Posted on Sunday, January 10th, 2010 by Devindra Hardawar
The big news today involves some last minute casting changes for Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. Stuart Townsend, who was cast as Fandral, has left the film over “creative differences”. In his stead will be Joshua Dallas, a young actor with not much of a profile. Dallas has previously been cast in the sequel to the UK horror classic The Descent, and will also be seen in the upcoming George Lucas-produced Red Tails.
With production for Thor gearing up to start today, the news also brings to mind another famous last-minute casting move involving Townsend — his replacement by Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Peter Jackson had stated that they simply realized a bit late that a much older actor was necessary for the role. There didn’t seem much animosity from Jackson at the time, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that we’re all better off with Viggo’s performance.
Speaking to EW back in 2002, Townsend was noticeably bitter about being replaced:
Two weeks ago I finally read an article where the filmmakers said, ”We were totally wrong about Stuart and we accept that it was our fault,” which was so nice because I did get shafted up the a–. I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began. After that I was told they wouldn’t pay me because I was in breach of contract due to not having worked long enough.
I had been having a rough time with them, so I was almost relieved to be leaving until they told me I wouldn’t be paid. I have no good feelings for those people in charge, I really don’t. The director [Peter Jackson] wanted me and then apparently thought better of it because he really wanted someone 20 years older than me and completely different.
Following that replacement, Townsend went on to star in not-so-great films like Queen of the Damned and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. His career never truly rebounded (although he did dabble in directing with 2007’s Battle in Seattle), and Thor was to be his next shot at stardom.
The term “creative differences” is Hollywood-speak for practically anything, so it’ll be interesting to see what specifics emerge from this whole ordeal. An anonymous source told AICN earlier today that Townsend was fired after showing up six hours late for a screen test, but the fact that the studio had a replacement ready to go so soon points to trouble brewing for some time.
As for Dallas, there’s not much to be said about him yet. I haven’t seen him in anything thus far, but it’s clear that with Thor he’s landed the role of a lifetime. I don’t suspect Fandral, or the rest of the Warrior Three, will get much screen time given how much the film seems to be bursting at the seams. But what little screen time he does get will certainly be the most important of his career.
Discuss: What do you think of the casting change? Were you really looking forward to Townsend as Fandral? Can you attest to Dallas’s acting chops?