Imagine if Twitter existed in 1968, around the time that producers decided that Sean Connery’s retirement from the James Bond franchise couldn’t possibly be the end of the character’s movie life. First there’d have been the uproar at the shortlist of names, which included Anthony Rogers just off a hit with Camelot, John Richardson, who’d been in One Million Years B.C., and Hans de Vries, who would have seemed the most absurd since he had been an extra as one of Blofeld’s staff in You Only Live Twice. Outcry continued when it was revealed that the unknown George Lazenby got the gig. “WHO?” would have been a common tweet that day.
Nowadays the Bond franchise’s situation, currently on its sixth actor in the role, is used as a precedent anytime there’s a report that some popular movie character is going to be recast for a reboot of his or her series. The latest instance, and certainly one of the most infuriating ever if you stared at Twitter today, came with the rumor (which others disagree with) that Harrison Ford might be replaced by another actor in the part of Indiana Jones — Bradley Cooper being named as a strong candidate. At this point it’s hard to really compare Jones to 007, but apparently Hollywood doesn’t consider Ford’s portrayal of the adventuring archeologist sacred enough, iconic-wise.
Many now are worried that no character is safe. But who is really untouchable? John McClane is hardly separable from Bruce Willis, but would too many people care after so many terrible sequels if a new action star took over the Die Hard franchise? How about if J.K. Rowling gave the go-ahead for more Harry Potter movies and they changed out the Daniel Radcliffe to keep the character younger? Some characters are definitely not sacred, as we’ve seen with the lack of protest over Jason Sudeikis becoming the new Fletch. Of course, that’s a character we’ve gotten used to hearing reboot casting ideas for, going on more than a decade now. Also, the Chevy Chase Fletch movies don’t have legions of die-hard devotees.
Also something to consider is how the James Bond exception doesn’t work for arguing that any character can be recast. First of all, in hindsight, it’s hard to think of Bond not being played by multiple people. We don’t have any series that we can look at with the same distance and length of existence and imagine if something like that had been done for another character so smoothly. Second of all, if you’re a believer in the Bond is just a code-name theory, the precedent argument is moot, because each actor is a different incarnation (never mind if it’s been officially shot down). Third of all, franchise reboots are one thing while remakes of single films is another. You couldn’t use it as a defense for recasting, say, the top nonseries movie heroes of all time, Atticus Finch, Rick Blaine and T.E. Lawrence.
Who is your pick for most sacred, untouchable movie character, as far as recasting the role?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
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