Nobody can argue the simple fact that in order to make a good movie the most important thing is a solid script. Except me, of course. Being a struggling screenwriter myself, I wish I couldn’t… but I can. No, I’m beginning to believe that casting can be the most important and integral part to having a successful film. Sure, a good story will elevate a good cast’s performance to new and extraordinary heights. However, good casting (particularly in regards to acting but, of course, in direction as well) can take a mediocre script and make it something special.

As I’ve discussed before, the road from script to screen is a long one, that makes many twists and turns along the way. Many times, whether we see a film or not is solely dependent on whether or not a major star is attached to take on the heavy roles. Since the road is long, a lot of times, actors can come on to projects and be forced to drop out for a myriad of reasons including scheduling conflicts, creative differences, lack of interest, ego, money issues and so on. So, this week, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the major movie roles that actors have passed on over the years and the reasons why.

It’s amazing to think how different some of our favorite movies could’ve been if the cast had been different. So, with that in mind, I present you with this weeks’s list: THE MOVIES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN.


Luckily, this one didn’t make it too far down the pipeline. Supossedly, Sly was one of the final thousand to be considered for Han Solo. I just thought the fact that he was considered bared mentioning. Could you imagine? “Yo, Leia… we did it!”


I often wonder what this role could’ve done for Stoltz’s career. He has worked regularly, and in some great movies, but never really broken through to the forefront post-Memphis Belle. Sadly, the part was his, and he actually filmed scenes for the flick, but was let go a few days into production. Michael J. Fox, hot off his Family Ties fame, was brought in… the rest is cinema history!


The list of actresses that passed on playing Vivian Ward (A.K.A. Pretty Woman) is long. The reasons are understandable… playing a hooker can go both ways. Who knew this one would be a career launcher? Well, Julia Roberts. Too bad Ringwald didn’t see it. This is right about the time she descended into obscurity.


If there’s one thing Tarantino’s good at, it’s quirky casting. According to Q.T., the role of Bill in the Kill Bill films was written for Warren Beatty, who ultimately passed. Q.T. has been quoted as saying that the film would’ve been quite different had Beatty accepted the role and that heavy Kung-Fu themes were heightened upon Carradine’s casting. I would’ve been interested to see what his initial vision was.


Gandalf… the Scottish! Apparently, Connery passed on the role of Gandalf because he thought it was silly to play a wizard and he “didn’t understand” the script. Too bad… he was offered a reported 15% of the films gross which would’ve earned him a cool $400 million and made him the highest paid actor in history. Good call!!!


In my research, Smith has been nothing but class when referring to Keanu Reeves portrayal of Neo in The Matrix. Stating that he would’ve “messed The Matrix up” and that Reeves had the patience to “let the film be (what it was)”. Still, as much as I LOVE The Matrix, it would’ve been neat to see Smith sparring with Fishburne’s Morpheus. I fear it might have been a little more of a Men In Black vibe… but I bet it would’ve still been a lot of fun.


The role that ultimately relaunched John Travolta’s career was originally written for Michael Madsen. Travolta had been approached by Tarantino originally to play Clooney’s part in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. He passed but jumped on board without thinking twice when Tarantino came calling for Pulp Fiction. The sad part is, the reason Madsen had to pass on the part was because he couldn’t get out of rehearsal for Wyatt Earp… OUCH!!!

Oh well, maybe we’ll get that Vega Brothers movie out of this mishap someday!


This one is one of the greatest pieces of cinema lore… EVER. Apparently, Jim Cameron fought his hardest to cast O.J. as the Terminator. The studio denied him citing that no one could ever buy (the then lovable) Simpson as a killer… I know, right? 🙂


Is it just me or does he just look like Shrek?

This one bums me out a bit. Farley apparently recorded all, or most of the dialogue, for the first Shrek film but Mike Myers was brought in after his death. How fun could this have been!

FUNFACT (from IMDB) : “A remnant of Farley remains when Shrek uses “finger quotes” – a trademark of Farley’s character Bennett Brower.”


The most notorious of them all… and, again, another unfortunate turn of events. Selleck was aggressively pursued (not asked, pursued!) by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to play Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark… one of the GREATEST CHARACTERS EVER WRITTEN FOR FILM. Unfortunately, he could not make the film due to being contractually obligated to play Magnum P.I. for CBS. DOUBLE OUCH!!! Harrison Ford was brought in and, well, you know. Sure, we still have Mr. Baseball, Quigley Down Under, 3 Men & a Baby… Little Lady… Higgins! But, come on!!! The worst part is even though Ford brought everything to the character that made the Indy we all know and love, I think we can all agree that the one thing Indy needed… was an early 80’s Porn Stache!!!

That’s it, Freaks and Geeks. Feel free to comment below. I never edit any of the comments. Remember, this was meant to be an interactive site, as much as I love the sound of my own voice.

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Check back Sunday this week as we will be doing our Desert Island DVD picks along with several other bloggers around the webosphere. Have a great week and thank God I was cast to write this bloggity-blog-blog!!!


  1. writeolive Says:

    Great list! I always love to see who could have played who.
    Will Smith playing Neo would have been a crime against humanity and as for Sean Connery in Lord of the Rings, I love Connery, but think he was right to give it a miss. And Stoltz in Back to the Future? Can’t imagine anyone other than Michael J Fox in that role…

  2. loudogfotog Says:

    I heard Nick Nolte also Auditioned for “Han Solo.
    Also, Jamie Lee Curtis was set up to Audition as “Lea” in “Star Wars” and Carrie Fisher was set up to Audition as “Laurie Strode” from “Halloween.” They had the same agent, and he decided to switch their auditions because Jamie Lee Curtis’ mom was Janet Leigh of “Psycho”, so a horror movie was a better fit for her.

    • That’s cool… I’ve seen footage of auditions where Kurt Russel read for Solo and the girl who played Shirley on L&S (forgetting her name), she was in American Graphitti, she read for Leia. Was even more cool to see it as another actor reads the lines in character.

  3. Had never heard of Sly being considered for Solo…very interesting, but Ford was the right choice. Guess Lucas got one thing right in his career:)

    Sly was supposed to be in Beverly Hills Cop. As much as I love that guy, going with Murphy was the better choice. Great post Kai!!

  4. Wow fantastic post Kai! I definitely would have been intrigued to see Will Smith as Neo. Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones probably would have sounded like a great idea at the time but now, we all know how this all turned out.

    • Wasn’t just Smith as Neo… I believe there were a few interesting Morpheus (Morphei?) such as Val Kilmner… if memory serves… I researched this a few weeks back. Kilmner is the king of turning down big roles… he’s the whole reason the Backdraft Baldwin has a career! 🙂

  5. I have a more recent favourite “coulda been” movie. Apparently the original idea for The Dark Knight sequel would have focused around the trial of the Joker. Seriously, how awesome would that have been? With the Joker on trial for mass murder, one assumes that on top of the new bad guy, you’d have a Silence of the Lambs thing going on with Batman and the Joker. I could actually see Nolan topping the Dark Knight with that particular plot – it’s exactly what you wouldn’t have expected from a sequel to one of the biggest films ever: the notion of consequences and an exploration of how Batman changed Gotham.

    • Darren, you may be the only one I know that likes Batman more than me… and, hell yeah, that would’ve been cool!

      • I’m a big Batman fan, but I’m a bigger fan of the fact that he’s a character who has changed so much and been through so many iterations in seventy years – I even appreciate the camp kitsch of the fifties and sixties (for my sins).

        Speaking of Batman and what could have been: Imagine Robin Williams as the Joker in Burton’s Batman. Apparently he’s a huge fan of the Arkham Asylum Graphic Novel and was offered the role, but only so that Nicholson would change is negotiating stance (he still eventually signed the best movie deal an actor has ever signed). Williams was simply used as a bargaining chip, and it apparently ticked him off no end – the rumour is he was offered the role of The Riddler in Batman Forever and turned it down, for understandable reasons. Personally, before Heath Ledger was announced, he was the dark horse on my own personal shortlist of candidates for the role of the Joker in The Dark Knight (having worked with Nolan before)

      • @ Darren: Would’ve been very cool. Ultimately, Nicholson nailed it… too bad he’s a bit old for it now. Though he might make an interesting Riddler if Nolan went that way and chose to age him… never know!

  6. To continue the Batman theme, Patrick Stewart was one of the front-runners to play Mr. Freeze in “Batman and Robin”. Not sure why they went with Scharzeneggar, but good for Patrick for not being part of that awful movie.

  7. Sean Connery as Gandalf! He’d be all “We shet out to shave the Shire, Sham” 😀

  8. Connery was not Gandalf.

    Stuart Townsend was also cast for the part of Aragorn, but Jackson decided it wasn’t right and contacted Viggo 9 days before shooting. Which I love since it was the 9 that belonged to the Fellowship.

    Anyway, the only other one that I didn’t know about was Molly Ringwald who’s always annoyed the shit out of me. Since Julia Roberts managed to make it one of the few roles that she didn’t annoy the piss out of me, she deserved the role.

  9. Will Smith can be Neo as long as he isn’t remaking Oldboy or any other good Asian film! Interesting article, thanks for sharing!

  10. I like Sean Connery, but him “thinking a wizard was silly” AFTER being in Zardoz smacks of nothing more then poor decision making. What do you think of THAT, Trebek?

  11. The Michael Madsen one? Damn. It.

  12. Personally I think Eric Stolz as Marty McFly and Michael Madsen as Vincent Vega would have been improvements. Julia Roberts is my least favourite actress on the planet so any other woman in this role would have been good. That said, I think Pretty Woman is an absolutely dreadful film! DREADFUL!

  13. mcarteratthemovies Says:

    Michael Madsen as Vincent Vega — ooh, I dunno. I can’t disassociate him from Mr. Blonde. Vincent Vega’s a nice enough dude for a hit man, while Madsen just kind of … sweats menace. He’s got a James Dean/Ray Liotta vibe that scares the bejeezus out of me.

  14. these casting choices would have been SO wrong!
    I would have loved to see Cris Farley as Shrek. that would have been Bad-Ass!!! but then David Spade would have been Donkey

    also…. Connery was a wizard in Zardoz and a sort of wizard in Highlander. and wasn’t he a freaking Dragon? I don’t know what he was thinking about looking silly, but he would have been an awful Gandalf

  15. Please, I’ve seen a list with casting ideas so out there you’ll be wondering why they were thought of in the first place. The link:

    (P.S. Sly wasn’t the only one up for Han Solo.)

    • I know… I think Pacino was even thrown around. You should see how many movies Val Kilmer passed on… he’s the only reason Stephen Baldwin has a career! haha

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