Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Recasting Characters ISN'T A Bad Thing...

Over the past week, as with many of the past weeks, the news headlines have been primarily about The Dark Knight and what will hopefully be the subsequent sequel. The most recent rumors began last week, when an executive over at Warner Brothers gave us a very cryptic statement about what may happen to the Joker in the said sequel.

This is where this new post comes from. Personally, and historically in many cases, recasting a character is not a bad thing.

The best example of this comes to us in the form of the suave superspy, 007 himself, James Bond. A fictional character written by Ian Flemming, Bond got his start in 1953, and has been rolling around with hot exotic women ever since. On the big screen, there have been 6 seperate Bonds; Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and now, the best, Daniel Craig. While two of these actors had subpar runs, there is one duo of films that I would like to point out.

Lazenby, the second cinematic Bond, began his run in 1969, with On Her Majesty's Secret Service. However, that was also the end of the run, as the film just really didn't work. However, instead of looking for a brand new 007, they simply got the man who Lazenby took over for, Sean Connery. Mr. "Suck it Trebek" then went on to make Diamonds Are Forever, one of my top 3 Bond films, EVER. That said, Connery or the studio decided that is how the partnership should end, and it did, when Roger Moore took over on Live and Let Die.

Then there was Daniel Craig. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and deemed by many Bond purists as the Anti-Christ. Then Casino Royale came out, and everything is forgotten, and is firmly cemented as the best Bond yet, all due to recasting. Same goes for other characters in film series. Take the very series this started with, Batman. Everyone, or at least most people, think that Michael Keaton was a great Bruce Wayne/Batman. Two great films in the can, the studio decides to hand over the reigns to bat nipple boy, Joel Schumacher, and the series takes a hit. Batman Forever stank, Batman and Robin, even worse, but not due to the new actors. Actually, I didn't mind Clooney or Kilmer as the caped crusader (honestly, you beef Clooney up, he'd be a solid pick for him in The Dark Knight Returns, the ONE Batman film I DO want to see now), it came in the execution. However, Christopher Nolan came along, and so did Christian Bale, and so did the two best Batman films in the series, all due to the great cast, and brilliance of direction.

Personally, I think the biggest thing in a recasting is the improvement of acting within the role. The perfect example of this is the recasting of the Rhodes character in Iron Man. For those uninformed, in Iron Man, the neo-sidekick character of Rhodes was played by the solid actor, Terrence Howard. However, Marvel decided that it wasn't a right fit, and have subsequently recasted the role with a BETTER actor, Don Cheadle in the role. That's the one thing that a recasting needs to accomplish.

It's NOT what the recasting of Jacob in Twilight was going to be. Taylor Lautner played the much beloved character from the tween version of porn, and there was much talk around the web and Hollywood as a whole that Summit was in the hunt for a better, or bigger named, actor, as they nearly doubled their budget, ON OPENING WEEKEND. Money grabs like this are completely the wrong way to go about recasting. If the actor in the role currently, isn't better than the one looking at getting the job, then there really is no point.

This brings us back to Batman 3. Two Face is ALLEGEDLY dead, and The Joker is stuck (so we think) within Arkham Asylum. However, the afformentioned executive seems to think differently...

The Dark Knight producer Chuck Roven has claimed that people need to “separate the actors from the role,” in response to a question regarding The Joker and Heath Ledger. When asked by MTV whether the filmmakers would have done anything different had they known Ledger wouldn’t be reprising the role, Roven claimed that the character wasn’t tied to the actor.

“On a personal level, Heath was a friend of mine,” he said at the People’s Choice Awards. “We had worked together before The Dark Knight, but I still think that The Dark Knight is its own thing, and we have to separate them.”

I think, instead of simply rewording my thoughts, here are my thoughts from a recent post about this subject

Me personally, I've been of the thought that ANY role would be recastable, especially this one, for a few reasons. First off, and this may sound a little bad, but I mean it respectfully, Heath wasn't a brilliant actor. He was just hitting his stride however. Early in his career he would be stuck in fluff roles like his character in 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knights Tale, and he didn't completely excel in those roles. Sure, he was brilliant in Brokeback Mountain, I'm Not There, and even his very small role in Monster's Ball, but overall, he just needed more time. THAT is why losing him was a big deal. Heath would have completely blown up after this performance, and it's sad that he's gone, but someone could do it better. There is ALWAYS room for improvement, and it's hard for me to say that, because I think his performance is one of the 10 best I've ever seen.

Also, and this pertains more to the concept of bringing the Joker back, it would be a bigger disservice to what Ledger did do if WB decided to completely change the mood and feel of the character, which I don't think Nolan would ever think of doing, than just ditching the character as a whole. There is no more important character within the mythology of the Bat, than it's antithesis, the Joker. He's so important to the overall story of Batman, that he would almost have to come back at some point in time.

However, do I think they should, not right now. It's to soon, and honestly, we've had our Joker fix, and I think it's time to give another villain or two their shot. That said, they are almost going to have to mention what happened to Joker, as there is still that huge, sadistic, clown painted elephant in Gotham City. Nothing was completely resolved, as we still don't know what happened to him at the end of TDK. Sure, the police got to him, and he may just be sitting in Arkham, but if so, we need to know that, or else it's going to be a big unresolved thing. Just because Heath passed, doesn't mean the Joker has to.

Seriously, tell me Daniel Day-Lewis couldn't do this and knock it out of the park. I'm currently watching Conan, and they are talking about casting people in our government, and hell, I would cast DDL as anyone. Even Nancy Pelosi. He's THAT good.

So, what do you think? Not on the Joker subject, what about the whole thought of recasting characters?

Go see something good!

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