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Top 10 Iconic Roles Almost Played by Different Actors

Top 10 Iconic Roles Almost Played by Different Actors
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
It's hard to imagine anyone else being in these roles, but that was nearly the case. For this list, we'll be looking at various iconic characters from classic movies that were nearly played by different actors. Our countdown includes Will Smith as Neo, John Krasinski as Captain America, Stuart Townsend as Aragorn, and more!

Top 10 Iconic Roles Almost Played by Different Actors


It’s hard to imagine anyone else being in these roles, but that was nearly the case. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Iconic Roles Almost Played by Different Actors.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various iconic characters from classic movies that were nearly played by different actors.

#10: Eddie Redmayne as Kylo Ren

“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (2015)
Regardless of your thoughts on the new “Star Wars” trilogy, there is one thing we can all agree on - Kylo Ren is a badass. Adam Driver burst into the mainstream with his performance as the young hulk, with many fans calling Driver and his character the best of the newcomers. And to think, Ren was nearly played by none other than Eddie Redmayne. Redmayne revealed to Uproxx that he had auditioned for Ren but that it went “catastrophically bad.” This includes putting on a “ridiculous voice” and doing different degrees of the Darth Vader breathing. After ten shots at the audition, Redmayne was essentially kicked out of the room. They ended up working around Driver’s “Girls” schedule, and the rest is history.

#9: John Krasinski as Captain America

“Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
Casting Captain America is a tall order. You have to land on someone who proudly screams “Americana.” They have to be traditionally fit and handsome, and if all goes accordingly, they would stick around for the entire span of the MCU. Marvel eventually landed on Chris Evans, who was perhaps most well known for playing Johnny Storm in the “Fantastic Four” series. However, Evans admitted to Entertainment Weekly that he was “almost too chicken to play Captain America,” and that he declined the role three separate times. It nearly went to “The Office’s” own John Krasinski, who was even asked to screen test in costume. Krasinski told Conan O’Brien that he too declined the role after being intimidated by Chris Hemsworth. That’s understandable.

#8: John Belushi as Peter Venkman

“Ghostbusters” (1984)
Bill Murray has enjoyed many iconic roles throughout his prosperous and illustrious career, including the cranky and sarcastic Ghostbuster, Peter Venkman. When it comes to legendary comedic casts, it doesn’t get much better than Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. But Aykroyd, who co-wrote the script with Ramis, had his eyes set on an entirely different cast. When Aykroyd began writing, he envisioned himself working with Eddie Murphy and John Belushi. Unfortunately, Belushi passed away from a drug overdose in March of 1982, and Aykyord claims that he was writing a line for Belushi when he received the phone call. He then turned to his former “SNL” castmate Bill Murray, and the two were reunited.

#7: Sean Connery & Others as Hannibal Lecter

“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
There have been many great Hannibal Lecters, including “Hannibal’s” Mads Mikkelsen. But no one will ever dethrone Anthony Hopkins, and we can say that with certainty. This is an iconic role, and the American Film Institute even named Lecter the greatest villain in movie history back in 2003. Hopkins’s performance was obviously a major influence in that decision. Many actors were considered for the role before Hopkins, including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and even Daniel Day-Lewis. Director Jonathan Demme wanted Sean Connery and personally approached him with the offer, but Connery turned him down. The role finally went to Hopkins, who was cast based on his performance as Frederick Treves in “The Elephant Man.”

#6: Stuart Townsend as Aragorn

“The Lord of the Rings” franchise (2001-03)
Most people would peg Frodo as the “hero” and protagonist of “The Lord of the Rings,” but that distinction could very well go to Aragorn as well. The third movie is even named after his ascension to the throne of Gondor! Many people praise Viggo Mortensen’s performance, owing to his dignified and regal appearance. Irish actor Stuart Townsend was originally cast in the role and even trained for two months. However, he was fired the day before principal photography began, as Peter Jackson changed his mind and wanted someone older. In 1999, Townsend would be 27. Mortensen was 41. Mortensen replaced Townsend at the last minute, and he only took the role because his son was a huge fan of the novels.

#5: Will Smith as Neo

“The Matrix” (1999)
Not every Keanu Reeves performance has been praised, but he fit the role of Neo like a glove. Audiences needed to buy Neo’s transformative character development as he went from bewildered newcomer to confident God, and Reeves made it look natural and believable. And to think, the role almost went to both Nicolas Cage and Will Smith. Cage rejected the offer owing to “family obligations,” and Smith decided to make “Wild Wild West” instead, as he was skeptical of the visual effects. So he decided to do a movie with a giant mechanical spider instead? Over a decade later, Smith turned down the role of Django in “Django Unchained” because he quote “needed] to kill the bad guy.”

#4: Various as The Terminator

“The Terminator” (1984)
This is an incredibly hard role to cast. The Terminator needs to be both physically and mentally imposing. Of course, he needs to be a physical threat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly that. But he also needs to be mentally threatening - the kind of villain that sends shivers down your spine simply through the way he walks and talks. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Schwarzenegger. Both Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson turned the role down. Lance Henriksen, who ultimately played Hal Vukovich, was in the conversation. Orion Pictures’ co-founder Mike Medavoy even wanted O. J. Simpson in the role, as he was impressed by Simpson’s athleticism in the famous Hertz commercial. Cameron thankfully rejected the idea outright.

#3: John Travolta & Others as Forrest Gump

“Forrest Gump” (1994)
The early 1990s belonged to Tom Hanks. He won back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards in 1994 and 1995 for his performances in “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump,” respectively. Even to this day, Gump’s unique accent, mannerisms, and quotes are lovingly impersonated. Hanks created a timeless character through his legendary performance. However, the novel’s writer, Winston Groom, envisioned John Goodman in the role, but he was never seriously considered. John Travolta was actually first in line, but he turned it down - a decision he admittedly regrets. Sean Penn claims that he was the second choice. After that, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were considered. In the end, it was finally given to Hanks after he had enthusiastically responded to the script.

#2: Various as Han Solo

“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)
The original “Star Wars” trilogy makes for timeless escapism, full of wondrous visuals and a compelling cast of characters. When it comes to the heroes, it’s hard to beat the cynical, wise-cracking Han Solo. Countless actors were considered for Solo, including legends like Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Burt Reynolds, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino. Basically a who’s who of ‘70s Hollywood. Harrison Ford had worked with George Lucas on “American Graffiti,” so Lucas personally asked Ford to perform line readings with actors auditioning for the movie. However, Lucas was eventually won over by Ford’s compelling line readings and cast him in the role instead. It made him a movie star.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Ferris Bueller, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
Various Actors Were Considered, Including Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise & Michael J. Fox

James Bond, “Casino Royale” (2006)
Henry Cavill Was Seriously Considered But Was Rejected for Being Too Young

Laura, “Logan” (2017)
Millie Bobby Brown Unsuccessfully Auditioned for Subject X-23

Tyler Durden, “Fight Club” (1999)
The Casting of This Imaginary Man Came Down to Brad Pitt & Russell Crowe

Howard Ratner, “Uncut Gems” (2019)
First Choice Was Adam Sandler, But Jonah Hill Almost Stepped in When He Was Unavailable

#1: James Caan & Others as Michael Corleone

“The Godfather” (1972)
Michael Corleone is another very difficult character to cast. He is incredibly complex, as he initially shows reluctance towards the “family business” before embracing his family and becoming the Don. Al Pacino was a fantastic pick, as we buy him as both a peaceful man and a bloodthirsty killer. Michael was the last major character to be cast. Executives wanted someone popular like Robert Redford or Warren Beatty. Producers wanted Ryan O’Neal. Martin Sheen and Dustin Hoffman auditioned. James Caan, who would eventually play Sonny, successfully auditioned and was initially given the role. But Coppola was adamant about Pacino, who executives claimed was too short. However, they eventually relented on the condition that Caan play Sonny. A deal was struck, and movie history was born.
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