There have been often instances in cinema history where the same characters were played by different actors. Art is often incomparable, but for this article we will have some fun and list down 10 characters played by different actors and pick the best out of them.
1. Bruce Banner/ Hulk
In 2003, Universal Pictures produced the origin story of Hulk, one of the most active Marvel Comic characters with Bana, who had proved his skills in ‘Chopper’ and ‘Black Hawk Down’, starring as the scientist with anger management issues. The Ang Lee directed venture was shyer and quiet take on the character with Eric playing the role with great conviction. He portrayed a more concerned Dr. Banner who is scared of his alter ego Hulk and with no memories of what he does after turning into the monstrous being. Eric’s performance was well received, bagging him ‘Troy’ the following year; however studio’s plans for any sequels were shelved due to poor results.
Norton was cast for the role in the reboot ‘The Incredible Hulk’ serving as MCU’s second installment. Norton’s version of Banner seemed more of a legitimate scientist than Bana’s. He’s active, smart and intelligent. He knows what he’s going through and tries to search for a cure. Being Hulk, he’s impassive and angry simultaneously shows great deal of emotions for the woman he loves. Norton’s Hulk had a darker, repressed nature. Norton’s casting was a good decision and his performance did establish Hulk as a major MCU character. However, he wasn’t brought back due to differences with the studio.
Ruffalo began his role with ;The Avengers’. While Norton was a great choice for the role, Ruffalo, unexpectedly proved to be the best actor ever cast for the role of Hulk. Mark’s version of Banner (continuing the Norton’s version) is really charismatic. He now actually accepts his alter ego and lives with him in the same body. His performance seemed like he was made for the character and he perfectly synchronized the nature of both Banner and Hulk with one another. Furthermore, the face-mapping and CGI capture of Ruffalo (which he provided himself) with Hulk was so great that you don’t lose the actor’s presence in the graphical imagery. Ruffalo became the first actor to actually play the character in more than one film.
WINNER: Mark Ruffalo
2. Sherlock Holmes
Although the character is played by more than 70 actors in over 200 Films/TV Series/Plays/Voice-overs, the two most recent portrayals of the character received maximum prominence. So here we go,
Robert Downey Jr.:
RDJ portrayed the titular detective in Guy Ritchie’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’. Though the character was initially intended to be portrayed as young and “still” learning, later Downey was cast due to his flawless English accent despite being an American. Downey has got all the quirkiness like his character and he’s as nuts as Sherlock is when comes to social life. His skinny physique that he got in for the role makes him atone the Sherlock persona very effectively, so does his co-ordination with his co-actor Jude Law. As per Guy Ritchie’s direction, it might not be his masterpiece, but Downey’s portrayal of the detective is quite straightforward and uncomplicated which the character is. Downey’s performance earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in Musical or Comedy.
Cumberbatch portrays a young Sherlock who lives and operates in modern day London. Cumberbatch is fantastic and charismatic as the titular character. His Sherlock has alcohol and drug issues and possess a twisted sense of humor, normally disliked by people around him. His fast interpretations of situations he’s in are exceptionally remarkable and perfectly delivered by Cumberbatch in his fluent Scottish accent. His expressions are flawless and he does not miss a single detail of the character that must be portrayed on screen. Furthermore, he fits in the story’s modern take on the 1890 era of Sherlock very well and put up an awesomely miserable and mind-blowing character to watch for.
WINNER: Benedict Cumberbatch
P.S.: Special mention to Basil Rathbone who portrayed the character in 14 films during 1940s.
3. Bruce Wayne/ Batman
Keaton starred first as the caped crusader in 1989 in Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’. Keaton was, though, never a brilliant choice for Batman fans, but he played his part with a charm and brooding style that made the character extremely interesting. Problem with ‘Batman’ was that it focused on the Joker more than the titular character which was much underwritten with lesser screen time, ultimately foreshadowing his performance. However, Keaton was paired with Michelle Pfeiffer in ‘Batman Returns’ which proved to be a bigger success and established Keaton as the on screen vigilante.
With the franchise rebooted by Syncopy in 2005, a new Batman was brought on panel. Bale starred in three Batman films of ‘The Dark Knight’ Trilogy and is considered by many as the best portrayal of the character till date. Bale’s portrayal of the character was much darker than the others, and he put all his efforts in researching the character, physically and mentally. He shed and gained weight, developed a voice for the Batman persona, distinguishing himself from his alter-ego. His character is created from scratch, synchronizing his past and future perfectly in a non-chronological order. Bale earned significant recognition for the role and became the soul of Batman for fans. The thrill he creates with his voice that brings Batman to life by completely sinking into the character is a wonder to watch.
After Bale refused to drop the mantle, Warner Bros. signed Affleck to portray the caped crusader in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and for future films of the franchise that became DCEU. Ben initially faced heavy backlash from fans with an online petition demanding him to be dropped from the film. When the film hit the theaters, the only thing that people talked about was Ben and Batman. His version came straight out of comic books and was well received by fans. In fact, he was the best thing about the film. Everything from his suit to armor and his fight sequences. His concern for his city now extended to the entire world and Ben shows it off really well. His years of experience as Batman and the death of his loved ones (Robin), which one can notice in every scene of Ben with Jeremy Irons, haunt him. Ben did great justice to the character and proved to be the perfect choice for the role
WINNER: Ben Affleck
P.S.:Apart from the above mentioned actors, Batman was portrayed by Adam West (1967), Val Kilmer, George Clooney and also David Mazouz. Not to forget, Kevin Conroy (who voiced the character in multiple animated series and films). Armie Hammer was cast for ‘Justice League: Mortal’which was shelved before production started.
4. James Bond
Narrowing down to the 3 most iconic performances:
The first face that was given to Ian Fleming’s playboy detective in feature films. Sir Sean Connery, who portrayed the character in 7 films, stayed at the top of industry in those years. He was so amazing that Ian Fleming (who was initially against Sean’s casting) created half Swiss and half Scottish heritage for Bond in his later novels as Sean was Scottish himself. The sexual charisma that Sean had completely changed Bond’s image among fans and readers. Sean’s Bond was more of a playboy than a sharp workaholic detective and wooed girls with his style. Sean’s career was heavily benefited with the portrayal that was listed at no. 3 in AFI’s 100 Years 100 Heroes & Villains.
In 1994, Brosnan became the 5th actor to take on the mantle of 007. Starting from ‘GoldenEye’, he went to star in 4 Bond movies, all blockbusters and Brosnan gaining most critical acclaim than anybody ever had for the portrayal. Brosnan’s Bond was unemotional, NOT innocent and had a great enthusiasm for the gadgets (which got really popular among kids) he uses in his fancy cars. Brosnan is a more psychologically complete detective who si quite focused on the task he’s given. He was praised for his sensitiveness and simultaneous vulnerability with the character and proved to be the perfect improvement for the franchise and studio made a hell lot of money during his tenure.
Craig was confirmed as Brosnan’s replacement in 2005 with ‘Casino Royale’ to be his first venture with the MI 6 Agent 007. Though his short height deemed him unfit for the role initially by many, ‘Casino Royale‘ became the highest grossing Bond film ever (until ‘Skyfall’ released in 2012) and everyone was left stunned. Craig’s version of Bond was portrayed as an anti-hero who has no time for non-sense. He was more of an assassin than a detective and he played it off in the most fabulous way. For the first time Bond movies were filmed in a chronological story turning Craig’s films into an individual series. Never before had the character’s dark side been so thoroughly explored and it proved to be a masterstroke. Craig’s Bond films earned more than any other film of franchise and bagged two Oscars (‘Spectre’ & ‘Skyfall’ – both Best Original Song). Craig’s final film was ‘Spectre’, after which he decided to drop the mantle for future films.
P.S.: Apart from the above mentioned actors, James Bond was also played by,
Berry Nelson (TV – First ever portrayal of character)
George Lazenby (career ending role)
WINNER: Daniel Craig
5. The Joker
Jack portrayed Batman’s arch rival in Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ alongside Michael Keaton who played Batman. Tim Burton’s movie focused on Joker prominently with larger screen time and dialogue than Batman. In a very unusual situation, audience saw the villain steal the show. He led the movie too great critical and commercial success with his terrific performance. Jack’s version was not just a maniac but a sarcastic lunatic. He is completely driven by the darkness of his obsessions. Jack’s work in the movie was a piece of pop art; he was unpredictable, mad and was straight out of the books proving a worthy inclusion in finest live action portrayals of comic books villains.
Jared is the latest actor to portray the character in a live action feature (‘Suicide Squad’). He was seemed a perfect choice after his Academy Award winning performance in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, and he was indeed. Let being a method actor researched deeply about the character, worked on his body and hair, giving him a new gangster style look and tried to remain away from his co-actors in order to sink into his personal. Leto did everything for the role to attain utmost perfection, as he was already being compared to his predecessor (which I’ll come to) and did good justice to the role. But he failed to prove it as his role was largely cut from the film and it focused hugely on rest of the cast and left him to be only a mad Romeo, not exploring his lunacy and love for chaos. Neither his enmity with Batman was explored nor his background in Arkham Asylum where his love for Harley started. Jared’s performance couldn’t create an impact, but it was never his fault.
‘The Dark Knight’ came out six months after Heath Ledger’s unfortunate demise, which many say was the reason his role was given an extra attention and fan following.
Ledger’s is the most legit portrayal of the lunatic clown ever. It wasn’t his death, but what he did to create the most epic performance ever by any actor, with such audacity. Isolating himself from family, reading just Joker, writing to himself as Joker and developing the lunatic voice; these were the lengths he went to, to show us what we know of him. He’s a maniac, a torturer, a terrorist and he’s got no agenda. He’s only hell-bent on promoting and establishing chaos around the city which he loves in his own hilarious and insane way. His acting abilities in the movie places him with the likes of Marlon Brando and Robert Di Niro because he left us with something to be remembered for our whole lives.
WINNER: Heath Ledger (Undoubtedly!)
Special Mention: Cesar Romeroand Mark Hamill