoers might have been surprised by the casting of Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, the playboy-turned-superhero protagonist of The Green Hornet. Whether or not Rogen can overcome his former schlubby persona remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely that his performance will be any more incongruous than these classic casting screw-ups:
Sean Connery is so awesome that it’s difficult to imagine him being “miscast” in anything, but having him play a flamboyantly dressed Spanish aristocrat made his trademark Scottish brogue seem oddly out of place. To make matters worse, Connery’s scenes take place in medieval Scotland, so his accent fits right in when it should sound foreign; in fact, he sounds more genuinely Scottish than the supposedly Scottish protagonist, who was played by French actor Christopher Lambert.
5. Denise Richards as Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough
To be fair to Ms. Richards, “sexy nuclear physicist” is a Halloween costume, not a character. Her role in the 1999 James Bond adventure The World Is Not Enough never had much of a chance of being plausible; she was playing someone named “Christmas,” for God’s sake. Still, there are actresses who could have made this Bond girl’s intellectual pedigree at least a little believable, and Richards is not among them. When put in service of Jones’s supposed seriousness and intelligence, Richards’s hip-swinging sashay and pouty line delivery approach pornographic levels of incongruity.
4. Mark Wahlberg as Elliot Moore in The Happening
Thought we were being sexist by saying that Denise Richards didn’t seem smart enough to be a nuclear physicist? In The Happening, Mark Wahlberg doesn’t seem smart enough to be a high school science teacher. Wahlberg is at his best playing working-class toughs and doesn’t appear to know how to play a nerdy nice guy, so his performance is infused with more wide-eyed earnestness than you’d get from a ten-year-old in an educational video. On the plus side, though, we did get some funny YouTube videos out of the whole mess. (“What? No!”)
“’Eyyy, Jesus, how ya been? Me and some of the guys were thinking of going out for pizza later, whaddya say? Yeah, you, me, Peter, Paul, alla da guys. We’re gonna go to that joint over on 48th, the one with the long table so we can all face the window. ‘Ey, how’s things with that Mary Magdalene broad? You givin’ her the old body of Christ yet, huh? ‘Ey, ‘ey, I’m just messin’ with ya, fugghedaboutit. C’mon, gimme a kiss.”
Kevin Costner achieved A-list status playing wholesome all-American heroes, a persona that reached its peak with the flag-waving patriotism of The Postman. It’s no surprise, then, that he faltered a bit when he took on the role of English folk hero Robin Hood. Almost all of the other actors in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves -- from native Brit Alan Rickman to Yankee Christian Slater -- deliver their dialogue in credible English accents, but it’s hard to tell if Costner was even attempting to do so. It seems like his dialect coach didn’t have much advice beyond “Make yourself sound kind of wussy.”
We could write an entire article about racially insensitive casting (in fact, we already did) However, there’s a difference between a racist casting decision and a casting decision that just doesn’t work. For example, Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s derives cheap laughs from a painfully degrading stereotype—which is exactly what he’s supposed to do. You can call the character offensive, and you’d be right, but you can’t really fault the execution.
Not so with John Wayne’s performance as Genghis Khan in 1956’s The Conqueror. While Rooney used facial prosthetics and adopted a hideously over-the-top accent to play Mr. Yunioshi, Wayne pretty much looks like he always looks, except with a mustache and kinda slanty eyes. Most damningly, however, Wayne made absolutely no change to his speaking voice, delivering all of his lines in the same cowboy drawl that he used in the Westerns for which he was famous. The result is a viewing experience that feels less like watching a movie about Genghis Khan than like watching a movie about John Wayne pretending to be Genghis Khan, and there’s a big difference between the two. In a good performance, an actor disappears into his or her character; in this case, and in many of the other examples on this