Since Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson were announced as the leads for the screen adaption of the bestselling book Fifty Shades of Grey, there’s been—not surprisingly—an outcry from the novel’s diehard fans, who’ve been pitching their own favorites for the past two years.
They are so unhappy with Hunnam and Johnson’s casting that there’s even a petition to dump them and get the leads the fans want—Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel—with 31,000 signatures.
Wrote Miriam Lozano: “Matt Bomer is the only Christian Grey.”
It isn’t just fans who have strong opinions. Writer Bret Easton Ellis, who was jockeying to write the screenplay, spent seemingly countless hours on Twitter carping about why Bomer shouldn’t be the lead. He wanted James Deen. All that opining may have cost him a shot at the screenplay, as perhaps did naming his dream Christian Greys. (Alexander Skarsgard, Alex Pettyfer, and Ryan Gosling were some of his picks.)
Hunnam and Johnson shouldn’t sweat it. We’ve been here before, most recently with the announcement that Ben Affleck would be playing Batman in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman flick, directed by Zack Snyder. Affleck is replacing the critically lauded Christian Bale, who played the hero in the Christopher Nolan–directed trilogy. The new casting created several concurrent Twitter trends, #Batfleck and #Batben among them, and also sparked a petition with more than 90,000 signatures.
Though movie studios often make casting blunders, the powers that be know not to let the mob mentality take over the casting couch. Fans are almost always wrong about who should play iconic roles.
The most egregious example? The Twilight series.
In 2008, when the casting for the movie was finalized, the books were already an international sensation. The writer, Stephenie Meyer, was the biggest-selling author of 2008, selling 29 million books. That’s a lot of fans, many of them in their teens.
As soon as the Twilight movie was announced, fans and the author alike started dreaming. Meyer picked Henry Cavill as her perfect Edward, Emily Browning or Ellen Page for Bella, and the now-reviled Charlie Hunnam as Carlisle.
Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first movie, went so far as to test out Browning as Bella. “I met all the people fans suggested,” Hardwicke said later. “Some were too old, weren’t interested, or in person just weren’t right.”
After watching Kristen Stewart in the indie film Into the Wild, Hardwicke thought the young actress might be her Bella. But it wasn’t until the director had Robert Pattinson run through scenes with Stewart at her house that she knew she’d found Edward.
The chemistry was palpable, said Hardwicke. It was so hot, she told MTV, that no one would ever see the casting footage: “Oh, it’s much too dangerous. It would start riots—honestly—if we let it out there. I could not let anyone see it ... It’s pretty steamy.”
When they were booked, both Stewart and Pattinson were almost total unknowns. Unsurprisingly, the fans did not approve. Four movies and more than $3 billion in box-office receipts later, it’s safe to say the Twihards got over it.
There was a similar mob mentality with The Hunger Games. Fans of Suzanne Collins’s young-adult trilogy had strong opinions about who should play the lead role, Katniss Everdeen.
Young actresses like Malese Jow, Danielle Chuchran, and most credibly, Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld were bandied about as possibilities. Jennifer Lawrence, who eventually snagged the lead, was on nobody’s list.
When Lawrence’s casting was announced, fans whined that at 20, she was too old to play Katniss, who is 16—and some pointed out that the book’s description called for someone who might be biracial and who had an olive complexion and dark hair.
But the eventual Oscar winner was a huge success in the role. The critics and fans loved her; the film eventually grossed $639 million worldwide, with three sequels on the way.
For people with short memories, it bears repeating that nobody liked the choice of Michael Keaton, either, when he was first announced as Batman. At the time, Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan, and Charlie Sheen were floated as possibilities.
But the director Tim Burton had worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice and knew the actor could pull it off.
He told The Wall Street Journal: “Michael Keaton is basically an ordinary guy, a regular human being. I thought it would be much more interesting to take someone like that and make him into Batman.”
Critics came around, and the actor, who was not seen as sexy or mysterious, thanks to parts in movies like Mr. Mom, managed to be both.
The Batman series in general seems to inspire ire. Fans didn’t like the choice of the squeaky clean Anne Hathaway as the sultry Catwoman, but she ended up being arguably the best thing about The Dark Knight Rises.
Perhaps the greatest example of fans going haywire and being utterly wrong was in 2006, when it was announced that Aussie actor Heath Ledger was filling the shoes of Jack Nicholson, whose performance as the Joker was universally considered perfect.
A screenshot from Reddit shows a bunch of presumably grown men and women throwing epic temper tantrums.
“I am NOT seeing this movie if he is in it,” wrote one. “Heath Ledger is an embarrassment too [sic] all Australians,” wrote another.
One fan—who surely felt like a moron after the movie came out—ranted: “The Joker is deformed and histrionic. Have you ever seen anything remotely like that in a Heath Ledger performance?” Ledger went on to win a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the part.