10 famous films that almost had completely different lead actors
Pascal Le Segretain /Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

A-list actors are sometimes cast in films that go on to be incredibly successful… with other people in their intended role.

It’s a common part of the casting process, which can take years to complete if the film’s development is slow.

But it’s always interesting to imagine what might have been if they hadn’t been recast or turned the role down.

A Twitter user, @writtenbahmed, sparked a conversation about this very phenomenon.

So – here are 10 films that nearly had very different famous lead actors.

1. Emily Blunt was cast as Black Widow.

Emily Blunt was director Jon Favreau’s first choice to play Black Widow in Iron Man2. But she was forced to turn it down because she’d already agreed to star in Gulliver’s Travels alongside Jack Black. 

The role instead went to Scarlett Johansson, who went on to play Black Widow in seven further Marvel films including The Avengers, Infinity War and Endgame, which became the most successful movie franchise in history. A solo Black Widow film is set for release this year.

2. Leonardo Di Caprio was cast in American Psycho.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Ewan McGregor were all variously in the running to play Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s American Psycho.

Harron, who had wanted the then-relatively unknown Christian Bale from the start, ultimately held out against studio pressure to cast DiCaprio – even in spite of being (briefly) fired. 

3. Matt Damon and Joaquin Phoenix were offered lead roles in Brokeback Mountain.

Early in Brokeback Mountain’s development, Damon and Phoenix were offered the roles of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar.

But after Ang Lee signed on to direct, he cast Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger – whom Lee claims the studio didn’t initially think would be “macho” enough for the role.

4. Emma Watson and Miles Teller were cast in La La Land.

The actors’ “crazy demands” reportedly cost them their roles: Watson wanted rehearsals to take place in London, while Teller wanted to be paid an additional $2m.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were cast instead, with the former winning an Oscar for the role.

5. Gwyneth Paltrow turned down the role of Rose in Titanic.

Plenty of A-list actors were in contention for the roles of Jack and Rose, including Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes.

But Paltrow was “one of the last two actresses” up for it, she told Howard Stern in 2015. She turned down the role, which went to Kate Winslet instead.

6. Shia LaBeouf was cast in Call Me By Your Name.

LaBeouf was intended to play Oliver, the role ultimately played by Armie Hammer.

The production company were reportedly concerned about LaBeouf’s “various troubles”, which prior to the film’s release included alcoholism and harassment charges, resulting in him being dropped.

7. Nicolas Cage turned down the part of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings.

It’s hard to imagine the role played by anyone other than Viggo Mortensen, but Cage was in contention.

He explained that he turned down the role because he couldn’t commit to leaving home for three years to make the movies. But as someone who doesn’t watch the films he’s involved in afterwards, he’s glad he gets to be a spectator. 

8. Matt Damon rejected millions of dollars to star in Avatar .

According to Damon, director James Cameron offered him 10 per cent of the film’s profits to take the lead role – which would have equalled around a quarter of a billion dollars according to GQ

He couldn’t do it, he said, because it would have “caused a problem” for his work on The Bourne Ultimatum. Cameron cast the comparatively-unknown Sam Worthington instead.

9. Al Pacino could have played Hans Solo.

The iconic actor’s reason for turning the Star Wars role down is fairly simple: he couldn’t understand the script. 

Harrison Ford brought the character to life instead.

10. Tom Cruise was cast as Edward Scissorhands.

Why did the role ultimately go to Johnny Depp? It’s apparently because Cruise asked too many questions about the character.

He wanted to know how Scissorhands was able to use the bathroom and how he could go without food for so many years. When these questions couldn’t be answered, he reportedly reconsidered his involvement in the project.

You can read @writtenbahmed’s full thread here. 

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