Replacing Actors

Now that Charlie Sheen has been fired from Two and a Half Men, speculation is rampant about which actor might replace him in the role of Charlie Harper. The Daily Beast has a great article about possible thespians who might fill those "winning" shoes, from the interesting (Emilio Estevez) to the farfetched (Michael J. Fox) to the downright silly (David Hasselhoff). John Stamos still seems to be the rumored frontrunner after denials that Rob Lowe was being considered.  It made me contemplate other actors who have taken over roles established by others. 

Here's my list of the most memorable. I only considered actors who replaced others in the same role, not those who stepped in as new characters when big names departed (such as when Kirstie Alley's Rebecca Howe joined the cast of Cheers after Shelley Long's Diane Chambers, or when Jimmy Smits as Bobby Simone stepped in when David Caruso's John Kelly left NYPD Blue).  I also didn't consider reboots, when stories were retold from a new perspective, like the countless people who played Dracula or Tarzan, for instance -- I only counted them if they were replacing another actor in an existing series (Batman is a good example of this, so see my listing below for more details).  Enough of that, on with the list...

Darrin from Bewitched - One of the earliest examples that come to mind is the replacement of Samantha's husband in the 1960s comedy about an average guy married to (and trying to domesticate) a hot witch. After 156 episodes, original "Darrin" Dick York was replaced by "Darrin" Dick Sargent who played the role for the remaining 84 episodes.  As a kid watching the repeats in syndication, I was thoroughly confused.

Ginger from Gilligan's Island - Tina Louise will always be the gorgeous movie star Ginger Grant, stranded with her fellow U.S.S. Minnow castaways after a three-hour tour gone awry.  I remember enjoying the new TV movies that followed, but being annoyed that other actresses were walking around in Ginger's dress and high heels -- Judith Baldwin in Rescue from Gilligan's Island and The Castaways on Gilligan's Island and Constance Forslund in The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.  Jane Webb provided the voice of Ginger in the cartoon version The New Adventures of Gilligan, and (trivia alert!) original Mary Ann, Dawn Wells, also supplied the voice of Ginger for the animated Gilligan's Planet. In a bit of irony, Tina Louise actually replaced another actress, Kit Smythe, who originated the role in the pilot episode.

The girls from The Brady Bunch - After the original comedy went off the air in 1974, it returned in various incarnations over the years with a number of actresses playing musical chairs in the roles of the Brady sisters.  Little Cindy, originally played by Susan Olsen, was replaced by Jennifer Runyon in A Very Brady Christmas.  My favorite middle child, Jan, played by Eve Plumb, was replaced by Geri Reischl on The Brady Bunch Hour. Marcia Marcia Marcia, immortalized by Maureen McCormick, was replaced by Erika Scheimer for a few episodes of The Brady Kids and by Leah Ayres for the entire drama version of the series The Bradys.

The kids from the Vacation movies - One of the great mysteries of cinema is why the Griswold kids, Rusty and Audrey, kept changing while the rest of the cast remained the same.  The best, in my opinion, were the originals, Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron, in National Lampoon's Vacation. Jason Lively and Dana Hill took over in European Vacation, followed by Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis in Christmas Vacation.  Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols wrapped things up in the roles in Vegas Vacation.

Various characters in various incarnations of Batman - Okay, let's go through this series by series.  In the 1960s TV show, starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo, two actors played the Riddler (Frank Gorshin and John Astin), three actresses played Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriwether in the movie version), and two actors played Mr. Freeze (Eli Wallach and George Sanders).  In the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher movies, which had the same actors playing Alfred and Commissioner Gordon (and Robin in the last two), the actor playing Batman changed three times -- Michael Keaton starred in the original and in Batman Returns, Val Kilmer played the Caped Crusader in Batman Forever, and George Clooney wore the cowl in Batman and Robin.  Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in the first film and was replaced by Tommy Lee Jones.  In the Christopher Nolan reboot, Katie Holmes played Bruce Wayne's love interest Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins and was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight.

James Bond -- Technically, since the roles of Q and M were often played by the same actor/actress throughout long stretches of the mega movie series, I like to think that it's all one universe and maybe my theory that each actor who played the part is actually a new character in a continuing unified storyline who continues the mantle of using the codename 007.  Hey, it's no more farfetched than the rationale of regeneration that allows new actors to step into the role of Doctor Who.

I have only scratched the surface.  Of all the others I've failed to mention, which are your favorites?

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