Film remakes: Maybe you can hire... the right actors

The big-screen remake of The A-Team is the latest Hollywood film set to suffer the curse of disastrous casting
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The Independent Culture

A rather puerile guessing game that I, and a few equally small-minded friends, have been playing for years is who would play the members – Hannibal (George Peppard), Templeton "Face" Peck (Dirk Benedict), Murdock (Dwight Schultz) and B A Baracus (Mr T) – of the A-Team when it is turned into a movie.

After very little debate it always comes down to George Clooney as the charismatic gang leader, Hannibal, Brad Pitt as Face, Jim Carrey as the wild-eyed Murdock and Ving Rhames, or Mr T himself, as Bosco B A "I pity fool who gets on that plane" Baracus.

Now, inevitably, the anarchic 1980s TV staple has been made into a blockbusting feature film, which will be released on 30 July. So, who have they got to play the hammy foursome in Joe Carnahan's upcoming A-Team? Well, Liam Neeson is Hannibal, Bradley Cooper (smarmy but not pretty enough) is Face, the unknown Quinton "Rampage" Jackson plays B A Baracus and Sharlto Copley (good in Neill Blomkamp's inventive sci-fi District 9, but no Carrey) is the unhinged Murdock. It's all wrong, and you really wish that they hadn't made it at all.

Meanwhile Meryl Streep is slated to play Margaret Thatcher in a Film4 biopic about the Iron Lady, while Jim Broadbent is slated to play her devoted husband Denis. Both are sensational actors, but are they really appropriate for these roles? I mean, frankly, what next? Al Pacino as Tony Blair? Russell Crowe tackling John Major? Sandra Bullock as Norma?

An actor, of course, doesn't have to resemble exactly the famous person they're impersonating in order to pull off a terrific performance. There are plenty of good examples: George C Scott's Patton, Toby Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman both excelled as Truman Capote, in Infamous and Capote respectively, Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, Jamie Foxx was astonishing as Ray Charles in Ray and Christopher Eccleston recently gave a barnstorming portrayal of John Lennon in Lennon Naked – the 46-year-old Lancastrian was far too old to play the young, stroppy Beatle, yet he was convincing.

But there have been far too many nonsensical casting decisions in Hollywood. Most notably Jude Law, in a small part, as Errol Flynn in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (2004), David Bowie's absurd Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and, most memorably, John Wayne's Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956).

Arguably, the most egregious casting stinkers are when an American actress (cue pantomime boo) plays an iconic English (usually literary) figurehead – Renée Zellweger as Beatrix Potter in Miss Potter, Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf in The Hours. We, clearly, don't know if their accents and demeanour are necessarily wrong – there's little or no recorded verbal or visual evidence of Beatrix Potter ruminating about bunnies for instance – but they feel wrong.

The catalogue of casting errors are legion: an unsympathetic Andie MacDowell as the love interest in Four Weddings and a Funeral, John Hannah as the gruff detective in Rebus, Madonna in anything, Jude Law, similarly, in anything, Keira Knightley's bounty hunter in Domino, Dustin Hoffman as the American journalist Wally Stanton in Agatha, Keanu Reeves in Little Buddha, Dracula, My Own Private Idaho, The Devil's Advocate etc, and Robert De Niro's needy monster in Kenneth Branagh's shambolic Frankenstein (1994). Not to mention the dodgy accent brigade: Josh Hartnett's Yorkshireman in Blow Dry, Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, Julia Roberts's Irish maid in Mary Reilly, Tom Cruise's poor Irish farmer in Far and Away, and, worst of all, Richard Gere's IRA terrorist in The Jackal.

Hopefully Streep will manage to capture Thatcher's accent and essence, but will she be better – and have a better understanding – than esteemed British actresses such as Helen Mirren, Lindsay Duncan, Fiona Shaw and Anne-Marie Duff? No.