There’s something almost quaint about seeing an actor miscast in a movie. First of all, it’s tangible evidence that much of life and art is simply a judgment call. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. Here are some instances in cinema where someone got it really wrong.
“PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED”
Cage may be the most erratic big-name actor in recent memory. In this 1986 fantasy, he was just plain miscast. Kathleen Turner is Peggy Sue, a woman in her 40s who is somehow transported back in time to high school in 1960. Cage plays her boyfriend-and-later-husband, Charlie. He’s wayyy out of his depth as the middle-aged husband, and wayyy too peculiar as the high school boyfriend. Some of his line readings are utterly Shatnerian.
No doubt I’ll catch some flak on this one, because so many people have fond memories of the 1978 hit musical. And Channing gives it her all as Betty Rizzo. But come on – playing a teenager? She was in her 30s! She probably had shoes older than her character.
“SON OF ALI BABA”
Ah, yes. If it weren’t for 1952’s “Son of Ali Baba,” we’d never have heard the immortal line, “This is da palace of my fadah, and yondah lies da Valley of da Sun.” Curtis, a wonderful actor in many films, just wasn’t a good fit here with his New York accent. Trivia Note: some people mistakenly think this famous line is from the 1954 British knight movie, “The Black Shield of Falworth.” They change it a little to say, “Yondah lies da castle of my fadah.”
“X-MEN: FIRST CLASS”
It’s really two cases of bad casting in one part. This superhero extravaganza from last year asks us first to believe Bacon as an evil Nazi doctor, THEN asks us to buy him as a debonair super villain. At one point, he dons a super villain’s helmet and struts around looking like a kid about to go out trick or treating.
It wasn’t her fault. Coppola’s dad, the great director Francis Ford Coppola, cast her at the last minute in a pivotal part of the 1990 finale of the Godfather story. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse – but it didn’t work.
“ON DEADLY GROUND”
God knows Michael Caine has played every sort of character known to man. That includes lots of quality movies and also lots of stinkers. Yet something about this one, a 1994 Steven Seagal flick in which Caine is the bad guy, seems different. Caine steers a course into over-the-top, nutjob evil territory, which isn’t his style.
“The Conqueror,” from 1956, is the Great White Whale of movie miscasting. It’s epic in its badness. John Wayne – John Wayne! – plays the man who would become Genghis Khan. Let me put it this way. Some actors taking on historical roles try to embody both the physical mannerisms of the era, the proper vocal characteristics, and something of the inner, psychological underpinnings of the person. The Duke went in another direction.
So there you have your starting seven. The League of Miscast Actors will now accept your suggestions for new members!