Fictional characters and their performers.

I have developed a theory about whether or not the public will accept new actors/actresses in familiar roles from movies and television. The theory came to light in a discussion with some fellow Star Trek fans on the idea of having new, young actors play the parts of Kirk, Spock, et al, in a new Star Trek series; the concensus was that people would not accept the new actors in these roles. On the other hand, I note that people readily accept new actors in the role of James Bond; there have been five* actors playing Bond so far (Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan), and I’ve even heard some speculation as to who might take over the role next (Liam Neeson).

(* - I don’t count David Niven as Bond in Casino Royale as that was a spoof played for laughs, not a real Bond film.)

Anyway, the theory:

People will accept new and/or different actors (and actresses) in film and television roles if the source material for the characters was in the print media. Otherwise, the public will be reluctant to accept new people in old roles.

Think about it. James Bond first appeared in the novels by Ian Fleming; people have no trouble with new people as Bond (proof: the success of the franchise). On the other hand, Star Trek’s characters first appeared in the original television series; new actors as Kirk, Spock, etc., would not be accepted by the fans.

A few other examples:

  • Addams Family. Two television series plus a cartoon show, two theatrical releases, one direct-to-video film. Original appearance: print cartoons by Charles Addams. Verdict: Accepted.
  • Superman. Two television series, a serial in the 1940’s, four movies 1978-86, and at least four cartoon series. Original appearance: Action Comics, late 1930’s. Verdict: Accepted.
  • Sherlock Holmes. A large number of movies and at least one television series. Original appearance: stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Verdict: Accepted.
  • Robin Hood. Several feature films and at least two television series. Original appearance: legendary character. Verdict: Accepted.
  • Beverly Hillbillies. Long-running tv series of the 1960’s, feature film in 1993 that did poorly. Original appearance: original tv series. Verdict: Rejected.
  • The Avengers. 1960’s British television series with cult following. Second series with one character from the old series (played by the same actor) in the 1970’s. Feature film in 1998 that was a major stinker. Original appearance: original 1960’s tv series. Verdict: Rejected.

Anyone have other examples to test the theory?

Well, with Ed Zotti playing the part of Cec…

[this post censored by all that is good and holy]

“Casablanca” Source: Stage Play

Humphrey Bogart … Richard “Rick” Blaine
Ingrid Bergman … Ilsa Lund Laszlo
Paul Henreid … Victor Laszlo
Claude Rains … Captain Louis Renault
Conrad Veidt … Major Heinrich Strasser
Sydney Greenstreet … Senor Ferrari
Peter Lorre … Ugarte
Dooley Wilson … Sam

Remake with new actors? (snicker) Nope.

My theory: The reason people accept all the new Bond’s, but wouldn’t accept Kirk, is because James Bond was invented in the books, so by nature, the mental image everyone has of him is just that: mental. But with Star Trek: TOS, Kirk is Shatner. All the character development was made through Shatner. If you were to get another actor to play Kirk, he’d also be playing Shatner at the same time.

On that note, other characters that won’t be very interchangeable:

Luke Skywalker: Well, any of the Star Wars main characters. Unless they placed any new movies several years after ROTJ ::cough cough Thrawn series! cough cough::

Ellen Ripley: Again, this is a character that was really extensively-developed by Sigourney Weaver, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who can do it right.

The Terminator: They can get any ol’ chiseled action-man to play this, but only Schwarzennegar can bring that ominousness to the character. And besides, nobody (except maybe Jesse Ventura) looks as cool holding a minigun.

By the way… is “ominousness” a word?

The masses will accept new actors in old characters if the material is good enough.

The 2 examples in the Op (the Avengers and the Beverly Hillbillies) were so badly done that the masses would have rejected them even if they had been original works.

Success: The Fugitive, very well done
The Brady Bunch, played well as parody
Failure: The Flintstones…stupid
My Favorite Martian…stupid
The Saint…stupid

Another one that fits the theory, since a stage
play is not print media. BTW, I didn’t know it
was from a stage play… :slight_smile:

Unless Dr. Who was a book first, I think this venerable British series is contrary to the theory about print media. Seven actors played the titular role during the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The changes, I think, not only didn’t damage the series, but enhanced it, because it gave the series a chance to reinvent itself every few years.

More print sources where several actors have played the roles successfully:
Hamlet (and other Shakespeare characters)

TV source where only one actor works:
Ginger Grant (the one that played her in the movies just didn’t work; it had to be Tina Louise)

I agree generally with the theory that people who form their own conception of a character from print are then more ready to accept substitutes, as opposed to an initial film appearence.

But I consider that the quality of the production also matters. The Modesty Blaise books were reasonably popular, but the 60’s film (starring Monica Vitti, I think) was not very good and no sequel has been tried.

Dr. Who caught the imagination of the English, but here the new actors were introduced as part of the plot(Dr. Who ‘dies’, then ‘regenerates’).

Lazenby was too wooden as Bond, but the films also had good stunts and were popular, so they kept making them with any tall, dark, handsome actor…

Another one I gotta go with is Spenser.

Robert B. Parker has been writing this series for a quarter of a century now. Spenser has been developed to the point where a definite mental image exists.

That said, in the audiovisual media, the character Spenser has been portrayed by at least three actors: Robert Urich in the TV show Spenser: For Hire, Burt Reynolds in at least one audiobook, and Joe Mantegna in the A&E movies. Because of the development of the character, however, none of these really ring true.

I suppose most of the problem is that Spenser is a mental image, and no actor exists who can play all aspects of the character as they are in the books.



There is, however, a difference between the examples cited in the OP and Star Trek. To wit,

  • There is a huge rabid fan base out there who would reject imitations *.

There may have been some fans of the Addams Family, but I would hardly call it a huge active fan base.

There may have been some Superman fans out there, but there were few Superman conventions that I know of.

There are many Sherlock Holmes fans. Holmes, however, did not start with an “image,” as it was a written character. Kirk, Spock, etc. were all introduced to us with faces and looks that would be hard to ignore now. Ditto with Robin Hood (even though he was historical, he came down to us through writing, with no picture of him surviving).

That could, also, be the reason why the Beverly Hillbillies and Avengers movies did so poorly. These characters were introduced to us by the actors and it would be very hard to get used to new ones.

Zev Steinhardt

I’m not sure that counts, since it’s part of the character that he regenerates every so often, thus explaining the changes in actor over the years. And it’s all still one series.

OTOH, would we accept a Doctor Who with some other actor wearing Tom Baker’s floppy hat and extra-long scarf, playing the Doctor the way Tom Baker’s Doctor was written? With some other actress as Sarah Jane Smith? That’s not part of the previous series’ continuity? I doubt it. :slight_smile:

Perhaps not, but there have been a number of comic-book conventions. I’ve been to a couple.

Which was, in effect, my original point. :slight_smile:

[justifying GQ hijack]
IMHO … I agree with everyone so far.
[/justifying GQ hijack]

Now for the hijack - Does anyone know if the idea of Doctor Who regenerating as a different looking person was part of the original idea, or whether it was used later to justify changing actors when the first doctor didn’t work out?


ps - how about the opposite scenario: Blackadder, where the same actor plays several connected characters (in different time frames)?

I don’t know for sure if there were original plans to replace Dr. Who, but I doubt it:

  • William Hartnell (the first actor) played the part for several years

  • they didn’t know it would be such a hit (the sets were pretty tacky, and there were practically no special effects)

Although Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith were good, I still have a preference for Lalla Ward (and so did Tom, because he married her!)

IIRC, “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” (the name of the play) was never produced (or released for publication), so its first incarnation was on the screen. And one could argue that Caboblanco with Charles Bronson and Havana with Robert Redford have enough similarities to be loose remakes (though the names have been changed to protect the innocent)

IIRC, “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” was produced, but was not successful. “Casablanca” was so different by the time it finished post-production that there was very little resemblance to the original play.

As for the OP, it appears to be a sound theory. I can come up with a few exceptions, as when movies that became classics based on written sources were remade, but flopped. “Wuthering Heights” comes to mind. I think most people will always see Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy. The Ralph Fiennes remake was excellent, but no one would have dared to release it theatrically (at least not in the US). Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in “Gone With The Wind” is another, and Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”.

For me personally, no-one should have played Rupert of Hentzau(sp?) or Captain Nemo after James Mason.

My prayers ascend to the heavens:
“Please, please, get the real Red Dwarf cast for the movie!”

Which reminds me of something else: most RD fans prefer the second Kryten to the first. What does that say?

Stephen King once said that once a particular actor plays a part really well you are stuck(for good or ill) with that person in your mind, even if you go back and read a book the movie or TV show was based on. As an example he asked if anyone could imagine anyone ELSE but Jack Nicholson in his role in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

That said, in answer to actors who might plays characters in his book The Stand(this was before the miniseries) he said he thought Robert Duvall would make a splendid Randall Flagg. So now if I read the book or watch the miniseries I see BOTH actors when that character is up.

That the first Kryten appeared only in 1 episode - so the veiwers got used to Robert Llewellan (SP?), not him; the makeup was bad - making him unpleasant to look at; and his voice was frighteningly bad.