Controversial casting choices across time -- Success seems to find the actors, such as Vivien Leigh, Judy Garland, and Audrey Hepburn, who were not immediately wanted for their roles

By Peter Gerstenzang
Updated June 02, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT


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When brunet nice guy Tom Cruise was hired to play blond deviant vampire Lestat, fans of the book — and even author Anne Rice — screamed bloody murder. But it wasn’t the first time a movie’s casting got under people’s skin.

Role: Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind (1939, MGM/UA)
Actors considered: Lucille Ball, Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh.
Choice: Leigh.
Controversy: A Brit playing a Southern belle? One Southerner writes to a newspaper, decrying the ”outrage to the memory of the heroes of 1776 who fought to free this land of British domination.”
Result: Leigh wins Best Actress Oscar for 1939.

Role: Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz (1939, MGM/UA)
Actors considered: Judy Garland, Shirley Temple.
Choice: Garland.
Controversy: The rap on Garland is that she is too old, too fat, and her teeth need work.
Result: Movie, a disappointment when released, becomes a classic once it begins airing regularly on TV.

Role: Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady (1964, FoxVideo)
Actors considered: Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn.
Choice: Hepburn.
Controversy: Despite lessons, Hepburn can’t sing; Marni Nixon dubs her voice. ”It looked like I wanted to deny [Nixon] her due,” Hepburn says later. ”[T]he backlash was incredible.”
Result: Movie is a smash, but Hepburn is snubbed at Oscar time. Andrews wins Oscar for same year’s Mary Poppins.

Role: Vito Corleone, The Godfather (1972, Paramount)
Actors considered: Attorney Melvin Belli, Marlon Brando, Danny Thomas, Laurence Olivier.
Choice: Brando.
Controversy: Brando is seen as washed up and hard to handle. ”I assure you that Marlon Brando will not appear in this film,” says Paramount president Stanley Jaffe.
Result: Brando wins Best Actor Oscar for 1972.

Role: Batman, Batman (1989, Warner)
Actors considered: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Keaton.
Choice: Keaton.
Controversy: Comic-book fans go rabid. ”He might have made a good Joker,” one moans to the Los Angeles Times, ”but his comic style…has doomed this…’serious’ treatment.”
Result: Everyone sees the movie anyway; Keaton stars in the 1992 sequel.


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