HOLY BAFMAN! A HISTORY OF CONTROVERSIAL CASTING CHOICES!
Batman across the board as always been full of interesting and off the wall casting choices. It seems odd that the internet is so angry about the casting Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight when Batman as a whole has had some very unexpected choices for many roles.
He isn’t the first actor people have complained about with casting, and it generally turns out that the unexpected turns out to be a good choice. The typical casting doesn’t always work very well, so why is it so bad to think outside of the box? Haters gonna hate? Perhaps, but let’s examine some interesting casting choices from previous Batman incarnations shall we?
The campy Batman show from the 60’s is well loved, and why shouldn’t it be? For some of us it was one of the first things we discovered Batman in. I know I used to watch it as a kid and this was before Burton’s film came out. I loved the show, and I still do. It remains a lot of fun to watch.
However when you look at it, there are a few casting choices that do seem very odd, yet they worked incredibly well.
Why was he an off the wall choice? Well the man was best known for being a Latin lover and appearing in period piece films. Is that what you’d automatically think for The Joker? Of course not, but it worked and he made that role memorable and was fantastic. Romero was a very diverse actor; he did tackle a lot of different roles and made them work for him.
That is exactly what he did for The Joker, he made it work for him. He even kept his moustache and they just painted over it. But did that even matter? Nope! I have such fond memories of his Joker, and I actually thought he was kind of a scary villain. This is a prime example of going against type for casting and it working extremely well.
Eartha Kitt as Catwoman
Eartha took over the role of Catwoman in the final season of the series. Now was she a knockout in the role! Eartha was perhaps best known as a singer, and her fantastic and memorable voice made her such a sexy starlet.
She is quite possibly the most controversial casting choice of all. Not because she was cast against race, but because of her race. When she landed the role in the peak of the civil rights movement. segregation, race riots and black power were all in full swing. More so, considering Kitt was an outspoken activist. I’m sure a lot of people protested her being on television, let alone a show for children.
It sucks to be those people because I loved this casting; she isn’t exactly the first choice but how memorable was she? Everyone remembers her as being Catwoman, she really broke the mould here and it was definitely inspired casting.
Adam West as Batman
Why is this such an odd choice? Well he started off as a radio DJ, and was under contract with Warner Brothers later where he played roles in Western television series. If you judged him by his role leading up to Batman you’d never suspect him of being an off-the-wall, comedy genius. He wouldn’t have been the first choice to play Batman, yet he won out through the auditions and he made that role his own. After the series he even went on to be in contention for James Bond!
From the late 80’s to early 90’s Batman was back and in big budget feature films. Starting from Batman (1989), he was back and this was not what people were expecting. In fact Michael Keaton had a lot of hate towards him and if social networking had existed then the way it does now, oh boy would there have been online petitions against him.
This era went from dark and brooding to more kid friendly and campy. So campy that it rivalled the camp from the 60’s. However this era did have some very interesting casting, and here are some that I do think stick out.
This is probably one of my favourite casting choices from this era, and it really is upsetting that he was only in the one film. Batman Returns would have been very different if Dent was in it as planned. Billy Dee was such inspired casting, because lets face it, who would have ever seen Lando Calrissian as Harvey Dent? While he wasn’t in Batman (1989) a whole lot, I felt just his presence made a pretty strong impact.
If only he’d got the chance to play Two-Face, that would have been incredible. But instead we got the very typical casting of Tommy Lee Jones and who knew what the hell he was on during Batman Forever.
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman
I thought that Keaton made for a very interesting Bruce Wayne and Batman, and he really did prove a lot of people wrong who really were against the casting. Think about it, Beetlejuice and Mr Mom as Batman? Fuck off! Yes, I imagine that would have been the reaction, but I don’t think people stopped to think that he was an incredibly versatile actor and could pull it off. I like that they went for a very against type casting for Batman and for me it worked really well. He actually made things work despite Batman being a very secondary character in both of Burton’s films.
This era was full of typical casting, and while, say, Jack Nicholson worked in such a weird way, others were so typical they really didn’t.
The female love interests were basically the hot woman at the time, and to be honest they didn’t entirely work because they weren’t right for the role. The only one that really worked was Michelle Pfeiffer because she was perfect for that incarnation of Catwoman.
Chris O’Donnell was a clean cut, pin up boy. So of course his casting as Robin/Dick Grayson was typical and an example of it not working. They went for someone older and he didn’t exactly fit. They went for what was safe – not always a good move.
Let us not forget the typical casting of Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, today their performances are just not as easy to watch. I think Carrey fares a bit better, it just doesn’t entirely work.
George Clooney was the hottest actor thanks to ER when he was cast in Batman and Robin and boy was he not suited to Batman and Bruce Wayne. Alicia Silverstone was also hot property and I have no idea what they were thinking with Batgirl/Barbara Gordon but it was terrible. I could go on and on, the casting for Batman & Robin just took what was hot at the time and didn’t care whether they suited the role – Uma and Arnie …
Everyone loves Batman in animated form, DC do a lot of great work with their properties like this. Batman The Animated Series is very much well loved and it is a real go to for a good fix of Batman. There are countless shows with Batman and a large number of animated films as well. The animated properties have had some very against type casting and it can be very surprising. To say the animated shows and movies have impressed me is a large understatement; they are pretty amazing, most of the time.
Who would have thought Luke Skywalker would go on to become one of the best incarnations of The Joker with his voice work? He is simply amazing in the role and dare I say he can be very terrifying as well. It is a shame Hamill has been type cast so much throughout his career because he is actually extremely talented and versatile and I am glad a chance was taken for him to show this, even if it was for voice work. Trust me this translates well to his acting; just watch Sushi Girl for that. This is one of the best examples of going with off the wall casting and it working so damn well.
John DiMaggio as The Joker
This one might seem a bit controversial, as some people didn’t like his take. But I really did, I didn’t even realise until after I had watched Batman Under The Red Hood that Bender was voicing The Joker! I do think that DiMaggio is a very versatile voice actor and he brought in a different type of Joker to Hamill’s one.
Peter Weller as Batman/Bruce Wayne
This one is very expected and I liked it. RoboCop as Batman, I mean what the heck? But yes this did happen with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I love his voice and I love what he brings. His performance is very different to what Kevin Conroy brought, and Bruce Greenwood who is another one I love in the role. Those two aren’t really off the wall, and Weller really is. Amazing that this worked pretty damn well, and it is one of the most unexpected ones you could imagine.
There are many more in the animated series who could be written about, but these are three that stick out the most to me.
This trilogy of Batman films is filled with against type and unexpected casting, so much could be said about it. Perhaps a good example of typical casting is Michael Caine as Alfred, yet that one worked so well. Not only was he typical but well suited to the role. I have chosen what I consider to be the top off the wall casting for this group, however we could be here all day and night.
This is one of the casting choices that really blew up the internet, it may have even been a lot worse than what Ben Affleck is going through. NO ONE could see Ledger in the role! He was announced fresh off Brokeback Mountain and people saw him as that character. Yet the man had a really interesting career and he developed extremely well as an actor and showed he was able to tackle so much. He really went in all with The Joker, and once images and footage started to appear, people’s minds were changed, including my own. Now his performance is considered one of the best in all of Batman, one of the best cinematic villains of all time and he won a posthumous Oscar for the role. This is one of the best examples that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Gary Oldman as James Gordon
When I found out of one my favourite actors was in fact NOT playing a villain, but playing one of the good guys for Batman Begins I was stoked! This is very much against type, as most people know Oldman as a villain, I mean the man played Pontius Pilate! And not only did he prove that yes he could do this, he made the character his own and I feel, at least for me, he is the ultimate Jim Gordon.
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face
This one was interesting, especially with the changes they made to Two-Face and how it all played out. I was initially unsure of this, but he turned out to be the unsung hero of the film, and over shadowed by Ledger. I thought he played the dual roles perfectly and he handled the transformation extremely well. He did become that white knight and then he lived long enough to see himself become the villain. In my opinion this is one of Eckhart’s best roles, unexpected and very damn good.
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman
This was a piece of casting I really did not see. I thought ‘what were they thinking’ but again I was proven wrong because she was a stand out and made for a very interesting Selina Kyle. This was not the typical Hathaway performance, and I do like her. I definitely did not picture her pulling off what she did in this. Credit to her for really doing something different.
There is a lot more that could be talked about, but then this would be an essay. Batman as a whole is full of against type and off the wall casting, it has proved that the typical is not always the best and thinking outside the box does work!