20 controversial casting choices

Updated 10:22 AM ET, Wed January 11, 2017
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Actor Joseph Fiennes was cast to play late superstar Michael Jackson in a British made-for-TV movie about a road trip Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando took after the September 11 attacks. Some Jackson fans have been dismayed that a white actor would be cast to play the African-American singer. Sky Arts
Zoe Saldana's casting as music legend Nina Simone is a stunning choice, and not just because the actress hasn't shown any proclivity toward jazz (or singing, for that matter). Physically, Saldana bears no resemblance to the icon, and none of the options present have been appealing to moviegoers: Either Saldana maintains her natural appearance and offers an inaccurate portrayal, or the actress would be made to appear darker. Judging from production photos, the creative team behind "Nina" went with the latter. Fame Pictures
Sometimes, casting directors can't win for losing when selecting actors for an anticipated film. It's too soon to see how the choice of Ben Affleck as Batman will play out, but you couldn't tell the Internet that. When the news arrived, nearly everyone was convinced that his portrayal would be so awful, it'd make history. warner bros
With "Fifty Shades of Grey," fans were outraged over Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam (who dropped out and was replaced by Jamie Dornan) being named as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in the adaptation of E.L. James' racy best-seller. focus features
Jennifer Lawrence took criticism of her casting as rugged, resourceful "Hunger Games" heroine Katniss Everdeen in stride. "I'm a massive fan too, so I get it," the actress said in response to fans who thought she had the wrong look for the dystopian character. Some complained that Lawrence is "too big" and had the wrong hair color to properly fill the role, but that whining was quickly snuffed out by the positive reaction from fans, critics and the box office. Lionsgate Films
The war to cast Marlon Brando -- or anyone in "The Godfather's" Corleone family -- was tougher than what was depicted in the film, insiders told Vanity Fair in 2009. Paramount wanted "anyone but Brando" and dropped hints for stars like Laurence Olivier, Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Quinn. But director Francis Ford Coppola knew that Brando was the right man for the part, and after a screen test, executives did, too. Paramount Pictures
Brit actors playing iconic Americans is commonplace these days, but in the late '30s, producers feared backlash if they cast then-unknown English actress Vivien Leigh in the role of Scarlett O'Hara. To bring Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" character to life, Leigh would have to adapt a Southern accent and demeanor, and there was also the matter of her scandalous relationship with Laurence Olivier. But instinct paid off: Leigh wound up with an Oscar for her work. Hulton Archive/Getty Images/File
Johnny Depp promised to "reinvent" Tonto's relationship with "The Lone Ranger" in 2013's summer flop of the same name, but audiences were wary. Casting Depp to begin with was sketchy, considering that the actor is not a Native American (although he does claim some Native ancestry). That fact coupled with "Lone Ranger's" characterization of Tonto, which critics called heavily reliant on stereotypes, made Depp's promise a nonstarter. Walt Disney Pictures
Hollywood's portrayal of Egyptian queen Cleopatra has been hotly debated, as some feel that casting a non-woman of color -- most famously done in 1963 with Elizabeth Taylor -- is a classic example of Hollywood whitewashing. When Angelina Jolie was mentioned as a successor to Taylor's iconic performance, many vehemently disagreed, saying that it was time to cast a woman of color. Twentieth Century Fox
Batman fans are a touchy bunch. When Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," the typical reaction was, "you've got to be kidding." Of course, Ledger turned in such an outstanding performance, he won an Oscar for the role. Warner Bros
"Twilight" fans initially hated the very man they'd grow to love. When little-known Brit actor Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward Cullen in the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's runaway bestseller, fans felt "unanimous unhappiness" over the man picked to fill the gorgeous, sparkling shoes of their favorite vampire. Of course, after five movies in, R-Patz couldn't shake his "Twilight" fame. summit entertainment
Given that Audrey Hepburn couldn't sing, her casting in 1964's "My Fair Lady" was a head-scratcher -- particularly when they could've gone with Julie Andrews, who a) could sing and b) had played the role before. The drama came to a head at the 1965 Oscars, when the Academy gave Hepburn the cold shoulder and handed Andrews the Best Actress Oscar for "Mary Poppins." Warner Brothers/Getty Images
When Anne Hathaway was revealed as the new Selina Kyle in "Dark Night Rises," some moviegoers threatened to boycott as they filled comments sections with alternatives. But Hathaway was a lithe, cunning and sensuous Catwoman, all qualities her critics were positive the actress would never pull off.
When Jennifer Lopez was picked to play Mexican-American singer Selena in a biopic about the singer's sadly shortened life, critics shook their heads and a few even protested. How could Lopez, a Puerto Rican-American who had yet to show any vocal range, take on the legacy of immensely talented Tejano songbird? With lip-syncing and commitment. "Selena" wound up being one of Lopez's standout performances. SCOTT DEL AMO/AFP/Getty Images/File
Before the world came to hate Ben Affleck as Batman, they bestowed their angst on Michael Keaton. When Tim Burton cast the actor known for his comedy in 1989's "Batman," reactions ranged from "disappointed to disturbed." In retrospect, though, the 1989 film is a classic (not solely because of Keaton but not in spite of him, either). United Archives/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Daniel Craig brilliantly embodied James Bond in 2012's blockbuster "Skyfall," but when he was first cast as 007 for 2006's "Casino Royale," even director Sam Mendes thought he was the wrong guy for the job. Mendes then had to eat his words as he watched Craig "go through that intense pressure and come through that with flying colors." Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images
Jake Gyllenhaal's career has had its high points, but 2010's "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" was not one of them. Criticism of the film aside, the casting of Gyllenhaal in the title role was awfully suspicious. The Atlantic succinctly summed up what everyone was thinking at the time with the headline "Why is a White actor Playing (the) 'Prince of Persia' title role?" Disney
No one hated Tom Cruise's casting as Lestat in 1994's "Interview With the Vampire" more than the character's creator, Anne Rice. The author publicly criticized the choice and said her readers were just as upset. "The very sad thing about Tom Cruise is, he does not have that kind of distinct voice. How is he possibly going to say those lines? How is he gonna exert the power of Lestat?" she said to Movieline. "I don't know how it's gonna work." Somehow, Cruise's voice did the trick, and Rice changed her tune. Warner Brothers/Getty Images
Although it may be hard to make authenticity demands on fictional characters, "Thor" fans didn't hold back with their frustration over Idris Elba's casting in the 2011 film. When Kenneth Branagh tapped his fellow Brit to play Heimdall, some fans complained that a black man couldn't play a Norse god. Elba's response? "We have a man who has a flying hammer and wears horns on his head. And yet me being an actor of African descent playing a Norse god is unbelievable? I mean, Cleopatra was played by Elizabeth Taylor, and Gandhi was played by Ben Kingsley." Paramount Pictures
M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender" was a disappointment, from the casting on down. Although the cartoon that inspired the film was clearly populated with characters of Asian descent, the cast was oddly -- and noticeably -- white. Said one 16-year-old fan, "(The) target age already loves the show, and they could take the 'risk' of casting ethnically appropriate actors to the characters. ... Instead, they have alienated the fans in a way that is not only racially inaccurate and offensive but untrue to the characters or archetypes." Paramount Pictures