A Few Good Men: If Tom Cruise and Demi Moore Switched Roles

A Few Good Men (1992) features Tom Cruise as Daniel Kaffee, a self-centered, fast-talking, egotistical…okay it features him as Tom Cruise, but in the film he plays a JAG Corps defense attorney. The film also features Demi Moore as Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway, a tough, disciplined, independent woman…okay a role she would essentially repeat for G.I. Jane (1997). However, their performances are not the problem, as much as their roles.

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The story features Galloway trying to lead a case wherein she will defend two marines charged with murder. However, because of his skills in negotiating in court, Kaffee is given the lead. While Kaffee governs their case through his charisma in court and his fluency with people, Galloway keeps their focus and maintains their determination to continue fighting for their clients.

I personally would have found the story more compelling if the cocky egotistical Kaffee had played second chair, with him not being given leadership playing into how he treated Galloway. In turn, Galloway’s discipline would have made the lead role more compelling and forceful. In the film, Kaffee is originally reluctant to take the case to trial, and if my switch took place, Kaffee might have been even more reluctant if he were not given the spotlight, and Galloway might have served a better purpose as the lead in convincing him to be more attentive and serious.

In the film, Kaffee also gives Galloway advice on how to behave in court, and how to overcome mistakes. This might have been more appropriate for him is he played the role with more experience, and would have given him more likability. It would have also been more appropriate for Galloway to make the mistakes if she were less experienced.

Though A Few Good Men remains one of my favorite films, I find it would have been even more compelling and appropriate for Galloway’s character to have been the younger lead and Kaffee to be the cocky secondary character.

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The Prestige: If Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale Switched Roles

When you think of movies with two lead roles, one of the first that comes to mind is Christopher Nolan’s magical thriller, The Prestige (2006). In the film, Hugh Jackman plays Angier, a magician who, after his wife dies, becomes obsessed with perfecting his craft and becoming the greatest magician. Standing in his way is Christian Bale’s character Borden, whose talents exceed Angeir’s but his showmanship does not. Both men are determined to outdo one another by any means necessary, and from their performances, it can be assumed that the actors felt the same way. WARNING: SPOLIERS AHEAD!

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            Bale plays Borden with reserve and dryness, making the character appear bored and uncaring much of the time to reflect that he’s happiest when performing. Jackman plays Angier as driven and charismatic, but vain and desperate for what he wants. Looking at the history of these actors, I believe switching them up might have worked out. Bale’s performance never really captivated me, but had he played Angier, I know he could have brought the desperation aspect to a stronger level than Jackman did. Likewise, Jackman is always enthralling, even when he’s playing it cool or seemingly uninterested. I’d have liked to see him take on that role instead.

The other thing to consider is the fact that the roles in this film have many layers. Borden and his twin (also played by Bale) switch up who acts as who, and when playing the twin, Bale is much more pleasant and cheerful, but still very reserved. Angier finds a look-a-like (again, also played by Jackman) who is a drunken theater actor. Bale’s over the top past performances would have translated very well to that of the drunk, and Jackman might have made the more optimistic half of Borden’s role more sincere.

The Prestige is a movie I highly recommend, even if you know the twists [which, unfortunately because of my post, you now do (sorry!)], because of the work that Bale and Jackman put into their performances. Despite that, however, I still wonder what it would have been like if they had switched roles.

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X-Men: First Class: If James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender Switched Roles

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Prequels present a lot of problems to a film series, but when they’re done right, they can reinvigorate and refresh the experience. After suffering from back to back critically hated films, the X-Men series finally saw a ray of hope in the form of X-Men: First Class (2011). Taking on the iconic roles of Professor X and Magneto, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (respectively) portray these mutant leaders as young men who begin as friends, yet inevitably end up as enemies. These young actors clearly did their job well, but could they each have done the others job equally well?

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McAvoy brings cockiness and wit to Prof. X, with a touch of the learned leader starting to develop. This characteristically makes him a show off, but with the basis of good intentions, basic wisdom, and a true hero’s heart.

Fassbender acts as a brooding, vengeful Magneto, with cynicism and the onset of sadism just starting to envelope his identity. It’s a complex role, as you find yourself rooting for Magneto as he is desperate for justice, but once he moves beyond that and the darkness takes him, Fassbender becomes a captivatingly sinister villain.

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Looking at Fassbender’s filmography, he tends to take on these dark, evil roles, and though McAvoy has had his turn in some darker roles such as Wanted (2008), each one does their job so well, it’s not worth it to change them.

As is the case with most successful movies, this is an example of casting done right. Each actor is practically tailor made for the multi-layered function of their characters, and each brings the change in identity very well. Fassbender’s menacing stance and McAvoy’s natural tenderness translate so well into Magneto and Professor X that to recast them would have led to yet another disappointing X-Men movie.

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Philadelphia: If Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington Switched Roles

Prejudice against people with HIV/AIDS is not common in Hollywood films, particularly in ones from before the new millennium. However, 1993 did give us one movie that really addressed the issue and took a hard look at how our society treats people who are homosexual or who have AIDS: Philadelphia.

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Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a lawyer unjustly fired from his job when it’s discovered that he’s gay and has AIDS. He seeks out Joe Miller, (Denzel Washington) a lawyer who, despite his prejudice against gay people, agrees to assist him as he sues for compensation. As is the purpose of this blog, I’ll examine what the movie might have been like if Hanks and Washington switched roles.

Miller is openly homophobic and takes pride in his judgmental behavior. He acts to make fun of gay people and convincingly gives an offensive act. Still, he demonstrates that beyond the cockiness and prejudice, he has the capacity to learn, and the more time he spends with Beckett, the more he realizes that his judgments were baseless.

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Hanks plays Beckett as a friendly person who greatly wants acceptance, but after the disease continues to eat away at his body, his patience with people also begins to falter. He becomes more assertive until the illness takes away his energy, at which point he becomes a scared, hurt, but still endearing character.

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Hanks proved in A League of Their Own (1992) that he can successfully portray jerks with a lot to learn, but who aren’t too far gone to be redeemed and learn to put prejudice aside. I believe he would have done well as Miller. Still, as a genuinely likeable person, Hanks’ role as Beckett serves the film very well.

Likewise, Washington could have played Beckett well. In Flight (2012) he shows us that he can play sad, hurt characters. It would have been believable to see him to portray Beckett, but Washington’s strength in playing characters with more attitude are what make his performance as Miller work so well. Philadelphia would have worked either way, in my opinion.

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Rise/Planet of the Apes: If James Franco and Andy Serkis Switched Roles

Andy Serkis has led the field of motion-capture acting ever since his phenomenal performance as Gollum in Lord of the Rings (2001-03). Since then, he has continued to see the style of acting into the future with films like King Kong (2005), The Adventures of Tintin (2011), and of course the well-received reboot of a classic sci-fi franchise: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).

Serkis plays Ceasar, a chimpanzee gifted with human-level intelligence thanks to the scientific breakthrough of Dr. Will Rodman, played by James Franco. The two develop a strong friendship which dives into resentment, and finally Ceasar steals the invention that made him smart, and creates an army of super-intelligent apes. Now, despite how great Serkis is as Ceasar, how would it have worked if he had played Will instead?

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The actor has proven through films like The Prestige (2006) that he has as much charisma in person as he does in CGI. Moreover, with his age and gruff appearance, Serkis has the image of a tired but driven man of science, whereas Franco never truly convinced me he was that character. I think it would have served the movie better if Franco had played Ceasar.

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Franco’s face, over the years, has demonstrated a lot of emotions from boredom, to excitement, to pure rage. He has the capabilities to perform great motion capture work, and with Serkis coaching him along the way, I’m sure he’d have portrayed a convincing ape. Serkis helped Mark Ruffalo prepare for his turn as the Hulk in Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), so I’m confident that he could repeat his teachings.

Rise/Apes is a very good film with a lot of passion brought out by these two actors, but it’s my opinion that they could have reached even further into the depth of talent they each possess if they had each taken the other route in making the film.

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Gladiator: If Russell Crowe and Jaoquin Pheonix Switched Roles

Russel Crowe’s acting career has been met with both praise and criticism. He enchanted us in 3:10 to Yuma (2007), but left us a little more than wanting in Les Miserables (2012). However, most agree that his academy award winning performance in Gladiator (2000) is very much on point.

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Crowe plays Maximus, a humble yet valiant general in the Roman army who is betrayed by the jealous emperor’s son, Commodus (Joaquin Pheonix). Forced into slavery, Maximus becomes a gladiator whose valiant fights in the Roman Colusseum make him a people’s champion and a symbol of defiance against Commodus. To play the role of Maximus, Crowe is quiet, strong, but not too serious or intimidating…until he grabs a sword, of course. On the field, he is a fierce fighter, but off the field, he is an almost naively optimistic man of peace and value.

The role of Commodus is a classic villainous role: Pheonix portrays him as childish, whimpering and whining when things don’t go his way, but with a dignified attempt to remain poised. His selfishness blinds him to the world around him and his faith in the power of being an emporer makes him powerless against the lower people like Maximus.

As with The Departed (2006), this is a case in which I think the roles could have gone to either actor and the film would have still been a success. Both roles require subtlety and passion; they both must restrain their inner violence until key times when it will have the most effect. Maximus screams at his audience “Are you not entertained?!” to incur their applause, and Commodus screams “Am I not merciful?!” to instill fear into his sister and ensure her obedience.

Bot performances are enthralling in their complexity and precision, and both actors do a fantastic job of balancing their conflicting characteristics

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The Shawshank Redemption: If Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins Switched Roles

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994) continues to be one of the most popular Steven King adaptations to date. The movie capitalizes on the use of its two leading actors: Morgan Freeman as Red, who narrates a story about prison life and routine, and Tim Robbins as Andy, the man who came into that prison and changed the lives of everyone therein. As is the purpose of this blog, let’s examine what it would be like if the roles of Red and Andy had been switched.

First, there’s the age of the actors to consider. At the time, Freeman was 57 at the time the movie was released, and Robbins was 36. Because of the age difference, it makes more sense that in the film, Red is older because he passes on advice and wisdom to Andy. However, in King’s original book, the two are both younger men, and Red’s knowledge comes from his time served, not his time lived. Having Andy be older than Red may not have mattered as much.

Second is appearance. Both men are scrawny, tall and not intimidating, which works for both of their positions: Red as the smuggler of goods, Andy as the scholarly financial expert. Skin color, in my opinion, would not have been much of a factor: the prison is full of white and black prisoners who serve varying roles; however, it could be argued that, since the movie takes place in the late forties, it would be less likely for Red to hold a position as high as Andy’s job.

Third is acting capabilities, and when it comes down to it, though both men are very good, it was Freeman’s signature voice as the narrator of the film that continues to hold it high in the hearts of many viewers. In the end, with such defining talent, it would have been a mistake not to use Freeman as Red and Robbins as Andy.

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