TV and movie roles that were famously recast

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Sometimes a TV or movie character doesn’t look the same in a later reincarnation, and it’s not because of a new hairstyle — it’s because it’s an entirely new actor!

In some cases, the actor who was originally cast for the role gets replaced before the project even makes it to the can. Here are 28 roles that were recast at some point in the process. Who do you think portrayed the character best?

Marty’s Girlfriend in “Back to the Future II”

Elisabeth Shue replaced Claudia Wells as Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, in “Back to the Future II” because Wells was caring for her gravely ill mother. Shue also played Jennifer in the third movie.

Becky on “Roseanne”

The role of Becky Conner on “Roseanne” was recast when the original actress playing her, Alicia Goranson, went off to college. Sarah Chalke stepped into the role, though Goranson also returned later. In the “Roseanne” revival that was recently canceled, Goranson played Becky and Chalke played another character, and it sounds like both Beckys are signed onto the Roseanne Barr-free spin-off “The Conners” that’s in the works.

Danny Tanner on “Full House”

Bob Saget didn’t always have the role of dad Danny Tanner on “Full House.” The pilot was originally filmed with actor John Posey in the role. He was recast with Saget after the studio decided Saget was a better fit.

Meg Griffin on “Family Guy”

Mila Kunis has voiced Meg Griffin, the daughter on “Family Guy,” since the show’s second season. But before her, Lacey Chabert was Meg’s voice. She left because of schedule conflicts. And for a short time at the start of the show, voice actor Cree Summer did the part.

Sookie St. James on “Gilmore Girls”

Alex Borstein played the original Sookie St. James on the unaired pilot of “Gilmore Girls.” But she was replaced by Melissa McCarthy in the picked-up series because Borstein had a conflict with her MADtv schedule. Borstein did have other cameos on the show, though.

Forman’s Sister on “That ’70s Show”

Lisa Robin Kelly left the role of Laurie Forman, Eric Forman’s sister, on “That ’70s Show” due to substance abuse issues. Christina Moore finished off the role.

Aunt Viv on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

Janet Hubert did not leave the role of Aunt Vivian “Viv” Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” without a fuss. She allegedly did not get along with her fellow cast members, particularly Will Smith. Daphne Reid replaced her in the fourth season of the show.

The Voice of Shrek

Chris Farley had almost completed recording the title voice for the movie “Shrek” when he died. Mike Myers ended up replacing Farley, redoing all of Farley’s voiceover work.

The Doctor in “Dr. Who”

The classic British TV show has had no fewer than 13 actors playing the Doctor since the show started in 1963. William Hartnell was the first Doctor Who. Jodie Whittaker is the current doctor, and the first woman to play the role. The recasting of the main role is built into “Dr. Who” with the Time Lord able to transform physical form.

James Bond

Similar to “Dr. Who,” the James Bond movies have a long tradition of recasting its main character. Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and, most recently, Daniel Craig have all played Bond.

Queen Elizabeth II in “The Crown”

Claire Foy did an admirable and award-winning job as Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of Netflix’s “The Crown.” But as the character ages into middle age in season three, Olivia Colman will step into the role.

J. Paul Getty in “All the Money in the World”

After the sexual assault allegations about Kevin Spacey came out, “All the Money in the World” director Ridley Scott quickly recast Spacey’s already filmed role as J. Paul Getty. Christopher Plummer stepped into the part shortly before the movie hit theaters.

Jack Ryan

Alec Baldwin played Jack Ryan in “The Hunt for Red October,” but was replaced by Harrison Ford in “Clear and Present Danger” and “Patriot Games” after negotiations broke down between Baldwin and studio executives. The role has also been played by Ben Affleck and Chris Pine.

Darrin on “Bewitched”

Perhaps the best known early television recasting was on season six of “Bewitched” where Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as the character Darrin Stephens, the husband of Samantha. York had back problems that led to his departure.

Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” movies

Albus Dumbledore was recast after the original actor playing him, Richard Harris, died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002. Michael Gambon replaced him as the new Dumbledore starting with the third film.

Lavender Brown and the Harry Potter films

In a somewhat controversial recasting, Lavender Brown was played by Kathleen Cauley in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and by Jennifer Smith in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Both actresses were black. However, the role was recast for the two-parter “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” film and played by white actress Jessie Cave.

Rachel Dawes in the Batman movies

Katie Holmes originally played Batman’s love interest, Rachel Dawes, in “Batman Begins.” But the actress picked a role in “Mad Money” over returning as Dawes in “The Dark Knight.” Maggie Gyllenhaal played the character in that movie.

Clarice Starling

Jodie Foster famously played FBI agent Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs.” But she declined to return for the sequel film, “Hannibal,” and the role was played by Julianne Moore instead.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

Alyson Hannigan wasn’t the original Willow on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” In an unaired pilot for the show, the role was played by Riff Regan, who was recast because she was too self-confident and sexy for the role. In another type of recast, Sarah Michelle Gellar took over the role of Buffy from Kristy Swanson, who had played her in the movie on which the show was based.

Jenna on “30 Rock”

Rachel Dratch was originally cast as the Jenna character on “30 Rock” in its unaired pilot before the show went with a more conventionally beautiful actress played by Jane Krakowski. Dratch played various recurring characters and cameo parts on the show after that.

Russell Hammond in “Almost Famous”

Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” had Brad Pitt as the lead band member, Russell Hammond, before Pitt dropped out because of creative differences. Billy Crudup replaced him in the role.

Lady Catelyn Stark on “Game of Thrones”

Much recasting and retooling went on with “Game of Thrones” between the show’s first, unaired pilot and HBO’s finalized show. Jennifer Ehle was originally slated to play Lady Catelyn Stark but dropped out to spend more time with her baby daughter. Michelle Fairley replaced her.

Daenerys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones”

Similarly, Tamzin Merchant was replaced by Emilia Clarke in the role of Daenerys Targaryen. Apparently, she wasn’t the right fit and Clarke has now run away with the role.

Daario Naharis on “Game of Thrones”

Between seasons 3 and 4, Michiel Huisman replaced Ed Skrein as Daario Naharis for what Skrein said were political reasons. The two actors didn’t really look alike in the role either.

The Voice of Samantha in “Her”

Samantha Morton recorded all of the dialogue for the operating system Samantha in “Her” before director Spike Jonze decided to go in a different direction. He redid the voice of the character with Scarlett Johansson in the role instead.

Ann on “Arrested Development”

George Michael’s girlfriend Ann on “Arrested Development” was supposed to be forgettable. So forgettable that the show originally planned to keep changing the actress playing Ann as part of the joke. Instead, just two actresses played Ann: Alessandra Toressani for one episode and Mae Whitman after that.

George McFly in “Back to the Future II”

Another “Back to the Future” recasting involved replacing Crispin Glover with Jeffrey Weissman for the second movie in the trilogy. Glover reportedly wanted too much money to return as George McFly. Glover later sued the film studio, saying they used a face mold he made for the first film to make Weissman look like him in the sequel.

Gordon On ‘Sesame Street’

Most of the human characters on “Sesame Street” have — rather incredibly — been played by the same actors throughout the show’s run. And many “Sesame Street” viewers only remember one Gordon, who has been depicted by Roscoe Orman since 1976.

But there were three other actors before him who played the friendly science teacher married to Susan. The first Gordon, Garrett Saunders, only appeared in the unaired “Sesame Street” test pilot. His identity was a mystery for many years until a public search to find him turned up Saunders’ name. Matt Robinson (father of Holly Robinson Peete) was cast as Gordon when the show officially hit the airwaves. After Robinson decided to leave the role, Hal Miller played Gordon for seasons 4 and 5. And after Miller departed, Orman replaced him. He’s been Gordon ever since.

Emperor Palpatine In The ‘Star Wars’ Movies

The evil Emperor Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, first appeared in holographic form in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

The character was played by Elaine Baker, the wife of “Star Wars” makeup designer Rick Baker, and she wore a lot of prosthetics to pull off the role. The voice, meanwhile, was that of actor Clive Revill.

Starting with “Return of the Jedi,” Ian McDiarmid played Emperor Palpatine. George Lucas later reshot McDiarmid in the emperor’s scenes from “The Empire Strikes Back,” replacing the Baker-Revill combination.

Evelyn Carnahan In ‘The Mummy’ Movies

In the first two “The Mummy” movies, Rachel Weisz played Evelyn Carnahan, the wife of Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser). But Weisz opted out of the third Mummy film,”The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.” Her decision reportedly was due to either scheduling conflicts with other projects or not liking the third movie’s script. Maria Bello was cast to replace her in the role.

Bruce Banner/The Hulk

While comic book and fantasy films are often spun out into multiple overlapping movies and sequels, necessitating new casting, there are some cases in which back-to-back films by the same creative teams do replace their lead actors.

This was the case when Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as the Hulk. Marvel Studios said Norton was replaced for being creatively difficult. Norton’s agent said the studio wouldn’t meet his pay requirements. And a few years later, Norton said he just was over being the Hulk. For his part, Ruffalo turned out a strong performance in the role.

Catwoman In The Original ‘Batman’ TV Series

Julie Newmar was the first Catwoman in the “Batman” TV series that ran from 1966-1968. While the show was running, “Batman: The Movie” came out, in which Lee Meriwether played The Catwoman / Ms. Kitka. (Meriwether also appeared in a small role in two episodes of the 1967 season of the show.) In the TV show’s final season, Eartha Kitt took over the role.

Christine Cagney In ‘Cagney & Lacey’

There were three actresses in the role of Christine Cagney on the 1980s female cop drama “Cagney & Lacey.”

In the TV movie that first launched the show, Loretta Swit played Cagney. However, once the show was picked up by CBS as a midseason series, Swit wasn’t able to get out of her “M*A*S*H” contract. Instead, Meg Foster played Cagney alongside Tyne Daly’s character, Mary Beth Lacey, in the first season. Foster was replaced for the second season by Sharon Gless, who played Cagney for the rest of the show’s seven seasons and, later, in more TV movies.

Why the switcheroo? In decidedly un-PC and bigoted terms, a CBS executive at the time said the recasting was because Foster and Daley came across as “too harshly women’s lib” and gay. The network planned to cancel the show if the role wasn’t recast. So Cagney was recast with the more feminine Gless in the role.

Marilyn Munster In ‘The Munsters’

The one non-monster family member on “The Munsters,” Marilyn was originally played by Beverley Owen. But Owen was allowed to back out of her contract when she decided she wanted to move back to New York to be closer to her future husband. Pat Priest replaced Owen for the rest of the original series. Various other actors, including Christine Taylor, have played Marilyn in subsequent TV shows and movies based on “The Munsters.”

James Rhodes/War Machine In The ‘Iron Man’ Movies

Air Force Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, a buddy of Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, has been played by two different actors.

Terrence Howard was Rhodes in the first “Iron Man” film, and Don Cheadle has played the character in subsequent movies. Howard has said he was pushed out of the role after being offered a low paycheck, and that Robert Downey Jr. didn’t have his back. Downey Jr. said there were no hard feelings on his side. The two seem to have resolved any issues since.

Sarah Braverman In ‘Parenthood’

Maura Tierney filmed the original pilot for “Parenthood” as the character Sarah Braverman. But she was also battling breast cancer at the time. She ended up bowing out of the show when her cancer treatments became too hard to work into the “Parenthood” filming schedule. Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls” ended up replacing her.

Lily on ‘Modern Family’

Mitchell and Cam’s adopted daughter, Lily, was originally played by twin actresses Jaden and Ella Hiller. But the twins’ parents decided the kids weren’t enjoying the experience and told show creators that Jaden and Ella wouldn’t continue in the role. So in season three, the character of Lily was aged forward and replaced by just one actress, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons.

Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”

Filming was well underway when a decision was made to replace Eric Stoltz with Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future.” Stoltz, apparently, was too serious to pull off the comedic aspect of the part.

Entertainment, Movies & TV

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Anna Weaver
Anna Weaver is a writer and multimedia journalist from Hawaii. Her two young kids keep her on her toes and hooked on online shopping. Anna’s also a fan of movies, reading, photography, and sharing far too many IG stories about cute dogs and capybaras. Visit Scripps News to see more of Anna's work.

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