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7 biggest casting backlashes – from Chris Pratt to Ben Affleck

Several actors have been on the receiving end of audience criticism.

Ben Affleck, Batman, Justice League, Bruce Wayne
Published: Tuesday, 2nd November 2021 at 4:50 pm

Chris Pratt has come under fire on two occasions in the last month after joining high-profile animated movies, the first being an adaptation of the Super Mario video games and the second a reboot of the Garfield franchise.


Fans have argued that the Guardians of the Galaxy star is not a particularly good fit for either role, expressing disappointment that more exciting, out-of-the-box casting hadn't been pursued.

This is not the first time an actor has found themselves in hot water for taking on a project that movie buffs deem inappropriate and it surely won't be the last.

We've rounded up some of the biggest casting controversies to rock Hollywood in recent years, ranging from weak adaptations and divisive reboots to poorly-conceived historical dramas.

In some cases, fans were pleasantly surprised by the finished product, while others turned out just as bad as feared, but it's important to note that instances of online trolling and bullying are always inexcusable.

Chris Pratt in Super Mario/Garfield

Chris Pratt will star in the Super Mario movie
Getty/Frazer Harrison/Nintendo

Once the golden child of Hollywood, Chris Pratt seems to be suffering the effect of overexposure at the moment, as his casting in two major new animated projects provoked a collective eye-roll from most across social media.

The actor, who hails from Virginia, United States, seemed a strange choice to play Super Mario, an Italian plumber who has served as Nintendo's primary mascot since the 1980s, in Illumination's upcoming film adaptation.

Some had felt that voice actor Charles Martinet, who has played the character for decades in the games, should have been given the gig, while others thought a more inspired alternative could have been found.

It's unfortunate timing that mere weeks after this backlash, he was also confirmed to be voicing Garfield in an upcoming reboot of the children's franchise, prompting a second wave of online criticism.

Controversy around Pratt has been building for some time now, with his Marvel co-stars taking to social media to defend him in October 2020, following a surge in negative comments from those disapproving of his perceived political views.

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

Scarlett Johansson drummed up quite a backlash when she took the lead role in Ghost in the Shell, a live-action remake of a popular anime following a cyborg agent named Major Motoko Kusanagi.

Most fans of the source material agreed that the role should have been given to a Japanese actress, highlighting Johansson's casting as a textbook example of "white-washing".

Mamoru Oshii, who directed the original Ghost in the Shell anime film, came out in support of Johansson, arguing that since Major uses an assumed body and name, she does not necessarily have to be portrayed by an Asian actress (via IGN).

However, the controversy loomed large over the film, both in its reviews and at the global box office, where it proved to be a box office bomb with a predicted loss of approximately $60 million.

Unperturbed, Johansson said in a 2019 interview with As If magazine that she should be able to "play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job".

The comment was made shortly after she backed out of playing a transgender character amid social media pressure.

Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

When Zack Snyder announced that Ben Affleck would be taking the role of Bruce Wayne – aka Batman – in the DC Extended Universe, fans of the comic book publisher went completely berserk.

To be fair, the actor's previous attempt at playing a superhero was 2003's Daredevil, which was panned by critics and movie-goers alike, but there was always good reason to believe that this second attempt would go better.

Affleck was in the midst of a career renaissance, having recently taken home the Academy Award for Best Picture following his work on Argo, the acclaimed thriller that he both directed and starred in.

Nevertheless, Affleck was told by his agent to stay off social media for a while after the news went public, as people made vicious comments about his suitability for the role.

The ironic thing about all this is that those same fans are now actively campaigning for Affleck to return to the cape and cowl, which he is said to be hanging up permanently after a farewell cameo in The Flash, with Snyder's canon now seemingly retired.

The entire cast of Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016) cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones
Ghostbusters cast (L-R) Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones SEAC

This was another particularly nasty case, with film fans being merciless in their tearing down of 2016's Ghostbusters reboot, which featured an all-female cast comprised of SNL alums Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones.

The trolling was relentless from the launch of the first trailer, which was hammered with 1.1 million dislikes on YouTube (effectively dwarfing its 321,000 likes), while viewers also made harsh remarks in the comments section.

The film itself saw a mixed-to-positive reception from critics, with some taking a dislike to the heavy reliance on improvisational humour and an uninspired storyline.

However, the intense bullying directed at the cast was entirely unacceptable and went far beyond reasonable criticism, with Jones being the target of racist abuse on social media.

Ultimately, the film lost $70 million at the box office, prompting Sony to return to the original continuity of the franchise with upcoming sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Christian Bale

Christian Bale was one of several white actors cast in Middle Eastern roles in Ridley Scott's biblical epic, which also starred Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul and Sigourney Weaver..

The film proved to be a bit of a disaster all-round, with critics panning its plodding pacing and weak character development, but is most remembered for being an egregious instance of "white-washing".

The controversy was stoked up further following comments from Scott himself, who defended his casting decisions and argued the film would not have been made any other way.

"I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” he told Variety. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

Alden Ehrenreich in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo and Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (Disney, HF)
Alden Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo in Solo: A Star Wars Story Disney

Stepping into the shoes of arguably Harrison Ford's most popular role is a daunting task, particularly when a Han Solo origin film was towards the bottom of every Star Wars fan's wish list.

Alden Ehrenreich proved a somewhat controversial choice given that he was a relative unknown at the time of his casting, with a supporting role in Coen Brothers movie Hail, Caesar being his biggest credit to date.

Solo: A Star Wars Story went on to be hit by a troubled shoot that saw directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller replaced midway through production, for reasons that have never been clarified to this day.

Some unconfirmed internet rumours claimed that Ehrenreich had not gelled with their style of direction, but the actor told IndieWire that he maintained a "good relationship" with the filmmaking duo post-departure.

Still, this behind-the-scenes drama paired with the backlash to Star Wars: The Last Jedi created a hostile environment for Solo to be born into, resulting in a major underperformance at the box office.

The future of Ehrenreich's younger version of Han Solo remains uncertain.

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig in 007: Casino Royale

Given that we've just bid an emotional farewell to Daniel Craig's James Bond in No Time To Die, ending a multi-billion dollar run, it's hard to believe his casting was deemed controversial when it was first announced in 2005.

But alas, many felt that the actor was not a good fit for the iconic spy role, fearing that a grittier reboot would veer too far from Ian Fleming's source material and the popular preceding films with Pierce Brosnan.

Of course, that proved not to be the case, with 2006's Casino Royale being one of the most acclaimed Bond films of all-time and successfully giving the franchise a new lease of life.

Next year, when producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson are rumoured to announce the next James Bond, it would be worth remembering that whoever is picked deserves a fair chance before being dismissively written off.


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