Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. I seem to recall a twinge of dreadÂ when I heard the news seven years or so ago that he would be the new Spider-Man'but now I can’t imagine anyone else in the part. It wasn’t that I hadÂ pre-existing ideas about Spider-Man; I had pre-existing ideas aboutÂ Maguire. As big a fan as I’ve always been of his, I couldn’tÂ see him and his adorable nerdiness as, you know, superhero material.
Multiple viewings of Sam Raimi’s first two PeterÂ Parker adventures have endeared Maguire’s shyÂ superguy to me, and I’ll watch ’em again to prepare my geeky heartÂ for Spider-Man 3, opening next week. But my change of heart about Maguire made me stop to consider howÂ deeply one of the most basic aspects of a filmed adaptation of comicsÂ or novels'casting'can impact our enjoyment of a movie.
Take the Harry Potter movie series. Casting the first film'finding just theÂ right kids to portray characters readers instantly fell in love withÂ and would insist could not deviate one iota from the written word'must have been a nightmare for the creative team. But while early word was that the producers assumed they’d have toÂ recast the kids somewhere down the line, fans now will have none of it. The suspense weÂ suffered through this spring'when Rupert Grint and Emma WatsonÂ seemed to be waffling on returning for the end of the series as Ron and Hermione, respectively'wasÂ torture. Relax: Everyone’s now committed to the remaining films.
DVD has done this to us. It’s one thing to watch a film in a theaterÂ a dozen times but quite another to bring it into your home. We’re cozy with Radcliffe as Harry now notÂ just because we’ve watched him grow from a boy into a young man but because we’ve watched him do that on our TVs; why, we might as well beÂ watching home videos of our own kids. We develop much more intimate relationships withÂ characters'and the actors who play them'when we meet them inÂ our pajamas curled up on our sofas than we do in a public multiplex.
Maybe that’s why Eric Bana as the alter-ego of The Hulk failed to connect with audiences in 2003. Not that there’s anything wrong with Bana, a wonderfully dedicated performer, and not that there wasn’tÂ something about the art-house vibe of Ang Lee’s film that turned offÂ action-movie nerds. I simply can’t help but wonder whether my Gen-XÂ peers and I, who grew up watching the very different Bill Bixby on TVÂ wander the byroads of America helping people by Hulking out, didn’t find the film a bit off'even if the series itself was only half-remembered. For the record, I love Lee’s film and heartilyÂ recommend it, but Bana and Bixby couldn’t be more different'whichÂ you can confirm for yourself again, since the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV series is nowÂ available on DVD.
Perhaps the best evidence for the argument that characters we meet onÂ TV make us feel warmer, fuzzier and more attached to them isÂ the fact that the best and most successful example of casting andÂ re-casting is a television show that’s made a point of dealing with the reality that actors need to move on.Â The British series Doctor Who has built into its foundationsÂ since almost its 1963 beginning an escape hatch'a way to switch outÂ the lead actor and continue merrily along its way. David Tennant, theÂ current Doctor, is the 10th actor to play the part'the 11th, if youÂ count the two 1960s British spinoff movies, though most fans don’t'andÂ the show has never been better. Don’t believe me? Episodes fromÂ throughout the show’s run are available'you guessed it'on DVD.