Still More Actors Who Almost Got The Big Role
Just when you thought we couldn’t come up with more actors who missed out on the big role, here are ten more examples of the biggest “what ifs” in film and television.
Here we have more instances of actors missing out on superhero roles, actors not getting the role because the film wasn’t made or their character was cut, and even an instance of a network that missed out on a major ratings hit.
Bob Hoskins as Wolverine in ‘X-Men’
The late, great Bob Hoskins was in fact in contention for the role of the most popular member of the X-Men, but not actually in the same movie where Hugh Jackman took the part. In the early 90s, James Cameron was approached to produce the X-Men film with his then-wife Kathryn Bigelow set to direct. Hoskins was a lead contender for the role of Logan due to his history of playing hard-edged characters in British films, as well as his short and stocky frame, more fitting of the comic book portrayal than Hugh Jackman.
Eliza Dushku and Alicia Witt as Mary Jane Watson in ‘Spider-Man’
By now we’ve all heard the story of ‘Divergent’ star Shailene Woodley being cast as Mary Jane in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′, only to have her scenes cut. But she’s not the only almost Mary Jane in the Spider-Man universe. Before Kirsten Dunst finally claimed the role of Mary Jane Watson in the Sam Raimi ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy, two other actresses were top contenders, with one reportedly being offered the role. ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ actress Eliza Dushku was so high on the list of potential MJs that she was invited to screen test for the role and her screen tests were included on the DVD release of the first film. Alicia Witt, then best known for her lead role in ‘Urban Legends’ was rumored to have been offered the role, only for it to eventually go to Dunst. Various rumors circulated as to what happened, including Witt bowing out of the role and Dunst calling in some favors to have the part taken from Witt.
John Wayne as Taggart in ‘Blazing Saddles’
Its been 40 years since the release of the one of the funniest, and most controversial, films of all time, ‘Blazing Saddles’. The Mel Brooks classic lampooned the Westerns genre, and almost did it with the biggest Western star of all time, John Wayne. During the casting process, Brooks sent the script, then titled ‘Black Bart’, to Wayne with the hope of him accepting the role of Taggart, the railroad foreman and lacky for the villianous Hedley Lamarr. Wayne contacted Brooks and reluctantly declined the role, saying that the film was too vulgar for his cinematic image, but he found the script to be hilarious and vowed to see the film opening day.
Amanda Walsh as Katie (pre-Penny) in ‘The Big Bang Theory’
In the most recent episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ the 7 season lead-up finally came to a head with the engagement of Penny and Leonard. However, this wouldn’t have happened with the original premise of the show as Penny wasn’t even part of it. In the un-aired pilot, Leonard and Sheldon’s new neighbor was named Katie and played by Canadian actress Amanda Walsh. Walsh’s Katie was described as a hard-drinking hairdresser with an attitude, but the poor reception to her character resulted in not only recasting the role, but changing the role all together. Penny, a character from another sitcom premise being worked on, was transferred to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ to replace Katie.
Jennifer Lawrence as Ophelia in ‘Savages’
Its hard to think of Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence as anything but an A-List actor today, but at one point there was a big chance she wasn’t going to appear in her biggest films to date, ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise. When casting came around for the film ‘The Hunger Games’, Lawrence had already signed on as the female lead Ophelia in the movie ‘Savages’. Lawrence reportedly was concerned about what a major studio project like ‘The Hunger Games’ would do to her career, which at that time was primarily low-budget, critically acclaimed, independent films. Lawrence eventually decided to leave ‘Savages’, with the role then going to Blake Lively. Lawrence was paid her biggest salary to date for ‘The Hunger Games’, $500,000. After the success of ‘The Hunger Games’ and Lawrence’s Oscar win for ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’, Lawrence’s paycheck for ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ was increased to $10 million. ‘Savages’ received a mixed critical reception and fell just short doubling its profit in box office returns, but ‘The Hunger Games’ received large critical praise and earned back its budget 9 times over at the box office.
Katee Sackoff as Debbie Pelt in ‘True Blood’
‘Battlestar Galactica’ star Katee Sackoff has bounced around to several projects since the end of ‘Battlestar’, even turning down a major role in the hit HBO series ‘True Blood’. While not a lead character, the role of Debbie Pelt was a major influence on the plot of the third and fourth seasons, being the ex-girlfriend of the werewolf Alcide, and being directly responsible for the human death of Sookie’s best friend Tara. Sackoff reportedly declined the role in favor of appearing in a television pilot that unfortunately was not picked up.
Warren Beatty as Bill in ‘Kill Bill vol. 1 & 2′
Acting legend Warren Beatty was originally cast in Quentin Tarantino’s violent saga, ‘Kill Bill vol. 1 & 2′, as the title character. Unfortunately, Tarantino wasn’t thrilled with Beatty’s performance and kept using David Carradine as an example for Beatty to emulate, which Beatty then suggested the role should go to Carradine.
Richard Pryor as Bart in ‘Blazing Saddles’
Controversial comedian Richard Pryor was not only a desired writer for Mel Brooks’ ‘Blazing Saddles’, Brooks also wanted Pryor to play the main character, former railroad worker turned Sheriff, Bart. However, the studio refused to allow the casting as Pryor was considered unreliable and to controversial. Pryor would still serve as a writer of the film, focusing his writing on the character Mongo.
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in ‘Spider-Man’
Yes, Hugh Jackman was already Wolverine when this film came around. With the Marvel films, we’ve become accustomed to characters crossing over into other films, but there are limitations. We’ll unfortunately never see the Avengers cross over with the X-Men or Spider-Man as long as Fox co-owns X-Men and Sony co-owns the Spider-Man films. But when ‘Spider-Man’ was in production, a deal was reached to have Wolverine, a long-standing though begrudging ally to Spidey, appear in the film. Jackman arrived in New York to film his scenes, but shipping issues resulted in his costume not being available while he was, and his cameo had to be cut.
‘The Walking Dead’ pilot was presented to NBC
Not an actor who almost got the big role, but a network that almost got the big series. Smash hit ‘The Walking Dead’ has been a ratings winner for AMC since its debut, but originally the series was presented to executives at NBC. During a recent interview, producers of ‘The Walking Dead’ said that while NBC seemed impressed with the pilot episode, one executive asked what is probably the dumbest question in the history of television,
“Does it have to have zombies?”
The producers admitted that the series would have never worked on network television with the limitations of gore and violence.
Honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised with the stupidity of NBC executives. Just look at what they’ve done with ‘The Tonight Show’ over the past several years.