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Actors Who Proved Rebooting Iconic Roles Can Be A Good Thing

Updated May 27, 2021 16.2k votes 2.7k voters 81.1k views14 items

List RulesVote up the roles that were totally worth rebooting.

When a particular performance transcends the film it’s in and enters pop culture, even the whisper of reimagining it with a different actor in a new iteration can be greeted as an affront. On occasion, productions opt to go semi-anonymous with their replacement - see the RoboCop reboot, which swapped the singular gawky vulnerability Peter Weller brought to the title character in Paul Verhoeven’s original with the at-the-time "that guy" Joel Kinnaman. Other times, filmmakers opt to fill the role with the star of the moment, trading on the likelihood that their committed fans will follow them wherever they go, sacred cow role or no - see the ultimately abandoned attempt to land Shia LaBeouf as the scrappy up-and-comer ready to replace Indiana Jones in the eponymous franchise’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

And yet, there are times when the reinvention just plain works. The original lives alongside the reboot, a mutually legitimate take on a particular property. From Hannibal Lecter to James Bond, here are a few examples.

  • Leonard Nimoy's turn as Spock - the hyper-rational and locked-off half-Vulcan, half-human - made the character what he is, leaving a daunting task for any actor looking to reprise the role. His decades in the original Star Trek, Next Generation, and the pre-2000s films largely made the actor and the character synonymous. That was all despite the former’s considerable non-Star Trek work, which was spent both in front of and behind the camera. Yet, Zachary Quinto pulled it off.

    In his first appearance as the new Spock in J.J. Abrams’s 2009 franchise relaunch, Quinto gave a committed performance as the conflicted logician. And, while subsequent entries have been a somewhat mixed bag, Quinto's never not shown through.

    • Age: 44
    • Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America
    Did they do the role justice?

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  • George Miller’s Mad Max franchise is among the most personal of the major effects-driven blockbuster sagas of the last few decades, and that’s largely due to the Australian director’s exclusive control over it. Starting in 1979, Miller launched the first of the four films with fellow Aussie Mel Gibson in the lead as Max Rockatansky, a “Main Force” officer desperately fighting for his family’s safety in a post-apocalyptic world. Gibson returned for the following two films, largely cementing the character as his own.

    Or, he did, until Miller revived Max with 2015’s Fury Road, one of the most-praised films of the previous decade. This time, Englishman Tom Hardy stepped into the title role, where he gave a relatively stoic, light-on-dialogue performance that handily landed him the torch from Gibson.

    • Age: 44
    • Birthplace: Hammersmith, London, England, UK
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  • While the nature of the role of James Bond is for a new actor to take the reins every couple of entries, none wore it better, so to speak, than Sean Connery. It was his suave, devil-may-care pomposity that defined the screen interpretation of Ian Fleming’s iconic womanizing spy in Dr. No, Thunderball, and, most famously, Goldfinger, among others. And, despite Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan’s efforts, nobody truly managed to top Connery’s work.

    It took over 30 years for an equal, if not greater, interpretation to come along. Daniel Craig’s locked-off and considerably more fragile Bond, who first appeared in 2006’s Casino Royale, shook the goofy dust of the Moore and Brosnan takes off the role. It certainly didn’t hurt that Craig’s entries have largely been helmed by higher-caliber craftspeople than that of his predecessors, with the likes of Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins behind two of his five films in the franchise to date.

    • Age: 53
    • Birthplace: Chester, England
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  • As far as iconic performances go, Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates is certainly up there. Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s legendarily innovative horror-thriller, traded on the actor’s wiry frame and wheedling feel to sell Bates as a homicidal hotelier’s son with deep-seated mommy issues. The turn was so effective that it famously received another Oscar nominee’s shot-for-shot take, to largely ill-advised effect. So, when it was announced that the property would be receiving yet another treatment, expectations were not terribly high.

    What Freddie Highmore did in the prequel series Bates Motel as the new Norman, however, really worked. By opting to tell pre-Psycho events, the creators and Highmore plumbed the previously off-screen dynamic between mother and son. What emerged was a creepy picture of a deeply unhealthy relationship which, if it doesn’t equal its source material, is at the very least an interesting supplement.

    • Age: 29
    • Birthplace: Camden Town, London, United Kingdom
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