Casting the right actor for a role can make or break a movie. Sometimes, the perfect actor for a part isn’t the first choice, and in some cases, this leads to the birth of iconic characters. Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic film roles of all time and the actors who were initially considered for them.
Shirley Temple: The Unlikely Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Shirley Temple, the highest-grossing movie star at the time, was initially considered for the role of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. However, 20th Century Fox refused to loan her to MGM, leading to Judy Garland’s casting. This change forced the character of Dorothy to mature in age, and costume designers had to work around Garland’s developing figure.
Gary Cooper’s Near Miss as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1939)
Producer David O. Selznick wanted Gary Cooper to play Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, but Samuel Goldwyn refused to lend the actor to Selznick. Cooper himself didn’t want to do the movie, and the part went to Clark Gable. Cooper famously predicted that the film would be a flop, saying, “I’m glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling flat on his nose, not me.”
Jack Lemmon Almost Hustled as ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson in The Hustler (1961)
Paul Newman’s iconic role as ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson in The Hustler was initially offered to Tony Curtis, who turned it down. Jack Lemmon was then considered, but he also passed on the part, which eventually went to Newman. Newman would later reprise his role in 1986, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor that eluded him in 1961.
John Wayne: The Waco Kid That Never Was in Blazing Saddles (1974)
Mel Brooks initially wanted Dan Dailey for the role of the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles, but Dailey’s failing eyesight made it unsafe for him to ride horses. Brooks then approached John Wayne, who loved the script but declined the role, saying, “This is too dirty. I’m John Wayne.” Gene Wilder eventually stepped in and delivered a hilarious performance.
Al Pacino’s Brush with the Force as Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Al Pacino was offered the role of Han Solo in the first Star Wars film due to his recent string of hits. However, Pacino didn’t connect with the script and passed on the part, which eventually went to Harrison Ford. Other actors considered for the role include James Caan, Nick Nolte, Chevy Chase, Sylvester Stallone, Bill Murray, and Christopher Walken.
Tom Selleck’s Lost Adventure as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Tom Selleck was offered the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and even delivered an outstanding screen test. However, his commitment to the TV show Magnum PI prevented him from taking the part. Harrison Ford stepped in, and the rest is history.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994): A Trio of Almosts
- Tom Cruise nearly played Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption but had reservations about working with first-time director Frank Darabont. The role eventually went to Tim Robbins.
- Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Harrison Ford, and Robert Redford were all considered for the role of Red, which ultimately went to Morgan Freeman due to his “authoritative presence, demeanor, and deep voice.”
- Brad Pitt was initially cast as Tommy Williams but opted to do Interview with the Vampire instead. Gil Bellows took on the role, which director Frank Darabont felt “enhanced the movie.”
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dance with Madness as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000)
Writer and director Mary Harron initially wanted Christian Bale for the role of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. However, when Lionsgate Films took over the project, Harron was let go, and Leonardo DiCaprio was announced as the lead. DiCaprio eventually left the project to pursue The Beach, and Harron was reinstated as director, bringing Bale back on board.
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