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Top 20 casting decisions that almost changed film

Top 20 casting decisions that almost changed film


In Hollywood deals come and go all the time. It’s very fast paced and schedules are continually conflicting with how busy everyone is, so it’s no surprise when someone cast in a role isn’t the filmmakers’ first choice. Here are a list of 20 casting decisions that almost changed films as we know them.

20. Sarah Michelle Gellar as Cher Horowitz (Clueless)

Cher, the lead role in Clueless, was not originally meant to be played by Alicia Silverstone. Sarah Michelle Gellar was their first pick for the film but due to scheduling conflicts with the soap opera All My Children she was unable to commit to the role. I personally enjoyed Gellar’s ass-kicking side in Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series and I think this would have dampened that for me. I’m glad Silverstone got this iconic role.

19. Harrison Ford, Kurt Russell, or Mel Gibson as Crash Davis (Bull Durham)

With starring roles in Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, Kevin Costner is probably one of the first actors to come to mind regarding baseball films. It’s hard to imagine someone else in either of those roles but amazingly enough, the role of Crash Davis in Bull Durham came down to a matter of first come first serve. Harrison Ford, Kurt Russell, and Mel Gibson were all offered the part alongside Kevin Costner but Costner was the first to respond and take the role.

18. Kim Basinger or Ellen Barkin as Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

The film wouldn’t have had lacked its passion without the sultry Susan Sarandon as the love interest but despite her unforgettable performance, she was not the first choice. Both Ellen Barkin and Kim Basinger were offered the part but declined. I can’t imagine someone else playing the role, but it would have been interesting to see Kim Basinger playing the part given her own sex symbol status during that time.

18. Charlie Sheen as Nuke LaLoosh (Bull Durham)

The final component of Bull Durham was the role of Crash’s arrogant counterpart Nuke LaLoosh. Tim Robbins got the part but only because Charlie Sheen had a scheduling conflict with the film Eight Men Out. If Sheen had taken the role, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon may have never met and been married or possibly she could have been wooed by Charlie Sheen and his tiger blood magic.

17. Kevin Costner as Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

The Shawshank Redemption was an amazing film and with the filmmakers’ choices for the role of Andy Dufresne you would think they were Bull Durham fans. Their initial first choice of Kevin Costner didn’t work out because he was busy with the film Water World. Eventually the role of Andy went to Tim Robbins but could you imagine if Kevin Costner knew the probability of failure for Water World? We might have had a very different Andy Dufresne.

Molly Ringwald -

Molly Ringwald almost had the lead in Ghost and Pretty Woman

16. Molly Ringwald as Molly (Ghost)

Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, was a critically acclaimed film nominated for Best Picture in 1990 and even earned Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar for Supporting Actress. While the chemistry of the cast seemed to mix perfectly, the role of Molly was not originally intended for Demi Moore. Molly Ringwald was the first pick but for some reason she turned down the role which worked out well for Demi Moore’s future.

15. Molly Ringwald as Vivian (Pretty Woman)

If you ask any woman about her favorite romantic comedies, I guarantee that Pretty Woman gets a mention. Pretty Woman is the film that skyrocketed Julia Roberts’ career and truly made her a star. Although her name almost seems to be synonymous with that film, she wasn’t the only red headed woman that they had in mind for the part. Believe it or not, Molly Ringwald turned down this role as well. Both Ghost and Pretty Woman are two of the more memorable films of the early 1990s and they both put their female leads in the spotlight. Can you imagine where Molly Ringwald’s career would have gone if she would have accepted just one of these roles?

14. Billy Crystal or Jim Carrey as Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story)

Before the role was given to Tim Allen, two other actors were sought after for the part of Buzz Lightyear in one of Pixar’s biggest films. Jim Carrey was considered for the role but due to the film’s low budget, they couldn’t meet his salary rate. Billy Crystal was offered the role but declined. He later said that declining the role was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

13. Billy Zane as Johnny (Dirty Dancing)

Dirty Dancing is the film that turned Patrick Swayze into a sex icon. It’s one of those films that will remain timeless among females and continually point out the inadequacies of their male counterparts. When you mention Patrick Swayze, I bet 9 times out of 10, Dirty Dancing will be the first film that pops into their head, but what if that name associated was Billy Zane? That’s right, Billy Zane AKA The Phantom was originally chosen for the role of Johnny, the passionate dance instructor. While he was the original choice, the Director felt that he and Jennifer Grey’s chemistry was lacking and that was more his problem than hers. I guess he just wasn’t as smooth as Swayze…

12. Leonardo DiCaprio as Dirk Diggler (Boogie Nights)

Before he was Mark Wahlberg, he was the rapper known as Marky Mark. When he scored the lead in the Paul Thomas Anderson film Boogie Nights, Marky Mark the rapper was forgotten and Mark Wahlberg established himself as a true Hollywood actor. While Wahlberg received much critical acclaim for his role, the role was originally offered to an already established actor named Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo declined the role because he was not familiar with any of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, but after seeing Boogie Nights he said he regretted his decision because he loved the film. While I think Leo is great in most everything he does, I’m glad this role went to Mark Wahlberg because without it, Marky Mark would have definitely outlived his welcome.

Will Smith Matrix -

Will Smith as Neo
Photo Credit:

11. Will Smith or Nicolas Cage as Neo (The Matrix)

Keanu Reeves was not the Wachowskis’ first choice for Neo, nor was he even their second or third. Will Smith was initially offered the part but declined the role to make Wild Wild West due to his skepticism about the film’s ambitious “bullet-time” special effects. He later claimed he was too fresh of an actor (pun intended) to take on the role in a successful portrayal. Nicolas Cage was also offered the part but turned it down due to family obligations. The role came down to a competition between Keanu and Johnny Depp, the Wachowski’s first choice. Surprisingly, Keanu Reeves emerged the victor.

10. Sean Connery as Morpheus (The Matrix)

Sean Connery was approached twice to play the role of Morpheus in The Matrix. Despite the popularity of the film and the interest that it has circulated to this day, Connery didn’t understand it. Because he didn’t understand the film that he would be apart of, he turned down the role and it was then given to Laurence Fishburne.

9. Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, or Michael Jackson as Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands)

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton created a strong bond since Edward Scissorhands. Burton was captivated by Depp’s performance and Depp was intrigued by Burton’s pleasant oddities in his films. Given Depp’s performance and his lasting relationship with Burton, it’s difficult to believe that he wasn’t Burton’s first choice for Edward Scissorhands. Tom Cruise was first in line and things were set in motion but for some reason, the deal never went through. Tom Hanks was also sought out but had a scheduling conflict with the film Bonfire of the Vanities. Even Michael Jackson had expressed interest in taking the role but luckily we got the amazing performance from Johnny Depp that truly made the film.

8. Sammy Davis Jr. as Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice)

Michael Keaton was pretty much a shoe-in for the role of the “Ghost with the most” but Tim Burton had an initial suggestion that seemed as odd as his films. If it weren’t for The Geffin Film Company Head David Geffin, Tim Burton would have pursued Musician Sammy Davis Jr. to play the role of Beetlejuice. Luckily it didn’t take too much convincing and Burton agreed that Keaton should play the part.

7. Jack Nicholson as Michael Corleone (The Godfather)

Jack Nicholson in most any role is not necessarily a bad thing but the idea of him taking the role from the now iconic Al Pacino would be a loss for film. Luckily Jack Nicholson was classy enough to decline the role because he felt that “Italians should play Italians” and I believe this gave a certain authenticity to the film.

6. Bill Murray as Batman (Batman – 1989)

I love Bill Murray as much as the next person but I find it very difficult to see him in the role of the dark knight that we all have come to love. Given that Michael Keaton also produced quite the fan uproar at the time he was cast, I can’t say what could have been but I think Murray’s association with other projects would have discredited the role. Keaton was clearly the right choice since he is still regarded as one of the best actors to play Batman to date.

5. Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

Tom Selleck was a pretty popular actor at the time of Raiders of the Lost Ark with Magnum P.I. being such a television success but playing Indiana Jones is quite a stretch. Harrison Ford is known as two things, Indiana Jones and Han Solo. He could have retired and just let those roles be his legacy which makes it difficult to envision someone else playing the part.

4. Stuart Townsend as Aragorn (Lord of the Rings)

Stuart Townsend practically had the role of Aragorn. He was already cast as the character and was working on set until Peter Jackson just changed his mind. He fired Townsend and brought in Viggo Mortensen to play the part. Townsend wasn’t even paid for his time working on the film and is still sour about the deal but who wouldn’t be?

Sean Connery Gandalf -

Sean Connery as Gandalf

3. Sean Connery as Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)

Sean Connery was yet again offered an iconic role when he was offered the part of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Believe it or not, his reasoning for turning down the role was the same for turning down the role in The Matrix…he didn’t understand the film. After he had seen the impact of both films he regretted his decisions. In fact, he didn’t understand the role in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but claimed he took the role because he didn’t want to miss out on another great opportunity.

2. Emily Blunt as Black Widow (Avengers/Iron Man 2)

I do like Scarlett Johansson as Marvel’s Black Widow, but their initial casting choice could have very well been just as good if not better. After seeing her play the role of a heroine in Edge of Tomorrow, I could definitely see Emily Blunt balancing the sexy/strong combination that is Black Widow. If not for a HORRID scheduling conflict with the film Gulliver’s Travels, Blunt would have been an Avenger. At least they found an adequate replacement but Blunt’s potential definitely has me intrigued.

1. Christopher Walken as Han Solo (Star Wars)

George Lucas had a casting call for the role of Han Solo and one of those calls was Christopher Walken. He continually had Harrison Ford there just to read with the actors auditioning but after all was said and done, Lucas decided that Harrison Ford was the man for the job. I think we can all agree on that decision made by George Lucas.

About The Author


Ryan has been fascinated with film and pop culture since childhood. Throughout college he "played it safe" taking the more lucrative route of being a computer programmer while squeezing in film related courses where he could...but even during his post college career, he could never escape his true passion. After following one of his favorite blogs for a long time, he approached the site's Editor about writing and they reluctantly gave him a shot. He later became their Senior Writer which led to a variety of other projects, radio show appearances, features, and high profile celebrity interviews. Despite his success with blogging, he still wanted more so in order to expand his creative addiction, he merged his IT skills and blogging know-how to create which has continued to grow into a creative Mecca of pop-culture fun and integrity.   [email protected]    Film Fad

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God some of these castings would have been life changing. If Molly Ringwald had not fell off the face of the earth after a very successful child acting career…. Actress like Julia Roberts might not have the seniority of the business they do. Chris Walkin as Han Solo would have been EPIC!!!!







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