Alden Ehrenreich has his work cut out for him taking over the role of Han Solo. Stepping into the shoes of an iconic movie or TV character is a tricky proposition that risks the wrath of fans if not captured perfectly. This week, we’ll look at some examples where the gambit paid off.
Some roles are so iconic, it’s hard to think of anyone else playing the character. Such was the case when Clayne Crawford was hired to take over the role of Martin Riggs on TV’s ‘Lethal Weapon‘. Mel Gibson is so identified with the loose cannon LAPD officer that no one could ever replace him, right? Wrong. Despite not looking the part, Crawford totally owned the role of Riggs from the pilot episode forward, giving viewers a multi-dimensional portrayal over two TV seasons that actually surpassed what Gibson delivered in four feature films.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Due to some reported bad behavior on the set (and perhaps a little influence from an unhappy co-star), Clayne’s ‘Lethal Weapon’ contract was not picked up by Warner Bros. and he will not be part of Season 3. It’s a shame all around, because ‘Lethal Weapon’ was starting to feel like something really special, and I think word was finally getting out that Crawford’s performance was a career-making part. Now, unfortunately, it looks like it may have been a career-ending one. I hope not, because Martin Riggs or no Martin Riggs, Clayne is one heck of a good actor.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
“Next time, baby.” That quick line delivered by Terrence Howard in ‘Iron Man‘ winked towards the debut of War Machine in the sequel. Part of that panned out. War Machine did indeed make his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in ‘Iron Man 2‘, although it would be with Don Cheadle inside the armor.
All sorts of rumors have swirled around the reasons why: Howard being a difficult presence on the set, excessive financial demands, delivering a substandard performance that was a challenge to cut around. I can’t say for certain why the change was made (or why Howard was supposedly offered a tiny fraction of his contracted payday), but Marvel certainly traded up when recasting the role of Rhodey. Aside from being a more talented actor in general, Cheadle’s more commanding presence better suits the part, and that greater authority is balanced with more charisma to boot.
Every actor who has played James Bond to date has brought something special and unique to the role, and I can appreciate all their efforts. The only one who seemed to struggle was George Lazenby, whose one-shot appearance in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘ was unfairly knocked simply for not being Sean Connery at a time when audiences weren’t ready to accept anyone else. Roger Moore broke away by tailoring the character to his own strengths and personality, and though the camp in his movies didn’t age well later, he was very much the right Bond for his era, just as the darker and more hard-edged Daniel Craig has been for ours.
Still, I think that Chris Pine taking over as James Kirk in the ‘Star Trek‘ reboot and its sequels is the best example of recasting a major character like this. The actor was basically a nobody with only a handful of minor TV and movie appearances before J.J. Abrams hired him for the lead in the 2009 film. He’s been terrific in the franchise, embodying the character’s charisma and cockiness and magnetism without directly imitating William Shatner (which would have quickly lapsed into parody). I can’t imagine anyone else doing it as well.
Pine didn’t have as much luck rebooting the Jack Ryan series. We’ll see how well John Krasinski does with his own attempt this fall.
What are your picks for the best (or worst) actors taking over iconic roles?
We’re taking Monday off for the Memorial Day holiday but will return on Tuesday. Have a great long weekend, everyone!