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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Disqus - noscript

What about Stuart Little? In the first two movies in 1999 (box office £300m) and 2002 (£169m) he was a CGI mouse (voiced by Michael J Fox) and in the third movie in 2006 (direct-to-video) was recast as a cartoon mouse (again voiced by Michael J Fox).

Michael Gough was not the only constant in the Burton/Shumacher Batman franchise...Pat Hingle was in all four films as Commissioner Gordon.

It's not really a recast if the lead actor is back in the main role, is it?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Cuba Gooding Jr deserves better movies.

The recasting of Stuart Little from CGI to cartoon was intended as a tongue-in-cheek comment as with the recasting of Yoda from a puppet to CGI. Not so much the 'recasting' of Darth Vader in ROTJ (Sebastian Shaw to Hayden Christensen) or Boba Fett (Jeremy Bullock).

Glad to see someone recognises how good the ending of Terminator 3 is. The film may be poor, especially compared to the might of Terminator 2, but that reveal that there was no hope and the last shot with the nukes? Brilliant.

hard core TREKKER here who can barely stomach JJ Trek. Booo.

Well, the fact that you call yourself a "hard core TREKKER" negates any point you could have made, since naming your fandom is something only the socially inept do. I've been a major Trek fan since the '60s and have loved all six TV shows. But I still recognize that there's no need for labels.

Why does Star Wars get a mention under "See also"? They cast a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Palpatine, Darth Vaders voice, R2D2, C3PO and Yoda where the some people as in the original trilogy. All the other character where new and didn't show up in the original trilogy.

Oh, that version of Gordon did the character no justice at all. Also, there is the huge continuity error in the serie of Harvey Dent being played by Billy Dee Williams in the first movie and Tommy Lee Jones in the third one.

If Doctor Who went to the big screen, it'd be the greatest example of recasting a protagonist ever.

I think that whatever the faults of the new ST movies are in comparison to TOS and its movies, the cast is certainly not one of them. They are all pretty awesome in their roles.

Well, that very thing did happen, Peter Cushing played The Doctor on the big screen.

The movies were enjoyable on their own, and I think they were a great homage to the originals. Though, I'd like to see a series return to the small screen that isn't a reboot, or a prequel.

How is that an error? Williams doesn't have the chops that Jones has. Besides, it's possible that Dent just had some work done. Lots of people do it.

But unless we count the 50th special, it has never happened again, so there was no recast on the big screen. Yet.
I think.
I am young and not British, so maybe it has happened and I just don't know about it...

Ah, I see what you're saying.

Well, those weren't really main roles. Then again, Star Wars didn't really recast its roles, it just used completely different characters for the most part.

Next up will be Mad Max with Tom Hardy taking over from Mel Gibson. Could be good, I sincerely hope. But what about all the James Bonds? And the Jack Ryan films? I guess TV doesn't count (Hannibal/Psycho/Airwolf) though.

Mostly, especially with comedies, it's just been bad. But sometimes it's alright (X-Men/Star Trek). Interesting article. Well written. Keep it up.

Addams family reunion did form the basis of a TV show that was made, the new Addams family. The show was actually a success (it was on fox kids in the uk if I remember correctly) and lasted longer than the original series (just 1 episode).

Oddly much like this article the new Addams family was completely recast aside from Wednesday Addams played by Nicole Fugere (who stood out much like Christina Ricci).

Both reunion and the following series featured John Astin

Why write about "Terminator Salvation" instead of "Terminator 3"?

The latter is where the real re-casting took place ("Salvation" atleast had the excuse of taking place int e future, and Michael Biehn being too old perhaps).

The whole movie stunk and should never ever have been made, but why not have Hamilton and Furlong?

On second though, it's better they were not involved. It would have given that crap-fest more legitimacy than it deserved.

...Nemesis had fans?
Gerald! Fetch me my harpoon! I'm going twat-hunting!

See I've always hoped they do a trilogy of these films as a kind of 'refresher' for the franchise, then go back to the Prime timeline with a new series. With all the advancements in technology, and changes in politics and society since Enterprise...existed, it could feel fresh and new once again.
Maybe set around the time of Star Trek Online (though without all the ridiculous wanked-out technology of course).

That has to be the same work as Michael Jackson then. if you know what I mean.

Well, Obi-Wan was kind of the main character next to Anakin in Episode II and III and Vader's voice is actually what makes the character if you ask me. But you are totally right, they use different characters in the prequel trilogy then in the original.

Or maybe a series in the era where the Federation has those timeships as seen in Voyager. And wasn't there a big war when the Enterprise J flew around?

I'll let you in on a little secret: Women are GREAT.

Irony, using and supporting labels while decrying them? Classy...

JJ's Trek is in an alternate timeline - they can do whatever with the characters because they're not the same as merely "the younger days of Kirk", because that's not completely the case.

Homage only. They take lots, but they add absolutely nothing new. Unless "magical blood that could be taken from any of Khan's people but for the sake of more supposedly gripping fights let's overlook that little plot detail like how we overlooked our red matter creation in the last flick as well..." is the running excuse from these storytellers...

Why go back to the prime timeline? That would confuse and alienate modern fans accustomed to the altered timeline.

What new technology? Most of what we enjoy now was dreamed up by sci-fi writers decades earlier. Given how the big tech companies use sci-fi as the "Idea R&D Center", today's sci-fi people would rather make people cry on cue than to write anything that could be considered plausible technology. (Even then, "replication" is being misconstrued by the 3D printing people (where the former turns energy into matter and the latter turns one form of matter into the same form of matter.)

So are men.

The creator of Trek also saw people as objects - never mind books, there's also a record out there (or as part of ST:TMP's expanded soundtrack as bonus tracks) that has Gene himself saying how he would still use women as objects, and men too, for which the audience quickly gave riotously loud applause.

If someone told you that you were just a disposable sex object, would you give applause, which amounts to nothing more than "yay, we're all being made into objects! Woohoo!" ? Of course not.

Star Trek Into Darkness barely made a profit. Which is sad, because despite the simplistic writing and copping scenes from old star trek and reusing the same themes (Spock has sex, Spock is half-human, Spock starts with no emotions but then spews them at the end of the movie, Kirk makes dumb decisions, sleeps a lot and always with the green Orion women and always in only superficial ways just like how Shatner's incarnation never had), the different take on Khan was interesting as were the double crosses everybody was doing - at least for a while... the fact that Old Spock had to return proves it. How, why, who cares it's just a thrill like how the barely-dressed people at the corner of 4th Ave and 1st Street are...

And "Nemesis" did a lot of ripping off as well... That's why it was derided back then, on top of the plot faults (of which there are actually many more than the last two...) But the added gloss of the last two movies doesn't make the underlying pastiches any better, regardless who is cast. People saw the last two movies for the effects first. Watch them for the stories, especially if one is a longtime fan or even a basic thinker, and one will be disappointed in seeing all of the nostalgiawank "homage", or the plot holes, and call it "hackneyed" because, technically, that's what they are. Glossy hackneyed productions.

They take lots, but they add absolutely nothing new. Unless "magical blood that could be taken from any of Khan's people but for the sake of more supposedly gripping fights let's overlook that little plot detail like how we overlooked our red matter creation in the last flick as well..." is the running excuse from these storytellers...

I do not recognise the JJ Abrams alternate timeline for Star Trek. I own all the Trek TV series and films from the original (correct) timeline, and I've still got loads of books set in that timeline to get through as well - hopefully that'll all be enough to keep me going till either the universe somehow rights this wrong, or it won't matter to me any more...

I'm sure that lining a humiliated Shatner's pockets with more cash at a convention will help fill the time as well.

Billy Dee Williams is black??

And Johnny Lee Miller will play him in the 2022 reboot. Or get Jamie Lee Curtis..

Does he?

Hahaha, Yoda wasn't recast..

Well it was a slight step up from Insurrection. ("Remember Data..to have a little bit of fun everyday.."..Shudder!!) But I guess that's damning with faint praise..

I don't think you should be bashing anyone's writing.

If they kept it dark and put him in his dirtied up helmet gear, I think they maybe could have gotten away with using Michael Biehn. Although the actor did his best, I didn't think his replacement casting was a very good match. (Although to be fair, it's pretty damn bad casting for Reece in the new movie too..)

*Shrugs* Probably just the Trek purist in me. It flares up now and again.
I think audiences at large would be fine with it - Trek is still re-watched by a huge number of people around the world - many of them after seeing the nuTrek movies, and I think they grasp it's a different timeline easily enough.

You are joking right? Cos if you are not joking I suggest you block this site in your browser settings. :P

He was replaced by CGI and Frank Oz was dead wasn't he? Recast.

Yeah, and you've got to be joking that the only people buying those HD remasterd The Next Generations boxes are original fans.

Frank Oz dead? Yoda recast? - what kind of talk is this?


Lynn Shaye (studio head Robert Shayes sister) is in both Dumb and Dumberer and the prequel. Cameos (and noone knows who she is other then that lady from every New Line Cinema movie ever) but thats something i guess...

By 2003, Furlong was already pretty washed up; his only roles that anyone remembers were already behind him, and he was having lots of run-ins with police for drug possession and disorderly conduct. There's a lot to criticize about T3, but replacing Furlong is not one of those things. It was highly unlikely that he could have returned.

I think he's great when he's got something to get his teeth into but he's been in some dreck that not even Daniel Day Lewis could come off well in.

Does Dad know?!?

Does Dad know?!

What? There are socially inept nerds, geeks or trekkers? What rock have you been living under?

Dumb and Dumber: When Harry Met Lloyd was a terrible terrible film. However, I thought Eric Christian Olsen wasn't bad as the young Jim Carrey.
(Though this is a film I haven't watched since I made that terrible mistake of renting it).

Star Trek: Nemesis was intended to be the end for The Next Gen crew. By the end of it Riker and Troi are married and off on some ship in the far reaches, Dr. Crusher is off to Starfleet Medical again (like during Season 2 of TNG), and Data is dead. It's a shame they didn't get a better send off though. The film is so darkly lit I often come away with eye-strain.

I like that you say all 6 series, instead of 5. Good to recognise the animated series as a Trek series.
I enjoy the JJ films, but don't class them as canon. They are their own separate canon in my view. I still enjoy them though.
I liken it to classic Battlestar Galactica and new Battlestar Galactica. I love both series (I'm excluding the terrible Galactica 80 from this though). Both are set in the same verse but are very different enterties. Yet both are great fun to watch. I love the traditional effects for the dogfights in the original, as well as John Colicos as Baltar and his interactions with the cylons (some very funny dialogue amongst those scenes).
But I also love the hard-hitting high drama of the new series (suicide bombers as heroes during the occupation at the start of season 3, as well as executing collaborators).
To me they are separate enterties. Leonard as old Spock is not much different to Richard Hatch straddling both BSG, to me.
Khan's magic blood was a bad storytelling device, but then canon Trek has been guilty of similar in its long history now and then (usually these are Troi-centric stories, such as The Price-see James's Den of Geek review).

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