Can I Get a Take Two?: Actor Replacements in Film Franchises

What happens when an actor takes on a character played by someone else within the same franchise? I’m not talking about reboots that completely refresh the cast (as in Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and most recently Tom Holland as Spider-Man). I’m talking about a single franchise where the film brings an entirely different actor to play the same character. For example, in the Harry Potter film series the initial actor who played Dumbledore passed away and Michael Gambon had to step in for the rest of the series. There are also The Mummy movies, where Rachel Weisz dropped out of the cast by her own volition and was replaced by another actress for the third film in the franchise. In my experience, the different Dumbledores didn’t bother me at all but to have Brendan Fraser’s character with a different woman playing his wife was confusing. How have these transitions fared for films that have replaced actors in the middle of the same series? Were they considered jarring and rejected by audiences or did they do little to affect the series as a whole? Does the nature of these replacements have an effect as well (i.e. an unprecedented event such as an actor’s death vs. an actor’s or studio’s decision)?

  • I wrote a long response that I think got erased... TLDR; The actor switch with Dumbledore suited the dark progression of the movies. The first guys was sweet and soft spoken, all about love while the second actor was full of movement, emotion and "did you put your name in the goblet harry?!" I think it was a fortunate (but unfortunate since the actor died) turn of events. In such a case, say, an actor can't fill a role right later in a franchise, better to replace them than have a sub-par rendition? – Slaidey 6 years ago
  • You make a very good point about the Dumbledore example. Michael Gambon's portrayal adds a great deal of emotional heft to the role, which is fitting for the increasingly darker tone of later Harry Potter films. It also aligns well with the change from an optimistically bright, Chris Columbus-style introduction to the Potter universe in the first film to the more melancholically heavy, David Yates-style of the final films. – aprosaicpintofpisces 6 years ago

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