Films

12 Iconic Roles That Nearly Went To Someone Else

Turns out dashing Tom Hiddleston's extremely dashing turn as dashing Jonathan Pine in BBC's The Night Manager could have been dashed by the (arguably) more dashing Brad Pitt. Paramount had bought the rights to the John Le Carré novel back in the nineties, with the Hollywood adaption sat in production hell up until Brad Pitt came onboard to star as Pine and produce the movie. Fortunately for the Beeb, Pitt's version also came to nothing, and big Hidds got to play the part that's catapulted him straight to the front of the ever-increasing queue to be the next Bond.

But it's not the first time a part intended for one actor has gone to another - after all, Hollywood is a fickle place. It may come as a surprise to find precisely which roles - many of which turned their actors into household names - were originally to be played by someone else.

  • 12 Iconic Roles That Nearly Went To Someone Else

    DAVID SCHWIMMER AS AGENT J

    Schwimmer revealed that he was offered the part Will Smith would eventually take in Men In Black, but turned it down as he had already committed to the TV movie Since You’ve Been Gone he was due to direct, having cast everyone in the theatre company he co-founded in Chicago, and felt that he couldn't let his friends down. What a guy. Will Smith was obviously amazing in the part, as well as penning the barnstorming theme, but just imagine if they'd gone with this instead.

  • 12 Iconic Roles That Nearly Went To Someone Else 1

    ERIC STOLTZ AS MARTY MCFLY

    Back to the Future launched Michael J Fox’s career into the stratosphere. But it could so easily have been Eric Stoltz. Stoltz shot nearly half the film in the role of Marty McFly, but producer Steven Spielberg and director Robert Zemekis eventually decided something wasn't right and reluctantly gave him the boot. They decided to replace him with someone with more ‘physicality’, as opposed to Stoltz’s more serious, method-based approach. The rest is history. Or the future. One of the two. You can see the Stoltz footage here.

  • 12 Iconic Roles That Nearly Went To Someone Else 2

    LEONARDO DICAPRIO AS PATRICK BATEMAN

    American Psycho was always going to be a thorny project. Mary Harron signed to direct the screen version of Bret Easton Ellis’s ultra-violent capitalist allegory, but backed out when the studio hired Leonardo DiCaprio to star. She wanted Christian Bale as the maniac broker Patrick Bateman. Oliver Stone stepped in to direct. But after protests from feminist groups, and issues with the script, DiCaprio walked, followed later by Stone. Harron returned, and cast Bale. All’s well that ends well.

  • 12 Iconic Roles That Nearly Went To Someone Else 3

    JEAN CLAUDE VAN DAMME AS THE PREDATOR

    Odd to think that such a ‘name’ as Van Damme might have played a character completely obscured by make-up, particularly when he was at the height of his high-kicking powers. Indeed, it was just this that proved to be the problem. After landing the role for his agility, he found moving in the alien suit difficult, and quit after two days. He was replaced by the enormous and largely unknown Kevin Peter Hall, who stood at 7’2.5”.

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    HARVEY KEITEL AS CAPT. BENJAMIN WILLARD

    Some roles are so iconic, you can scarcely imagine anyone else doing them. But do them they did, in the case of Apocalypse Now. Harvey Keitel spent two weeks filming in the Philippines with Francis Ford Coppola as Captain Benjamin L. Willard. He was a few down the line too, with McQueen, Redford, Nicholson and Pacino all turning down the role. Checking the rushes, Coppola was unhappy with Keitel’s performance, so he called on Martin Sheen to take the role, after seeing him read for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather. He had lost out to Pacino on that occasion, but scooped the role of a lifetime instead.

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    TOM SELLECK AS INDIANA JONES

    Filming schedules are buggers. They’ve scuppered many a fine actor’s chances at getting game-changing roles. None more so, perhaps, than Tom Selleck. Having successfully auditioned for both the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders and that of Thomas Magnum in Magnum P.I., he was forced to take on the latter after it emerged the schedules would clash. He’d signed with CBS to do Magnum first, who then refused to let him out of the contract. Bye Bye Indy, then, leaving the door ajar for Harrison Ford and making him one of the biggest film stars in the world. Selleck remained predominantly a TV actor, albeit a very successful one. The onion in the ointment comes, however, when Magnum’s filming was delayed, meaning he could have actually done both. Ouch.

  • 12 Iconic Roles That Nearly Went To Someone Else 6

    DOUGRAY SCOTT AS WOLVERINE

    In another scheduling balls-up, the role of Wolverine in X-Men evaded Dougray Scott, who was all signed up but then delayed in his role in Mission: Impossible II. Another actor was sought, with Bryan Singer going for Hugh Jackman, an unknown Australian actor instead. It would be the role that would launch his career and link him inexorably to sideburns.

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    LANCE HENRIKSEN AS THE TERMINATOR

    Lance Henriksen was a long-time friend of Terminator director James Cameron. When he’d written the script, Cameron had envisaged a ‘regular guy’ in the role of the cyborg assassin, to make it more shocking. Henriksen was a shoo-in for the role, but when Arnold Schwarzenegger pitched up to audition for the role of Kyle Reese, he got the part of the terminator instead. Henriksen was given the role of the police detective, but got to play a robot in the end for Cameron – as Bishop in Aliens.

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    TERRENCE HOWARD AS COL. JIM RHODES

    Terrence Howard’s re-casting in the second of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man films was surrounded by rumours over his pay packet. He played Col. Jim Rhodes ably in the first film, but come the second, he’d been replaced by Don Cheadle. Why? Well, according to reports, he was the first person to sign on for the first film, and was paid more than any of the other actors, including the lead Robert Downey Jr. When approached to accept a more modest (arguably realistic) amount for the second, he decided to call the studio's bluff. Bad move.

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    FRANK SINATRA AS HARRY CALLAGHAN

    As nuts as it sounds, Frank Sinatra was all geared up to play trigger-happy cop Harry Callaghan in Dirty Harry. He even appeared on trade adverts in the Hollywood press, announcing the project was in production. But Ol’ Blue Eyes injured his hand, meaning he had to quit. After a few script tweaks and re-writes (and a quick fumble with Paul Newman as a possible lead), director Don Siegel went with Clint Eastwood, gifting him one of the most iconic roles of his career.

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    SYLVESTER STALLONE AS AXEL FOLEY

    Mickey Rourke was seemingly Simpson and Bruckheimer’s first choice to play wise-cracking cop Axel Foley (Al Pacino and James Caan were also said to be in the frame). He pulled out, leaving the slot open for Sylvester Stallone. But Sly, being Sly, wasn’t happy with the role. He even re-wrote the script himself, removing all the humour and making it a straight-up action film. The project went south, and Stallone left, leaving a chaotic project behind him. The film was re-written again, to reinsert all the funny bits, and Eddie Murphy became Axel Foley, one of his career-defining roles.

    (Images: Rex/AllStar)