10 Wonderful Casting Decisions That Made Fans Unnecessarily Angry

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Fannish enthusiasm can be a wonderful thing. But sometimes it can go a bit too far, as when hardcore fans are absolutely convinced that they, and only they, know how to properly adapt their beloved franchise into a feature film. When someone is cast who doesn't fit their vision of a favorite character, things can get nasty. As these 10 casting backlashes prove, it's usually best to wait and see how someone does in a role before bringing out the pitchforks.

1. Heath Ledger // The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker has become the litmus test for fans overreacting to a casting decision. Much of the backlash against Ledger stemmed from his roles in teen-centric comedies such as 10 Things I Hate About You. GeekTyrant has a time capsule of Reddit reacting to the news: “Heath Ledger has the charisma of a lettuce leaf.” “The Joker is a character that needs an actor with gravity. Not some little twerp who got lucky.” “Probably the worst casting of all time.” “Let’s reminisce on the days of a A Knight’s Tale and Ten Things I Hate About You. Heath? The Joker? Bad casting. Bad joke.” And [sic all]: “There are better choices in my own opinion, but what do I know, its only been my life enjoying these comics?” But the Academy really had the final say when they awarded Ledger a posthumous Oscar for the part.

2. Michael Keaton // Batman (1989)

Ledger wasn’t the first Batman actor (Bactor?) to suffer the rage of fanboys: When Michael Keaton was cast as the Caped Crusader back in the late '80s, fans sent physical complaint letters (oh, pre-Internet days) to the studio—by one account, more than 50,000 of them. The primary complaints: Keaton was a comedian, and he wasn’t physically intimidating enough. A 1998 article in The Toronto Star noted that Batman “may turn out to be a wimp,” as Keaton was “no Sylvester Stallone.” Director Tim Burton responded to the backlash, explaining that “I met with a number of very good, square-jawed actors, but the bottom line was that I just couldn’t see any of them putting on a bat suit.”

In 2015, Keaton reflected on the time comic book fans the world over hated his guts, saying that “I heard about the outrage, and I couldn’t get it. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. It made me feel bad that it was even in question.” But Keaton was in good company; the Star article also mentioned that some fans disliked "the casting of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, a pathologically evil Batman archenemy. Mr. Nicholson, it seems, is guilty of having a sense of humor."

3. Jennifer Lawrence // The Hunger Games (2012)

The biggest complaint against Jennifer Lawrence being cast as The Hunger Games' heroine Katniss Everdeen? She wasn't skinny enough. Because the character comes from the impoverished District 12, Katniss—some argued—should be stick-thin. Her hair color was also a point of contention, with some fans dismissing the Oscar-winning actress as a “beach bunny blonde” with “chubby cheeks.” In an interview with Teen Vogue, Lawrence said she understood the casting backlash: "The cool thing about Katniss is that every fan has such a personal relationship with her, and they understand and know her in a singular way. I'm a massive fan too, so I get it." The Hunger Games franchise went on to earn close to $3 billion globally.

4. Daniel Craig // Casino Royale (2006)

In 2005, layered popped collars were in, Fox canceled Arrested Development, and people just could not handle a blonde guy being cast as the world’s most famous super-spy. Daniel Craig’s height and general appearance were also an issue—the site DanielCraigIsNotBond.com wondered how “a short, blonde actor with the rough face of a professional boxer and a penchant for playing killers, cranks, cads and gigolos [could] pull off the role of a tall, dark, handsome and suave secret agent." An actor "with his looks,” the site suggested, should instead star in a Caddyshack prequel. Most of the world left the “James Blonde” hatred behind when Casino Royale came out to excellent reviews, but the website is still going strong: Earlier this month it posted a story titled "Daniel Craig: Worst Spy Ever."

5. Anne Hathaway // The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

You’d think Batfans would have learned their lesson by now, but no such luck: Fans were skeptical when the squeaky-clean Anne Hathaway was cast as Catwoman/Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, and it only got worse when the first picture of her in costume leaked. The word “underwhelming” was used a lot. Speaking with MTV, Hathaway responded to the criticism and warned the Internet at large about rushing to judgment based on a single promo pic: “What I’m happy to say is, if you didn’t like the photo, you only see about a 10th of what that suit can do. And if you did like the photo, you have excellent taste.”

6. Robert Pattinson // Twilight (2008)

Given how The Twilight Saga launched Robert Pattinson to the heights of teen heartthrob-dom, it can be easy to forget that, when he was cast, the majority of fans were not pleased. His only major movie before then had been Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where he played Cedric Diggory, whose clean-cut, good boy image was a far cry from the brooding sexiness that fans wanted from vampire Edward Cullen. French actor Gaspard Ulliel was a fan favorite choice to fill the role, a fact referenced by author Stephenie Meyer in a blog post where she named future Superman Henry Cavill as her preferred actor for the part. Pattinson would later describe the fan reaction as “unanimous unhappiness” to MTV. He told the Evening Standard that he “got bags of letters from angry fans, telling me that I can’t possibly play Edward, because I’m Diggory,” and to Entertainment Weekly, he noted that "I stopped reading [blogs] after I saw the signatures saying 'Please, anyone else.'"

7. Keira Knightley // Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice was ill-fated from the very start as star Keira Knightley committed the great sin of not being Jennifer Ehle, who played the role of Elizabeth Bennet in the beloved 1995 BBC miniseries. Shocking! When BBC News asked readers about the movie back in 2004, there was a fair amount of general handwringing of the "how dare you remake a classic?!" variety. Some mega-fans of the 1995 version, though, flipped their pretty beribboned bonnets about Knightley specifically: "The disaster is the casting of Kiera [sic] ‘Bones’ Knightley as Elizabeth," said one anonymous commenter from Pasadena, California. Others chimed in: "This other actor [Matthew Macfadyen] seems to [sic] young for the roll [sic] and Keira too beautiful and thin for playing Lizzy too." "Knightley is too pinched and one-dimensional, not solid enough!" "Keira Knightley is too attractive and rather bad at acting." “Kiera [sic] Knightley should never be Elizabeth Bennet ... she’s not that type of actress.” The Academy disagreed, granting Knightley one of the film’s four Oscar nominations. But that vitriol was nothing compared to the fan reaction to…

8. Matthew Macfadyen // Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Again, from the BBC: “There is only one Mr. Darcy and that is Colin Firth.” “[Firth] ‘is’ the one and only Mr. Darcy.” “No one will compare to Firth.” “Colin Firth is the definitive Mr. Darcy, never to be matched at least not for many a year.” “Matthew Macfayden is not a bad looking chappy but he’s not Colin Firth and cannot possibly live up to the expectations of my comrades and I!” And the nastiest: “You must have someone dashingly handsome as Darcy ... try Rupert Everett, Hugh Jackman, or someone of the tall, arrogant, but handsome calibre. Macfayden doesn't have a masculine enough jaw, I suspect he'll need a seriously good wig to make up for his own rather thin, receding, floppy hair." Not that it wouldn’t be amazing to see a version of Pride & Prejudice with the “masculine-jawed” Jackman as Darcyeven better if he played it in character as Wolverinebut somehow Macfadyen’s turn as the “darkly handsome but socially paralyzed Darcy” pleased critics and audiences alike despite him not being Colin Firth emerging wet from a lake.

9. Vivien Leigh // Gone with the Wind (1939)

Even in pre-Internet times, fans would get demanding about the casting of their favorite characters. With Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, the problem was that she was a British actor playing the world's most famous Southern belle. Producer David O. Selznick tried to downplay Leigh's nationality in the official casting announcement, instead saying that she was educated in Europe and did some "recent screen work in England." Outraged fans wrote letters to newspapers that slammed Leigh's casting as an "insult to Southern womanhood” and "a direct affront to the men who wore the Gray and an outrage to the memory of the heroes of 1776 who fought to free this land of British domination." The President of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which initially planned to boycott the film, eventually warmed up to Leigh; according to the film’s historical advisor, Susan Myrick, she believed that an Englishwoman was preferable to “a woman from the East or Middle West."

10. René Zellweger // Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Call it a reverse Scarlett O’Hara: instead of being angry that a British actor was playing a Southern character, Bridget Jones’s Diary fans couldn’t imagine the Texas-born Renée Zellweger playing Bridget Jones, who is a modern-day version of Pride & Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet. (What you can take away from this piece: Batman fans and Jane Austen fans are equally hardcore.) “The criticism has been hurtful,” noted Zellweger in a 2000 interview with The Guardian. “Not the bit about the fact that an American girl is playing this part. I can understand that. But it's the extremes to which it's taken. They'll slip something else in there like, ‘Nobody has even heard of her before;' ‘What's she ever done?;' ‘The unknown Texan comic.’ That's hurtful, d'ya know?”

Co-star Hugh Grant came to Zellweger's defense, telling Entertainment Weekly, “She's very funny, and she's been living in England a long time now, mastering the accent. It'll be a triumph. I know it will." The time with a vocal coach—Barbara Berkeley, who worked with Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare In Love—paid off, and Bridget Jones’s Diary became a modern rom-com classic.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

17 Facts About Airplane! On Its 40th Anniversary

Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays (with Otto) in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Shot on a budget of $3.5 million, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker wrote and directed Airplane!, a movie intended to parody the onslaught of disaster movies that graced movie theater screens in the 1970s. The comedy classic, which arrived in theaters on July 2, 1980, ended up making more than $83.4 million in theaters in the United States alone, and resurrecting a few acting careers in the process. Here are some things you might not have known about the comedy classic on its 40th anniversary.

1. Airplane! was almost a direct parody of the 1957 movie Zero Hour!

Shorewood, Wisconsin childhood friends Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker grew up and moved to Los Angeles, where they were responsible for the sketch comedy troupe Kentucky Fried Theater. The trio made a habit of recording late-night television, looking for commercials to make fun of for their video and film parodies, which is how they discovered Zero Hour!, which also featured a protagonist named Ted Stryker (in Airplane! it's Ted Striker). In order to make sure the camera angles and lighting on Airplane! were matching those of Zero Hour!, the trio always had the movie queued up on set. Yes, the three filmmakers did buy the rights to their semi source material.

2. Universal thought Airplane! was too similar to their Airport franchise.

Universal released four plane disaster movies in the seventies: Airport in 1970; Airport 1975 (confusingly in 1974); Airport ‘77; and The Concorde ... Airport ‘79. Helen Reddy portrayed Sister Ruth in Airport 1975 and was game to play Sister Angelina in Airplane! before Universal stepped in and threatened to sue. Instead, the role went to Maureen McGovern, who sang the Oscar-winning theme songs to The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno—two movies that were also “disaster” movies, albeit ones not involving a plane.

3. David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver, and other future stars auditioned for Airplane!

In early conversations regarding Airplane!, Paramount Studios suggested Dom DeLuise for what would eventually become Leslie Nielsen’s role, and Barry Manilow for the role of Ted Striker, but they were never asked to audition.

4. Chevy Chase was mistakenly announced as the star of Airplane!.

Chevy Chase was erroneously announced as the star of Airplane! in a 1979 news item in The Hollywood Reporter.

5. The role of Roger Murdock was written with Pete Rose in mind.

Pete Rose was busy playing baseball when Airplane! was shot in August, so they cast Kareem Abdul-Jabbar instead.

6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got a pretty swanky carpet out of his Airplane! gig.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, and Rossie Harris in Airplane! (1980)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rossie Harris, and Peter Graves in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s agent insisted on an extra $5000 to the original offer of a $30,000 salary so that the basketball legend could purchase an oriental rug he'd had his eye on.

7. Peter Graves thought the Airplane! script was "tasteless trash."

Peter Graves eventually found the humor in the film, including the pedophilia jokes, and agreed to play Captain Oveur. Graves's wife was glad he took the role; she laughed throughout the premiere screening.

8. No, the child actor playing young Joey didn't know what Peter Graves was actually saying.

Rossie Harris was only 9 years old when he played the role of Joey, so did not understand the humor in Turkish prisons, gladiator movies, or any of Oveur’s other comments. But by the time he turned 10 and saw the movie, Harris had apparently figured it out.

9. Airplane! marked Ethel Merman's final film appearance.

"The undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage” played a disturbed soldier who believed he was Ethel Merman. Merman passed away in 1984.

10. Michael Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul was in Airplane!.

Jonathan Banks plays air traffic controller Gunderson.

11. Airplane!'s three-director setup caused legal problems.

The Directors Guild of America ruled that Abrahams and the two Zuckers couldn’t all be credited for directing a movie, nor be credited under the single “fictitious name of Abrahams N. Zuckers.” A DGA rep was on set to make sure that only Jerry Zucker spoke to the actors. What he saw was Jerry Zucker next to the camera, who would then go to a nearby trailer where the other two were watching the takes on a video feed, and come back to give notes to the actors after conferring with his partners. A DGA executive board eventually gave the three one-time rights to all share the credit.

12. A BIT ABOUT BLIND POLISH AIRLINE PILOTS WAS WRITTEN AND FILMED.

Blind singer José Feliciano, and lookalikes of blind singers Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, played Polish airline co-pilots. The Polish-American League protested, and it was determined by the writer-directors that the idea wasn’t funny enough to stay in the movie.

13. Robert Hays was starring in a TV show at the same time he was filming Airplane!

Robert Hays, the actor who played Ted Striker, had to race back and forth between the sets of Angie and Airplane! for two very busy weeks. The theme song to Angie was performed by the one and only Maureen McGovern.

14. Robert Hays was—and is—a licensed pilot.

He can even fly the ones with four engines.

15. Leslie Nielsen had a lot of fun with his fart machine.

Leslie Nielsen sold portable fart machines for $7 apiece on set, causing a brief epidemic of fart noises emanating from most of the cast and crew and delaying production. When they were shooting Hays’s close-up, Nielsen used the machine after every other word of his line, “Mr. Striker, can you land this plane?”

16. Stephen Stucker came up with all of Johnny's lines.

Lloyd Bridges and Stephen Stucker in Airplane! (1980)
Stephen Stucker and Lloyd Bridges in Airplane! (1980).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Stephen Stucker was a member of the Kentucky Fried Theater. His line “Me John, Big Tree” was part of an old riff he used to do, which continued with him going down on his knees and putting an ear to the ground to hear when a wagon train was arriving.

17. The original rough cut of Airplane! was 115 minutes long.

After screenings at three college campuses and two theaters, the film was cut down to 88 minutes.