Now and again a lead actor will be changed out for one reason or another when it comes to making a sequel, but there have been moments when it’s unavoidable. Sometimes it’s easy to notice, other times it might take people a moment to realize that the switch has been made, but in a lot of cases those that are really paying attention can tell the difference because as much as some actors do look alike, there aren’t so many that they can be mistaken for each other on a regular basis. It could be that an actor had an issue with a director or their costars, or that the idea for the sequel came a time when the actor is otherwise engaged with another project, in which case just leaving one set wouldn’t be possible to go make another movie. Amazingly, some people are able to do this for various reasons, but a lot of times we’ll see that a different actor has been brought in to finish up the role or take it over entirely. In some cases, this is an improvement, but in others, it can be a serious detriment.
Here are a few times when a lead actor was replaced for a sequel or a remake.
5. Patriot Games – Harrison Ford
The role of Jack Ryan has been passed around in recent years, but Alec Baldwin was supposed to come back for Patriot Games after The Hunt for Red October but became embroiled in a conflict of sorts with a studio executive, and long story short, that was that. Harrison Ford did a stint as Jack Ryan, as did Chris Pine, Ben Affleck, and now John Krasinski has taken on the role, but the initial switch was to Ford. He took on the role for a couple of movies before it was taken over again, though the whole idea behind Jack Ryan as people have seen it is that like many other roles, pretty much any guy can play him.
4. The Dark Knight – Maggie Gyllenhaal
The female lead of the Nolan Batman movies was kind of inconsequential for a lot of fans since the character of Rachel didn’t tend to add a lot to the story despite being a love interest and someone that was thrust into the camera whenever possible. But Maggie Gyllenhall didn’t appear to be a move up or down in comparison to Katie Holmes, who didn’t look as though she really belonged in Batman Begins. Maybe she realized as much, but it’s doubtful. In any case, she didn’t show up for the second movie and as a result, we got Gyllenhaal for as long as it took for her character to be killed off.
3. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – Maria Bello
Rachel Weisz was the best female lead that the first two movies could have asked for and she played her part with such proficiency that it felt as though the third movie had taken a slip and a tumble and somehow come up with Maria Bello by accident. She’s a great actress really, but for this movie, it feels as though she was plugged in just to make certain that they didn’t have to explain why Evie was absent, had such a thing happened. But putting her into this movie was kind of an ‘oops’ moment when it would have been better to keep her character out completely or possibly find some other actress that could have nailed the role.
2. The Incredible Hulk – Edward Norton
So yes, this is a remake and not a sequel, but it did ditch Eric Bana for Edward Norton, and this is one of those rare times when it felt like a much better switch than it could have been. Of course, we would eventually watch as Norton was ditched for Mark Ruffalo, who is nerdy and unassuming but still doesn’t feel entirely right for the role. In any case, whoever a person feels was the better Bruce Banner, Norton managed to play a convincing role as a rather nerdy and secretive individual than Bana did, meaning that it was a successful recasting that allowed the movie at least one saving grace.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Michael Gambon
It kind of feels like Bill Nighy might have been a good pick for Dumbledore, but maybe that wouldn’t have panned out. In any case, after Richard Harris passed away, unfortunately, Hogwarts was left without a headmaster until Michael Gambon stepped up and took the role. It was one that did his career a great deal of good even though he’d starred in plenty of movies up to that point. As Dumbledore however he was still quite impressive since he wasn’t just the headmaster, he was a full-on combatant for a time.
Sometimes the switch was successful, but at other times it was less so.