It’s a tempting question: would these films have flopped or soared with different actors in the lead roles? Pop culture is littered with casting near-misses – actors who just missed out on potentially career-defining performances for one reason or other. Here are our favourites…
Tom Selleck / Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc
A contractual obligation resulted in him playing a Hawaiian shirted private in the TV series Magnum PI dick rather than the grizzled explorer in this blockbusting trilogy. In a cruel twist of fate, a writers’ strike put back the show’s filming, so he could have made the film after all.
Robin Williams / Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
JK Rowling famously insisted all parts in the film adaptations of her Harry Potter series went to British actors, which is why the producers passed on the late Robin Williams, who wanted to play Hagrid. At the time Williams told the New York Post he might re-apply “if [Harry] goes to Yale and becomes president.”
Jean-Claude Van Damme / The Predator in the Predator The Muscles from Brussels, who was yet to become one of the most famous action heroes of the ’80s, was originally cast as the beast in Predator. He hated it – the original monster suit was hot, uncomfortable and made him look like a Sesame Street character. So he dropped out, replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.
Sean Connery / Gandalf in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Someone should have told Connery, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS … on this film.” And yet he did, missing a $450m payday. The Scottish actor was offered $6m for each of the three Lord of the Rings films, plus a 15% stake in the franchise’s box office takings, but reportedly opted out. Still, a good day for Ian McKellen.
Liam Neeson / James Bond in Goldeneye
Pierce Brosnan went to star in Goldeneye, the film that Neeson turned down, but the latter actor insist that he’s never regretted his decision. Apparently Natasha Richardson, the actor’s then-wife-to-be, said she wouldn’t marry him if he played James Bond.
Al Pacino / Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope
The veteran actor was basically offered every film in Hollywood after wowing audience in The Godfather. He’s said he “didn’t understand the script” for George Lucas’ space-opera and, considering Harrison Ford so memorably made the film his own, maybe this one turned out for the best.
David Schwimmer / Agent J in Men in Black
“You know what the difference is between you and me?” Will Smith’s superslick Agent J asks Tommy Lee Jones’ character in Men In Black. “I make this look good.” Try and imagine Ross Geller delivering that line. You can’t, can you? Thank your secret governmental protectors the casting team went for Smith
Sarah Michelle Gellar / Amber in Clueless
The woman who would become Buffy the Vampire almost got to deliver lines like “My plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose” in this timeless comedy poking fun at life in La-la Land, but was due to star in the soap All My Children and so couldn’t make the film.
Lindsay Lohan / Jade in The Hangover
Everyone knows Lindsay likes to party, as does Jade, a former stripper in The Hangover, yet Heather Graham wound up playing the role because at 36 (Lohan was 20) she was closer to the character’s age. Director Todd Phillips said: ‘She didn’t turn it down. She loved the script. It really was an age thing.”
Helen Mirren / Mrs Weiss in Precious
The usually reliably glamorous Mariah Carey wowed everyone by playing a down-at-the-heel social worker in this gritty drama, but had reportedly been drafted in at the last minute after Helen Mirren dropped out. Director Lee Daniels later claimed Mirren dropped out three days before shooting began, saying: “I have a real job, a paying job.”
Pamela Anderson / Scully in The X Files
It’s hard to imagine the blonde bombshell from Baywatch as no-nonsense FBI agent Dana Scully in the cult sci-fi series (which is back on our screens) but apparently the producers considered her. In 2008 Gillian Anderson, who found huge fame through the role, said: “At the beginning, nobody trusted that I could do anything”.
Reese Witherspoon / Sidney Prescott in Scream
Do you like scary movies? Reece Witherspoon apparently does not, as she turned down the lead role in the late Wes Craven’s horror masterpiece, as well a part in 1998 slasher flick Urban Legend. She reportedly believed Scream was just another daft horror film, which of course the sharp satire was anything but.
Leonardo DiCaprio / Patrick Bateman in America Psycho
Fresh off the boat after the success of Titanic, Leo wanted to play Patrick Bateman in the adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ classic novel about yuppie excess in 1980s New York. For the princely sum of $20m. He was initially offered the role but, in the end, Christian Bale nabbed it.
Bill Murray / The Caped Crusader in Batman
Michael Keaton, who took the lead in Tim Burton’s darkly comic film, isn’t exactly most menacing Batman ever, but it’s still hard to imagine lovable Bill Murray as the morally complex vigilante. Apparently the 1989 movie was originally intended as a campathon in the vein of the 1960s TV show, which perhaps explains Murray being considered.