Have you ever wondered how a big franchise that pretty much became synonymous with the lead actor or actress, would look like if someone else had taken on the role? Maybe some would have become bigger hits, some might have not enjoyed the success that they have, and others might have ended up going in completely different directions with some other lead actor or actress at the helm. And while all of the consequences are clearly within the realm of ‘what if’, the following case studies are actual casting stories – stories which might have had very different outcomes if a certain role had appeared differently, or there had not been any scheduling conflicts with other projects. In the next weeks, I will also aim to make a list, this time looking at actresses who could have taken different roles.
Die Hard was adapted from the book Nothing Lasts Forever, a sequel to The Detective, which had already been adapted into a film starring Frank Sinatra. Therefore, Sinatra was given the chance to reprise his role, which he declined – and thus a new character was needed. Several other actors were considered for the role, including Client Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Robert de Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Perhaps the most interesting name, however, is Mel Gibson’s. As Lethal Weapon was in planning i pretty much the same time as Die Hard, at one point Mel Gibson was considered for John McClane’s role, whereas Bruce Willis was offered the role of Martin Riggs. Both of them declined these respective offers, but accepted the reverse.
Well, we already know that Bruce Willis was one of them, while Sylvester Stallone and Robert de Niro were another two – since they were considered for pretty much all action films shot in the ’80s. Apparently, the script had been written with William Hurt in mind, but the producers thought he was not well known enough to play a lead in a major action film. Michael Biehn was also considered, but he was too busy shooting Aliens at that point. Christopher Reeve was also offered the part, as he had worked with director Richard Donner on Superman: The Movie, but declined the chance. Finally, Nicholas Cage was also considered, but ended up not playing the part.
Harrison Ford has ‘complained’ many times about the fact that he was not the first choice to play Indiana Jones. Before he could start learning his whip skills, Jack Nicholson had been offered the role, which he declined. Later in the auditioning process, Tom Selleck was the chosen one to play Indy – only to be forced to decline due to a scheduling conflict with shooting for Magnum, P.I.. While Spielberg initially didn’t want to cast Ford, as he had worked with him several times before and didn’t want this to lead to a director/lead actor coupling, cast him he did, and the rest is history.
Well, this is a bit of a different one, as we’re not just talking about a single movie or a franchise, but rather a series of re-casts every now and then. One such case was back in 1971, after Sean Connery filmed his last Bond and decided to retire from the role. Apparently, Clint Eastwood was offered the role, but he declined it, citing an inability to follow into Connery’s footsteps for that role. Before Connery’s comeback, the rather inexperienced George Lazenby was cast, but only ended up making one film in 1969. Burt Reynolds was considered at the time, and ended up opting against the role, as he (at that time) thought it would be too challenging for him to nail a British role as an American. Mel Gibson was a huge action film star in the 80s and was considered, but the producers ultimately opted against him for two reasons – he was too short, and already too famous.
Before Pierce Brosnan took the role in 1995, Liam Neeson was considered for the part – and although he fitted the nationality bill, he was seen as a very serious actor, more focused on arthouse projects and Academy Award hits such as Schindler’s List – thus James Bond would have been quite a departure for him. He declined, although later he went on to be the star of a huge action franchise in Taken. Finally, Hugh Jackman could have also played Bond following Pierce Brosnan’s stint – but he was in the midst of filming his second X-Men film, and feared that being on two major franchises would mean he’d have no time for other projects.
John Travolta was offered Forrest’s role in the big 1994 hit that was Forrest Gump, and declined it – something that he deeply regretted afterwards. He did play an important part in another 1994 hit, Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, but perhaps the worst thing from Travolta’s personal viewpoint is that he competed and lost against Tom Hanks in the Best Actor Oscar category – with Tom Hanks playing the part that he had rejected, of course. It is not only John Travolta who had rejected the role – Chevy Chase and Bill Murray both turned down the opportunity before Hanks ultimately was handed the role.