Does Publicly Campaigning for a Role Ever Work?

From Sean Young lobbying to play Catwoman in Batman Returns, to Paul Giamatti's Spider-Man villain: how does campaigning for a role pan out?

Olivia Wilde has publicly challenged Ronda Rousey to a fight. Well, not literally, that would be stupid. But she has announced she would like to take on the title role in Marvel’s forthcoming Captain Marvel movie, a role Rousey has also put herself forward for. Now, while I would never question Rousey’s acting ability (at least not to her face), her blockbuster debut in The Expendables 3 probably didn’t leave Meryl Streep shaking in her shoes at the new competition.

Wilde, on the other hand, has much more acting credibility when it comes to this, what with her being an actual actor and all. With films like TRON: Legacy and Rush and TV shows like House M.D. Under her belt, she is far better placed to take the role.

Of course, if Marvel were looking to go and create a real Captain Marvel to actually fight crime then Rousey would be favorite (hands down). But in acting terms, Wilde probably edges her out.

But of course, Rousey and Wilde aren’t the only actors to publicly champion themselves for a role, nor does it often tip the scales in their favor. It is however, surprisingly common practice (particularly, it seems, in the superhero genre). Below we will look at some of the more interesting attempts for actors to tip the scales in their favour.

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Ephraim Benton – Eazy. E (Straight Outta Compton)

In 2012, when open casting was announced for the forthcoming N.W.A biopic, Benton decided that he would launch a social media campaign to land the role of Eazy E, instead of your know, actually auditioning. Based around a Tumblr blog (entitled I. Am. Eazy. E) he released a full-on portfolio, including comparative photo montages and an audition tape. 

Explaining his decision to take this rather unconventional route, he sent out the following press release:

“In this day and age, branding yourself on social media is vital to your success. I thought I would better my chances if those responsible for the movie saw the effort, passion and sincerity I put forth as an actor. I didn’t just want to leave it in my manager’s hands to just try and land me an audition. I wanted to make a risky but bold statement by publicly campaigning to the world for this role. I put this together in two days but with more research and time, I believe I can humanize him more and really capture his essence.”



Despite quite a lot of effort (not to mention replicating quite the likeness), the role ultimately went to Jason Mitchell, who, no disrespect to Benton, gave a great performance.

Sean Young – Catwoman (Batman Returns)

Possibly the both the most high-profile and strange attempt to publicly petition for a role was Sean Young’s attempt to become Catwoman. Originally cast in Tim Burton’s Batman as Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Vicki Vale, she was replaced by Kim Basinger when Young suffered a broken arm while practicing horse riding for a planned scene in the film.

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Following this bit of misfortune, she became determined to land the role of Catwoman in the sequel, Batman Returns. She even reportedly went so far as to turn up, unannounced, at Tim Burton’s production offices in a home-made Catwoman outfit. Needless to say, she was ultimately escorted off the premises.

Undeterred, she hit the talk show circuit, famously appearing on The Joan Rivers Show in said costume, to continue to lobby for the part.


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Whilst she was unfortunate in the first instance, her “intense” approach did not win her the right friends. In the end, Michelle Pfeiffer landed the role.

Isaiah Mustafa – Luke Cage (Luke Cage)

If you think making a home-made costume is going all out, the Isaish Mustafa’s dedication to the cause will – yes! – blow your mind.

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Better known as the guy in the Old Spice commercials, Mustafa wants to be Luke Cage badly. Like, really badly. While talking on Attack Of The Show, the subject came up and he had the following to say,

“I will say this… please, get this thing going. I want to be Luke Cage, OK! I want to be Luke Cage! You have no idea, I mean really, yes. I made a dream board of it and put my face on the comic. I said I want to be Luke Cage one day.”

Obviously, starring in a superhero movie is a boost to anyone’s career, but few would go so far as Mustafa, not even Benton. Apropos of nothing, Mustafa went ahead and made a promo reel for the titular superhero, again apparently convinced that this would be enough not only to win him the role, but also convince the studio to make the movie. 


Apparently not. Instead, there’s a Luke Cage TV show being made by Netflix, which stars Mike Colter. 

Amongst others, Terry Crews (The ExpendablesBrooklyn Nine-Nine) has repeatedly announced he would be interested. Though no home-made video has emerged, as of yet, Crews would probably considered the favorite out of the two, assuming Colter didn’t get the role.

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Josh Hutcherson – Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man)

Hutcherson, now best known for his role in The Hunger Games four-part, erm, trilogy, was very keen to be Peter Parker. Unlike many on this list, he actually stood a good chance, having made the shortlist before Andrew Garfield took the role for The Amazing Spider-Man. Like Mustafa, Hutcherson also made a demo reel, though he at least had the defence of being just 17 at the time. That it also didn’t become publicly available until after Garfield was announced in the title role suggests it was something more than a publicity stunt or a pipe dream.



Failing in 2010, he again announced his desire to play the role in 2015, saying,

“Yeah, of course I’d think about doing it: It’s Spider-Man, that’d be really cool. There’s not been any conversations about that, but who knows what would happen?”

Well, turns out even at the relatively tender age of 23, Hutcherson was still considered too old, with the role going to 19 year old Tom Holland. It is of course conceivable that they might again take the character in another direction and he might get a shot, but in the immediate future, it doesn’t look likely.

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Tyrese Gibson – Green Lantern (Green Lantern)

Why anyone would be eager front this franchise after the Ryan Reynolds-headlined disappointment is a good question. For Tyrese Gibson, whilst he didn’t make his own video, he was heavily promoting himself on social media (particularly Instagram), with fan art, portraying him as said superhero.



Gibson himself has suggested he has been speaking to Warner Brothers about the role, though nothing has yet been confirmed. However, with the next Green Lantern film scheduled for 2020, there is still plenty of time for him to land the role (there are set to be multiple Green Lanterns, which helps). Indeed, it may be even earlier, if the character is to make an appearance in the Justice League movie, which is currently scheduled for 2017.

Ming-Na Wen – Mulan (Mulan live-action remake)

This one is a bit unusual given that Ming has already played this character once, sort of. Providing the voice in the original animated movie Mulan, the Agents Of SHIELD star became a popular front-runner when the internet got on the case. However, given that Mulan is supposed to be much younger than Ming, she is wisely not particularly interested in chasing the lead role. Instead, she has used the support of the internet to try and land some other, unspecified role in the movie.


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Quite possibly.

While no announcement has yet been made, Ming has made the sensible choice of using the support to her advantage to get a role, not the lead role, which she is obviously too old for. Having connections to the original, as well as being part of the Disney family as part of Agents of SHIELD she already has connections and, in this world of obsessive cameo-spotters, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her feature at all.

Paul Giamatti – The Rhino (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)

Not all such public campaigns are unsuccessful. Back in 2011 Paul Giamatti, of all people, went on The Conan O’Brian Show and professed his love for Spider-Man villain The Rhino, and his desire to play him on screen.

Yet while that could easily have been dismissed as a joke, Giamatti actually turned up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, causing many spoiler-averse fans to declare “Hmm, that tattooed thug trying to kill Spider-Man looks a lot like Paul Giamatti. Wait, what? No. Is it? It can’t be. No, it is. W.T.F?!” followed by much shushing from less easily shocked members of the audience.



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Rarely does this work, but according to director Marc Webb, it was this appearance that landed him the role.

He said “the real truth is, I saw Paul Giamatti on Conan O’Brien, talking about The Rhino and how much he loved it and I was like, I love Paul Giamatti and I think he’s such a brilliant actor, so, I wanted to incorporate that enthusiasm that he had in the movie.”

That the film was a relative failure (grossing ‘only’ $708 million worldwide), which resulted in the franchise being rebooted (yet again), Giamatti nonetheless got his wish and, at one point, was even looking forward to reprising the role for the cancelled third film in the series.

Therefore, it seems that if you are an actor chasing a role, all you need to do is be famous enough to be on Conan and as talented as Paul Giamatti (ie very) and directors will come knocking on your door. For everyone else though, it’s probably best to just stick to going to auditions.