Published October 13, 2009
The sudden departure of Dick Cook as head of Disney Studios shocked a lot of people — among them, Johnny Depp, who credits Cook for getting him onboard the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise before there was even a script for the first movie (a practically unheard-of feat in Hollywood). The executive shuffle at the Mouse House left Depp with a self-proclaimed "crack in [his] enthusiasm," making some wonder if Captain Jack Sparrow will set sail after "Pirates" film number four.
We were relieved to hear that if Depp doesn't return, neither will Captain Jack. Instead, Sparrow will be replaced by a new sea captain. For a moment we thought producers might pull a "Bewitched" move and just swap out one actor for another in the same role. That's happened more often than you'd think in Hollywood, with varying degrees of success. Here are some of Tinseltown's most notorious attempts at moving on with replacement actors.
Darrin Stephens on "Bewitched"
In perhaps the best-known TV swap-out of all time, Dick Sargent stepped into Darrin Stephens' shoes in the sixth season of "Bewitched." He replaced Dick York, who had been on the show since its inception in 1964. Everybody knows it happened, but few remember the reason why. Turns out that York had suffered a serious back injury on the set of the movie "They Came to Cordura." The related physical problems persisted for a very long time. To accommodate his health issues, "Bewitched" producers had scripts written so that Darrin would, for some reason or another, be in bed or on the couch for entire episodes of the witchy sitcom. But the ongoing pain became too much for the actor, and one day York collapsed on the set. He was forced to resign from his hospital bed, and Sargent was hired to take his place.
Tony in "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
Following the unexpected and untimely death of Heath Ledger, director Terry Gilliam found himself with an incomplete film, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus." Wanting to honor Heath by seeing the project through and allowing the world to view Ledger's final role, Gilliam turned to a few friends to help him pull off the seemingly impossible. In perhaps the oddest case of replacement stars ever, the unconventional director hired three actors to finish Heath's performance. So when you finally get a chance to see "Parnassus" (it's due out in the U.S. on Christmas day), you will see Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell all playing the same part in one film. Only Gilliam could pull that off.
The Faces of Bond, James Bond
Perhaps no character has been played by more actors than James Bond. And what a wide variety of men have taken on the part over the decades-long run of the franchise: the ruggedly handsome Sean Connery, the cocky George Lazenby, the sophisticated David Niven, the suave Roger Moore, the forgettable Timothy Dalton, the charming Pierce Brosnan, and the ultra-cool Daniel Craig. Fans may never agree about who did Bond best, but as far as we're concerned, nobody does it better than Roger Moore.
Jan Brady in the "Brady Bunch Variety Show"
Imagine "The Brady Bunch" without Eve Plumb as Jan. Her whiny despair became the voice of teen angst for generations of middle children. But when the cast of the original series was asked to reunite for a variety show in 1977, Plumb decided not to reprise her role. That might not seem like a big deal, but the charm of "The Brady Bunch Hour" was that the stars actually appeared as their original characters from the series — as if the Bradys were the cast of the variety show, not the actors who played them. But at the time, Plumb was riding high on her post-"Brady" solo career, with such hits as the TV special "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway," and she declined the offer to participate. She was replaced by Geri Reischl, most commonly known to TV fanatics as Fake Jan. Her reign as Marcia and Cindy's sister didn't last long. The variety show was canceled after nine episodes, and Eve returned for the follow-ups: "The Brady Girls Get Married," "The Brady Brides," "A Very Brady Christmas," and "The Bradys."
The Men of Steel Who Played Superman
For a while, if you believed in "The Superman" curse, taking the job of the all-American superhero seemed like risky business. The original Superman, Kirk Alyn, never worked again after playing the role in movie serials in the '40s; the first TV Metropolis Marvel, George Reeves, died of a gunshot wound ruled a suicide but still debated as murder by conspiracy theorists; and, of course, the most famous Last Son of Krypton, Christopher Reeve, suffered a riding accident that paralyzed him, and he later died of heart failure at age 52. But the dark legacy didn't stop Dean Cain from taking the role in TV's "Lois and Clark," Tom Welling from playing the part in "Smallville," or Brandon Routh from donning the suit in the big-screen "Superman Returns."
The Voice of Barney Rubble
Ever wonder why there are a few episodes of "The Flintstones" where Barney Rubble sounds funky? It's not a subtle difference, and it's really distracting. Well, in 1961 legendary voice-over actor Mel Blanc almost died in a car accident while driving on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. After coming out of a three-week-long coma, Blanc reportedly went through a spell where he only answered his doctors if he was addressed as Bugs Bunny (Mel's most famous character). During that time, Daws Butler voiced the Rubble role. No slouch himself, Daws is best known as the voice of Yogi Bear and Snagglepuss. But, we're sorry — he just wasn't Mel Blanc. Producers must have thought so too. Once Mel was released from the hospital, they set up recording equipment at his home so he could immediately get back to work.
The Many Men Behind Batman
If you like your Batman with a little camp, no one is ever going to replace Adam West as your all-time favorite Caped Crusader. If you prefer a more brooding Dark Knight, then clearly Christian Bale is your man. I think we can all dismiss Val Kilmer and George Clooney (who joked that he almost killed the franchise) as mediocre Masked Manhunters. And while we know many will disagree, we will always love the subtle humor and roguish charm of Michael Keaton as Gotham's favorite son.
Chris Partridge on "The Partridge Family"
Depending on who you believe, the original Chris Partridge (aka Jeremy Gelbwaks) either quit so he could move to Virginia with his family for work or was fired (because he was a precocious kid who used to kick David Cassidy under the table OR because his mom was an overbearing stage parent). We weren't there, so we can't be sure. What we do know is this: It would be a total bummer to lose your job at age 10, only to be replaced by another forgettable young child actor. Sorry, Brian Forster, we don't blame you. Chris Partridge was not a meaty role, and we can only imagine how hard it must have been to steal the spotlight from Cassidy and Danny Bonaduce.
Albus Dumbledore in "Harry Potter"
You'd think that with the big old beard and flowing hair, you couldn't really tell who was playing Albus Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter" movies, but we were saddened when Richard Harris, the original actor behind the 112-year-old professor, died after "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" was released. We know that the average 11-year-old might not notice the difference between Richard Harris and Michael Gambon, his replacement in the subsequent films, but Harris will always be the best headmaster in our hearts.
Gladys Kravitz on "Bewitched"
"Bewitched" also had a second, less frequently discussed mid-series cast replacement. Sandra Gould took over the role of nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz from the role's originator, Alice Pearce. Pearce lost her battle with ovarian cancer during the show's second season and passed away at age 48.
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