Author: Melissa Bauernfeind
Many actors are renowned for a role, a character made so famous that it’s hard to picture anyone else playing the same part. Can you see anyone but Judy Garland playing Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz?” Although the role was first offered to Shirley Temple, it’s hard to see anyone else but Garland as the recipient of ruby red slippers. Then there’s Sigourney Weaver, who gained fame for battling aliens in the films of the same name. She may not have been the first choice but it’s difficult to see anyone else playing Ellen Ripley.
There are still yet even more iconic roles in Hollywood history that, although one actor may be famous for playing, were not the first ones to bring the role to life. Many characters were played by someone else before and/or after the role became famous. (Read about actors who turned down iconic roles.)
To determine a list of different actors who have played the same character, 24/7 Tempo drew on information from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as well as rankings from other sources and media sites. This does not purport to be a definitive list. TV movies and series as well as Broadway musicals were excluded. Only movies with the same or very similar plot were considered, which is why movies from the James Bond, Star Trek, or X-Men franchises, among others, were excluded.
When you hear “Psycho,” you may only see Anthony Perkins portraying the role of Norman Bates but Vince Vaughn accepted the challenge in a reboot 38 years after the original. Rosalind Russell made many memorable film appearances, but the one she might be most famous for is her portrayal of the indomitable libertine socialite “Mame.” TV megastar Lucille Ball tried her hand at the motion-picture role 16 years later in 1974. (These are actors who are always typecast.)
Here are multiple actors who played the same role
Ann Darrow played by Fay Wray
- Movie: King Kong (1933)
Fay Wray, the original scream queen, played Ann Darrow in the first and most famous version of “King Kong.” She was told by the movie’s producers that she would star opposite “the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood.”
Ann Darrow played by Naomi Watts
- Movie: King Kong (2005)
The British actress reprised the role in 2005 in the remake directed by Peter Jackson. The reboot received a Freshness score of 84% among Rotten Tomatoes critics who hailed “state-of-the-art special effects, terrific performances, and a majestic sense of spectacle.”
Anna played by Jodie Foster
- Movie: Freaky Friday (1976)
Cinema fans may recall that in 1976 Jodie Foster starred as a child prostitute in “Taxi Driver.” That same year, she also appeared in the more family-friendly body-swapping farce “Freaky Friday.”
Anna played by Lindsay Lohan
- Movie: Freaky Friday (2003)
The 2003 version starred Lindsay Lohan as the teen who switches bodies with her mom in Disney’s second remake of the movie. It received a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 88% among critics.
Arthur Bach played by Dudley Moore
- Movie: Arthur (1981)
Dudley Moore delighted critics with his portrayal of a boozy, directionless millionaire who falls hard for a working-class girl from Queens played by Liza Minnelli. Moore’s foil is his tart-tongued butler played by John Gielgud in a role that won him a best supporting Oscar.
Arthur Bach played by Russell Brand
- Movie: Arthur (2011)
Russell Brand recreated the role of Arthur 30 years later in a film critics found charmless, giving it a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 26%. Deborah Ross of The Spectator said, “Whereas [Dudley] Moore somehow managed to make his Arthur endearing and lovable, Brand’s Arthur is puerile, infantile and hateful.”
Barbra played by Judith O’Dea
- Movie: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Judith O’Dea was the face of the humans besieged in an abandoned house by flesh-eating zombies in George A. Romero’s classic that was told in a gritty, cinéma vérité style. The movie launched a genre. The film enjoys a 96% Rotten Tomatoes Freshness rating.
Barbra played by Patricia Tallman
- Movie: Night of the Living Dead (1990)
The reboot of “Night of the Living Dead” doesn’t score quite as well as the original among Rotten Tomatoes critics who, nevertheless, gave it kudos for its unsparing gore. The new cast, including Patricia Tallman, got positive reviews from critics.
Charlie Croker played by Michael Caine
- Movie: The Italian Job (1969)
Michael Caine brought his effortless charm to the role of master criminal Charlie Croker in the original “The Italian Job,” famous for its zany car chase through Milan.
Charlie Croker played by Mark Wahlberg
- Movie: The Italian Job (2003)
Michael Caine passed the charisma baton to Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker in the reboot of “The Italian Job” which takes place mostly in Los Angeles.
Coach Morris Buttermaker played by Walter Matthau
- Movie: The Bad News Bears (1976)
Walter Matthau made a career out of playing cynical, grumpy, characters with redeeming qualities. He originated the role of Coach Morris Buttermaker, the boozing manager of a team of foul-mouthed and baseball-skill-challenged kids in “The Bad News Bears.” The movie holds a 97% Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score.
Coach Morris Buttermaker played by Billy Bob Thornton
- Movie: Bad News Bears (2005)
Critics did not think the remake replicated the profane charm of the original, though they thought Billy Bob Thornton was “lovably irascible” as Morris Buttermaker.
Conan the Barbarian played by Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Movie: Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The body-building documentary “Pumping Iron” brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the American movie-going public in 1977. Five years later, the muscled Austrian starred as Conan the Barbarian, an escaped slave seeking vengeance. Peter Stack of the San Francisco Examiner said Schwarzenegger was “good as Conan, and the film is technically splendid, especially in the long opening sequences.”
Conan the Barbarian played by Jason Momoa
- Movie: Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Critics panned the remake, saying the story and dialogue were buried by 3D effects. Russell Cook of Cinevue cited Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Conan, saying “(A) frenetic rush of energy embodied by the performance of Momoa, whose samurai training and choreographed planning of fight scenes has gone a long way to making his Conan a success.”
Danny Ocean played by Frank Sinatra
- Movie: Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
“Ocean’s Eleven,” starring Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean, was made during the peak years of Hollywood’s Rat Pack: Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. They all appeared in this caper flick about ex-Army buddies looking to knock over Las Vegas casinos.
Danny Ocean played by George Clooney
- Movie: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
George Clooney recreated the role of Danny Ocean in this slickly made reboot of the original heist movie. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it “a ridiculously enjoyable caper.” Eye candy included Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Andy Garcia.
Dick Harper played by George Segal
- Movie: Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)
George Segal was paired with Jane Fonda as a couple who resort to a life of crime after Segal’s character loses his job. Critics dismissed the original as little more than sitcom silliness.
Dick Harper played by Jim Carrey
- Movie: Fun With Dick and Jane (2005)
Some critics dismissed the remake of “Fun With Dick and Jane” as muddled and just a vehicle for Jim Carrey to mug for the camera.
Edna Turnblad played by Divine
- Movie: Hairspray (1988)
Divine is cinema’s most celebrated cross-dressing performer, and was in fine form as the original Edna Turnblad in the John Waters-directed comedy about civil rights and teen-dance TV shows in the early 1960s. Pauline Kael of the New Yorker opined that “When Divine’s Edna Turnblad is on-screen in the sleeveless dresses she’s partial to, the movie has something like the lunacy of a W.C. Fields in drag.” The film has a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 98%.
Edna Turnblad played by John Travolta
- Movie: Hairspray (2007)
The movie was rebooted 19 years later and received almost as much acclaim as the original among critics. In an inspired piece of casting, John Travolta (“Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever”) played the mother of the high schooler committed to integrating teen dances in the 1960s.
George Lutz played by James Brolin
- Movie: The Amityville Horror (1979)
Critics appreciated the performance of James Brolin – well-known to television audiences – in the horror film as the father in a family tormented by demons, but little else about the movie.
George Lutz played by Ryan Reynolds
- Movie: The Amityville Horror (2005)
Ryan Reynolds played George Lutz in the reboot of “The Amityville Horror” 26 years after the original. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes were unimpressed by both versions of the movie.
Helen Benson played by Patricia Neal
- Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Patricia Neal played a single mom who with her son teaches the world about peace and tolerance after an alien lands in Washington, D.C. to warn humanity about the risks of a nuclear arms race. Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the sci-fi thriller a Freshness score of 95%.
Helen Benson played by Jennifer Connelly
- Movie: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Jennifer Connelly portrayed a scientist who understands the peril that Earth faces in the remake of the 1951 classic. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes said the remake was “heavy on special effects but without a coherent story.”
Hercule Poirot played by Albert Finney
- Movie: Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Albert Finney’s Oscar-nominated performance as Agatha Christie’s mustachioed sleuth was hailed by Matt Brunson of Film Frenzy, who opined: “The real knockout performance comes from Finney, deservedly Oscar-nominated for an eccentric turn that’s unlike anything else he’s ever attempted.”
Hercule Poirot played by Kenneth Branagh
- Movie: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot sports a mustache splayed over much of his face in contrast to previous iterations. Branagh’s mustache has a backstory. During World War I, shrapnel from a bomb cut up his face, so Poirot grew an extended mustache to cover up the scar. (Among other actors who have played the detective in films are Peter Ustinov and Alfred Molina.)
Jane Harper played by Jane Fonda
- Movie: Fun with Dick and Jane (1977)
Jane Fonda’s Jane Harper is the wife of Dick Harper (George Segal) who is laid off compelling both to resort to a life of crime. Scott Weinberg of DVD Clinic said the film was “just another mid-70s social comedy that comes enticingly close to actually baring its teeth, but ultimately favors sitcom silliness over smart satire.”
Jane Harper played by Téa Leoni
- Movie: Fun With Dick and Jane (2005)
Téa Leoni reprised the role of Jane Harper in the 2005 reboot, a version that received even less positive critical response from the original, with critic Joshua Starnes dismissing it as an “extended Enron joke.”
Jay Gatsby played by Robert Redford
- Movie: The Great Gatsby (1974)
There have been at least five screen versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, and critics have well-received none. Robert Redford played the rich and mysterious lead character in a film that Rotten Tomatoes critics said that “even a pair of tremendously talented leads aren’t always enough to guarantee a successful adaptation of classic literary source material.”
Jay Gatsby played by Leonardo DiCaprio
- Movie: The Great Gatsby (2013)
Baz Luhrmann directed the latest version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, with Leonardo DiCaprio portraying Gatsby. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a Freshness score of 48%, saying the film “emphasizes visual splendor at the expense of its source material’s vibrant heart.”
Jed Eckert played by Patrick Swayze
- Movie: Red Dawn (1984)
Even though the premise of “Red Dawn” – Soviet-led communist troops invading the U.S. who fight a rag-tag group of American kids – stretches credulity, the film is carried by the charismatic leadership of Patrick Swayze’s Jed Eckert.
Jed Eckert played by Chris Hemsworth
- Movie: Red Dawn (2012)
The remake is updated with Chris Hemsworth playing an Iraq War veteran who leads the young freedom fighters against North Korean invaders. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian called it “a boring and badly acted reboot,” which holds a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness score of 14%.
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