Starring roles: These cult parts were intended for someone else
Some actors are so closely connected with their film characters, it’s almost impossible to imagine how someone else could play the part. However, some of the most iconic roles were actually meant for someone else.
Here are our top five:
- Al Pacino as Han Solo in Star Wars
- Sean Connery as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings
- John Travolta as Forrest Gump
- Leonardo DiCaprio/Brad Pitt as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho
- Macaulay Culkin as Jack in Titanic
Al Pacino as Han Solo in Star Wars
In a recent interview Al Pacino revealed that he rejected the part of Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie from 1977. The reason? “I did not understand the script.” Oh, Al. Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson and Chevy Chase were reportedly also in the frame. In the end, it was Harrison Ford who became immortalised in the role of the swashbuckling smuggler.
The decision didn’t seem to harm Pacino and if he had become a part of the Star Wars saga, he might never have made the classic Scarface. Speaking of which, according to legend, the part of Tony Montana was originally meant for Robert De Niro.
Sean Connery as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings
Forget Frodo and Aragorn, Gandalf is the undisputed star of the Lord of the Rings trilogy – and mainly because Sir Ian McKellen was made for the role.
However, director Peter Jackson and his team had another name in mind for the iconic part: Sean Connery as the wily wizard. Apparently, (just like his colleague Al Pacino) he had problems with understanding the script. In his case, not even the novel by JRR Tolkien provided any help.
It would seem the Scot had no more time for the world of magic – he allegedly also refused the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.
John Travolta as Forrest Gump
Run Travolta, run? Unbelievable but true: the title role in Forrest Gump was originally intended for John Travolta. Unlike many other stars who supposedly stand by their decisions, the actor admitted in retrospect that it wasn’t very clever to reject the part. Tom Hanks became a superstar and over 20 years later Forrest Gump remains one of the most popular movies of all time.
At the 1994 Academy Awards, the year of Travolta’s Pulp Fiction release, the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor went to Forrest Gump, while the iconic Tarantino caper lost out in the same three categories. Travolta even went head-to-head with Tom Hanks in the role that he had refused.
Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho
The process of bringing Bret Easton Ellis’s disturbing novel American Psycho to the silver screen was a seemingly endless one. While director Mary Harron had cast Christian Bale as the main actor, at first the studio executives didn’t want him involved.
The people behind Lionsgate saw Leonardo DiCaprio as a perfect candidate for the role of the psychopathic yuppie killer. He declined the role and turned instead to The Beach.
The previous director David Cronenberg had sought Brad Pitt as Patrick Bateman while the then little-known Stuart Gordon, also attached to the production for a time, wanted Johnny Depp. In the end it was Mary Harron who took her place in the director’s chair and insisted on Christian Bale - and as we now know, it was the perfect decision.
Macaulay Culkin as Jack in Titanic
One of the biggest hits in movie history could have been a very different film. By a whisker, the role that finally transported Leonardo DiCaprio into the Hollywood A-league could have gone to another child star.
Macaulay Culkin was one of the actors seriously considered for the role of Jack by the makers of Titanic. And if the part had gone to him, his life may have taken a totally different course. A more successful career as an adult might have prevented Culkin from just being remembered as “Kevin” from Home Alone. Most likely his band The Pizza Underground would never have been formed either. This would have in turn spared him the indignity of being pelted and booed on stage.