In Hollywood, where stars swap juicy parts about as often as they switch significant others, this season is overflowing with examples of mix-and-match casting. For reasons ranging from scheduling snafus to a high-profile pregnancy, A-list actors such as Madonna, Jodie Foster, and Matt Damon dumped leading roles in upcoming films, while other stars lost out on parts they loved. Here’s EW Online’s lowdown on the winners and losers.
DOUBLE JEOPARDY (opens Sept. 24)
The role Libby Parsons, a young woman convicted of killing her husband only to discover he’s faked his own death
Before Jodie Foster
After Ashley Judd
”Silence of the Lambs” alum Foster was a perfect fit for this tough chick take on ”The Fugitive,” and she seemed to agree. ”When I first got the script the only person attached to it was Jodie Foster,” says director Bruce Beresford. So why did she walk away? ”She got pregnant and pulled out, so we had to recast,” he shrugs. Judd, who proved her grit as a kick-boxing doctor in ”Kiss the Girls,” was a last-minute suggestion from Paramount head honcho Sherry Lansing, who also got Tommy Lee Jones on board.
Verdict Judd delivers the goods, but lacks the Oscar-winning wattage of Foster.
DRIVE ME CRAZY (opens Oct. 1)
The role Chase, the mopey but adorable guy next door
Loser Elijah Wood
Winner Adrian Grenier
Understandably skittish about tackling her first big-screen starring role, ”Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” star Melissa Joan Hart was hoping to cast a high-profile celeb as her grungy love interest. ”There were three boys up for the role, and I thought Elijah Wood was right for it,” says the 23-year-old Hart. ”It would have taken some pressure off, because the movie would have starred Elijah Wood and introduced me. But everyone thought he looked too young next to me, and they were hell bent on Adrian.” Grenier, whose biggest role was in the indie ”The Adventures of Sebastian Cole,” leaves Hart in the lurch when it comes to star power. But the actress says she finally warmed up to her costar even after a screen test in which he shocked her with a ”really forceful” kiss.
Verdict Don’t know him? Who cares? He’s tall, dark, and handsome. ‘Nuff said.
MUSIC OF THE HEART (opens Oct. 29)
The role Real-life violin teacher Roberta Guaspari, who inspires students in East Harlem to play classical music
After Meryl Streep
Madonna was booked to play the leading role in horrormeister Wes Craven’s first attempt to tug audiences’ heartstrings without using a chainsaw and sharpened knives. Then, two weeks before filming was set to begin, she abruptly ducked out. Enter Meryl Streep, who decided to take the role after receiving a pleading letter from Craven himself. The actress threw herself into learning the violin, practicing four to six hours a day for two months. Even after filming was completed, she’s continued her music lessons. Now THAT’S blonde ambition.
Verdict We’ll take Streep over the Material One any day.
RIDE WITH THE DEVIL (opens Nov. 12)
The role Jack Bull Chiles, a young man caught in the drama of the Civil War
Before Matt Damon
After Skeet Ulrich
Matt Damon was director Ang Lee’s first choice to star in the period drama (which also features crooner/poet Jewel), but he decided to take the part of a murderer in ”The Talented Mr. Ripley” instead. ”Chill Factor” star Ulrich was called in to pinch hit.
Verdict If Johnny Depp can’t score a hit these days, what hope does his clone have?
MAN ON THE MOON (opens Dec. 25)
The role Andy Kaufman, the late comedian and star of ”Taxi”
Loser Edward Norton
Winner Jim Carrey
While every actor in Hollywood wanted a crack at playing twisted comedian Andy Kaufman, the two finalists were Norton and Carrey. Director Milos Forman couldn’t decide between the two, and left the choice to Universal. Not surprisingly, they went with big money-earner Ace Ventura. They may have gotten their money’s worth — Carrey threw himself into the character, requesting that people call him Andy on the set and staying in his Kaufman persona 24-7.
Verdict Just seeing Carrey with bad hair in ’70s outfits is worth the price of admission.