Do you ever sit back and wonder how an iconic movie role would have played out had another actor played the role? Jim Carrey was almost Capt. Jack Sparrow and Will Smith was almost Neo. Actors missing out on major movie roles for various reasons is nothing new, and here's some of the best.
Brat Pack Member Molly Ringwald was one of several actresses who were offered the role of Vivian in "Pretty Woman" before it was given to Julia Roberts. Ringwald turned down the role because she was uncomfortable with the script and didn’t like the idea of playing a prostitute. Since the extreme popularity of the film and Ringwald’s declining career, it’s no surprise that Ringwald has repeatedly expressed regret over turning down the role.
Tom Selleck as Dr. Henry Jones Jr. in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
Though Harrison Ford was director Steven Spielberg’s first choice for the famous archeologist, producer George Lucas was hesitant to cast someone he’d already worked with on “American Graffiti” and “Star Wars”, so they went to their second choice in Tom Selleck. Unfortunately for Selleck, his contractual commitment to “Magnum P.I.” was such that he had to decline the part even though filming would have finished before he started the new season of “Magnum P.I.”.
O.J. Simpson as the T-800 in "The Terminator"
O.J. Simpson was a lead contender for the role of the T-800, but producers decided against using him over fear that he was “too nice” to be believable as a killer robot. Several years later before his famous murder trial, Terminator comic books were printed with Simpson’s likeness used for some of the machines.
Robert De Niro as Sonny Corleone in "The Godfather"
No, you didn’t read that wrong. The man who won the Oscar for playing Vito Corleone in “The Godfather part II” was almost in “The Godfather” as Sonny Corleone. As you can hear in the voice over, director Francis Ford Coppola liked De Niro’s take on Sonny, but feared his performance wasn’t something that could be sold to the audience. The role eventually went to James Caan.
Winona Ryder as Mary Corleone in "The Godfather part III"
Though still an impressive film, “The Godfather part III” is considered a disappointment compared to its two predecessors. One of the most disappointing parts of the film is Sofia Coppola as Michael Corleone’s daughter Mary, a performance considered one of the worst in film history. However, Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter was not the first choice for the role, she was used when Winona Ryder fell ill just two days before shooting began, causing panic across the project.
Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly in "Back to the Future"
This is quite possibly the most famous “Almost” in the history of film as Eric Stoltz actually filmed for five weeks on “Back to the Future” before being recast with Michael J. Fox. Fox was the original choice for the role of Marty McFly but was unable to accept due to his commitments to the show “Family Ties”. After it was agreed that the film wasn’t working with Stoltz as McFly, a deal was reached with the producers of “Family Ties” to allow Fox to appear in the film on the condition that he miss no episodes of the show. This is why many outside scenes in the film take place at night.
Kurt Russell, Christopher Walken, and Nick Nolte as Han Solo in "Star Wars"
The role that made Harrison Ford a household name almost went to one of three other actors who have also made a nice name for themselves. Originally, Harrison Ford’s connection to the Star Wars project was as a carpenter at the office and then as the person delivering lines to the actors/actresses screen testing for the roles. George Lucas wasn’t interested in using Harrison Ford in the film as he wanted to use actors he hadn’t worked with on his previous project “American Graffiti”. Of those testing for the role of Han Solo were future stars Kurt Russell, Christopher Walken, and Nick Nolte, of which only Russell’s screen test as survived. Though I can’t imagine anyone other than Ford in this role, I’d love to see what Kurt Russell could have done with the part.
Robin Williams as The Joker in "Batman" and The Riddler in "Batman Forever"
It is unfortunate that a well-respected actor and a beloved film series couldn’t come to an agreement, but that’s what happened here. Originally, Robin Williams was a lead contender for the role of The Joker in Tim Burton’s take on “Batman”. However, it is believed that Burton and Warner Bros had no intention of casting Williams in the role, only using him as a threat against Jack Nicholson in an attempt to get Nicholson to lower his asking price. Later, Williams was approached about playing The Riddler in “Batman Forever”, only to decline the role because he was still put off about being used as a casting ploy for the first film.
Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, & Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Confused? Three men who have played James Bond were almost cast as James Bond? Yes, that’s an accurate statement. When the Ian Fleming books were first optioned to be made for the big screen, television actor Roger Moore was an original choice for Bond in “Dr. No”, but his commitments to the television series “The Saint” prevented him from accepting the part. Years later when Sean Connery was bowing out of the role, Timothy Dalton was approached to take on the part, but Dalton felt that being in his late 20s he was too young for the role. Years later when Roger Moore was leaving the series, another young television star was approached for the role, this time the star of "Remington Steele", Pierce Brosnan. "Remington Steele"’s ratings were low and the series was to be cancelled, but when it was announced that Brosnan had signed to be the new Bond, ratings on "Remington Steele" reruns went up, causing the network to use their renewal clause at the last minute and renewing the series for another season. This caused Brosnan to be unable to play the part and Timothy Dalton finally playing Bond in “The Living Daylights”.
Other Actors as James Bond
There is truly a long list of actors who at one point or another have been approached/considered to play the part of Agent 007. Hugh Jackman was a fan favorite when Pierce Brosnan left the part, but he declined the role after reportedly not being pleased with the plot direction. Liam Neeson was offered the role after Timothy Dalton’s run, but he wasn’t interested in doing action movies at the time. Ewan McGregor declined the role of Bond in “Casino Royale” for fear of being typecast. Current Superman Henry Cavill was the rumored runner-up for the role in “Casino Royale” but was deemed too young for the part. Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, and Adam West were all approached at one time, with each one declining because they felt Bond should be played by a British actor. Mel Gibson was suggested for the role by MGM, but producer Albert Broccoli shot him down as he was not British and too short. Clive Owen was rumored to be in negotiations to play Bond in “Casino Royale” but couldn’t come to an agreement on the contract. And Sean Bean and Ralph Fiennes were once in contention, only to later get roles in “Goldeneye” and “Skyfall” respectively.