Some characters are so closely associated with the actors who portray them that it is simply inconceivable that anyone else could ever take on the role. You can’t have Rocky without Sylvester Stallone, or Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford. Nobody but Sigourney Weaver could play Ripley.
When an actor is wildly successful in a role, it can be easy to forget that plenty of other actors will likely have been in contention for that same gig. The actor that we all know and love might not have been the first, second or even third choice. But things have a way of working out. Just because an actor wasn’t the first choice for a role doesn’t mean that they weren’t the right choice.
That being said, it’s still fun to think about what might have been if those first choice actors hadn’t turned down the roles that they were offered. Here’s eleven iconic movie characters that were almost played by someone else.
11. Gandalf – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The character of Gandalf the Grey will forever be associated with legendary actor, Sir Ian McKellan. But McKellan was not the first thespian Knight of the Realm to be offered the role. Sir Sean Connery turned down the role because he found the plot too confusing, later telling reporters: “I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it.”
10. Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark
A fifth entry in the Indiana Jones franchise has been officially announced and, despite the speculation, it has been confirmed that Harrison Ford will be reprising his role as the titular archaeologist. *Ehem*. That being said, in some alternate reality somewhere, it’s Tom Selleck gearing up to reprise the role. The actor was offered the role and was reportedly keen, but he was ultimately forced to turn it down when CBS wouldn’t release him from his contract to star in Magnum PI.
9. Ferris Bueller – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has become something of a cult classic in the 31 years since its release. Matthew Broderick’s portrayal of the title character has permeated pop culture to such an extent that putting anyone else in the role would be akin to blasphemy. However, Matthew Broderick was not the first actor to be offered the role of the teenage truant. Johnny Depp was offered the role, but had to turn it down because he was unavailable.
8. The Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz
Ask any person of a certain age to picture a famous witch and Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West will invariably be the first character that pops into their heads. But the iconic green witch almost looked completely different. MGM originally wanted the Wicked Witch to be a glamorous villainess comparable to Snow White‘s Evil Queen. Gale Sondergaard was cast in the role, but was unhappy when the producers decided to make the witch ugly. Fearing that the change could harm her career, she decided to quit rather than wear the disfiguring makeup.
7. Agent J – Men in Black
Men in Black‘s Agent J was one of Will Smith’s highest profile roles during the early stages of his film career. But the New York cop turned MiB agent was almost played by an entirely different 90s sitcom star. David Schwimmer was originally offered the role, which he would have shot while he was on a break between seasons of Friends. However, he had already set that time aside to direct Since You’ve Been Gone, with the involvement of his entire theatre company. As you’ve probably guessed, he turned down the role, deciding he’d rather stick with his friends than go off and star in a summer blockbuster.
6. Jake Sully – Avatar
Avatar was a cinematic phenomenon when it came out back in 2009, hailed for its groundbreaking visual effects. James Cameron ultimately cast the relatively unknown Sam Worthington in the lead role, but not before Hollywood A-lister, Matt Damon, turned it down. The Bourne star later revealed that it was scheduling issues that kept him from participating in the production.
5. Marty McFly – Back to the Future
Family Ties may have made Michael J. Fox a household name, but it was Back to the Future that cemented his status as a movie star. Fox was actually the first choice to play Marty McFly, but scheduling conflicts with Family Ties prevented him from taking the part. Mask actor, Eric Stoltz, stepped in to take his place and filmed for a few weeks before director, Robert Zemeckis, decided that it wasn’t working out. Stoltz was a method actor. He insisted on being called Marty, even when the camera’s weren’t rolling, and just took the role very seriously in general. Even though Zemeckis thought that Stoltz was a “magnificent” actor, the role required a performer with more of a comedic edge. Stoltz was let go and Fox was hired, with the production working around his television commitments.
4. Danny Zuko – Grease
John Travolta’s starring role in Saturday Night Fever propelled him to the top of the Hollywood A-list and his leading role in Grease just a year later proved that his success was more than just a flash in the pan. However, the role of Danny Zuko was originally offered to Happy Days star Henry “The Fonz” Winkler. Winkler turned the role down – a decision he later regretted, telling reporters: “I was asked to be in Grease. But I decided I didn’t want to be typecast. But what I didn’t realise was that I already was. That’s why John Travolta went on to buy his own plane and I just went home.”
3. Neo – The Matrix
The Matrix was a sci-fi megahit at the tail end of the last millennium, with Entertainment Weekly hailing it as “the most influential action movie of its generation“. The film stars Keanu Reeves as Neo – a computer hacker who learns that the world he is living in is actually a simulated reality. But it was almost Will Smith who played ‘The One’. The Fresh Prince star turned the role down in favour of big-budget flop, Wild Wild West, later telling reporters: “You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be.”
2. Severus Snape – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Whatever you think of Severus Snape, there’s no denying that he is one of the most complex characters in the Harry Potter universe. Alan Rickman, the talented actor that he was, portrayed the Hogwarts potions master with perfection. However, the role was initially offered to Reservoir Dogs actor, Tim Roth. He turned it down, later telling The Metro: “I wasn’t ready to be on a lunch box, I really wasn’t.” Roth doesn’t seem to have any regrets about his decision, telling reporters: “The right guy [Alan Rickman] got the role.”
1. Han Solo – Star Wars
He made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, saved the world, got the girl. Han Solo is everybody’s favourite space scoundrel. Actor, Harrison Ford, is such a central component of the character’s charm that we can’t imagine anyone else in the role. But Ford was not the first actor approached to play the interplanetary smuggler. Burt Reynolds turned the role down, later explaining that he “just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time”. The Deliverance actor later regretted his decision, although we have to say we think things worked out for the best.
What do you think? Could any of these characters have benefited from a different actor playing the role? Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to avoid missing out on new articles!
Article Updated: 3 August 2019
10 Things You Never Knew About Superman
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! You probably think you know everything there is to know about the Man of Steel. You’re wrong.
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Superman has been a pop culture staple for over 80 years, with a media career spanning comic books, radio, television and film.
The character’s mass market appeal is as strong as ever, showing no signs of slowing down. The Man of Steel is such an icon that you probably think you already know everything there is to know about him.
You’re wrong. Here are 10 Things You Never Knew About Superman.
1. Superman Was Created by Two High School Students
Superman was created by high school friends, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The duo met in 1932 while they were both students at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio.
Both young men were fairly shy, but they quickly bonded over their shared interests and similar aspirations. They were both huge pulp fiction fans and both held ambitions of pursuing careers in the creative industry. Siegel dreamed of becoming a writer, while Shuster wanted to be an illustrator.
The pair first collaborated together for their school newspaper, with Shuster providing illustrations for Siegel’s Goober the Mighty stories.
Shuster would later provide illustrations for Siegel’s self-published fanzine, Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization. The third issue, published in January 1933, featured a short story called The Reign of the Superman.
2. Superman Was Originally a Villain
Siegel and Shuster’s first “Superman” was a malicious vagrant with psychic powers.
The Reign of the Superman follows ragged vagrant, Bill Dunn, who is tricked by a mad scientist into consuming an experimental drug. The drug grants Dunn various telepathic abilities, which he uses for selfish and malicious purposes.
The once meek transient becomes a super villain intent on world domination. Unfortunately for Dunn, the effects of the drug are temporary and his powers fade, leaving him to return to a life of destitution.
3. DC Bought Superman for Just $130
Siegel and Shuster received just $130 for the character when they sold to rights to Detective Comics in 1938. That’s the equivalent of around $2,300 when adjusted for inflation.
4. Nicolas Cage Was Paid $20 Million Play Superman
Nicolas Cage was paid $20 million to star as the Last Son of Krypton in the late-90s film, Superman Lives. He received the payment even though the Tim Burton-directed film was never made.
5. George Reeves Had a Gun Pulled on Him by a Child
George Reeves, star of the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Superman, had a gun pulled on him by a child. The young fan had wanted to test Superman’s invulnerability. Fortunately, he was persuaded not to shoot.
6. Superman Was Investigated by the FBI
A strip depicting an atom splitter brought scrutiny from the FBI during World War II. It was feared that details about the secret Manhattan Project had been leaked. DC was prevented from publishing several other Superman stories that depicted atomic weapons until the war was over.
7. Kryptonite Debuted on Radio
Kryptonite debuted on radio in 1943, six years before it appeared in comics. It was invented to give voice actor, Bud Collyer, time off. Superman was temporarily incapacitated to explain his absence.
8. That’s Not an “S” on Superman’s Chest
The familiar symbol on Superman’s chest might look like a stylised “S” but, according to comic book lore, it’s not one. It’s actually the Kryptonian symbol for “hope” and the insignia of the House of El. Flip it upside down and it becomes the Kryptonian symbol for “resurrection”.
9. Superman Has Had Some Strange Powers Over the Years
Superman has been shown to have an enormous range of abilities over the years. Super strength, speed and flight are all powers that Superman is well known for. He’s less well known for his super-ventriloquism and shape-shifting abilities. Other bizarre powers include telepathic caller ID, fixing broken objects by firing beams from his eyes and the ability to shoot a tiny version of himself from his fingertips.
10. Superman Couldn’t Always Fly
Up in the sky! Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman! Flight is probably the most well known ability that Superman possesses, but he hasn’t always been able to fly. Way back in the 1930s, the Big Blue Boy Scout could only jump really high.
Superman was given the ability to fly in The Adventures of Superman radio series and an artistic mistake saw the Man of Steel take flight in a 1941 issue of Superman. However, credit for cementing Kal-El’s ability to fly in the public consciousness is usually given to the Fleischer animated series.
Starting in 1941, the cartoon provided the first intentional visual depiction of Superman taking flight. The decision was made because it was felt that flying looked better than leaping when animated. The comics followed suit, giving Superman the ability to fly shortly after.
Why 3D Movies Keep Failing
3D movies seem to be on their deathbed. But this isn’t the first time that the 3D craze has come and gone.
Cheddar looks at the rise and fall of 3D movies, and Hollywood’s insistence on trying again and again to make them stick. Believe it or not, the 3D craze has come and gone multiple times since the advent of film.
In addition to being the first film screened in 3D, The Power of Love provided the additional novelty of allowing audience members to choose how the film ended. By closing one eye, the viewer could choose to see a happy ending or a tragic ending.
Despite receiving rave reviews, the film was not picked up by exhibitors in its original format. However, it was widely distributed in 2D under the title Forbidden Lover.
Sadly, the cultural significance of the original movie was not recognised in its time and the film does not appear to have been preserved. As of 2020, there are no known prints of either The Power of Love or Forbidden Lover, with both now being lost to time.
Who Won the Battle of the Bonds?
When Roger Moore and Sean Connery went head to head at the box office, who came out on top?
James Bond is one of the most recognisable names on the planet, with the fictional spy serving as the figurehead of one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. Obsessed over for more than 50 years, the Bond film series ages like a fine wine and is still just as appealing to audiences today as it was over half a century ago.
There have been 26 James Bond films made (the first one being Dr No, released in 1962). But did you know that one of these movies – Never Say Never Again – was an unofficial one? Never Say Never Again was made in a different studio by a different production company. It had different writers and different distributors. But they did get Sean Connery to play Bond. It was his first appearance as James Bond in 12 years, and his last ever one.
So who won in the Octopussy v Never Say Never Again, Roger Moore v Sean Connery battle of the Bonds?
Well Octopussy and Roger Moore won hands down at the box office. But Never Say Never Again did well, opening to acclaimed reviews from the critics and grossing over $160 million at the box office on a budget of $36 million (Octopussy grossed $183.7 million). Many argue that it is the better of the two Bond films, with Rotten Tomatoes’ approved critics scoring Never Say Never Again at a respectable 64% compared to a score of just 42% for Octopussy.
But perhaps more importantly, Never Say Never Again won in the courts. As you can imagine, the trustees of the official Bond franchise were not too pleased at this rival production and attempted, unsuccessfully, to block the film in the High Court.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing into the sunset with a martini in hand for the Never Say Never Again clan. Production was troubled. It was plagued with legal issues and Sean Connery himself had to take on many of the production duties. There were public disagreements between director Irvin Kershner and producer Jack Schwartzman and the costs went spiralling over budget, with Schwartzman having to complete production out of his own pocket. Many of the film’s sequences had to be cut for legal reasons. There was no opening gun barrel sequence and there was no James Bond theme tune.
We guess the real winner though was the James Bond movie fan. Two blockbuster Bond films in one year? Thank you very much!
It is probably fair to say that the Bond vs Bond battle of 1983 was more like a relegation battle than a League title winning decider. Looking back now, neither Octopussy nor Never Say Never Again have passed the tests of time, and few would rank either as one of their favourite James Bond movies.
Never Say Never Again, like an exiled pretender to the throne, continues to exist outside of the official Bond film lineage, even though MGM purchased the rights to the motion picture from Schwartzman in 1997.
Perhaps one day they will make a film of the 1983 Battle of the Bonds. If so, we can only hope that the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
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