An extreme example in the Atlas Shrugged films—Part II featured an almost completely different cast.
Tarzan. Quite a few people forget that Tarzan films reached theaters regularly from 1918 to 1968, and a live-action film came out as late as 1998. For obvious reasons (i.e. he barely wears clothes, so the aging of the actors received maximum attention), the part of Tarzan underwent constant recasting. Elmo Lincoln, Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, and Mike Henry among others played the role. In 1998, Casper Van Dien played Tarzan in the last live-action Tarzan film to reach theaters.
The same is true for Jane and their son Boy - both had to be replaced. Justified with Boy, as they didn't want him getting too old.
However, the fact that Blofeld doesn't at first recognize him when he pretends to be Hilary Bray suggests that a plot element was carried over from the initial draft of the screenplay, in which Bond was explained to have undergone plastic surgery. (or simply that the Pragmatic Adaptation - the previous movie is the book that follows OHMSS - made put the same scenes with disregard to changed continuity)
The Bond films also include many other characters having a change of actor, such as Bond's nemesis Blofeld, his American ally Felix Leiter (who appeared in nine of the films and was played by seven different actors - two of whom were black, and one of whom wasn't even American)note David Hedison and Jeffrey Wright are the only ones to have played him more than once, and Hedison is the only one to have done so opposite more than one Bond (Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton) - and Moneypenny. The character of M is, on the other hand, not really an example of this (despite even changing gender) since M is the character's title, not name. M is therefore an example of No Name Given and Legacy Character.
This may be justified in Blofeld's case: Even in the original novels, his appearance changes radically through the wonders of plastic surgery.
Actor Bernard Lee died after Moonraker and so M was absent in For Your Eyes Only. Actor Robert Brown plays M up Licence to Kill. It is not clear whether or not this is meant to be the Lee M or his successor, though Brown played a Navy admiral in The Spy Who Loved Me and may be this character promoted. Given this and his different attitude, most fans take this to be a different M.
The character Harvey Dent/Two-Face was played by Billy Dee Williams in Batman and Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. Williams appeared solely as "Harvey Dent", pre-Two-Face, but took the role with the expectation of returning to play the villain in a sequel; when he was replaced for Batman Forever he ended up getting paid in compensation.
In the sequels of Back to the Future, Jennifer is played by Elisabeth Shue as Claudia Wells was unavailable. The opening shot of Back To The Future Part II was the closing shot of the original reshot meticulously with Elisabeth Shue instead.
Also, Crispin Glover declined to appear as George McFly, so he was made into a Fake Shemp.
Jeffrey Weissman became the Other Darrin for George McFly.
Kirk Douglas played the dual roles of Harrison and his brother Spur in The Man from Snowy River. When the sequel Return to Snowy River was filmed six years later, the role of Harrison was played by Brian Dennehy, and Spur was said to have died between the events of the two films, making it both The Other Darrin and a Bus Crash.
The youth of most of the cast of the X-Men movies, as well as their easily identifiable powers, made it a simple matter for them to be replaced. The character of Kitty Pryde only became a major character in the third film, and was played by different actresses in both of her prior appearances. For the record, it went Sumela Kay, Katie Stuart, Ellen Page.
Also, Stryker was played by Brian Cox in the second film, and by Timeshifted Actor Danny Huston in Wolverine.
Professor Moriarty, nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, was played by Lionel Atwill in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon and by Henry Daniell in The Woman in Green. (He was also played by George Zucco in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but this film doesn't share the same continuity as the others, despite featuring the same actors in the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.)
The character of Joachim, recast and slightly renamed, from his appearance in the original "Space Seed". The Expanded Universe attempted to cover this by claiming that the considerably younger looking Joachim seen in the movie is actually the son of the original Joachim, while Word of God suggested the movie version is Khan's son, and was merely named in honour of the original, who was his closest friend and ally during the Eugenics Wars (and is presumably dead by the time of the movie).
Lieutenant Saavik was played by Kirstie Alley in and by Robin Curtis in the following two movies.
An early script for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country featured Lt. Saavik as a bridge officer, with Kim Cattrall cast to play her. Cattrall objected to being the third actress to portray Saavik (and Roddenberry objected to Saavik being a traitor), but then accepted when the character was rewritten to being a previously unknown Vulcan.
Terrence Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle for the Iron Man sequel. Given a funny Lampshade Hanging in his first appearance, when Rhodes testifies against Tony in a senate hearing. Tony says "I didn't expect to see you here" and Rhodes replies "Well, it's me, so just drop it, okay?"
Ruffalo claimed he and Norton had a private joke that Bruce Banner was their generation's Hamlet, with every actor in their age group destined to try his hand at it.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films had Judith Hoag play April O'Neil in the first film and Paige Turco play her in the last two. Likewise, Donatello was voiced by Corey Feldman in the first and third movies but was unavailable in the second due to a stint in rehab and was voiced by Adam Carl. Raphael had three different voice actors in the movie.
Terminator Salvation has the recasting of all returning roles (except Sarah Connor, the taperecorded voice is still Linda Hamilton).
The only other actors to reprise their roles in every installment of the film franchise are Earl Boen (who portrays Dr. Silberman over the course of three films) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who portrays a T-101 series Terminator across two models—specifically, the T-800 and T-850—and three different copies—all come off an assembly line, mind you—in the first three films and the T-101's face—Roland Kickinger portrayed that T-101's body—in the fourth). Apart from Schwarzenegger, Hamilton would've been the only other performer to appear in all four films if she didn't request an offer to reprise her role in Rise of the Machines (her character was originally supposed to die during the film, but after Hamilton's refusal to appear, it was stated that Sarah Connor died in Mexico of leukemia, her ashes were scattered at sea by her friends, apparently in secret, and a cache of weapons was buried in her grave at the mausoleum following a closed casket funeral in Los Angeles).
Boba Fett was portrayed by Jeremy Bulloch in Episodes V and VI (and voiced by Jason Wingreen), but in II, it's established that the character is a clone of Jango Fett, played by Temuera Morrison. Similar to Palpatine's appearance, Morisson's voice is re-dubbed over Wingreen's dialogue in the special edition DVD release of V. Various Industrial Light and Magic employees were stand-ins for Boba in the new scenes he appeared in the special editions of IV and VI.
Anne Cusack replaces Courteney Cox as Melissa Robinson Ventura in Ace Ventura Jr.
Plan 9 from Outer Space is probably the most ignoble example: after Bela Lugosi died in the middle of filming, he was replaced by Tom Mason, Ed Wood's chiropractor, who had to hold a cape in front of his face to cover up the fact that he looked nothing like Lugosi. He was also much taller than Lugosi, so he spent the film hunched over.
Lampshaded in the second George of the Jungle, when the narrator stops to ask who the title character is, to which he replies, "Me New George. Producers too cheap to get Brendan Fraser." Other references to Fraser appear throughout the movie.
In The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, the role of Evy O'Connell is played by Rachel Weisz. However, in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, her role was taken over by Maria Bello when Weisz declined. Her first scene shows her at a book reading/signing event with several discrete camera angles showing an arm, her downturned head, etc. Eventually, one of her audience members asks her if it's true that the main character was based on her own experience. In the greatest Lampshade Hanging since The Oracle's explanation for her new appearance, the camera zooms in on Evy's face for the first time as she says, "Honestly, I can truly say she's a completely different person."
Always done with Clark Griswold's children Rusty and Audrey in the National Lampoon's Vacation series, always fluctuating in age and appearance, to the point that Vegas Vacationhung one on this when Clark remarked during their first appearance that he hardly recognizes them anymore. Christmas Vacation 2 had no Rusty (nor Clark nor Ellen, for that matter, as this one stars Cousin Eddie), but the Audrey from the original Vacation does return.
Parodied in this Old Navy commercial featuring no less than three Audreys and three Rustys two of these, New Audrey and New Rusty being exclusive to this comercial. Sadly Johnny Galecki aka Christmas Rusty is not one of them.
Omar Epps replaced Wesley Snipes as Willie "Mays" Hayes in Major League 2.
Jack Ryan, in the movie versions of the Tom Clancy Ryanverse novels, has been played by three different actors, none of whom look anything like the other. The Sum of All Fears was to be a Continuity Reboot, however, so Ben Affleck not looking the same was a non-issue.
The third Addams Family film, Addams Family Reunion, did this to most of the cast who played the family due to various reasons: Raul Julia (Gomez) had died, Christina Ricci (Wednesday) and Jimmy Workman (Pugsley) were by this point too old (they had turned 18 at the time), and Anjelica Huston (Morticia), Christopher Lloyd (Fester) and Carol Kane (Grandmama) declined. Only Lurch and Thing retain the same actors.
Even earlier, the actress playing Grandmama changed between The Addams Family and Addams Family Values: Judith Malina played her in the former, while for unknown reasons she was replaced by Carol Kane for the latter.
Clerks features the character of Willam Black, played by Scott Mosier. Mallrats, which takes place the day before Clerks, also features the character—except now he's Ethan Suplee. We're left to assume that over the course of a night this guy lost a good fifty pounds and grew in a decent-sized beard. (The character also appears in Scott form in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.)
Writer/Director Kevin Smith explained at a fan Q&A that he had a film in mind entitled Clerks: The Voyage Home where Jay and Silent Bob travel back in time a day to bring back a whale (who would presumably replace Willam for a day). It's hard to tell whether Smith was joking because his response is so sincere.
Mother Firefly is played by Karen Black in House of 1000 Corpses and Leslie Easterbrook in The Devil's Rejects. Grandpa Hugo was played by Dennis Fimple in the first movie but wasn't included in the sequel at all because Fimple passed away.
Three of the four main cast in Another Gay Movie were replaced for Another Gay Sequel — Lampshaded by the mother at the beginning of the movie.
Dave Robicheaux is played by Alec Baldwin in Heaven's Prisoners and by Tommy Lee Jones in In the Electric Mist.
Liz Frasier played Mrs. Pike in The Movie of Dad's Army rather than Janet Davies at the order of Columbia Pictures.
Children of Dune, the sequel to the Sci-Fi channel mini-series, features a new Stilgar, a new Jessica and a new Duncan Idaho.
And in the seldom seen television prologue of a A Fistful of Dollars (added by the network to soften The Man With No Name) we get a Very Much Not Clint Eastwood with his back to the camera getting a pardon from Harry Dean Stanton in exchange for taking care of the two gangs.
Luis Buñuel's film That Obscure Object of Desire features two actresses, Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina, in the single role of Conchita. Who Conchita is played by changes from scene to scene, and sometimes even from shot to shot. It's unclear whether this is a comment on Conchita's mercurial nature, a comment on Mathieu's failure to see her for who she really is, or if it's just weird for the sake of weird.
In his autobiography, My Last Sigh (1983), Buñuel explains (pp. 46–47) the decision to use two actresses to play Conchita:
In 1977, in Madrid, when I was in despair after a tempestuous argument with an actress who'd brought the shooting of That Obscure Object of Desire to a halt, the producer, Serge Silberman, decided to abandon the film altogether. The considerable financial loss was depressing us both until one evening, when we were drowning our sorrows in a bar, I suddenly had the idea (after two dry martinis) of using two actresses in the same role, a tactic that had never been tried before. Although I made the suggestion as a joke, Silberman loved it, and the film was saved.
The actress who caused the 'tempestuous argument' was Maria Schneider. Bouquet and Molina stepped in after she was fired.
In the teen romantic comedy The Prince And Me, the Prince's fiancee Paige is played by Julia Stiles. In the film's direct-to-video sequel The Prince and Me II: The Royal Wedding, Paige is played by Kam Heskin instead, who went on to play the part in the next two movies as well. Luke Mably played the the titular prince in the first two films, but declined to return for more. Chris Geere took over for the next two movies.
The sequel to The Neverending Story was almost completely recast; only one actor reprised his role (Thomas Hill as Mr. Koreander). The sequel's sequel was completely recast.
Perry Mason was originally played by Warren William in a series of 1930s movies. After four movies, William left; two more movies were made, with Ricardo Cortez and Donald Woods playing Mason in each of them. Then the character went to television, with Raymond Burr becoming the definitive Mason.
And before Barbara Hale played Mason's secretary Della Street on TV, no fewer than 5 actresses took turns playing the role in the above-mentioned film series; only Claire Dodd played Street in more than one movie.
This trope was done several times for artistic effect in Palindromes.
In the first Hellboy, Abe is played by Doug Jones with his voice dubbed over by David Hyde-Pierce. However, after seeing the film, Hyde-Pierce was so impressed by Jones' performance that he refused to be credited and convinced the producers that the character did not need a separate voice actor. In the sequel and two animated films that followed, Jones supplies his own voice, which is surprisingly similar to Hyde-Pierce's.
Perhaps the most extreme example of this trope is the character of Allen in Happiness and its sequel, Life During Wartime. The character was played by white actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and then black actor, Michael K. Williams, without any explanation for the complete change of the character's race. Of course, all of the characters in Life During Wartime were played by different actors than in previous Todd Solondz' films, but Allen is the most noticeable difference.
The Halloweentown Disney Channel movies had this happen with the lead character, Marnie Piper, who was played by Kimberly J. Brown for the first three movies, and Sara Paxton for the fourth. Apparently Brown was being screwed by Disney because not even she knows why she was replaced! It's usually speculated that Disney wanted a younger actress for the 4th film to keep the franchise fresh (Brown was 22 at the time wheres Paxton was 18).
In addition, Benny's voice was recast from Rino Romano in the first movie to Richard Side in the second, but for his brief appearance in the fourth movie, he was voiced by another, uncredited voice actor.
The Live-Action Adaptation of Astérix suffer this a lot. Gerard Depardieu as Obélix is the only actor to have stayed in all movies so far, while the rest of the main cast has been constantly changed: Astérix has been the same only in the first two movies and Caesar has been played by a different actor every time.
In the first Critters film, Sheriff Harv is played by M. Emmet Walsh. In the sequel, he's portrayed by Barry Corbin.
In the Subspecies series, Laura Tate plays Michelle in the first film, Denise Duff in the three sequels.
A slight variation occurred in The Lion King with Scar. Scar was normally voiced by Jeremy Irons, but the ending portion of the song "Be Prepared" (starting with the verse "You Won't Get A Sniff Without Me") was done by Jim Cummings (who is Ed's voice actor) instead of Irons due to Irons blowing out his voice during recording sessions. It also led to a Throw It In moment when Ed uncharacteristically sang a verse from the song (most of the time, Ed is either silent, or communicates via insane laughter).
Richard Harris played Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films, but after his death he was played by Michael Gambon for the remainder of the series.
In Uwe Boll's BloodRayne films, Kristanna Loken played the title character in the first film, but was replaced by Nastassia Malthe for the sequels.
Josh Dallas played Fandral in Thor, but his commitment to Once Upon a Time caused him to drop out of the film's sequel. The role was then recast with Zachary Levi. In a hilarious twist, Zachary Levi was actually the original actor cast in the role, but his commitment to Chuck caused him to replaced by Dallas in the first place.
In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Roddy McDowall only appears in footage from the original in the intro. Schedule problems caused Cornelius to instead be played by David Watson, though the heavy make-up and a similar voice makes it hard to notice.
As of 2013, Josh Brolin is set to play Dwight McCarthy in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a role that was played by Clive Owen in the 2005 original. Possibly justified, since Dwight's appearance in the titular story takes place before his appearance in "The Big Fat Kill", and a major plot point in the graphic novel involves Dwight getting a new face via plastic surgery after he murders Damien Lord. It remains to be seen whether or not Josh Brolin will start to look like Clive Owen by the movie's end.
Return to Nim's Island, the sequel to Nim's Island, has Bindi Irwin instead of Abigail Breslin as Nim, and Matthew Lillard instead of Gerard Butler as her father Jack.
In the original run of The Pink Panther films, several key characters' performers changed over time — and sometimes changed back!
The third film, Inspector Clouseau, had Alan Arkin playing the title character instead of Peter Sellers. Sellers returned to the role with The Return of the Pink Panther. After he died, the filmmakers used a variety of techniques (Clip Show, Fake Shemp, etc.) to disguise his absence for Trail of... and Curse of... before revealing in the latter that Clouseau was now played by Roger Moore, with Magic Plastic Surgery the justification.
Sir Charles Lytton was originally played by David Niven, but when the character came back for Return he was played by Christopher Plummer. Niven returned for Trail and Curse — they were shot at the same time — but he was terminally ill by then and Rich Little dubbed his voice.
Costumer Auguste Balls was initially played by Harvey Korman for a sequence filmed for but cut from The Pink Panther Strikes Again. When Revenge of... was made two years later, the part was recast with Graham Stark. Then the Strikes Again footage was incorporated into Trail, so to keep things consistent Korman was brought back as Balls for it and Curse. Stark returned to the role for Son of... ten years later.
Maria Gambrelli was played by Elke Sommer in A Shot in the Dark, but nearly thirty years later Claudia Cardinale played her in Son of the Pink Panther. Also counts as You Look Familiar: Cardinale was Princess Dala in the original film.
The Charlie Chan movies went from Warner Oland to Sidney Toler to Roland Winters playing the famous sleuth.
In the Clint Eastwood comedy Every Which Way But Loose, Clyde the orangutan was played by an ape named Manis. In the sequel, Any Which Way You Can, the orangutan goes uncredited, but from the physical differences one can tell that it is not the same ape. Manis had matured between the first and second films, and was considered potentially dangerous (orangutans have a tendency to get meaner as they age). Sadly, the ape who portrayed Clyde in the second film died of a cerebral hemorrhage two weeks after filming was complete.
In Arthur, the role of Susan Johnson is played by Jill Eikenberry. In the sequel, the role is played by Cynthia Sikes.
In The Fly, Veronica Quaife was played by Geena Davis. In the sequel, Saffron Henderson replaces her in the beginning and in a voice-over when Martin watches an interview she filmed. Geena Davis didn't want to reprise her role because the nightmare where she gives birth to a giant maggot in the first movie traumatized her so much.
In Pitch Black, Jack was played by Rhiana Griffith. In The Chronicles of Riddick, Alexa Davalos took over the role, with a new name and a completely new look. Her only explanation for how changed she was: "I'm a whole new animal." Many fans were not happy. Salt in the wound is the fact that Rhiana Griffith was willing to reprise the role - and Vin Diesel apparently wanted her, but was told by executives she needed to "toughen up" for the role.