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21 Huge Movie Roles That Were Almost Played by Other Actors

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Apr. 23 2020, Updated 4:01 p.m. ET

It's something of a miracle when a movie doesn't turn out to be an utter disaster. With all the moving parts involved in making a motion picture, it's incredible when any movie gets completed, whether or not it fulfills the director's vision.

The magic of selecting the right behind-the-scenes team is difficult enough. Then there's casting and making sure all the actors have good chemistry. One miscast role can make the difference between a "decent" flick and an abysmal one.

In many of your favorite films, a last-minute casting decision, re-shoot, or happy accident led to an unforgettable performance we might not otherwise have seen,

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1. Christian Bale: Patrick Bateman in 'American Psycho'

pat bateman
Source: lions gate pictures

It's hard to imagine anyone else playing this murderous, insane, and totally self-absorbed '80s head of mergers and acquisitions, but Christian Bale wasn't the front-runner for the role. Johnny Depp was first tapped for the part, but he turned it down. Then, Leonardo DiCaprio was slated to play Bateman, but his management advised against it at the last minute. Next, the role went to Ewan McGregor, riding a wave of popularity after his amazing work in Trainspotting, but Christian called Ewan and begged him not to take the role. There was even talk of casting Brad Pitt, but thankfully it ultimately fell  to Christian Bale, who knocked it out of the park.

Fun fact: Bale's stepmother once advocated to ban the sale of Bret Easton Ellis' book of the same name. 

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2. Meg Ryan: Annie Reed in 'Sleepless in Seattle'

annie reed sleepless in seattle
Source: tristar pictures

Julia Roberts was originally offered the role of Annie in the romantic comedy, but she turned it down, and it ultimately went to Meg Ryan. Julia discussed her decision in a 2014 interview with InStyle. "I’d been offered Sleepless in Seattle, but couldn’t do it. [Meg Ryan] and Tom Hanks are just such a jewel of a fit in that. I guess what they did for that moment in time is sort of what Richard [Gere] and I were doing across town (in Pretty Woman).”

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3. Sam Worthington: Jake Sully in 'Avatar'

jake sully
Source: 20th century fox

Matt Damon had the choice to either take on the role of Jake Sully, the wheelchair-bound man-turned-Na'vi in Avatar, but elected to work on the political-military thriller Green Zone.

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4. Ryan Gosling: Sebastian in 'La La Land'

gosling la la land
Source: lionsgate

Miles Teller was already attached to War Dogs and was even going to drop it for a chance to play Sebastian. However, production eventually passed on him and the part was Ryan's. It's hard to imagine another actor having better chemistry with Best Actress-winner Emma Stone, with whom he also co-starred in Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad.

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5. Julia Roberts: Vivian Ward in 'Pretty Woman'

julia roberts pretty woman
Source: buena vista pictures

Julia Roberts wasn't the first and only choice to play the hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold opposite of Richard Gere — '80s icon Molly Ringwald was considered for the role. She turned it down because she didn't like the idea of playing a prostitute. Other actresses considered for the role include Meg Ryan (Disney's top choice), Diane Lane, and Sandra Bullock. Daryl Hannah also turned it down, feeling the role denigrated women.

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6. Tom Cruise: Jerry Maguire in 'Jerry Maguire'

jerry maguire
Source: tristar pictures

When Cameron Crowe was writing Jerry Maguire, he did so with Tom Hanks in mind. The problem was, by the time he finished the script and was ready to shoot, Hanks was almost 40 years old and considered "too old" for the part. Also, the Big star didn't buy the fact that Jerry proposes to Renee Zellweger's character. 

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7. Harrison Ford: Indiana Jones in 'Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark'

indiana jones
Source: paramount pictures

Tom Selleck and his mustache almost became the face of the Indiana Jones franchise, but contractual obligations to CBS kept him out of the film and Ford stepped into the role.

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8. Miranda Otto: Eowyn in 'Lord of the Rings'

eowyn lord of the rings
Source: new line cinema

Uma Thurman said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that "one of the worst decisions [she] ever made" was passing up the opportunity to play Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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9. Keanu Reeves: Neo in 'The Matrix'

neo
Source: warner bros.

Will Smith almost signed up for the role in the 1999 sci-fi epic that redefined the cyberpunk genre. The Bad Boys star said he didn't understand the film in the pitch process and that he believes he would've messed up the film had he taken the role. He has no regrets and thinks Keanu really was the right man for the job.

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10. Matthew Broderick: Ferris Bueller in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'

ferris bueller
Source: paramount pictures

Scheduling conflicts kept Johnny Depp out of the lead role for this 1986 classic comedy, which probably would have turned out very differently had the future Jack Sparrow taken it on.

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11. Tom Hanks: Forrest Gump in 'Forrest Gump'

forrest
Source: paramount

Tom Hanks won an Oscar in the role of the lovable, learning disabled hero, but the role almost went to John Travolta. If you want any indication of how he may have approached the project, watch the first part of Phenomenon. Yikes.

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12. Al Pacino: Michael Corleone in 'The Godfather'

al pacino godfather
Source: paramount pictures

The coveted role was sought after by many actors, chief among them Jack Nicholson. Jack said in an interview that he thought "Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians," praising Al Pacino for his work in the now-iconic film.

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13. Kate Winslet: Rose in 'Titanic'

kate winslet
Source: paramount pictures

Rose is objectively the worst character in Titanic: she's selfish, leads two men on, lets the so-called "love of her life" freeze to death, and then, leads a discovery crew on a wild goose chase searching for a priceless jewel she's been holding onto the entire time, only to throw it in the ocean and die without telling anyone where it is.

Kate Winslet is such a great actress that you forget all that when watching her. I don't know if Gwyneth Paltrow would've been able to pull that off, but she was considered for the role first.

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14. Emma Stone: Mia in 'La La Land'

la la land
Source: summit entertainment

A different Emma almost stared alongside Ryan Gosling in this musical. Anyone want to see a version of this movie with Miles Teller and Emma Watson?

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15. Jennifer Lawrence: Tiffany in 'Silver Linings Playbook'

silver linings playbook
Source: the weinstein company

Jennifer Lawrence nabbed herself an Oscar for her performance in this David O. Russell flick, but the role almost went to Anne Hathaway.

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16. Daniel Day-Lewis: Abraham Lincoln in 'Lincoln'

lincoln
Source: walt disney studios

This Spielberg-directed snoozefest nabbed DDL a Best Actor Oscar, but it was originally supposed to go to Liam Neeson, who turned it down.

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17. Heath Ledger: Patrick Verona in '10 Things I Hate About You'

things i hate about you
Source: buena vista pictures

Ashton Kutcher was in the running for the role, but it ultimately went to Heath Ledger, who skyrocketed to fame in the U.S. afterwards.

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18. Gabrielle Sidibe: Claireece Jones in 'Precious'

precious
Source: lionsgate

Before a then-unknown Gabrielle Sidibe was picked for the film, the role was offered to Jennifer Hudson, who turned it down.

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19. Harrison Ford: Han Solo in 'Star Wars'

han solo
Source: lucasfilm

It's almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Harrison Ford playing the space rogue, but Al Pacino was first offered the part before he turned it down. Would've been a much different role with Pacino, that's for sure.

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20. Billy Crudup: Russell Hammond in 'Almost Famous'

russell hammond
Source: dreamworks distribution

Brad Pitt was slated to play the cool guitarist in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical flick about a teen journalist touring with rock stars. After he dropped out, Billy Crudup swooped in and was a golden god in the role.

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21. Anne Hathaway: Mia Thermopolis in 'The Princess Diaries'

princess diaries
Source: buena vista pictures

It's hard to imagine anyone but Anne Hathway in this film, but studios first wanted Cameron Diaz as Mia before they asked Anne.

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