Just like any part of a film, the cast is always subject to change until the movie is complete. When brainstorming the right actors and actresses for each role, filmmakers can go through several names, and Hollywood history is full of interesting “what if?” alternate realities. Some of the biggest movies of all-time could have looked very different if certain parts were handed out to someone else. At times, it’s difficult to say if that would have been for the better or worse, but it’s always fascinating to think about. Here are 10 actors who missed out on huge roles for strange reasons.
Elizabeth Banks was only 26 years old when she tested for the role of Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film. She was less than 15 months older than lead Tobey Maguire, so it was puzzling when she was told she was “too old” to play MJ. The part eventually went to Kirsten Dunst, who was just 20 when the movie reached theaters in 2002. Though Banks didn’t get the role she wanted, she did land a supporting part in the trilogy, playing Daily Bugle secretary Betty Brant. It’s clear that Raimi enjoyed her talent and wanted to include her in his movies somehow.
Arnold Schwarzenegger became an action icon with his terrifying performance as the cybernetic Terminator in James Cameron’s seminal sci-fi work. But if the filmmakers stuck to the first pick, history would have remembered the movie very differently – for all the wrong reasons. The producers initially wanted football star O.J. Simpson, but then decided against it because they thought the charismatic running back couldn’t be a convincing killer. Real life had an ironic way of proving Cameron wrong, but luckily The Terminator lives on as a one of the best films ever made. If Simpson was the T-800, it may not be as revered as it is today.
Most actors would kill to work with Quentin Tarantino, who consistently writes crackling dialogue and crafts masterful films. But Will Smith didn’t sign up when he had the chance. Tarantino had the Fresh Prince he mind for the role of Django in 2012’s Django Unchained, but Smith turned the part down because he felt Dr. King Schultz, not Django, was the movie’s real lead. Smith begged for Tarantino to revise the script so it was Django who killed Calvin Candie, but the director refused. The role ended up going to Jamie Foxx, who did an excellent job opposite Christoph Waltz, who won Best Supporting Actor for his turn.
David Prowse gave Darth Vader his intimidating physique, but his accent made the Dark Lord less threatening. George Lucas knew that Vader’s lines would have to be overdubbed by another actor for the finished film. Looking for someone with a powerful voice, Lucas first considered Orson Welles, but then decided against it because he thought Welles’ vocals would be too recognizable for the viewers. Of course, he eventually landed on James Earl Jones, whose baritone became ingrained in popular culture as one of the definitive sounds in Star Wars lore. He’s set to return in this December’s Rogue One, and fans cannot wait.
Whenever an expensive original project is coming through the pipeline, executives look for any way they can to increase its appeal. When it came to casting James Cameron’s fantasy epic Avatar, the studio considered stars such as Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal for the lead, Jake Sully. Cameron took the opposite route and went with the then unknown Sam Worthington. Worthington may not have broken out as the next great leading man, but he was solid in the role and will be a main player in the forthcoming sequels. And when you consider Damon and Gyllenhaal are doing just fine without Pandora, everything worked out for the best.
Ryan Reynolds was locked into Deadpool from the day he was born, but he needed a supporting cast. Originally, Olivia Munn was offered to play Wade Wilson’s girlfriend Vanessa, a part that eventually went to Morena Baccarin. Munn turned it down because she didn’t just want to be a love interest. She stayed within the same franchise and chose to play Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse. Ironically, Psylocke was seen as one of the weaker elements of that film, while the relationship between Wade and Vanessa in Deadpool was praised for its heart. If Munn had a mulligan, maybe she’d pick Deadpool.