Top 10 Controversial Casting Choices



Top 10 Controversial Casting Choices

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Script written by Nathan Sharp

Wait, they chose WHO for that role? From Robert Downey Jr., to Heath Ledger, and even Marlon Brando, these actors have all been cast in roles that had audiences scratching their heads or taking to forums in anger. WatchMojo counts down the top controversial casting choices.

Special thanks to our user Devin for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Controversial%20Casting%20Choices
Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Controversial Casting Choices

Well that news didn’t go over very well. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Controversial Casting Choices.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various casting choices that were either controversial upon their initial announcement or after the movie’s release. To be included on this list, the casting choice itself must have been controversial and debated from either the public or fellow filmmakers, regardless of how well the performance actually turned out. Also, while we do have another list completely devoted to instances of whitewashing in casting, that doesn’t mean some examples won’t appear on this list as well.

#10: Robert Downey Jr.

“Iron Man” (2008)
While Robert Downey Jr. is now leading the MCU and making the big bucks, the choice to cast him as Tony Stark in “Iron Man” was initially met with a lot of guffaws and head shakes. Downey was just coming off some major controversy stemming from his drug use and numerous arrests, despite slowly returning to popularity with movies like “Zodiac.” On top of that, Downey had never starred in a blockbuster movie, wasn’t considered leading man material, and in the public’s eye, wasn’t big or charming enough to be Tony Stark. No one could believe that Marvel was trusting this guy to lead their next major project. He certainly proved everyone wrong!

#9: T.J. Miller

“Deadpool 2” (2018)
While T.J. Miller was a fan favourite as Weasel in “Deadpool,” many people were surprised to learn that he wasn’t being recast or cut out of the sequel, despite facing rape allegations. According to a report, Miller was sexually violent with a woman in college. While Miller and his wife denied the allegations, many people were still surprised Miller remained on the cast for the sequel, especially considering the numerous firings amidst the #MeToo movement. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner explained to Rotten Tomatoes that she didn’t think Miller’s scenes would be removed, as the movie was already deep into the editing process.

#8: Tom Cruise

“Interview with the Vampire” (1994)
Tom Cruise was already a well-established actor by 1994, appearing in smash hit blockbusters like “Top Gun” and critically-adored darlings like “Rain Man” and “Born on the Fourth of July.” It seemed like he could do anything, but despite his star power, author Anne Rice was none too pleased with his casting in the film adaptation of her novel. Rice would have loved Jeremy Irons or John Malkovich in the role, and was even quoted as saying, “The Tom Cruise casting is so bizarre, it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work.” Cruise would later share a Razzie award for Worst Screen Couple with his co-star, Brad Pitt.

#7: Marlon Brando

“The Godfather” (1972)
Man, talk about having the last laugh. By 1972, Marlon Brando was somewhat infamous within executive circles for being difficult to work with, and had recently come off a string of disappointing movies. Because of this, Paramount executives were extremely hesitant to cast him in the role of Vito Corleone, despite the insistence of director Francis Ford Coppola and writer Mario Puzo. Coppola was so nervous that the executives wouldn’t give Brando a chance that he snuck Brando’s audition footage in the middle of the other audition tapes, essentially tricking the casting agents. They were admittedly impressed and gave Brando the role, a role that would eventually win the actor his second Academy Award.

#6: Johnny Depp

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” (2018)
It looks as if Johnny Depp is here to stay. In May 2016, Depp’s wife Amber Heard filed a restraining order against him, claiming that he had been verbally and physically abusive towards her for years, a fact that was seemingly backed up by numerous witnesses. When it was revealed that Depp had been cast as Grindelwald in “The Crimes of Grindelwald” in November 2016, fans were furious, and J.K. Rowling was forced to publicly defend the decision. While some stood by Rowling and the filmmakers, many others remain bitter and disappointed regarding Depp’s presence in the film.

#5: Daniel Craig

“Casino Royale” (2006)
People really take their James Bond seriously. In February 2005, Pierce Brosnan officially declared that he was done with James Bond, and his successor, Daniel Craig, was cast the following October. However, many people were not happy. For them, James Bond was supposed to be tall, dark-haired, and charming. Daniel Craig is 5’10’’, blonde, and tough. He was not the ideal Bond, and many people were not shy in voicing their dissatisfaction, even going so far as to boycott the movie. “Casino Royale” ended up receiving critical acclaim, and Craig’s Bond was praised for being one of the best and most faithful to Fleming’s vision.

#4: Heath Ledger

“The Dark Knight” (2008)
While it may seem baffling to consider now, there was a time when Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker was considered, well, a joke. For one thing, Ledger was supposedly far too pretty and charming to come across as a psychopath. Many others questioned Ledger’s past filmography, as he was mostly relegated to playing heartthrobs in rom-coms. And, yes, there were a lot of distasteful jokes made due to his role in “Brokeback Mountain.” The actor would eventually convert the naysayers and sweep the award season. Ledger wasn’t the first or last actor to be questioned in a “Batman” role, though, as both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck were also considered controversial choices when they were cast.

#3: Pretty Much Everyone

“The Last Airbender” (2010)
“The Last Airbender” has been called one of the worst movies ever made, and we all knew it was coming after the disastrous casting process. Many fans cried foul upon learning that white actors, including Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone, were cast in various important roles. M. Night Shyamalan would defend the casting choices and argue that the character’s races were up to interpretation. He also said that the movies would be “the most culturally diverse tent-pole movies ever released.” Well, so much for that. The movie would go on to be a huge critical failure, with many critics noting the atrocious acting of its lead characters.

#2: Mickey Rooney

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
Well, this one is…um…rough. It was a different time, but that’s still no excuse. While “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is generally considered to be a classic, there is one glaring issue with the movie that everyone tries to forget – Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi. Mickey Rooney, who was born in Brooklyn to American and Scottish parents, portrayed Holly’s Asian landlord to much retroactive disdain. To make matters worse, the character of Yunioshi is arguably one of the most blatantly racist and stereotypical characters to ever appear on screen. It is now regarded as one of the most offensive casting choices in cinema history.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few dishonorable mentions.

Emma Stone
“Aloha” (2015)

Scarlett Johansson
“Ghost in the Shell” (2017)

Zoe Saldana
“Nina” (2016)

#1: John Wayne

“The Conqueror” (1956)
John Wayne was an extremely famous actor in the 1950s, but his reputation couldn’t save the awful casting of “The Conqueror.” For the movie, John Wayne, the typical all-American hero who was born in Iowa, was cast as Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire who was born in the Khentii Mountains of Mongolia. You can see how this might be a problem. It’s one of the most notorious mis-castings of all time, and “The Conqueror” is now considered to be one of the worst movies ever, with the casting of John Wayne and his appalling acting being a major reason for its reputation.
richard gill