7 Casting Choices That Were Secret In-Jokes

'Lego Batman': Righting the wrongs of the past.
7 Casting Choices That Were Secret In-Jokes

While we're only a few years away from the advent of actorless movies created by sentient computers to entertain other sentient computers, for the time being human actors remain an important part of moviemaking. But it might surprise you to learn that casting isn't always a matter of getting the best actor, or even the best-looking one; sometimes casting decisions are made to do little more than tell an elaborate in-joke. Casting choices such as ...

LEGO Batman Cast Billy Dee Williams As Two-Face After He Was Screwed Out Of The Part 20 Years Earlier

The LEGO Batman Movie is the latest story of the Dark Knight's never-ending attempt to avenge the murder of his parents in Crime Alley.

Distracting you from the fact that you're plunking down money to watch people play with toys is the film's terrific voice cast, many of whom got their parts as a way to tell ridiculous in-jokes. From Eddie Izzard playing Voldemort (despite the fact that Ralph Fiennes was already on the payroll playing Alfred) ...

Warner Bros.

Not our Voldemort.

... to Doug Benson playing Bane (as a reference to his podcast) ...

Warner Bros.

Not the red, stoned eyes.

... to Flight Of The Conchords' Jemaine Clement playing Sauron (because he's one of the two people from New Zealand you've ever heard of) ...

Warner Bros.

The other one is the other Flight Of The Concord.

... But the icing on the dry, blocky LEGO cake is the casting of Billy Dee Williams as LEGO Two-Face. The character was even designed to look like Billy Dee Williams.

Warner Bros.

If Billy Dee Williams was a Terminator designed by Prince.

Which is hugely significant if you think back to a previous era of Batman movies, where Batman was 5'10" and casually set people on fire. In the 1989 version of Batman, Billy Dee Williams played the role of Harvey Dent, who every Batman fan knows will eventually become the villainous Two-Face.

HARVEY DENT Districl Attorney
Warner Bros.

Shown here as the tolerable One-Face.

But even though Williams took the part with "the hopes" of one day playing Two-Face, the part was recast when the series changed directors. Which meant that until the LEGO movie, the most interesting part of Harvey Dent's character arc had been robbed from Williams, making it the worst deal he'd been involved in since a little incident in Cloud City.

Kingsman: The Secret Service -- Mark Hamill Plays A Kidnapped Scientist... But In The Comics It Was A Kidnapped Mark Hamill

We're used to seeing Mark Hamill in the role of Luke Skywalker, or as the voice of The Joker, or, of course, as Man Who Gets Turned into Revolting Cockroach Monster -- but recently he showed up rather unexpectedly in Kingsman: The Secret Service as a kidnapped scientist.

20th Century Fox

So that's where Luke was hiding.

So why cast the guy who blew up two Death Stars in such an inconsequential role? It turns out that Hamill's casting is actually a reference to the movie's source material. In the comic The Secret Service a similar scene plays out where the hostage was not a renowned scientist, but rather Mark Hamill, the actor -- who naturally gets shit about the prequels from his captors.

Icon Comics

"Yeah, I had nothing to do with those. Live long and prosper, geniuses."

Mr. Hamill is soon rescued by a suave, and pretty violent secret agent--

Icon Comics
Icon Comics

Holy shit, that dude was just bringing coffee.

Who stages a daring, snowmobile-aided, BASE-jumping escape...

Icon Comics

"Just like back in your Bond days right, Mr. Hamill?"

... then in a satisfying moment for anyone who's ever scoffed at the idea of someone surviving such elaborate stunts, both the agent and star of Corvette Summer are horribly killed.

Icon Comics

In this universe, further Star Wars movies recast Skywalker with Billy Dee Williams too.

Insanely, the author of the comic didn't actually know Mark Hamill or get his permission until "the night before the comic was going to the printers." Seeing as Hamill agreed to show up in the movie, that seems to indicate he was cool with the whole thing -- though in the movie he wasn't playing himself getting murdered, to the relief of Star Wars fans everywhere.

And, you know, his family.

Sean Connery Was Cast As Indiana Jones' Dad To Make A Personal Point About James Bond

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Sean Connery playing Indiana Jones' dad. He was pretty much perfect for the role, other than the fact that he's only 12 years older than Harrison Ford, setting up a hilarious, lover-sharing misunderstanding.

Paramount Pictures

And also potentially setting up a less hilarious prequel about the famed adventurer's parentage.

But even more than that, the casting of Connery in The Last Crusade was also a brilliantly meta personal message from Steven Spielberg. The key to understanding what's going on here is to know that Spielberg always wanted to make a Bond movie, but was rejected by the producers. Twice. A bitterness he still carries with him, judging by a comment he made a few years ago when he explained how he couldn't get a job with the Bond franchise and "now, sadly, they can't afford me."

It would seem that the entirety of Indiana Jones was borne out of that frustration of not being able to get the Bond gig. On one of his -- presumably many -- beachside chats with George Lucas, Spielberg was complaining about his unrequited Bond love when Lucas pitched him the idea for Raiders Of The Lost Ark as "just like James Bond but even better."

Raymond Twist/Wiki Commons

Fuck, this man has got a way with words.

So when it came time to cast Indy's dad for the third movie, they had to get James Bond. He's literally the father of Indiana Jones. But this wasn't just going to be a cute wink to the audience, Spielberg crafted an elaborate web of Bond references to go along with it. Like how Indy's nemesis was a former Bond villain himself:

Paramount Pictures

Julian Glover, if you didn't know, who's been in about half the movies you've ever loved .

And Indy's love interest was Alison Doody, a former Bond girl, the terribly named Jenny Flex from A View To A Kill.

73333 7
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

She was still pretty flexible in Last Crusade, admittedly.

It's also interesting that both of these characters begin the movie as Indy's friends, then turn on him, almost as if Spielberg is saying that the franchise he loved betrayed him. And the main character arc of Indy reconciling with his father parallels Spielberg's attempts to reconcile with James Bond, who he looked up to as a child, even though the franchise rejected him. And if that's not enough for you, check out the finale, when Sean Connery is gunned down by the villain who's wielding a Walther PPK -- James Bond's trademark weapon!

Paramount Pictures

"No, Mr. B-- uh, Jones. I expect you to ... not ... live."

Spielberg is seemingly making the point that the Bond franchise is killing the Bond franchise. And seeing as this was occurring during a bit of a low point in the Bond era -- what with all the outer space laser battles and snowboarding to Beach Boys' songs - he's not wrong.

Scott Baio Was On Arrested Development As A Reference To The Behind The Scenes Machinations Of Happy Days

To say that Arrested Development had elaborate, metatextual humor is like pointing out that the Gilmore Girls were quippy, or that Game Of Thrones is kinda violent, or that The Cosby Show will never again be watched by human eyes. Even the show's casting changes couldn't escape the meta joke machine, in particular the casting decisions made when Henry Winkler left the show. There had already been several Happy Days-related jokes surrounding Winkler's character, lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn -- watch here as he literally jumps over a shark after schilling for Burger King.

Which meant that when filling his role as the family's attorney, the show's producers brought in well-known actor/ guy-who-isn't-racist-because-his-wife-has-a-black-friend, Scott Baio as Bob Loblaw.

20th Television

Years from now we're going to learn that plant in the corner was part of some in-joke too.

If you were alive in the 70s, or are unemployed and spend your days eating cheetos and watching TV Land, you might realize this is a reference to Happy Days. When Winkler's super-cool Fonz character was starting to look less like a young badass and more like part of a To Catch A Predator sting operation, suddenly his cousin Chachi showed up -- an obvious effort to court younger viewers.

Paramount Domestic Television

And save valuable production money on sleeves.

And when Bob Loblaw sits down with the Bluths, he straight-up mentions that he's replaced Barry Zuckerkorn before:

0 think I can do for you everything he did
20th Television
Plus skew younger with juries and so forth
20th Television

Kids these days love subtle jokes about 30-year-old TV shows.

Given AD's habit of tying in the activities of real-world actors to the characters they play, will we see this again? Like during the upcoming season of the show will they explain that all of "Bob Loblaw's" recent erratic behavior has just been a side-effect of Teamocil or something?

An SNL Alumnus Shows Up In Ant-Man For A Very Good Reason

Marvel movies are just chockfull of in-jokes; from Captain America's shield being stashed away in Tony Stark's filthy basement, to every Avengers movie being a giant green middle-finger to Edward Norton. And the film about the tiniest superhero in the Marvel arsenal is no exception. You might recall a scene where Ant-Man falls onto the roof of a car, momentarily confusing the driver:

FO CEN What the hell?
Marvel Studios

"That sounds like a tiny, tiny man landing on my car."

Other than the fact that it's nice to acknowledge some of the victims of all this wanton superhero destruction, why show us the driver? Some may notice that the driver is actually played by Garrett Morris, known for his role in Two Broke Girls, and also as one of the original Saturday Night Live cast members.


That's him leaning away from Chevy Chase, as all are right to do.

So why him? Does Two Broke Girls pay so little the poor guy has to take barely speaking roles in comic book movies just to get by? And even if they did want to get an old SNL star, they probably could have gotten Chevy Chase for just free food and some PAs to verbally abuse.

Well it turns out there's a very good reason why Morris shows up here -- he was the first person to play Ant-Man onscreen, in an SNL sketch about a party.


So much cocaine went into the making of this picture it defies belief.

So that's a nice little callback. Incidentally, this skit also featured Dan Aykroyd as The Flash, so maybe if we're all lucky we'll get a cameo of Aykroyd in the upcoming Flash movie, looking dumbly at a series of Flash-shaped holes in the walls of his house or something.

Paul Reubens Was A Vampire Version Of His Mugshot In Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a mediocre movie that somehow spawned a TV show that even the guy who made the goddamn Wire thinks is "the best show in years." The show imported a lot of elements from the movie, but one character who didn't make the cut was ... uh, this guy:

20th Century Fox

Keyvn? Vynce? Feels like there's a superfluous Y in there somewhere.

That's Amilyn, the Vampire henchman played by Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, aka ... there's really no other way to describe him. This was Reubens' first screen appearance since his 1991 arrest for indecent exposure in a porno theatre, and his whole character in Buffy was a joke of sorts, Reubens' attempt to confront the scandal head-on. He even insisted his costume be made to look like his mugshot -- it was even written into his contract that if he were to do the movie he wanted to look like a vampire who'd just been hauled into the Sarasota Sheriff's department for jerking off.

20th Century Fox, Sarasota County Sheriff's Department

Way to own your mistakes, Pee-wee.

Critics at the time caught the reference, though today's modern audiences might find it a bit impenetrable, possibly just assuming that his character is a version of Nickleback's Chad Kroeger as an unholy servant of the night.

Hot Fuzz -- One Of The Casting Choices Tips Off The Twist Ending

Edgar Wright is known for cramming intricate jokes into minute details, like in Shaun Of The Dead, where the opening scene finds the characters in a pub drunkenly laying out the plot of the entire movie.

Universal Pictures

Which is also how we're guessing every Michael Bay screenplay gets written.

Similarly, Wright's follow-up, Hot Fuzz, provides a tip-off about where the plot is headed through one key casting choice. The movie finds Simon Pegg as a police officer reassigned to a small English town where he has to unravel the secret behind a series of murders. That secret? Most of the town are secretly members of a creepy cult that have been orchestrating the murders.

Universal Pictures

Holy shit, spoilers, guys, we should have said spoilers, sorry, sorry.

Now hold onto your tight-fitting argyle socks, because one of those English villagers is played by Edward Woodward who's perhaps best known for his role in the original The Wicker Man where he played a policeman who uncovers a murderous cult in a small English town.

British Lion Films

The restrained version where the hero doesn't put on a bear costume and punch women in the face.

Not surprisingly, it turns out that The Wicker Man was one of the first movies Pegg and Wright turned to for inspiration. Of course, instead of ending with people getting burned alive in a giant sculpture made of Pier 1 furniture, Hot Fuzz instead opted for a shootout straight out of Bad Boys, so it's not exactly the same.

Universal Pictures

But still pretty good for something that was again likely written on a series of bar napkins.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter, or check out the podcast Rewatchability.

Also check out 4 Movie Theories That Explain Bizarre Casting Choices and 7 Characters Clearly Designed For (Different) Famous Actors.

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