I'm hoping that Ray Stevenson will dominate the screen completely as Frank Castle, setting wrongs to right and creating utter mayhem, in Lexi Alexander's Punisher: War Zone, which opens wide tomorrow. I loved Stevenson as Titus Pullo in HBO's Rome, an atypical brute with a little boy's heart and a joyous young man's full-bodied embrace of life. At the very least, he should erase memories of Thomas Jane, who glowered and scowled without ever embodying the role in 2004's The Punisher.
With so many sequels being made, it's inevitable that some actors will not reprise their original role. (Just think of all the fuss kicked up by Don Cheadle taking over the part of War Machine from Terence Howard, in the Iron Man sequel.) Whether it's death, Broadway, pregnancy, caring for a family member, money, or the realization that the sequel will suck, sequel replacement actors face the daunting task of replacing a familiar face in the role of a beloved character.
History has not been kind, and while it would be easier to list the worst, we thought we'd be positive and list the best sequel replacement actors. (James Bond and superheroes need a separate list.) We're also noting the role and the actor that was replaced.
1. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox)
Brian Cox played the flesh-hungry Dr. Lecter in Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986) effectively, but Hopkins added a whole new layer when he took over the role five years later in The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins pushed Lecter right to the edge of camp ("fava beans and a nice kee-anti") yet kept him firmly rooted at the edge of humanity with his probing eyes and ultra-controlled body language.
2. Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris)
It took me a while to warm up to the Harry Potter series on film, which is probably why I prefer Michael Gambon in the role of Professor Dumbledore. Harris tended toward a grand theatricality in his performances, while Gambon crosses easily between good and evil and all the shades of gray in between. That made him especially suited to the menacing moodiness (morphing into gentle kindness) in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
3. Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin)
I loved Alec Baldwin as the insecure, desk bound analyst Jack Ryan, reluctantly thrust into action when a Russian submarine goes renegade. So I initially resisted Ford in the role in Patriot Games, though that probably had more to do with the film's simplistic view of "the troubles" than with Ford's performance itself. Clear and Present Danger actually played a bit with the idea of moral ambiguity, so Ford's stolid bluffness was actually an asset and made Jack Ryan seem once again like a sympathetic adult dealing with a bad situation.
4. Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells)
No knock on Claudia Wells, whose Jennifer was limited to a traditional 1985 girlfriend, but Shue made it abundantly clear, even in a small part, that she was brimming with dynamic, infectious energy, with personality to burn. She made me wish that the Back to the Future sequels spent more time with Jennifer than with ol' Marty McFly.
5. Maria Bello as Evelyn O'Connell (Rachel Weisz)
If it's difficult for a replacement actor to make a positive impression in a good movie, imagine how much more difficult it is in a bad, nay, horrible flick like this summer's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Mario Bello had to pretend to be in love with Brendan Fraser, be a mother to a startlingly quick-aging teenage son, and engage in all manner of derring-do. I felt bad to see talented performers like Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Wu Jing, Anthony Wong, and Russell Wong go entirely to waste, but I must give kudos to Ms. Bello and say that she maintained her class throughout this disaster.
6. Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster)
Thomas Harris' novel drove me batty, but even my low expectations were not met by the banalities of Ridley Scott's Hannibal. Stepping into the shoes of an Academy Award winner, as an indeliby damaged yet incredibly determined and strong character, would be sufficiently daunting for any actor. Tie that to the nuttiness of the story, and Julianne Moore was bound to come out the loser. Somehow she survived, and if she was unable to erase the memory of Foster, she bravely blazed her own trail to register her own take on Clarice, years later and still scarred.
7. Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees (C.J. Graham)
I can't resist paying tribute to my favorite Jason, who inhabited the masked serial killer from 1998's Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood through 2001's Jason X. Hodder's lumbering, though still agile, almost balletic, physicality really does make a difference and helps explain his enduring appeal.
Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section. Let's try and be positive, folks, and talk about our favorite sequel replacement actors. Who and why?