1:00 PM EDT, September 5, 2013
Casting a big movie, as Thomas Edison might've said under different career circumstances, is one percent satisfaction and 99 percent aggravation. And the general public is right 100 percent of the time.
Take Ben Affleck, or as the general public cried out as one recently, upon hearing Affleck was named the next movie Batman: Take Ben Affleck. Please.
Seconds after Warner Bros. released news of the casting of the "Man of Steel" follow-up, to feature both Superman and Batman, wild-eyed interested parties also known as "fans" freaked out all over Twitter and up and down Facebook and elsewhere online. The hashtag #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck trended upward toward the stratosphere, and many suggested Ryan Gosling for the role instead. (If people had trouble hearing Christian Bale enunciate in that mask, what chance would Gosling have?)
Then, in Affleck's defense, "Avengers" director Joss Whedon came a-tweeting: "Affleck'll crush it. He's got the chops, he's got the chin. Now he just needs the material."
The general public has an apparently fixed notion of Batman and who should play him. It's the same deal with "Fifty Shades of Grey," the global publishing phenomenon about a young woman, a young man and various sadomasochistic and whipsy-chainsy scenarios. Casting for the film version of E.L. James' trilogy was confirmed over Labor Day weekend. And the general public knows they got it all wrong. Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam? The trilogy's sunk. As Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Passionate fans have been in a fury, directing rage-filled tweets at author E.L. James and film producer Dana Brunetti and starting a petition lobbying for 'White Collar' star Matt Bomer and 'Mad Men''s Alexis Bledel to replace the duo as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele."
On change.org, a petition to recall the "Fifty Shades" casting reached 40,000 signatures as of Thursday. In part it reads: "Matt Bomer is the PERFECT DESCRIPTION OF CHRISTIAN GREY AND ALEXIS BLEDEL IS THE PERFECT ACTRESS TO REPRESENT ANASTASIA STEELE and if THEY ARE NOT, NOBODY WILL BE And I read the whole trilogy and I can assure that Matt is the perfect actor for this movie and Alexis too. So please PLEASE, all of the GREYsessed and Bomerettes in the world NEED those actors. They always will be for us the Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. WE CAN DO ANYTHING GUYS, ANYTHING."
Producer Brunetti came back with this: "There is a lot that goes into casting that isn't just looks. Talent, availability, their desire to do it, chemistry with other actor, etc.," To the anti-fans she wrote: "If your favorite wasn't cast, then it is most likely due to something on that list. Keep that in mind while hating and keep perspective."
Remember when Daniel Craig was announced for James Bond? That didn't go well with the general public. Craig didn't look the way Ian Fleming described Bond, and he seemed surly, more like a soccer hooligan. Also he wasn't well-known and therefore suspect. And then "Casino Royale" came out and the general public declared a change of heart.
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind"? Ridiculous. Thirty-one actresses reportedly screen-tested for the 1939 picture. Eventually it came down to Leigh and Paulette Goddard. The general public knew Goddard far better. David O. Selznick went the other way, and it worked out.
People can't help it: They feel proprietary about characters they feel they know going in. But people can be reminded of the virtues of waiting and seeing. Wait for the movie to get made, and released. And then see it.
That's a fine time to form an opinion about who's playing whom.
If the general public was in charge of all casting, Ryan Gosling would be playing Batman and Superman and both leads in "Fifty Shades of Grey."
Each Friday in September, Michael Phillips hosts "Friday Night Spotlight" on Turner Classic Movies.
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