When the new footage of Chris Farley as Shrek hit the web last week, it got me thinking about a few things. Sure, it looked like he would have done a great job with the picture, but now I was also curious to see what other great movies came close to having different stars in them. Surprisingly, recasts are something that happen more often than you would think in Hollywood, even if an actor makes it all the way to the set and already signed the paperwork. In fact, some of the best movies I've ever seen almost had alternate cast members. So without further ado, here's a look at twelve movies that could and would have been very different if these intended actors had gone through with the initial plans.
12. The Truman Show - Gary Oldman as Truman Burbank
Back when Paramount was starting production on The Truman Show, they had signed on Andrew Niccol (The Host, Gattaca) to direct the film and bring the project to life. Niccol made his intention very clear that he wanted Gary Oldman for the part, and this was generally agreed upon by all parties moving forward.
However, as production moved forward, Niccol wanted an $80 million dollar budget and Paramount wanted an A-List director that could complete the project on a smaller budget. This is when they decided to pay Niccol a fee to step down from the film and instead brought on Peter Weir (Master & Commander, Dead Poets Society). Once Weir took over, Jim Carrey became his first pick for the role of Truman Burbank, and the rest as we know, is history.
Notable Truman Quote: Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!
11. Men in Black - David Schwimmer as Agent J
Before Will Smith donned the iconic sunglasses and brought Agent J to life in Men in Black, the studio approached a very different actor for the role: David Schwimmer. Yes, that David Schwimmer. No, I swear I'm not making this up.
Don't get me wrong, Schwimmer is a funny guy and Ross was easily one of my favourite characters on Friends, but I just couldn't imagine him as J. Evidently, Schwimmer declined the role that was his for the taking (presumably to focus on his budding Friends stardom), and the studio then contacted Will Smith.
Notable Agent J Quote: You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look good.
10. Silver Linings Playbook - Anne Hathaway as Tiffany Maxwell
Silver Linings Playbook was a pretty great movie with a phenomenal cast. The chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence was unbelievable and Lawrence even went on to win the Academy Award for her portrayal of Tiffany Maxwell.
Here's the thing though, Anne Hathaway wasn't just the actress the studio had in mind for the project; they actually had her cast in the role and she even made it to the set in the beginning. However, things fell apart pretty quickly due to "creative differences" between her and director, David O. Russell, and Anne walked off the set and quit the film. In her defence, on set reports about David O. Russell have not been flattering. The director got into a fist fight with George Clooney on the set of Three Kings, and more recently, got into a heated argument with Lawrence herself on the set of their latest movie, Joy.
Notable Tiffany Quote: I do this! Time after time after time! I do all this shit for other people! And then I wake up and I'm empty! I have nothing!
9. Batman Begins - Jake Gyllenhaal as Bruce Wayne
There were a handful of actors who auditioned for the role of Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins just one day before the role was finally cast. Before the auditions started, screenwriter David Goyer admitted that Jake Gyllenhaal was the favoured choice to portray Bruce Wayne and he probably would have gotten the role if Christian Bale hadn't won over the studio with his take on The Dark Knight.
Notable Batman Quote: SWEAR TO ME!
8. Godzilla - Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Ford Brody
Here's the thing, Aaron Taylor Johnson isn't a bad actor. In fact, I like a lot of the roles he's taken in recent years. That said, I couldn't care less about his character in 2014's Godzilla reboot. It's primarily the reason why I couldn't enjoy the movie as much as I wanted to just because I lost all interest in the human characters once Bryan Cranston's character was no longer the focus of the picture.
If you're going to have Godzilla show up for such little on-screen time, then the human characters in the movie need to be engaging. Aside from Cranston's and Ken Watanabe's roles in the film, every other character was bland and delivered ho-hum performances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was offered the role of Lieutenant Ford but ultimately declined the role to instead star in Sin City 2 and I wish he had chosen to do this project instead. JGL is an actor that audiences can always connect with and had he been involved with the film, not as many people would have felt conned by Cranston leaving the picture thirty minutes in.
Notable Ford Quote: When was the last time you let one of your guys put their fingers on a live bomb? Look, this is what I do. This is my job.
7. Forrest Gump - John Travolta as Forrest Gump
It's hard to imagine anyone else but Tom Hanks as the ever lovable Forrest Gump. His portrayal as the film's main character not only cemented his place in Hollywood as an incredible actor, but it put Hank's career on the fast track. Which is why it's almost alien to picture John Travolta in the very same role. Before Hanks was even offered the role, John Travolta was the studio's top pick for the 1994 classic. Since turning down the role, John Travolta has gone on record admitting that this is one acting decision that he regrets.
Notable Forrest Gump Quote: My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
6. The Matrix - Will Smith as Neo
Can you imagine this one? Will Smith as Neo? In hindsight, the idea is completely preposterous, but back in the '90s, Warner Brothers and The Wachowskis initially offered the role of The One to Will Smith. Smith turned the part down in favour of doing Wild Wild West (yikes) and the role eventually went to Keanu Reeves.
Smith has since admitted that he missed out on not being a part of The Matrix Trilogy. He later went on record saying:
The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu Reeve’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don’t try and perform every moment.
Notable Neo Quote: I know Kung-Fu.
5. The Lord of The Rings - Sean Connery as Gandalf
I'm not exaggerating when I say that Ian McKellan's portrayal of Gandalf is one of the best portrayals of any literary character in film of all time. That said, it's pretty difficult for me to imagine any other actor doing the job, especially Sean Connery. Don't get me wrong, I love Sean Connery and he's played iconic characters in many of my favourite movies, but he's no Gandalf. The studio offered Connery the role, but he turned it down because he couldn't understand the script. Sean Connery has later reflected on this decision by saying:
I never understood it. I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don't understand it. Ian McKellen, I believe, is marvellous in it.
Notable Gandalf Quote: A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.
4. The MCU - Emily Blunt as Black Widow/Agent Carter
Emily Blunt is a great actress who can deliver a wide range of performances to meet the demands of any script. Which is why it should come as no surprise to learn then that she was approached by Marvel not once, but twice for different roles in their cinematic universe. Blunt was first approached for the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, but declined due to a busy schedule.
She was later approached again for the role of Peggy Carter in Captain America, and once again, scheduling conflicts stopped her from accepting the part. If you've seen Edge of Tomorrow, you know Emily Blunt can be an on screen bad-ass, and I'm personally hoping that Marvel can get her cast in their upcoming Ms.Marvel movie.
Notable Peggy Carter Quote: Eight o'clock on the dot. Don't you dare be late. Understood?
Notable Black Widow Quote: Hey, big guy.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy - Glenn Howerton as Peter Quill
First of all, if you don't know who Glenn Howerton is, then shame on you! Secondly, that means you probably don't watch It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia either, in which case, double shame on you!
Chris Pratt made the perfect Star-Lord in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and it's pretty darn difficult to imagine anyone else in the same role. However, Glen Howerton is one actor who could have nailed it and arguably do just an amazing job given the opportunity. He's no stranger to playing the cocky, arrogant lead, and it would have been thrilling to see him explain the S.T.A.R.L.O.R.D system to the other members of the team. If you don't understand that reference, then that's your own fault for not watching Sunny (SHAME).
Guardians director, James Gunn, has gone on record saying that if Pratt didn't already impress him so much with the audition, he'd have given the role to Howerton. Oh, the things that could have been.
Notable Star Lord Quote: There's one other name you might know me by...Star-Lord.
2. Iron Man - Tom Cruise as Tony Stark
Tom Cruise wasn't just the intended actor to take on the role of Tony Stark, he was also supposed to sign on as one of the project's producers. However, things were taking way too long to come together and Cruise ended up walking away from the project altogether. This, of course, cleared the way for Robert Downey Jr. to not only ace the part, but many also credit his portrayal of the character as the main reason to the film's success.
Notable Tony Stark Quote: The truth is...I am Iron Man.
1. Harry Potter - Robin Williams as Hagrid
Yes, you read that right. Robin Williams wanted the role of Hagrid, and Warner Brothers was ready to give it to him. Who got in the way? J.K.Rowling.
The famed Harry Potter author was very adamant about the actors that would be cast in the live action adaptation of her beloved series and had a strong influence in the casting. She didn't have a personal problem with Williams, but she wanted strictly British actors of the roles and even included a clause in her contract with Warner Brothers that would only allow them to cast actors from the U.K.
As we all know, the role eventually went on to Robbie Coltrane who, I think we can all agree, did an incredible job as Hagrid.
Notable Hagrid Quote: You're a wizard, Harry!
That's A Wrap
So there you have it, twelve movies that could and would have felt very different if these actors had actually stuck with the parts. It's kind of surreal to think about any actors other than Jim Carrey or Ian McKellen playing Truman Burbank or Gandalf respectively. On the flip-side though, I would have liked to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt deliver their quality performances in movies such as Godzilla and those in the MCU. However these are just my own opinions on what I think is a great "what if" piece that could spark geeky conversations amongst friends. Now if you'll excuse me, writing this article has motivated me to listen to The Dayman on repeat .