Anthony Hopkins in 'The Silence of the Lambs,' Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight'

Why recast the relatively small role of a doctor in a thriller? Michael Mann's Manhunter was an excellent thriller, featuring Brian Cox in a small role as the imprisoned, chillingly cold cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecktor. When the time came to adapt another one of Thomas Harris' bestsellers, Jonathan Demme went in a different direction, casting Anthony Hopkins as the good doctor. The character's family name was restored (Lecter, not Lecktor) and a whole new set of tics and tricks were placed on display. Hopkins may have been the only actor alive who could have hammed it up to such extreme levels and yet, somehow, made Lector creepy rather than campy, unnerving rather than unbelievable. For his memorable efforts in The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins won an Academy Award.

Recasting villains is a tricky business. Everyone needs to love, identify with, and cheer the hero or heroine, but if the villain doesn't provide the requisite level of opposition, the picture runs the risk of becoming unbalanced, leaving a gaping hole that cannot be filled in with special effects. And if an actor has established the character in the public's mind, it's difficult for anyone else to measure up.

So Dylan Walsh has an advantage in The Stepfather, which opens tomorrow. Terry O'Quinn originated the title role in the 1987 original, and was a truly memorable monster. Yet the film is not steeped in the public consciousness to a high degree, and O'Quinn has become much better known from playing John Locke in Lost. Walsh's fame, such as it is, comes from the lesser-seen TV series Nip/Tuck. Walsh has a shot of creating his own distinct brand of villain.

categories Cinematical