Matt Smith As Patrick Bateman And 10 Other Terrible Castings

The announcement that one time Doctor Who Matt Smith is to play notorious basket-case Patrick Bateman, in a stage adaptation of American Psycho, has been widely ridiculed. Here are ten more casting howlers that had people lamenting 'oh dear'...
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The announcement that one time Doctor Who Matt Smith is to play notorious basket-case Patrick Bateman, in a stage adaptation of American Psycho, has been widely ridiculed. Here are ten more casting howlers that had people lamenting 'oh dear'...

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Yes, you read that headline right. And yes, we're also thinking 'what the actual fuck'. Pat Bateman is a Wall Street M&A extraordinaire and part time imaginary mass-murderer; can Matt Smith even begin to pull it off? The stage version will be opening at The Almeida Theatre in Islington in December and, barring divine intervention, it's going to be damn difficult for Smith to get close to rivaling Christian Bale's iconic performance.

Occasionally, a miscast actor can just about get away with it without dragging the film around them down too much; it becomes a humourously self-depreciating anecdote they can break out in interviews for years afterwards. Dodgy casting might even serendipitously imbue a film with a kitsch charm it might otherwise have lacked (see Dick van Dyke’s cock-er-nee-isms in Mary Poppins, or Kevin Costner and Christian Slater speaking in accents from a country that wouldn’t exist for another 500 years in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).

Sometimes, however, actors appear in roles so ill-suited that you wonder why casting directors across the globe aren’t hurling themselves from buildings en masse, such is the quantity of psilocybin they must be injecting directly into their genitals in order to arrive at some of their decisions.

Apropos to trillionaire wand-fiddler Daniel Radcliffe finding himself currently and preposterously in talks to play Allen Ginsberg (yes, that one), here’s a rundown of ten of the most abysmally catastrophic castings in cinematic history.

(And please note: in the interest of not filling every entry with accent-related quibbles, the entire portfolios of Sean Connery and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been omitted on compassionate grounds.)

Hayden Chritanssen – Anakin Skywalker

With the rabid fanboyism synonymous with galaxies far, far away, any actor that beardy Moomin George Lucas chose to play the adolescent Anakin was certain to cause large portions of the internet to do a teddy-out-of-the-pram cybershit, yet nothing prepared the geekosphere for Hayden Christensen. The scale of the cybershit was immense.

He couldn’t win, really; the best actor in the world would have struggled to sculpt a believable character while spouting the bum-squeaking doggerel of Lucas’s script.

No-one was going to buy a gimpish, whiny oik with as much implied malice as a Lolcat becoming the brutal overlord we all know and love, and Christensen’s boyish looks and oaken delivery made Anakin’s descent into evil seem like a moderately sombre episode of the OC. He couldn’t win, really; the best actor in the world would have struggled to sculpt a believable character while spouting the bum-squeaking doggerel of Lucas’s script, yet an actor with some gravitas certainly couldn’t have done any harm.

Vince Vaughan – Norman Bates

The starring role in a bewilderingly pointless shot-for-shot remake of an established classic is not an ideal starting point for any actor, and casting Vince Vaughan (a man who has built a career on irritatingly charming,  laconic affability) as the cross-dressing shower-stabber is a bit like trying to play golf with an elastic tennis racket covered in burnt hair.

Seeing Vaughan attempting to recreate the uneasily restrained mannerisms of Anthony Perkins succeeded only in embarrassing both actors simultaneously, and the resulting film was unceremoniously panned. Vaughan realised the error of his ways, and has since wisely devoted himself to appearing in jaunty comedies in which he plays slight variations of Vince Vaughan. Phew.

Keanu Reeves – Dracula

God bless Keanu for proving that to be a famous actor you don’t actually have to be very good at acting. Not that this has stopped him from trying, and - not only that - getting cast in a Francis Ford Coppola period / horror blockbuster to boot. Utterly remarkable.

The only problem was that Keanu’s character in Dracula, Jonathan Harker, was English. And Keanu, well, isn’t. This means an accent would be required. Oh dear.

God bless Keanu for proving that to be a famous actor you don’t actually have to be very good at acting.

Multiplying the shitness of the accent he ended up producing by the magnitude of the background radiation of his usual shitness resulted in a shitness level it was beyond the abilities of most academics to even measure. Shit to the power of thirteen cubed, or something. A supermassive omnishit, perhaps.

Nevertheless, having Gary Oldman gleefully acting his beard off in the same film only served to highlight the level to which Reeves was miscast, and it would be seven years before his talents were put to better use saying ‘whoa’ in The Matrix.

Rosie O’Donnell – Betty Rubble

With Marge Simpson sounding a little too much like she enjoyed Benson and Hedges and deep-throating cacti, and Jessica Rabbit being, err, a rabbit, Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble were the cartoon characters it was okay to really rather fancy.

So when John Goodman and Elizabeth Perkins were perfectly cast as the titular stoneagers, potential masturbators were left perplexed as to why the svelte Betty was to be played by roly-poly chuckle-wench Rosie O’Donnell. There’s nothing inherently wrong with O’Donnell, but if you’re not going to cast someone who has ANY SIMILARITY WHATSOEVER to the source material, why not go nuts and cast Howard Marks? Or Bob Carolgees?

Needless to say, cartoon-wankers were left unfulfilled, and were probably forced to do a bit of serious thinking about their lives. Damn, you, O’Donnell. Damn you.

More...

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Eli Roth - Inglorious Basterds

If you work in a Wetherspoons and manage to get one of your mates a job, who then turns out to be shit, then that’s fine – the worst that could happen is someone gets a flat pint of something that probably wasn’t very fizzy to begin with.

If you’re Quentin Tarantino, what you absolutely should NOT do is get your chum Eli Roth – a competent director, but no actor – to play the supposedly fearsome ‘Bear Jew’, Sgt Donny Donowitz. It will not work. It will be stupid. It will make the character about as fearsome as a poodle draping its nuts across a treacle sponge.

If you work in a Wetherspoons and manage to get one of your mates a job, who then turns out to be shit, then that’s fine – the worst that could happen is someone gets a flat pint of something that probably wasn’t very fizzy to begin with.

Yes this is what we got: a scrawny geek who looked like he struggled to lift the baseball bat we are supposed to believe is his death-dealing weapon of choice. From a man as inspired in his castings as Tarantino, it was a bizarre move.

Ray Winstone – The Departed

Pugilistic growler Winstone is generally fairly excellent in any film in which he plays an angrier version of himself, yet when he appeared as an American in Martin Scorsese’s otherwise brilliant remake of Hong Kong crime saga Internal Affairs, this simply wasn’t possible.

So, instead of noticing the iceberg looming ominously in the distance and declining the role (who says no to Scorsese?), he plumped for an accent that sounded like a naked and embarrassed Jimmy Nail singing Subterranean Homesick Blues.

It was not good.

Nicolas Cage – Ghost Rider

Nicolas Cage’s acting career follows the old adage that if enough shit is thrown at a wall then some of it will stick, yet the downside of this is that for every Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas or Bad Lieutenant, we get a Wicker Man, a Bangkok Dangerous, or a Next.

Ghost Rider saw Cage play (and, if you haven’t seen it, this is honestly true) a motorcycle stuntman called Johnny Blaze, who mistakenly signs a pact with the devil by foolishly allowing blood from a papercut to drip onto a contract for his soul. Amazing.

Nicolas Cage’s acting career follows the old adage that if enough shit is thrown at a wall then some of it will stick.

And while Cage isn’t on full-tilt, bug-eyed form here, he is too old, lacking any kind of believable pathos and, throughout the entire film, is forced by male pattern baldness to wear a hairpiece that resembles a mammoth’s merkin – one that, every time you see it, reminds you that you’re watching an old, balding man playing a part he really shouldn’t.

Shia Labeouf – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The suits knew that the mighty Harrison Ford – sprightly as he no doubt is for a chap of his years - was coming to the end of his time as an action star come the muddled fourth instalment of Lucas and Spielberg’s whipcracking adventure series. Yet Indy is a lucrative franchise – one The Suits would be keen to see continue - and a potential replacement for the then-65 year old Ford was introduced: his son. The main problem was the role of his son was give to Shia Labeouf, who, in the film, came across as an unbelievable dick.

Now, the entirety if the blame cannot be placed on the skinny shoulders of Labeouf (he was reading someone else’s script and being told where to stand and what to do, after all) but the total lack of charm or likeability made him symbolically picking up Indy’s fedora at the end of the film seem almost perverse.

Given to an actor with buckets of charisma, the deplorably-named character of Mutt Williams could have seen the saga continue way beyond Ford. As it stands, when Indy 5 eventually arrives, most people just hope that Mutt will have fallen victim to a tragic accident involving a bungee rope and a pair of scissors.

Sofia Coppola – Godfather 3

The Godfather Part III is the least fondly remembered entry in the trilogy for a myriad of reasons, but one recurring one is the clodding performance of the young Miss Coppola as daughter-to-an-empire, Mary Corleone.

In a case of extraordinarily blatant (and, as a result, almost commendable) nepotism, Francis Ford Coppola had cast his young daughter in an extremely prominent role in one of the most eagerly-anticipated threequels of all time. This was despite the fact that it was clear to anyone with functioning ears and eyes that, in terms of acting ability, the girl was about as much use as Anne Frank’s drumkit.

The fact she was rubbish wasn’t really her fault: you can almost see Coppola Snr shoving his uneasy spawn into shot, beaming with paternal pride, thus setting her up for the critical mauling she inevitably received. It took her years to shake off the stigma attached the role, yet this she did, by stepping behind the camera to direct the peerless Lost in Translation. FTW, indeed.

John Wayne – Genghis Khan

Just take a moment to picture this. Go on, it’ll cheer you up.

Bowlegged cow-gent Wayne appeared as the fightiest of Mongols in Howard Hughes' clunking 1953 mess The Conqueror – a part quite rightly lauded as one of the worst castings in one of the worst films ever made.

Wayne, it has to be said, was suitably terrible in it, garishly festooned with a daft furry hat, a preposterous fake 'tache and – to complete the ‘eastern’ look - extraordinarily inappropriate taped-back eyes (yes, really), yet even this was overshadowed by the quite literal fallout that followed the production.

The film's exterior shots were filmed downwind of a US nuclear testing site and, as a direct result, at various points over the next twenty years Wayne and several other prominent members of the cast and crew died of cancer-related illnesses. It’s kind of hard to stay mad at the casting director with a location manager like that.