Daniel Craig, Heath Ledger and Michael Keaton can attest to the fact that not all casting backlashes are warranted
Fans across the social media landscape cried foul Friday when Jesse Eisenberg, who is neither bald, middle-aged nor Bryan Cranston, was cast as Lex Luthor in “Batman Vs. Superman.”
“The Social Network” star's major offense: He does not instantly call to mind Superman's arch-nemisis. He will, you know, have to act.
Noah J. Thomas declared, “Batman vs. Superman is going to be the worst movie ever.”
And Daniel Robinson inveighed, “I love Jesse Eisenberg but Lex Luthor he is most certainly not, what a terrible decision sort your casting director out.”
The instantaneous outcry over Eisenberg's casting mirrors the backlash that greeted news his future co-star Ben Affleck would play Batman. Jeremy Irons tapped to play the butler Alfred escaped derision, primarily because he has a monopoly on being repressed and British — but it's a drama that's played out many times before, and will play out again and again.
Indeed, the backlash to Charlie Hunnam's casting as the whips-and-chains loving Christian Grey in “Fifty Shades of Grey” was so intense that most fans seems relieved when he ditched the project a month later citing “scheduling conflicts.” It was as if they had a trophy to mount on their newsfeed stuffed with righteous indignation.
These characters are iconic, and often exist on the printed page. That makes fans feel proprietary and liable to lash out if the actor or actress tapped to essay the role on screen fails to completely conform to their rigid interpretation of Batman or Lex Luthor or Superman.
It's worth noting, however, that in many cases these flash judgments turn out to be laughably wrong in hindsight.
Heath Ledger, whose menacing and unhinged interpretation of the Joker haunted audiences’ dreams and scored an Oscar, was deemed a whiff when it was announced, with one fan on Reddit predicting it would be “the second downfall of the Batman series.” (“Batman & Robin,” “The Dark Knight” was most surely not.)
Likewise, Daniel Craig was the object of ridicule when he was unveiled as the sixth actor to play James Bond. After all, 007 couldn't be blonde! A website, Craignotbond.com launched to organize a boycott of Craig's inaugural outing, “Casino Royale,” and reports circulated that he couldn't handle the Aston Martin's stick shift.
The reward for this pessimism was a charismatic action star whose energy and swagger galvanized the aging series, earning him comparisons to Sean Connery's take on the role.
That's to say nothing of the scores of tween hearts that broke when Robert Pattinson was cast as Edward Cullen in “Twilight.” Years and millions of shrieking fans later, Pattinson recalled that the decision to go with the then relatively unknown actor was greeted with “unanimous unhappiness.”
Perhaps the greatest Batman of them all — and the only one to nail Bruce Wayne's brooding and sardonic side, Michael Keaton — was one of the first to be stung by this fanboy fury. As a Toronto Sun article from back in the day notes Batman readers would have preferred to have seen Sylvester Stallone or Clint Eastwood in the title role.
So Jesse Eisenberg, take heart. Casting critics are often opinionated and just as frequently wrong.