The Fast & the Furious is so much more than a movie franchise – it's a global phenomenon spanning eight movies and a global box office gross in excess of $5 billion, with every passing sequel proving to be bigger and better (well, somewhat) than the last. From gravity-defying Abu Dhabi skyscraper jumps to high-speed submarine chases over frozen Russian terrain; nothing is off limits in the world of Fast & Furious, a 'Car Wars' saga that feels like it comes from a galaxy far, far away and is all the better for it. And yet few could have predicted that, back in 2001, a movie about the world of underground street racing, fronted by two relative unknowns, would have led to this.
Then again, nothing should surprise us about the Fast & Furious saga anymore. and that includes the incredible array of big names that came within a whisker of featuring in the franchise. Would any of the following taken Dom Toretto’s "family" down a different track? Read on and decide for yourself.
Here are 15 People Who Were Almost Cast In Fast & Furious Movies.
It might seem strange to think now, but there was a time when Marshall Mathers was in serious contention for the part of Brian O'Conner. Eminem was said to on a shortlist for the role, put together by producers long before the late Paul Walker was considered.
Riding high off the back of the multi-platinum success of The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem was eager to follow in the footsteps of other rappers like Ice Cube with a move into the acting game. Though it ultimately came to nothing in this instance, Mathers did eventually get his wish, going on to star in the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile in 2002, while Walker went on to make the role of O'Conner his own. So pretty much everything worked out alright in the end.
14 Eliza Dushku
Having made her name as ass-kicking good-girl-gone-bad Faith on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and with an attitude-laden turn in the criminally-underrated teen comedy Bring It On, Eliza Dushku was enjoying something of a moment around the turn of the millennium – and the writers behind The Fast and The Furious looked to capitalize on it. Writing up the part of Mia Toretto, Dom’s feisty younger sister and love interest of Brian O'Conner, according to Entertainment Tonight, they saw only had one actress in mind for the role: Dushku.
There was just one problem: Dushku disagreed. The role eventually went to Jordanna Brewster, best known for Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty at the time, with Dushku returning to the role of Faith in Angel and later starring in the TV series Tru Calling and Dollhouse.
Fellow rapper and producer Redman, born Reginald Noble, was actually the original choice for the part of Tej Parker in The Fast and The Furious sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious [Via ETOnline]. He'd previously demonstrated himself a more than capable screen presence in the cult 2001 stoner comedy How High, alongside long-time collaborator Method Man (who himself had appeared in the original Fast & Furious movie) and looked to be a good fit for the part.
Unfortunately for Redman, scheduling conflicts ultimately forced the rapper to pull out of 2 Fast 2 Furious before filming commenced. That ultimately paved the way for fellow rapper Chris "Ludacris" Bridges to land the part, in what amounted to the "Area Codes" lyricist’s first major movie role. The rest, as they say, is history.
12 Sarah Harding
One fifth of the Simon Cowell-created pop group Girls Aloud, when the band went on hiatus in 2009, Harding embarked on a pretty patchy acting career that included appearances in two St Trinian’s movies and the poorly received Danny Dyer “comedy” Run For Your Wife – a movie that made just over £600 at the UK box office.
It could have been so different for Harding, though. With Fast & Furious 6 taking the action to London, HMV states that the pop singer was apparently considered for the role of Vegh, one of the members of British villain Owen Shaw’s deadly criminal gang. Alas, it was not meant to be, with the role ultimately going to one of her former St Trinian’s castmates Clara Paget, an actress perhaps best known for featuring on the Starz series Black Sails.
11 Halle Berry
Halle Berry is no stranger to high-octane thrills, as anyone who has seen her performances in either the sublimely ridiculous Swordfish or the just plain ridiculous Die Another Day can attest. Yet it could have been even better for Berry fans. Long before Kurt Russell made the part of Mr. Nobody his own, Berry was seriously considered for the part in Fast & Furious 7, in a move that would have seen the character take a very different shape – in more ways than one.
Ludacris was certainly keen on the move at the time, telling Ryan Seacrest on the rumors linking her to the project: "I have no idea, but I'm hoping for Halle Berry … but we'll see what happens. They always seem to surprise even us sometimes." In the end, however, Berry ultimately opted against joining the franchise.
10 Jason Mantzoukas
One-third of the team behind the always enjoyable How Did This Get Made? movie podcast and an avid Fast & Furious fan to boot, Mantzoukas is an actor you will probably be familiar with thanks to memorable turns in everything from The Dictator to The League. He came very close to landing his dream role too, as Safar, Ramsey’s go-to contact when they head to Abu Dhabi in search of the God’s Eye in Furious 7.
Speaking on his HDTGM podcast, Mantzoukas revealed that he auditioned for the part but ultimately lost out to Ali Fazal. Despite that setback, both he and his fellow podcast “family” Paul Scheer and June Diane Raphael remain open to the idea of appearing in any and all future Fast & Furious movies. Make the call, Paramount Pictures!
9 Tommy Lee Jones
The addition of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, baby oil and all, as Luke Hobbs in Fast Five was the shot in the arm the franchise needed after 2009’s Fast & Furious. Yet in the original plans for the fifth series outing, Vin Diesel and the film’s writers had designs on Tommy Lee Jones for the part. Jones had won an Oscar as US Marshall Samuel Gerard, the man on the tail of Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive, and he seemed a natural fit for what amounted to a similar role.
It was only when a fan on Facebook lobbied Vin Diesel to work with Johnson, who was a rising star in Hollywood at the time, that those plans changed. Offered the part in place of Jones, Johnson accepted, with the writers altering the final script as a result. Vin Diesel and Jones probably would not have gone toe-to-toe in that version of the movie, though we wouldn't necessarily have been against it, either.
8 David Tennant
The former Doctor Who actor has proved himself more than capable of living life on the dark side in recent years, thanks to his well-regarded stint as the deplorable Kilgrave on Netflix’s Jessica Jones series. Prior to that, however, Tennant had the opportunity to play the part of Owen Shaw in Fast & Furious 6. According to Latino Review’s El Mayimbe, director Justin Lin contacted the actor to discuss the possibility of taking on the role.
Lin and Tennant are rumored to have held a series of conversations over Skype about the latter signing on for the project. Alas, the Scottish actor ultimately turned the part down, going on to further success on the small screen with the hit series Broadchurch, a starring role he'll return to one last time later this year.
7 Channing Tatum
When it comes to picking the weakest entry in the Fast and the Furious saga, most fans would probably plump for Tokyo Drift. Apologies to any big Drifters out there, but Lucas Black’s Sean Boswell is simply no substitute for Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (though the latter did cameo), and the movie’s confusing timeline issues mean it hasn’t aged particularly well, either.
It could have been so very different, though. A few years back, during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Channing Tatum revealed he had been up for the part, only to blow it in the audition. “I don’t even know if it was — I blocked it out, mainly so I don’t remember the specifics. I think it was a combination of me being just bad, not remembering the lines, totally freaking out, I was probably sweating a lot,” he said.
Tatum still ranks it as his worst ever audition, but it certainly hasn't done any damage to his burgeoning career as a Hollywood A-lister.
6 Deepika Padukone
Keen to appeal to their global audience, the makers of Furious 7 approached Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone with the offer of a part in the franchise. Who she would have played remains unclear – she could have taken on Ronda Rousey’s role as Kara or, alternatively, that of Ramsey, which eventually went the way of Game of Thrones’ Natalie Emmanuel.
Unfortunately, she was already committed to the Bollywood project Ram-Leela and refused to renege on those commitments. "I don't regret it [turning Furious 7 down],” she told India Today. “I had to work out things for Ram-Leela here, I couldn't have left the process mid-way, I had given my commitment here first.”
There would be a happy ending for sorts for Padukone, who went on to star opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.
5 Josh Brolin
While Tommy Lee Jones was the ideal choice for the role of Luke Hobbs in Fast Five, the producers were also eyeing up Brolin for the part at the time, and given his performance as a no-nonsense DEA agent in Sicario, you could see why he would have been a good fit in the role. That said, Vin Diesel’s fans thought otherwise, lobbying hard for Dwayne Johnson to get the part, even if it meant rewriting much of what they had planned for the character. Brolin definitely would have been a good match for Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto in any fight, though.
4 Ja Rule
Arguably the biggest tale of woe and regret to come out of the franchise concerns forgotten rapper Ja Rule, who must surely look at the Fast & the Furious movies with a sense of regret.
Cast in the bit part role of Edwin in the first movie, 2 Fast 2 Furious director John Singleton revealed in an interview with Grantland that Ja Rule had had the opportunity to play the part of Tej Parker in the second movie with a major pay rise – but said no.
“Ja got too big for himself. He turned it down. He turned down a half a million dollars,” Singleton said. “He was acting like he was too big to be in the sequel. He wouldn’t return calls.”
After being yanked around too much by the rapper, Singleton turned to Ludacris, who's since gone on to star in three additional franchise outings (for which he's surely pulling in well over a half mil at this point).
3 Natalie Portman
When Eliza Dushku opted against taking on the role of Mia Toretto, Dom’s tough-talking sister, in a part written specifically with the actress in mind, producers drew up a shortlist of potential big-name replacements. While the likes of Jessica Biel and Bijou Phillips were both mentioned in connection with the part, arguably the most intriguing name linked to the role was Natalie Portman.
In the midst of her Padme Amidala phase, with two further Star Wars prequels still on her dance card at the time, Portman ultimately opted against taking up the part, preferring to move away from more traditional box-office fare in favor of less commercial movies like Garden State and Closer.
We can’t help but feel like we were the ones who missed out on that one, though.
2 Timothy Olyphant
As inconceivable as it might seem to most fans, Vin Diesel wasn't actually the first choice to play what is now his signature role of Dominic Toretto. That honor instead went to Justified star Timothy Olyphant, who was the first actor to be offered the part according to franchise producer Neal H. Moritz.
During an appearance on Bill Simmons’ Podcast, Moritz revealed that when The Fast and the Furious was first pitched to Universal, the studio gave the project the greenlight on the one condition that Olyphant was cast in the role of Toretto. It's unclear why Universal was so keen on Olyphant, who was a relatively unknown actor at the time, but he ultimately said no to the offer.
That proved to be a blessing in disguise, of course, with Moritz going on to meet and eventually cast Diesel in the part that made him a global star.
1 Denzel Washington
Of all the big names to have said no to a part in the Fast & Furious movies, few compare to Denzel Washington, who has been a long-time target for the producers behind the franchise. Despite setting up plans for Jason Statham to act as the main villain in Furious 7 within the final few frames of 6, Deadline revealed at the time that director James Wan originally approached Washington about taking on the part of the big bad in the seventh outing.
Though Statham was cast as Deckard Shaw, brother of Fast 6's Owen Shaw, Washington would have likely taken on a different role, one that could even have ended up borrowing elements of the character which ultimately became warlord Mose Jakande, ultimately played by Djimon Hounsou. Unfortunately, we may never know.
What other big name stars nearly appeared in the franchise? Would any of these rumored casting decisions have been better than what we ended up with? Let us know in the comments.
Fate of the Furious is currently playing in theaters, and the ninth installment of The Fast & The Furious will arrive in cinemas on 19 April 2019.