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10 Random, Weird Film Casting Choices that Somehow Worked

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | July 16, 2012 | Comments ()


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It's an interesting week for inspiring casting choices. "Breaking Bad" returned last night for its final season (split over two years), and many believe that Bryan Cranston as Walter White is one of the most inspired casting decision on television. If you only knew Cranston from "Malcolm in the Middle," it'd be hard to disagree with the assessment. This week also marks the return of The Dark Knight Rises, and throughout the Dark Knight series, Christopher Nolan has absolutely wowed us with unconventional casting decisions that have worked marvelously, most notably Heath Ledger as The Joker. But Christian Bale -- who was best known for his work on American Psycho at the time -- was also an inspired casting choice, and while the verdict is still out, Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman are fun, but not all together conventional casting choices, either. Both may be discussed come Oscar time this year.

Along those lines, I thought we'd take a look back at 10 other random, but inspired casting choices that ultimately worked even though they had no right to.

Rodney Dangerfield as Ed Wilson in Natural Born Killers -- A goofy stand-up comedian best known for "Take My Wife" jokes and silly 80's comedies being cast as a sexual abusing dysfunctional father.

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Tom Cruise as Lestat in Interview with a Vampire -- It still doesn't seem like it should work, but somehow, it did. Despite the conventional good looks, I think there is something inherently creepy about Tom Cruise that helped to sell this role as the skeevy vamp.

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Mike Myers as General Ed Fenech in Inglorious Basterds -- A guy with practically zero dramatic work coming off a string of comedy disappointments after shuffling into family films takes on the role of a creepy soldier? Quentin Tarantino is one of the best at unconventional casting that works, and here he demonstrates it again.

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Kelsey Grammer as The Beast in The X-Men -- The guy from "Cheers and "Frasier" as a big blue mutant? It's all in the Shakespearean voice.

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Val Kilmer as Madmartigan in Willow -- At the time, Val Kilmer was just the guy from Top Gun and Real Genius being hired to play a warrior in a fantasy film about a dwarf protecting a baby against an evil queen. Sure! Why not? It worked, didn't it?

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Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose in Drive -- Another comedian turned villain, Brooks proved to be as menacing as any experienced dramatic actor.

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Paul Reubens as Amilyn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- This was just fun stunt-casting -- hiring Pee Wee Herman, the children's personality caught masturbating in a theater -- that ended up working much better than anyone might have anticipated.

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Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank in The Truman Show -- This was before anyone knew that Carrey had dramatic talent. He was the guy from The Mask and Ace Ventura and he was being asked not to mug for the camera for two hours. Few at the time thought it possible, but it's still Carey's second-best role next to the equally unconventional Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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Jonah Hill and Charming Potato as Schmidt and Jenko in 21 Jump Street -- A remake of an 80s television series starring the fat guy from Superbad and a guy who was probably still best known as the guy from the Step Up movies G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra when he was signed on. I'm still confounded by how much I liked the movie.

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Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story -- An obnoxious television personality best known for playing an annoying Santa Claus in the movies and an irritating pig in television paired with Tom Hanks in a kid's movie. I still bristle when my son says he likes Buzz more than Woody, but props on the casting choice.

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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Kristy Fleming

    Rooney Mara in GWTDT

  • kelvin

    great piece!

  • Laura

    CHARMING POTATO

  • Charming Potato. I'm dying.

  • J

    HOLY SHIT KELSEY GRAMMER WAS BEAST??????

  • Ivana Cvetanovic

    I must disagree on Paul Reubens in the Buffy movie. It may be because I've recently read Whedon's original script and rewatched the movie and, while I've never been a fan of the movie, seeing how good the script was and how much they screwed it up and changed it really saddens me. The script was for a dark but also funny feminist horror/action/teen drama - very much in the vein of the subsequent TV show - and they turned it into a broad mainstream teen comedy. The vampires are genuinely scary in the script, but are ridiculous in the movie, and Amilyn in particular is a complete joke.

  • DrMooseknuckleX

    Albert Brooks first film role was in Taxi Driver, so it's not like he'd never been in a dramatic movie or had a dramatic role before.

  • Ff88

    david bowie as tesla

  • Michael Keaton as Batman.

  • johnyard

    dangerfield is not known for "take my wife" jokes. That's a different comedian from a different era. Dangerfield is known for "i get no respect" jokes.

  • Adrien

    Russel Brand as Dr. Nefario in Despicable Me.
    Tom Cruise in Collateral
    Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading.

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose in Drive — Another comedian turned villain, Brooks proved to be as menacing as any experienced dramatic actor.

    God, I hated that performance. And when I watched it again I hated it even more. I did not believe in him as that character for one second, and frankly I've barely seen him in anything else, so it's not the preconceived notion of him as a comedian. I just thought he stunk.

  • rachel612

    Right on! Brooks was one of the serious weak links, and the more screen time he got, the weaker the movie got.

    The best milquetoast turned villain performance belongs to William Hurt in "A History of Violence"

  • kayla

    Kelsy Grammar as the Beast makes perfect sense to me. I didn't think it was a strange choice.

  • kirbyjay

    Having never read any of Anne Rice's vampire series, my undies weren't in a bunch over the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat. You gotta say this for the little loon, he really throws himself into every role. He really did bring the creepy.

  • Maguita NYC

    Found Stuart Townsend a much more believable Lestat.

  • Ballymena Bob

    Mike Myers was doing an impression of David Mitchell, for some reason. Why didn't they just hire David Mitchell?

    Fassbender's impression was harder to pin down but I eventually realised he was doing Dirk Bogarde. He was pretty good.

  • rachel612

    Fassbenders impression of Peter O'Toole is pretty good, too.

  • Popeye

    Dangerfield was the inversion of Borscht Belt humour, not simply a 'Take-my-wife-please' comic. He was always the butt of the joke. Between completely misunderstanding Don Rickles not long ago and this glib Dangerfield-ignorance, you seem not to know that comedy existed in clever ways before Louis C.K.

  • special snowflake

    Agreed, Popeye, Dangerfield took a bit longer than Rickles, but both achieved perfection in their respective and equally original brands of humor. Be careful using that 'glib' word, though..

  • popeye

    It's apt, even if Tom Cruise is its most famous wielder.

  • TheBlackMenace

    Henny Youngman had the " take my wife....please" routine. Dangerfield's tag line was " I tell you, I don't get no respect." God I am so old.

  • coryo

    Um...wasn't Fenech not a Nazi? Wasn't he British?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I have a sudden urge to buy 11 Priuses. (Priusi? Priusae?)

  • love that you give props to the Jim Carrey -Truman Show role. That movie turned my entire opinion of him on its head. I saw a character for the first time, and not Jim playing himself.

    I sincerely believe He did not get enough credit for the chops- and that bothered me. Naturally, I blame Robin Williams. First, he did that faulking stupid Patch Adams movie. Second, he made us bored with comedians turned brilliant comedic actors who turn dramatic- and that is why I think people purposefully overlooked/underestimated/under-appreciated Jim Carrey in this movie.

    I also love man on the moon- for the record. Sunshine was awesome too.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Okay, I think that the only reason that Cruise made a so-so Lestat is because he is about as egotistical as the character is. The worst thing about that movie was the bad wigs.

    As for Mike Myers, as long as someone is keeping him busy he is not making anymore stupid movies (e.g. the Austin Powers movies after the first one, and the Love Guru.)

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Did Mike Myers down vote my post? Really? Or was it the wig master/hair dresser from Interview? Or was it the horrible wig they put on Antonio Banderas? Or Brad Pitt's lame excuse for hair extensions? Seriously, I've seen better hair extensions on Britany Spears.

  • puddin

    Awww, what about, like, EVERYONE in "Too Wong Foo"? The dude from Road House and the dude from Passenger 27? Come on! That was the OG lip sync fo' yo' life.

  • Ruthie O

    If you love To Wong Foo for its casting choices, I highly recommend Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It's the Australian version of "To Wong Foo" (well, since, Priscilla came first, I guess that To Wong Foo is the American version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), featuring Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving, and Terence Stamp as drag queens and a transsexual. Also, it features a woman who had a very interesting, exotic talent with some ping-pong balls.

  • Lulu

    And a far better movie at that

  • Maguita NYC

    Don't forget the awesome dance-worthy soundtrack!

  • Aratweth

    John Leguizamo stole that movie, stuffed it down the front of his bra, and walked out the front door with it. One of my top ten favorite movie moments EVER is when he called Swayze "a Gringa with a Pinga". I should be ashamed, but I'm just not.

  • MissAmynae

    More legs than a bucket a'chicken!
    He stole "Romeo + Juliet" as well.

  • Maguita NYC

    Patrick Swayze was an absolute surprise! A delightful one at that.

  • Guest

    Agreed. He's the only thing I remember from my loooong-ago viewing. That, and bright dresses.

  • puddin

    I always remember Wesley Snipes' amazing, perfect, booty. Pa-pow!

  • Maguita NYC

    You remember the bright dresses??
    All I remember is how anyone in that town ever believed Swayze's freakishly-over-made face was a woman!!!
    And John Leguizamo, because not long after that (or was it before) he played Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge.

  • idiosynchronic

    Paul Reubens is one of the handful of things that make the Buffy movie worth watching.

  • AudioSuede

    Agree. I watched that movie again recently. Pretty unwatchable, except when he's on screen.

  • Ivana Cvetanovic

    I'd say it was pretty unwatchable, period.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Which is funny, because based on reputation you really don't want to see Paul Reubens with a "handful" of anything.

  • Guest

    Dustin, I love you to bits, but we sharply diverge in such matters.* Oh well, not-my-brother-from-another-mother (at least today).

    I will give you Brooks, though--as many times as you need, my friend. He does wallflower crook something awesome.

    * I say this terrible thing without having seen 21 Jump Street, which I aim to love.

  • Maguita NYC

    I wasn't surprised by the casting choices for 21 Jump Street. I was expecting Channing (also exec. producer of the movie) to get into silly comedy sooner than later, for obviously, how much more dancing can he do, and he did not belong in a love story (The Vow, blech).

    You'll like the comedy, it is much better than anything Waterboy had done in decades. But don't go into it expecting too much. Just, enjoy the silly. It is good silly...

  • Guest

    (Waterboy?)

    I'll take your word for it! I'm actually not a Spud connoisseur--never seen him in a starring role and am woefully unable to conjure up his face. That will change when I see Magic Mike for Soderbergh and Jump Street for all the unexpected praise it's getting, ahm sherr.

  • Maguita NYC

    Adam Sandler.

  • Guest

    Ah. Didn't know he was in 21JS.

  • Maguita NYC

    He's not.
    Bite your tongue! I was just comparing comedians and what they are putting out there for us to watch.

  • AudioSuede

    ....Why were you comparing that movie to Waterboy then? They are totally different senses of humor.

  • Maguita NYC

    "it is much better than anything Waterboy had done in decades"
    After re-reading my comment, I still understand it to be how it was meant: I was calling Adam Sandler Waterboy. Not comparing Jump Street to Waterboy.

    Am I not reading correctly?

  • Samantha Klein

    Um, no. Tom Cruise as Lestat most definitely did NOT work.

  • eric

    Ron Perlman - Hellboy

  • HashMaster9000

    No, I don't think so. When Guillermo Del Toro and Mike Mignola both sat down to talk about who to cast, they apparently both said at the same time 'Ron Perlman' for the casting of Hellboy. So it was never far from their minds, and really, not far from the fan's either.

  • Maguita NYC

    This! He owns that role. Make-up, armor, horns and all.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    True, but that's not weird casting. You need someone built like a brick shithouse, with a deep voice, and able to do deadpan well? That's Ron Perlman.

  • Maguita NYC

    Don't you think though that no matter the built, the make-up, or CGI, if you don't own your character, it would destroy your whole performance?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Of course, but Perlman owns every character he plays. He just fits into that particular role exceptionally well.

  • I thought he and Ripley were a great match in Alien 4--I was hoping for a sequel in which they hunted down alien crash survivors together.

  • KatSings

    I still don't understand anyone who thinks Kelsey Grammar as Beast was "unconventional." He was my first choice for the role, and exactly what I wanted. Then again, maybe it's because I grew up on the cartoon, not the comics? I dunno. I just don't get the surprise factor.

  • idiosynchronic

    I think the impression was that he was too old. But Grammar has been a natural for he Beast since he became famous.

  • googergieger

    Meyers was chitty chitty chang chang bad. Kelsy Grammar made pretty much perfect sense. What was so amazing about Carey in Truman Show? He wasn't bad. Good even. Nothing that surprising though. Tim Allen playing an arrogant, oblivious, and quite stupid Space man though? Whoda thunk it?! Anywhoots,

    Yoshio Harada as Captain Banana in Party 7 was a pretty big surprise.

  • John G.

    There's a typo in the header. You said "worked" instead of "totally fucked up the movie."

  • branded_redux

    I was thinking of Robin Williams in One Hour Photo and comedians as villains being particularly jarring but adding to the creepiness, and then I remembered ol' Prisco:
    http://www.pajiba.com/guides/g...

    Though John Lithgow's role in Cliffhanger is not even close to the same league as his time on "Dexter".

  • AudioSuede

    Guys, guys: John Lithgow's best villain was in Buckaroo Bonzai.

    #Win

  • HashMaster9000

    Agreed, but that was still kinda comedic on some level. Try watching him as the scientist role in "2010: The year we made contact". Really weird to see him there, as the movie was so serious.

  • BWeaves

    What about John Lithgow's role in GARP as a transgender former football player?

  • Maguita NYC

    From Dick Solomon to Arthur Mitchell... Bloody genius.

  • It truly was a miracle how Charming Potato somehow managed to turn the name Charming Potato from negative to pretty positive.
    Before 21 Jump Street: 'Man, what a pointless spud man. This guy has about as much charisma as an above-average charming potato!'
    After 21 Jump Street: 'Aww! He's sweet. I wanna give this little charming potato a hug.'

  • A Willow shout out? I knew I liked you guys. Even though YOU'RE ALL PIGS!

  • Ruthie O

    I just rewatched Willow a few weeks ago, and it absolutely stands the test of time. I kept yelling "WE STOLE THE BABY!" all week.

  • John G.

    Don't call me a peck!

  • Anne Lucchesi

    Peck!

  • pcloadletter

    I'm really scared! No! Don't! Somebody help! There's a peck here with an acorn pointed at me!

  • Your MOTHER was a lizard!

  • Kala

    Albert Brooks: So warm, so funny. Then I saw Drive. Now he makes me cry.

  • Bert_McGurt

    "On your way out, if you want to kill somebody, it would help a lot!"

  • I love you

  • ScottS42444

    Awwww...the Denver Broncos

  • Maguita NYC

    @Dustin, abiding by Pajiban rules, I would like to direct your attention to the following: ..."though they had not right to."
    NO right to. not, not right to.

  • bigdaddybacchus

    Tom Hanks played "Buzz" not "Buzzy".

  • pajiba

    MY KID CALLS HIM BUZZY, OK? GOD (WINK EMOTICON)

  • Tom Hanks played Woody. Tim Allen played Buzz Lightyear.

  • TheEmpress

    Tom Hanks played Woody.

  • bigdaddybacchus

    That's what I meant to say. Obviously I need coffee.

  • BendinIntheWind

    One hundred percent DISAGREE with Mike Myers' inclusion. Of all the recognizable faces in that movie, his scene came off as an extremely out-of-place cameo. Considering how well known he is for "Austin Powers", the tone was completely off: while everyone else is playing it straight, his role was a complete caricature. It was completely grating and out-of-place.

  • shardik

    You must've found Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine to be completely unbearable then...

    Full disclosure, I didn't even recognize that it was Myers' in the role until after the movie.

  • anon33

    uh yeah. literally didnt know that until I read this post, and I've seen that movie more than once...

  • BendinIntheWind

    Not really! I think Myers was so jarring because it felt like he was playing the whole thing as a joke. The movie's inherent craziness is in the plot, not the characters, and for the tone to work, the actors needed to play it straight. And though Pitt was a little hammy, his character wasn't a parody, whereas Myers' felt kind of like an Austin Powers rehash. "Hey, remember that movie where I played a ridiculous Englishman? This character seems identical, but we're not in a comedy this time!"

  • AudioSuede

    Myers' inclusion was perfect for what the film ultimately was supposed to be, which is an examination of the propangandistic nature of war films; the British are shown as stiff and awkward, even comical, while the Americans are wild and cool and the Germans are menacing. That whole scene with the British was especially jarring because of the shot of Winston Churchill that is a recreation of a famous painting of him. It was all theater, tonally the opposite of the rest of the movie.

  • BendinIntheWind

    I'm not talking about the characterization of "The British" as a whole, just Myers. In a room full of "stiff and awkward" British characters, he still stuck out like a sore thumb: to me, he was a Baz Luhrmann character stuck in an Tarantino movie.

  • shardik

    Perhaps Myers' inclusion in the film at all was a mistake, if only because of the immediate reaction/recognition to Austin Powers, etc. But in no way could I even imagine describing Pitt as a "little hammy" or not a parody. His character, while hilarious, hell even his storyline, was completely different in tone compared to the Shoshanna storyline. It was far broader, more slapsticky, and utterly absurd. Not that it was bad, of course. I'd also argue that Fassbender was playing absurd, just that when he does it he can't help but make it appear badass.

  • Maguita NYC

    He still sounded like Shrek in officer clothes.

  • blackmarket

    Tom Cruise as Lestat is at the top of my list for "weird film casting choices that obviously sucked"

  • Maguita NYC

    "there is something inherently creepy about Tom Cruise that helped to sell this role"

    Every time Cruise went anti-climactic and un-heroic he captivated us. Remember his misogynistic and bigoted turn in Magnolia?

  • blackmarket

    While Cruse did not nail Lestat at all...I do agree that Magnolia is probably one of his best performances. I do love everything about that film.

  • Mrs. Beasley

    Everything but Julianne Moore. Every once in a while, I don't hate her in a movie. Her pharmacy scene? How do you ruin an opportunity to tell someone to suck your dick? Ms. Moore, refer to GI Jane, and feel the shame of Demi doing it better. Good thing John C Reilly was there to be awesome, as always.

  • Maguita NYC

    Agreed. But surprising nonetheless for Cruise to take on such a horrendous role.

    That was before his leaked speech during one of the Co$ meetings on how "we'll get them all"... Was too close to his performance in Magnolia.

  • Dariuss

    Mike Myers wasn't a Nazi.

    And yes, Val Kilmer was awesome in Willow! The guy gets a lifetime pass form me for Willow, top Gun and Tombstone.

    "You really are the greatest swordsman in all the land!"

  • AudioSuede

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang certainly doesn't hurt either.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'll be your huckleberry. one of the top five lines ever delivered imo. He just NAILED IT and I will forever love him for it. That and kiss kiss bang bang was so much fun.

  • Whiskers

    ..the hell? How hard could it have been for Tim Allen to just provide his voice for an animate film?

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