Most of us know the movie industry well enough to realize that initial casting choices are like kids and vegetables: They seldom stick. Recent news that Leonardo DiCaprio was considered for The Riddler in The Dark Knight Rises has become the latest in many publicized could-have-beens. Some might even remember that before Keanu Reeves, Will Smith was sought for the role of Neo in The Matrix. Stretches like these happen quite frequently, which are generally…interesting to stumble upon. So to find out just how bewildering initial considerations were, here’s a list of various roles that could have gone to somebody else.
Spider-Man: Leonardo DiCaprio and James Franco as Peter Parker.
The suit must be surprising comfortable.
While we’re on the topic of Leonardo DiCaprio and superhero films, he was actually one of the actors considered for the part of Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. And in a twist of heroes and (semi) villains, James Franco, who went on to play Harry Osborn, was also among the screen tested actors. Leo sure seems to shrug away from superheroes. He’ll play a full-on retard and controversial, supposed homosexual, but isn’t up to being a comic book hero or villain? Where’s the fun in that?
The Shawshank Redemption: Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp and Kevin Costner as Andy Dufrense. And Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Red.
Prison does things to a man.
Yes, there were quite a few potential combinations for the roles of Andy and Red in The Shawshank Redemption. Those who’ve seen the film know that Andy is a very subdued character, so I’m really flabbergasted that Nicolas Cage came to be considered. But hey, maybe a transition Vampire’s Kiss to one of the few subtle Stephen King stories isn’t as much a jump as I suspect. Though in all seriousness, Johnny Depp and Clint Eastwood playing together in the famous roles sure sounds interesting. Maybe that way Clint could warn Johnny to back away from Tim Burton a bit earlier and keep his resume from molding up.
Titanic: Matthew McConaughey and Macaulay Culkin as Jack Dawson.
I know, right?
DiCaprio’s role as Jack Dawson in Titanic probably isn’t one that he’d label as self-defining. But hey, it probably brought on a big, fat paycheck and plenty of attention-paying teenage girls; hard to complain with that! And Matthew McConaughey has always struck me as a guy trying to be charming or suave, so I can understand his consideration. Then there’s Macauley Culkin. Who’d have thought Home Alone’s own Kevin could’ve followed up losing his family (twice) by dying on the infamous ship’s maiden voyage? The kid hasn’t exactly had a brag-worthy career either; maybe he’s got some relation to Bad Luck Brian. In all honesty, his twig of a body probably wouldn’t have endured past hauling Kate Winslet over the stern of the ship. Can’t win ’em all.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Bill Murray, Steve Martin and Robin Williams as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Someone else playing me? Hand up the rum.
Pirates of the Caribbean sat in development Hell for over a decade, with the story originally being pitched for Steven Spielberg to potentially direct. At the time, the colorful lead character was pondered on quite a bit; and guess what? Most of the initial actors lean(ed) towards silly, comedic roles! Given the shaky track record Steve Martin and Robin Williams have, it’s weird to imagine them as the wobbly but strangely thoughtful captain. As for Bill Murray, he just seems to come off as dryly sarcastic, so I’m not sure how colorful and upbeat he’d be. I think this is just one more instance that the final choice is one we can agree was for the best.
Air Force One: Kevin Costner as President Marshall.
Surely the make-up wouldn’t be THAT bad?
Oh the many, many actors we’d rather see as the President of the United States. Many people (including myself) absolutely loved Harrison Ford as the fictionalized President in Air Force One, a film light on plausibility but heavy on entertainment. Although any movie where the President is a decent individual–let alone a badass who does things himself–has no realism in this day and age. Then there’s the insanely inconsistent Kevin Costner. I might be alone here, but I think the man is talented and is given too much flak. I could see him playing the President quite well, though I doubt his voice would command nearly as much as Ford did. But hey, this role wasn’t such a waste; I’m sure The Postman will live on with much more respect and recognition.
Alien: Veronica Cartwright as Ripley.
Switch roles? You got a face-swap for us?
Right now one might make an argument the Alien franchise has hit the point of being milked. Even so, throughout the course of over thirty years now, the role of Ripley in each Alien movie has become a bit of an icon. And with a character this memorable, you can be sure a lot of it has to do with the actress, to which Sigourney Weaver proved to be likable in each film. Now, looking back, could we see another actress tackling and sticking with the role? One of the other Alien stars, Veronica Cartwright, was actually considered for the key role. I for one could see her playing Ripley in Alien, but I’m not so sure about the sequels. But thanks to the way Weaver handled her speech at the end of Alien, she ultimately got (and stuck with) the role.
Sandra Bullock as Maggie in Million Dollar Baby
We’re not convinced.
Here’s one we can shrug aside in hindsight, since both ladies in question were given an Academy Award. But at the time of Million Dollar Baby’s release, you’d have to wonder even more just what Maggie could have been like. I won’t hide that I’m not the biggest Sandra Bullock fan, finding her to essentially be a more famous Linda Hamilton. She has talent, but I’m glad that Swank was chosen, since I always find her to be a versatile actress–precisely what the role called for.
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder as Queen Ravena in Snow White and the Huntsman
Angelina gets to play a make-up and costume-drenched freak after all. Happy seasons!
For one of these actresses, I can definitely see why they were considered. For the other, I can’t imagine it. But given the final choice, I’m thankful. Angelina Jolie seems to be an immediate go-to actress for these big, tough female characters. And I might risk what little reputation I have already, but she can never suspend me. I feel that her as the Evil Queen wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting, but it’s probably more than what I can say for Ryder. She’s certainly a likeable actress, but as the intimidating villain? Sorry, but her child-like face just doesn’t scream evil or queen-like in any way.
Chloe Grace Moretz and Shailene Woodley as Katniss in The Hunger Games
Does this face scream bows, burns and harsh survival?
Here are two young actresses I’m quite fond of, despite having only seen one or two performances by each of them. Chloe Grace Moretz of Hugo and Kick-Ass has already established herself as more adaptable than most adult actresses. And Shailene Woodley turned out to be perhaps the biggest, most pleasant surprise of The Descendants. That said, this is another instance that I must say I’m content with the final choice. Jennifer Lawrence is another still-rising actress who’s impressed me with her filmography thus far. For the role of Katness, I think she pulled it off better than the others could since she seems more physically adept (please don’t take that out of proper context). The performance likely would have been great if any of the other two were chosen, but Lawrence just looks the part so much more.