Hit movie franchises that recast all the main roles at once

Feature Simon Brew
20 Jun 2014 - 07:03

From X-Men and The Flintstones to Home Alone and The Addams Family: the franchises that recast all the main roles...

Ground rules first. Each of the film series that we're going to discuss here have something in common: at least one movie made at least $100m at the US box office (so, for instance, Darkman doesn't count). Sometimes more. At some stage, for reasons we're going to explore, the decision was made to recast the major roles in the series. Not to fully reboot, but in some cases to tell a story in the same narrative run (hence, we've not included Spider-Man), with the same named characters.

We're not focusing on films that recast a single role or two, and in the examples we're chatting about, one or two faces may have carried across. Yet each of these still underwent a wholesale recasting of the same characters that appeared when the films hit big in the first place. Not always with great results...


Across a trilogy of films and a grumpy Wolverine spin-off, the core cast of the X-Men movies had been set. And at its heart was an ensemble featuring Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto, Rebecca Romijn as Mystique and Kelsey Grammer as Beast. X-Men: The Last Stand, whilst successful, left the franchise in a bit of a bind, though. It'd brought that particular narrative strand to a (not very satisfactory) conclusion. However, in spite of miserable reviews, X-Men Origins: Wolverine did okay. So what should Fox do? With Wolverine still firing, should it reboot, or something else?

It chose something else, opting instead for the prequel route. A reboot of sorts, but not a full one.

The justification

As the First Class comic narrative did, Matthew Vaughn's 2011 feature went back to the foundations of Professor Xavier's school for gifted children, and as such, an almost-entirely new cast, playing the same roles just at earlier points in the characters' lives, was hired. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence duly signed up. Only a fleeting appearance by Hugh Jackman as Logan muddied things slightly. Fox thus sidestepped the The Last Stand problem, and left itself future wiggle room.

Did it work out?

Better than Fox dared hope. Since the arrival of First Class, the X-Men series of films has never been in better shape. First Class itself was well received, another standalone Wolverine movie did okay, and this summer's Days Of Future Past successfully-ish married up the old cast with the new. By avoiding the reboot, but recasting anyway, Fox has given itself lots of future options for X-Men movies.

Signing Jennifer Lawrence up to multiple movies just as she became an acting megastar wasn't a bad bit of foresight either...


In perhaps one of the highest profile cases of an entire cast being replaced in one go, the sequel to The Flintstones rolled out six years after the first, with every role but one changed. It's not as if The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas was a low profile release either (it cost over $80m to make for a start). If too was a summer movie from Universal, with the same director, Brian Levant, calling the shots. 

The sad thing was that one of the few things that 1994's The Flintstones got bang on was its cast. John Goodman and Rick Moranis were very, very well cast as Fred and Barney, but right down the ensemble, people fitted their roles well. Not many people deserve a warm handshake for The Flintstones movie. But the casting team does. Biscuits, too.

The justification

A prequel route again, in that The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas was set before The Flintstones. As such, Mark Addy and Stephen Baldwin are Fred and Barney in their younger years, although you have to say we hardly seem to be talking decades of distance between the two movies. Presumably a third Flintstones film would have seen extensive stone age plastic surgery take place, in an attempt to jopin the two eras together.

Did it work out?

No. In spite of Viva Rock Vegas being a slight improvement on its pretty piss-poor predecessor, The Flintstones have dared not venture onto the big screen since (only now is there talk of a new feature-length animated take on the characters, that Will Ferrell is involved with). Mark Addy and Stephen Baldwin, the replacement Fred and Barney, came out of it all a bit better than you might expect though...


Puberty is a sod when you're trying to make megabucks off movie sequels. Macaulay Culkin's childhood innocence was a core part of what made Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York such sizeable successes. And at first, Fox opted to switch to another family to keep the series going, with Home Alone 3A film that did sneak into cinemas, in fact.

However, for Home Alone 4, the first of two straight-to-disc releases thus far, the decision was made to recast the entire series. As such, out went Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara and John Heard. And in? Mike Weinberg took Culkin's role, French Stewart took over Stern's, and even Buzz was recast, with Devin Ratray making way for Gideon Jacobs.

The justification

Cold hard cash. An attempt to get a few more quid out of a franchise long past its sell-by, without spending much money. There was some plot development - Kevin's parents had been divorced, presumably as a consequence of the legal investigation they faced for twice deserting their son - but that was pretty much the limit of the film's ambitions.

Did it work out?

Nope. Fox abandoned the idea for Home Alone 5, hiring a bunch of new people playing new characters to go through the motions of the first film instead.


There's a trio of prequels and spin-offs to Jim Carrey films, that each went ahead when the star turned down the chance to reprise assorted roles. Hence, this entry's going to focus on one of them, but notes the others too. Those others being Ace Ventura Jr and Son Of The Mask. Human beings try not to talk about either of those.

Carrey turned a return to Dumb And Dumber down too - at least until recently - and so New Line tried something different. It pressed - you guessed it! - the prequel button, telling the story of how the two lead characters - Harry and Lloyd - got together in the first place. No creative talent returned, and none of the cast did either. So, Derek Richardson became Harry, and Eric Christian Olsen became Lloyd. These would not prove to be breakout roles for the pair.

The justification

Well, there wasn't one outside of a boardroom really. New Line's transition from horror specialists to broader material was aided considerably by Carrey's twin hits, The Mask and Dumb And Dumber. It wanted more of both of them, whatever the cost. Turns out the cost was wrecking what it had in the first place.

Did it work out?

No. The film was awful, the film was a flop at the box office, and the film is generally regarded as one of modern history's worst prequel/sequels. With the official Dumb And Dumber sequel arriving at Christmas, expect When Harry Met Lloyd to be thoroughly forgotten.


2003's third Terminator movie, Rise Of The Machines, actually did really rather well, and it's got a much better ending than it's generally given credit for. However, it also clearly wasn't a James Cameron movie, so when, six years later, Terminator: Salvation popped up, it was a different beast. So, Arnold Schwarzenegger only reappeared thanks to computer trickery (he was running California at the time, which hardly helped his availability), whilst Anton Yelchin took over Kyle Reese duties from Michael Biehn, Christian Bale became the latest screen John Connor (after Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl), and Terminator 3's Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) became Kate Connor (Bryce Dallas Howard).

The justification

A few reasons. Firstly, rarely has a film franchise become so bogged down in rights issues as The Terminator. The original plan had been to pick up straight after Terminator 3's ending, with Nick Stahl and Claire Danes returning. But the rights lapsed before that could happen, and thus when the fourth Terminator movie did finally get going, it was decided to jump into the future rather than follow straight on. Hence, McG was hired to direct, and a new trilogy was planned. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political career limited his involvement too.

Did it work out?

Ish. Terminator: Salvation is also arguably a better film than it's usually given credit for, but it's still some distance away from James Cameron's first two movies. There wasn't enough interest for the planned trilogy to materialise, although the bigger problem was The Halcyon Company, which had picked up the rights, heading for bankruptcy. That led to said rights going up for auction again. Eventually, they've ended up with Annapurna Pictures, which has put a new trilogy into production. Said trilogy has been recast again. The Mother Of Dragons herself, Emilia Clarke, is the latest Sarah Connor...


The first two Addams Family movies boasted four particularly excellent casting choices. Anjelica Huston topped the lot as Morticia, but the late Raul Julia's Gomez, Christopher Lloyd's Fester and Christina Ricci's amazing turn as Wednesday were the other standouts. We got two big screen adventures, under the guidance of director Barry Sonnenfeld. Yet none of them were anywhere to be seen come the release of Addams Family Reunion, which headed direct to video in 1998.

The justification

This was quite straightforward. Paramount backed the first two Addams Family movies, whereas Warner Bros put Addams Family Reunion together. Two members of the cast did cross over - Carel Struycken as Lurch, Christopher Hart's hand as Thing - but the rest of the roles were recast, as this was a different production, put together partly as a pilot for a new TV series. A TV series that was never made. Furthermore, Raul Julia's tragic death was a factor.

As such, Tim Curry was the new Gomez, Daryl Hannah took over as Morticia, Patrick Thomas became Fester, and Nicole Fugere had the unenviable task of playing Wednesday.

Did it work out?

Nope. Further adventures were not forthcoming, the television series never happened, and Addams Family Reunion hasn't even had a DVD release to date. In truth, most don't even know it exists. Very few people are looking to correct that.


Many years after Star Trek: Nemesis seemed to spell the end for the big screen Star Trek series, Paramount began investigating the possibility of bring Trek back. But how to do it? Nominally, it went down reboot road, going back to the original cast but in their early years. JJ Abrams came in to direct, and Star Trek 11 went into production.

The new line-up? Instead of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei and Nichelle Nichols, in came the likes of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Zoe Saldana. What stopped Star Trek being an outright reboot? The reappearance of Leonard Nimoy, linking the two film series together.

The justification

Star Trek, on both the small and big screen, was pretty much dead when Paramount opted for a new feature film. The original cast had long hung up their uniforms, and subsequence series The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise had finished. Star Trek: Nemesis, whilst a film with its fans, hardly had the mass audience clamouring for an eleventh big screen adventure.

Paramount therefore went for an origins story, which sidestepped the need to involve the original collection of casts - Nimoy apart - and it also allowed Abrams and his team to make a fairly clean break from Trek of old.

Did it work out?

By most criteria, a raging success. Storming reviews and sizeable box office for a Star Trek film, the recast crew would bring in even more money for 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness. It would be fair to say that the latter is less popular with more hardened Star Trek followers though. However, the new crew continues to go forward, with Roberto Orci directing the next Star Trek movie, due in cinemas in 2016.


You might not like to admit it, but Eddie Murphy comedy vehicle Daddy Day Care crossed $100m at the US box office, and thus it qualifies by the rules we set at the start. Shudder. It only just crossed $100m, but it nonetheless made it. To date, it's Eddie Murphy's last live action comedy that has. Which makes it all the more surprising that he opted not to return for the sequel, which went by the name Daddy Day Camp. This would prove no barrier for Sony, who hired Fred Savage to direct the new film, and simply recast the key roles from the original.

As such, Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr took on the role of Charlie Hinton that Murphy had so memorably and movingly brought to the screen. Kim Hinton, meanwhile, was no longer Regina King, as Tamala Jones got the nod. Others to be 'moved on' were Jeff Garlin and Max Burkholder.

The justification

Presumably, once Eddie Murphy had said no, what was the point of getting anybody else back? Sony had originally intended Daddy Day Camp to be a straight to DVD sequel once it green lit the project, but oddly upgraded it to a cinema release.

Did it work out?

Hell no. Daddy Day Camp amazingly managed to be worse than the original. What's more, Gooding Jr's performance did actually manage to give a convincing answer to the question 'how could things get worse?' that had been asked by many when watching Daddy Day Care.

See also:

Batman: although Michael Gough as Alfred was the main constant across the four movies from 1989 to 1997.

Star Wars: but you more than likely know the story there already. George Lucas had also long since planned a prequel story.

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