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The Most Controversial Casting Decisions of All Time

Updated February 28, 2020 57.7k votes 7.9k voters 1.4m views25 items

Casting can be controversial, whether it's whitewashing, race-switching, or picking anyone to play Batman. When it comes to film adaptations, most devoted fans have an actor in mind that they think would be perfect for our favorite role. More often than not, such casting dreams are dashed to bits on the rocks of Hollywood, leaving us to pick up the pieces and scream to the heavens (or Twitter) about what could have been.

Seemingly every major casting decision in the late 2010s is at least a little bit contentious, with actors like Michael B. Jordan and Ben Affleck kicking up dust over their comic book movies. Internet denizens weren't happy and they took to social media to express their wrath in 140 characters. But it's not just superhero films that provide fodder for casting arguments: since the '30s, there have been fan backlashes about the actors picked to portray beloved characters from fiction. With this list, we've picked some of the most controversial casting choices ever.

When it comes to casting a major studio film, we don't know the ins and outs of the system, but we do know that probably shouldn't go out of your way to anger loyalists on the Internet, which is exactly what all the decisions on this list did. Of course, plenty of these actors ended up creating the definitive takes on their characters after all the hubbub.

Check out the list of the most controversial casting decisions of all time, if you think you can handle all the venom.

  • One of the ultimate examples of an actor completely confounding expectations and proving his detractors wrong, Heath Ledger's mesmerizing performance as Clown Prince of Crime not only earned him worldwide adoration from the comic book community and beyond, but also garnered him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

    When he was cast, however, it was a different story. Batman fans almost unanimously cried foul, loudly condemning Christopher Nolan and declaring that "the guy from 10 Things I Hate About You" didn’t have the gravitas to make such a showy, edgy role his own.

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  • When Gadot, best known for the Fast & Furious films, was announced as the new Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Twitter flipped out (as it is wont to do). The monsters on the social media nightmare tornado criticized everything from her looks to her work to her amount of muscle.

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    Michael Keaton - Batman

    Decades before the world was freaking out about Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight, nerds everywhere directed their indignant fury at Michael Keaton, who at that point was known as more of a comedic actor.

    Reactions ranged from "disappointed to disturbed," and in retrospect, we're sure everyone feels more than a little silly.

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  • When he was cast in the reboot of the James Bond franchise, Craig had to endure a tidal wave of scrutiny. Fans and the media doubted that he had the acting chops or the "look," given his rugged appearance and blond hair, which earned him the nickname "James Blond." Craig managed to overcome his detractors, however, delivering what is arguably one of the best - if not the best - performances in the entire lineage of Bond.

    In fact, he's frequently likened to series favorite Sean Connery.

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