Its always interesting to think of what would have happened if another actor had been chosen for a role made famous by someone else. What would have "The Matrix" been like if Ewan McGregor hadn't turned down the role of Neo to play Obi-Wan in "The Phantom Menace"? How about Sean Connery as Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings"? Here are more actors who missed out on the big role. Sadly, there's even one role here that could have saved a man's life.
John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, John Candy, Paul Reubens, Chevy Chase, and Michael Keaton in "Ghostbusters"
As originally written by Dan Aykroyd, “Ghostbusters” was to take place well into the existence of the paranormal investigators and eliminators, where the Ghostbusters were a regular public service like the fire department and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man showed up early in the film. Some of the more notable almost castings for this classic include...
- Conceived as a buddy comedy, Aykroyd’s best friend John Belushi was to play the role of Dr. Peter Venkman. Belushi’s death would lead to the film being rewritten and Bill Murray taking the role.
- Eddie Murphy was set to play the role of rookie Winston Zeddemore, originally designed to be the most intelligent and qualified of the group, but turned down the role in favor of “Beverly Hills Cop”. With Murphy in the role, Zeddemore would have shown up much earlier in the film and he would have been the one slimed at the hotel, but without Murphy the role was rewritten as an every man who could act as the translator for the audience, eventually going to Ernie Hudson.
- John Candy was cast as the role of the geeky Louis Tully, but left the part over creative differences for his character. Candy wanted to play the character as a German who had two dogs with him at all times.
- Paul Reubens, better known as Pee Wee Herman, was approached to play the role of Gozer, the god who would have taken the form of Ivo Shandor (the architect of Dana's apartment building and leader of the Gozer Worshipers), an unassuming man in a business suit.
- Before Bill Murray accepted the role of Dr. Venkman, another SNL alumni was approached, Chevy Chase, who declined the part. When asked later why he turned the part down, Chase said that the final product was not like the script he was given. The original script was much darker and scarier and didn't appeal to Chase. But though they ended up not being in the film, both Chevy Chase and John Candy appeared in the music video for Ray Parker Jr's "Ghostbusters" song.
- Known for comedic roles at the time, Michael Keaton was approached for the roles of Dr. Venkman and Dr. Egon Spengler, turning both roles down in favor of other projects.
Brandon Lee and Jean Claude Van Damme as Johnny Cage and Cameron Diaz as Sonya Blade in "Mortal Kombat"
Cameron Diaz was originally cast in the role of Sonya Blade, but broke her wrist during fight training and had to drop the role to Bridgette Wilson. Jean Claude Van Damme was offered the role of Johnny Cage, a video game character modeled after Van Damme’s character in “Bloodsport”, but he declined in order to accept the role of Guile in the competing franchise “Street Fighter”. Brandon Lee was later cast in the role of Johnny Cage, but was killed on the set of “The Crow” before he could start filming.
Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn, and Jim Carrey as Moe, Larry, and Curly in "The Three Stooges"
"The Three Stooges" had been a passion project for the Farrely brothers for many years, but it never took shape until three major actors signed on to the play the Stooges. Sean Penn committed to playing the role of Larry Fine, but dropped out to devote more time to his charitable work in Haiti. Jim Carrey signed on to play Curly Howard, even gaining 40 pounds for the part. Carrey then dropped the role due to concerns over his health if he gained the total 60+ pounds necessary for the part. Benicio Del Toro was set to play Moe Howard, but also left the part, possibly due to Penn and Carrey leaving the project.
Ashley Judd as Lisa in "Home Improvement"
Ashley Judd was actually the original choice for the role of “Lisa, the Tool Time Girl” on the sitcom “Home Improvement”. After auditioning and accepting the role, Judd dropped out just days before filming the pilot episode at the urging of her agent who wanted her to pursue a film career rather than a television career. Originally, Lisa was meant to be a major character in the pilot episode, being a college student studying Psychology who filled in for Jill on the set of “Tool Time”. The last minute change caused the character to be reduced to a minor character, eventually being played by a then unknown Pamela Anderson.
Will Smith as Django in "Django Unchained"
Smith was offered the role of Django in Quentin Tarantino’s controversial Academy Award winning film “Django Unchained”. Originally, Smith claimed he turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts with “Men in Black III”, but later admitted that he turned down the role because he felt the character of Django wasn’t the lead. Smith complained that he had to be the lead instead of Christoph Waltz, who eventually won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
Chris O’Donnell as Agent J in "Men In Black"
While a director wasn't set for the original “Men in Black”, Chris O’Donnell was the studio’s desired actor for the lead role of Agent J. When director Barry Sonnenfeld picked up directing duties, he decided to pursue Will Smith for the role at the suggestion of his wife. Sonnenfeld met with O’Donnell, who was trying to decide between “Men in Black” and another movie. Sonnenfeld reportedly told O’Donnell that he wasn’t a good director, felt the script wasn’t very good, and suggested O’Donnell take the role in the other film.
Scarlett Johansson as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Scarlett Johansson was one of many actresses who auditioned for the lead role in the remake of the Swedish film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Though Johansson had an amazing audition, there was one problem… she was too sexy. The character of Lisbeth needed to be strange looking to throw the audience off so they could grow to like her. But with Johansson's beauty, “you can’t wait for her to take her clothes off,” according to Fincher.
Sylvester Stallone as Axel Foley in "Beverly Hills Cop"
Originally written with Sylvester Stallone in mind for the lead, “Beverly Hills Cop” was set to be a more serious action film. The character of Michael Tandino, whose murder instigates the trip to Beverly Hills, was to be Axel’s brother, Jenny Summers was to be the love interest, and Detective Rosewood would have been killed off halfway through the film. Two weeks before filming, Stallone left the project and was replaced by Eddie Murphy, causing massive rewrites and a shift in the overall tone of the film. Stallone would then take abandoned plot points from his version of “Beverly Hills Cop” and turn it into the movie “Cobra”.
Eddie Murphy in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”
Eddie Murphy, a long time “Star Trek” fan, was set to play a key character in an early draft of “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”, a role that was later rewritten as a love interest for Captain Kirk played by Catherine Hicks. Murphy was to play a San Francisco professor who is obsessed with UFOs and witnessed Kirk’s ship decloaking over the Super Bowl, an act others chalked up to an impressive half-time show. Paramount was wary about having the star of their successful film “Beverly Hills Cop” appear in another of their franchises. Murphy accepted the lead in “The Golden Child” and the character was rewritten to a marine biologist to coincide with the humpback whales plot.
Tim Curry as Judge Doom in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”
Versatile actor Tim Curry was a contender for the role of Judge Doom in the revolutionary film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. During his audition, Curry gave a performance that outright terrified Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner.
Jonathan Brandis as Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
Child actor Jonathan Brandis was a recognizable face in the late 80s and early 90s with films like “The Neverending Story II”, “Ladybugs”, and “Sidekicks”, as well as his run on the television series “SeaQuest”. When George Lucas was casting for the role of “Anakin Skywalker” in the second film of the new Star Wars trilogy, Brandis was a rumored lead contender for the role, but being in his mid-20s, Brandis was deemed too old to play the 18-year-old version of Darth Vader. Tragically, after missing out on the new Star Wars film and having most of his role in “Hart’s War” cut, the decline in his career became too much to bear and Brandis took his own life in 2003.