I finally got around to watching The Leopard the other day. For some time now and right up until the viewing, I couldn’t wrap my head around how Burt Lancaster, one of the quintessential American tough guys, was cast as an Italian Aristocrat – which on paper has to be one of the greatest miscast’s of all time (I understand he was cast for financing, but either way). That said, upon completion of the film, I found Lancaster’s performance not only the stand-out of the film, but one of the great film performances I’ve ever seen. The last hour of the film in the ballroom sequence was especially otherworldy, you FEEL that melancholy, that nostalghia, that time-has-passed realization that Lancaster feels, and mostly all just through his mannerisms, looks, and gravitas. A truly memorable performance.
A very interesting topic.
I must confess I haven’t gotten to “The Leopard”, but I do find myself becoming a Burt Lancaster fan with each film of his I see.
When I think of a great “mis-cast” performance, I think of James Stewart in “Rope”, which is a film he himself felt he was mis-cast in. Indeed, it’s hard to think of James Stewart as a follower of Nietzsche, as well as someone who can speak so humorously about death and murder. But, I think it made the film all the more interesting and he plays it all perfectly. I’ve always felt Hitchcock brought out the best in Stewart.
Charles Bronson gives a great subtle and warm turn in Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner
also Jack Nicholson dials it way down in About Schmidt. And Dan Ackroyd makes a convincing romantic rival in Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
I would have to say that the little girl in Burnt By the Sun was terribly miscast. There is no way that this little blonde haired girl could have been Mikhalkov’s daughter, and yet somehow she pulled it off amazingly.
Dennis, spot on about Nicholson in About Schmidt.
Brando in Last Tango.
To think that the director wanted Jean-Louis Trintignant and he wasn"t available…
“oh, he’s not available? Hmm… Well, I’ll ask Marlon Brando instead then.”
There is no way that this little blonde haired girl could have been Mikhalkov’s daughter, and yet somehow she pulled it off amazingly.
I can only assume you mean this with an ironic wink, as the girl actually was his daughter.
Harvey Keitel in The Duelists; he was excellent in the movie. despite him still having his New York accent during the Napoleonic Wars
Well, if the performance is great, maybe the actor wasn’t miscast. For example, I think of John Travolta in Primary Colors. Then again, I wouldn’t say that Travolta’s performance was great—just that he worked real well in that role. Maybe this is a different situation?
Nicholson didn’t work for me in About Schmidt because I didn’t think he overcome his super-confident, cocky film persona. (I just didn’t buy him as this hen-pecked husband.)
Willem Dafoe as Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ. He’s always been bug-eyed bat-shit crazy, and somehow he managed to play Jesus better than anyone else. Kind of shocking, if you ask me.
Definitely agree about Lancaster in The Leopard. An amazing performance. And somehow Stewart never bothered me in Rope, simply because he gave it a star polish and at the time, that’s all they were looking for.
My choice would be James Mason in Julius Caesar. He’s just too damn suave to be entirely believable as the tortured Brutus. Plus, he’s between the gigantic performances of Brando and Gielgud. However, Mason still makes his character incredible moving. He rises above his miscasting. I don’t think Mason ever gave a bad performance.
Lassie in THE COURAGE OF LASSIE (1946). Lassie as a traumatized war vet? A hardened killer of chickens? C’mon! But, damned if she didn’t pull it off.
Mel Gibson as Hamlet. Too old, too Australian-American. But he handled the Dane’s seething self-loathing with aplomb.
Alright, I’m going to go popular with this one. I’d say Tom Cruise as Lestat in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. I was pretty pissed when I heard about this casting because I’ve always hated Tom Cruise since I was 7 watching TOP GUN up through his million other roles playing cocky young guys coming up in the world, clenching their jaws and running somewhere – but he was pretty amazing in the part completely unlike his persona.
Also, Julia Roberts in CLOSER. I won’t speculate whether original choice Cate Blanchett would have better, probably so. However, Julia Roberts – usually a solid actress but not great – was damn good. Better than Jude Law for sure. And her brassy Americanness added a different, slightly more assertive dimension to the part.
Meg Ryan in IN THE CUT. Ok, this movie is not good. It certainly didn’t make the transition well from book to film even with Jane Campion directing. The feminist message is muddled and the changed ending is bewildering and pointless. However I was quite impressed with Meg Ryan going out of her comfort zone and giving a gutsy performance sans vanity and cuteness.
I think why we may see Julia Roberts as miscast in Closer is because she never had been in something like that in the past (or since), and we just don’t see her in that kind of film, which I think makes the casting great because we come in with a certain view of Roberts, preconceived notions, and then she turns in the role she did.
I think Tobey Maguire was completely miscast in Ride with the Devil, but he was not bad in the role, I just couldn’t believe in him.
Mel was about the right age for Hamlet, 34 when he did the role, Hamlet was 30 ish. I loved his Hamlet, the world was not so aware then of his manic streak which really served him so well in that role. Was just reading about his father Hutton Gibson in Wiki – interesting!
Leo was remarkably miscast in Avator looking way too boyish but gave it a pretty good shake against the odds I thought.
Was interested in comments here about The Leopard as I have kind of put off watching it for that very reason… a perception I had that Lancaster just wasn’t going to be able to convince even though he has risen to the occasion in anything i;ve seen him in. Have it here and will watch it now…Saw him in The Swimmer recently, fascinating movie – recommended.:):)
What about miscast animals?
John Malkovich in “Dangerous Liaisons.” He doesn’t come to my mind as an obvious choice for an amoral womanizer. And yet he ran away with the film.
Good call Howard. Malkovich was a wise but unexpected choice given his character’s more intellectualized approach to seduction. A standard Hollywood pretty boy would have undermined the fascination his character has for the women in the film as well as the audience. Glenn Close was also perhaps a bit unexpected in her role as a seductress, but as a match for Malkovich she was great.
Oh, and I also think Lancaster is excellent in The Leopard, in fact I think he does the aged nobilty thing better than he often did his handsome leading man schtick. That enormous toothy grin of his always gave me pause when considering him as a dashing heartbreaker. It always seemed a little too forced for my tastes.
I think Lancaster aged magnificently. Once he finally hit his stride, he barely made a false step.
His performances in “Atlantic City,” “1900,” “Cattle Annie and Little Britches” and “Local Hero” attest to this.
His imperial presence does the work.