When Movie Sequels Use Photos of the Original’s Stars

When an actor can't return for a sequel, sometimes the filmmakers get creative...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Sometimes, things don’t go to plan. A movie has hit big, or a franchise is rumbling on, and you want one of the original stars back for the next in the series. The problem? You either knocked them off in the last film, or the actor concerned isn’t available, or they just didn’t want to return. That, or you didn’t want them, but you’re too polite to say.

The solution? The photo! Have characters looking mournfully at an image of said actor, just to remind you that they were once part of that particular parish, and so everyone else can acknowledge them, and then get on with it. At least, that’s usually how it works.

Here are a few choice examples. As always, help yourself in the comments…

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SPOILERS for each of the films concerned lie ahead…

Justice League – Kevin Costner

Why didn’t he appear in person?

The character was dead. And they’d already done a flashback in another movie.

How did he appear in the film?

The mighty Kevin Costner, as you may know, made what on the surface was his sole sojourn into comic book movies with 2013’s Man Of Steel. Sure, he was barely in it really, but managed to dish out paternal advice in a suitably gruff voice, with an authoritarian air that was hard to resist.

Sadly, while Henry Cavill emerged from that film as Superman, Costner ended it as Deadman. That didn’t stop him filming a cameo as dead daddy from the grave dishing out “advice” for Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. But just how could the mighty Costner sneak his way into the Justice League ensemble? Through the power of a photograph of the man, holding a fish. It’s a touching moment, that allows Supes to reflect on his upbringing, whilst also ponder if he fancies plaice or cod from the chip shop for his dinner…

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The Bourne Legacy – Matt Damon

Why didn’t he appear in the film?

He wouldn’t do another Bourne film without Paul Greengrass. Which they then did.

How did he appear in the film?

Never let it be said that Universal wasn’t keen to have its proverbial cake and scoff it for The Bourne Legacy. Never mind that Jeremy Renner had been cast as new Treadstone alumnus Aaron Cross: for the first half hour, we’re going to talk about nothing but Jason Bourne!

As such, Jason Bourne is namechecked endlessly as The Bourne Legacy gets going, just to help settle those audience members wondering why there’s a Bourne film without a Bourne in it. We then, just to ice the cake, see a mugshot of Damon, just so that box is ticked, and those asking for a refund can be dissuaded with a flick of ‘he was in it, you just weren’t watching carefully’.

Notably, Aaron Cross’ picture didn’t appear in the subsequent Jason Bourne. Nobody seemed to mind.

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Ghostbusters (2016) – Harold Ramis

Why didn’t he appear in it?


How did he appear in the film?

The makers of the most recent Ghostbusters movie – save your comments, heard ‘em all – wanted to feature the original gang in their story. As such, there were cameos for Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson. But tragically, Harold Ramis had passed away in 2014.

They still wanted to pay tribute to Ramis, though. And that’s why in the Columbia University sequence near the start of the movie, you see a bust of Ramis’ character Egon (Ramis’ son cameos in the movie later on too). That bust would, I believe, eventually be given to Ramis’ family too. A nice touch.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – Meryl Streep

Why didn’t she appear in the film?

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Well, she did in the end. But considering Streep was the headline star of the first movie, her absence – for scheduling reasons – was keenly felt.

How did she appear in the film?

In the early stages, as a photo to be yearningly looked at for maximum (and effective) emotional impact. Then, in a younger guise, as Lily James, playing the young version of the character. Then, basically as a ghost for maximum (and effective) emotional impact. Then, all logic was duly abandoned so she could join in the singalong at the end. Would have been fascinating to see Matt Damon edited into The Bourne Legacy this way, tbh.

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull – Sean Connery and Denholm Elliott

Why didn’t they appear in the film?

Connery passed on the chance to return, having retired from acting after making The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Elliott, sadly, had passed on.

How did they appear in the film?

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Just a small tribute to both, as photos on a desk. No impact on plot, nothing too much more needed. The pair of them get an affectionate nod, before the film moves on to less interesting new characters…

Transformers: The Last Knight – Shia LaBeouf

Why didn’t he appear in the film?

Well, nobody burns bridges like Shia, right? The mighty LaBeouf had made his views known on the Transformers films. Michael Bay, meanwhile, seems just the kind of guy to have a nice warm chat about how underwhelming his modern film output is, and still extend an offer of work. That’s clearly what happening, and surely, ahem, scheduling differences are the only plausible reason as to why Shia LeBeouf didn’t return.

How did he appear in the film?

NoGrudge McBay, as we bet his pals call him, used a photo of Shia LaBeouf to apparently kill his character off, and deny him any chance of a further return. It comes courtesy of an extended, “compelling” scene of exposition, where it’s determined that Vivian Wembley – played by Laura Haddock – is the final survivor in the Witwicky family line. A picture of Shia cements this, and the character at the heart of the first three films is tossed away in a speech by Sir Anthony Hopkins, who occasionally glances at the fat check in his back pocket.

Final Destination 2 – Ali Larter/Devon Sawa

Why didn’t she/he appear in it?

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A slight cheat. Larter did appear, but wasn’t in the first draft. As the story goes, the original plan for the Final Destination follow-up was to bring Devon Sawa from the first movie back. For whatever reason, and there were rumors of disputes that were denied, that didn’t come to pass. Ali Larter got an invite for a brief return, though.

In David R. Ellis’ cracking horror sequel, we’re immediately introduced to a whole bunch of new meat for the grinder –  or a fresh group of mainly lovely and blissfully unaware people, depending on your latent cynicism – who are all set to become part of Death’s imaginative domino effect plan. Which certainly leaves us to wonder about the fate of the original film’s last two remaining characters for a spell (we don’t think Jack from Dawson’s Creek made it).

Only in the second act does lingering Flight 180 survivor Clear Rivers (Larter) make an appearance, and by that point any hope that her fast friend from the first film might show up has already been dashed by an abrupt news report flatly stating that Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) ended up kicking the bucket off screen long before the events of this follow-up flick.

Killed by a single ironic brick, after all that dodging and diving – whaddawaytago.

Die Hard 4 – Bonnie Bedelia

Why didn’t she appear in it?

Lord knows. After the second film, the character of Holly was dropped from the franchise.

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How did she appear in the film?

Well, in Die Hard With A Vengeance, rather than bringing back one of the core characters of the franchise – and let’s face it, for all its pros, Die Hard 3 was where the franchise became A Bruce Willis Vehicle – we get the sequence where Holly is talked about, but that’s it. We leave John McClane on the phone to her, seemingly trying to patch up his relationship.

By Die Hard 4.0, it’s clear he’s failed. Holly is now a quick image on a driving license, and that’s all you’re getting. As for the fan-made fifth film that bears the Die Hard name, she’s wisely nowhere near it. Holly fans can be assured that the character is likely to reappear in the upcoming prequel, McClane. But Bonnie Bedelia is unlikely, again, to get the call. The way the films have been going, there’s a sporting chance she might just change her number anyway.

Independence Day: Resurgence – Will Smith

Why doesn’t he appear in it?

Big Willy said no to this, and yes to Suicide Squad. Wicky-wicky-what-what?

How did he appear in the film?

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After umming and aahing for some time over whether he wanted back for Independence Day 2, Will Smith eventually declined, leaving the filmmakers to go with the version of the film they’d mapped out without him (two versions were apparently plotted). They made sure to show their acknowledgement and respect of Smith’s character, though, by killing him off. He died in a proper movie heroic way, too, courtesy of, er, a military test going wrong. It’s certainly how I want to go.

Director Roland Emmerich was in contact with Smith about his character’s demise, and he allowed us a moment in the final cut of the film where we could all look at a picture of the mighty Willy and imagine what might have been.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Sir Richard Attenborough

Why doesn’t he appear in it?

Sir Richard sadly left this planet back in 2014, at the age of 90.

How does he appear?

A tribute to John Hammond, as brought to the screen by Sir Dickie, appears in Fallen Kingdom by way of a bronze bust. It’s a smart, elegant tribute to the great man. The film then quietly double bags it by having James Cromwell play basically a version of the same character, Benjamin Lockwood. If you squint and throw vinegar in your eyes (not advised, don’t sue us), then Benjamin Lockwood is actually an anagram of John Hammond. True-ish story.

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Ocean’s 8 – George Clooney

Why doesn’t he appear in it?

Well, there’s no reason he should, really. Short of the fact that he played Danny Ocean, but now there’s another Ocean, they don’t need the original Ocean, otherwise there’d be two Oceans, and then the apostrophe in the title would have to go in a different place. And how could we all cope with that?

How does he appear?

To get over the double Ocean issue, the Ocean’s 8 team basically kill Clooney off. His grave appears at choice moments in the movie, and it gives his sister, played by Sandra Bullock, something to look at mournfully. Just to ice this particular cake, a picture of one of the most photographed men in the world is included as well, just in case we forgot what he looked like.

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