When brunet nice guy Tom Cruise was hired to play blond deviant vampire Lestat, fans of the book — and even author Anne Rice — screamed bloody murder. But it wasn’t the first time a movie’s casting got under people’s skin.
Role: Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind (1939, MGM/UA)
Actors considered: Lucille Ball, Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh.
Controversy: A Brit playing a Southern belle? One Southerner writes to a newspaper, decrying the ”outrage to the memory of the heroes of 1776 who fought to free this land of British domination.”
Result: Leigh wins Best Actress Oscar for 1939.
Role: Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz (1939, MGM/UA)
Actors considered: Judy Garland, Shirley Temple.
Controversy: The rap on Garland is that she is too old, too fat, and her teeth need work.
Result: Movie, a disappointment when released, becomes a classic once it begins airing regularly on TV.
Role: Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady (1964, FoxVideo)
Actors considered: Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn.
Controversy: Despite lessons, Hepburn can’t sing; Marni Nixon dubs her voice. ”It looked like I wanted to deny [Nixon] her due,” Hepburn says later. ”[T]he backlash was incredible.”
Result: Movie is a smash, but Hepburn is snubbed at Oscar time. Andrews wins Oscar for same year’s Mary Poppins.
Role: Vito Corleone, The Godfather (1972, Paramount)
Actors considered: Attorney Melvin Belli, Marlon Brando, Danny Thomas, Laurence Olivier.
Controversy: Brando is seen as washed up and hard to handle. ”I assure you that Marlon Brando will not appear in this film,” says Paramount president Stanley Jaffe.
Result: Brando wins Best Actor Oscar for 1972.
Role: Batman, Batman (1989, Warner)
Actors considered: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Keaton.
Controversy: Comic-book fans go rabid. ”He might have made a good Joker,” one moans to the Los Angeles Times, ”but his comic style…has doomed this…’serious’ treatment.”
Result: Everyone sees the movie anyway; Keaton stars in the 1992 sequel.