While most movie buffs know that Tom Selleck was slated to be Indiana Jones before Harrison Ford, perhaps they would be surprised to learn Clint Eastwood was tabbed to be in Men in Black (before Tommy Lee Jones stepped in) as Agent K. Or that writer/director Cameron Crowe did not have Tom Cruise in mind for Jerry Maguire but another Tom—Tom Hanks! (See them here: Originally Starring 2. And there’s more in the Originally Starring post.)
This is the third installment in the series in which we have a little fun pretending that the original casting choices actually did nab coveted film roles made famous by another actor or actress, and the back story of why it didn’t happen.
David Geffen brought the Beetlejuice project to Tim Burton. Believe it or not, the script was way more violent & depressing, with the title character bent on killing and raping. Subsequent script revisions lightened the tone, so when it came time to cast the ghost-with-the-most Burton wanted childhood idol Sammy Davis, Jr. for the part. Geffen nixed his choice, instead suggesting Michael Keaton. Burton: “I met Michael and that’s when I started to see the character of Betelgeuse.”
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Though writer/creator Joss Whedon wanted Alyssa Milano to play Buffy, Kristy Swanson landed the role. But according to Wikipedia “Joss Whedon expressed his disapproval with the movie’s interpretation of [his] script, stating, ‘I finally sat down and had written it and somebody had made it into a movie, and I felt like—well, that’s not quite her. It’s a start, but it’s not quite the girl.’” And so he created the much more successful TV version…with Sarah Michelle Gellar perfecting the part.
Cool Hand Luke
Cast as the iconic Lucas Jackson was Telly Savalas. But when asked to cut short a holiday cruise from Europe to America to start production on the film Telly refused (he had a fear of flying). Unwilling to wait for him, producers turned to Paul Newman to star instead.
From IMDb: Charles Grodin was cast as Benjamin Braddock, but the deal fell apart following a disagreement over salary. Mike Nichols still offered him a part in Catch-22, which he was already scheduled to direct.
Henry Winkler had played Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli on the television show “Happy Days” and had also portrayed a tough ‘50s greaser in the 1974 film The Lords Of Flatbush. So when he was offered the part of Danny in Grease he balked. He later regretted that decision, commenting, “I was asked to be in Grease. But I decided I didn’t want to be typecast. But what I didn’t realize was that I already was. That’s why John Travolta went on to buy his own plane and I just went home.”
Guys And Dolls
In 1955 Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra dazzled as Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit in MGM’s film version of the hit play. But here’s a 1952 newspaper item written by famed entertainment columnist Louella Parsons: “Is this a natural, or isn’t it—Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in Guys and Dolls! Paramount owned the film rights to the original Damon Runyon story before it became a top stage musical. But the movie with Bing and Bob will also carry those wonderful Frank Loesser tunes from the show. Bing will be the gambler-singer [Masterson] and Bob inherits the Sam Levine [Detroit] comedy role.”
Kramer vs. Kramer
Kate Jackson was chosen to portray Joanna Kramer in the upcoming film production. But producer Aaron Spelling—as recalled in his autobiography—ruefully admits that he was not able to rearrange Kate Jackson’s “Charlie’s Angels” shooting schedule to accommodate her. Kate was forced to turn down the plum role. (Meryl Streep, already cast as Phyllis, would step in.)
James Caan found the script dull, and the character of Ted Kramer uninteresting. Caan later lamented: “I looked at [the script] and I said, ‘This is middle-class, bourgeois horse crap! This is crap! Cut to a kid crying all the time.’ I’m a genius.” Dustin Hoffman, amidst divorce proceedings himself, was perfect for the part.
An Officer And A Gentleman
Country music singer John Denver was signed to play the lead role of Zack Mayo. He turned down the lead role because he didn’t like the script, later commenting on Larry King Live: “When I read that script it read to me like a B-movie. I think that out of my naiveté and lack of experience in the motion picture industry I wasn’t able to see beyond the lines on the page to see [its potential]. It turned out to be a great movie; I think that I could have done it and I wish that I had. And I made the mistake of turning it down.”
Matthew Modine could have been Maverick, but turned down the role Tom Cruise made famous because he did not agree with the movie’s Cold War politics. “I went over there [East Germany] and met Russian soldiers who were my age who gave me pins from their uniforms and we shared cigarettes. They were no different from my brothers who went to Vietnam. I thought ‘…who are the people who are telling me that the Russians are the bad guys who want to destroy the world, and who are the people in Russia who are saying that the Americans are the bad guys?’ These people are perpetuating lies.”
When Harry Met Sally
From IMDb: Molly Ringwald was offered the role of Sally, but was forced to decline due to a busy schedule. She would later go on to play Sally in the 2004 stage version of the film on London’s West End.