16 Iconic Roles That Were THIS CLOSE To Being Played By Someone Else

Antonio Banderas as the Phantom of the Opera would’ve been great. Just sayin’.

Some actors are so good in a movie that they become cemented in people’s minds as the ONLY person that could’ve played that role.

However, there are also occasions when people learn that “X” actor was ALMOST cast in a certain role, and it really made them say, “Huh. That would’ve been cool to see.” And not because the actual actor cast was bad or anything (OK, maybe sometimes), but just because it would’ve been kinda cool to see.

So, when the question “Which role ALMOST got cast with an actor that you wish you’d have been able to see?” was posed to the r/movies community on Reddit, they came back with some VERY interesting responses. Here are the top-voted ones:


Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Steve Granitz / WireImage

Rami Malek, of course, ended up landing the role of the iconic Freddie Mercury (and went on to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance).

Photo Credit: Nick Delaney / 20th Century Fox Licensing / Merchandising / Everett Collection

However, according to IndieWire, “The film was a long-running passion project for Sacha Baron Cohen. [It] started as an idea from The Crown creator Peter Morgan and courted the likes of David Fincher, Tom Hooper, and Stephen Frears to direct. The latter director ultimately landed the job.” However, according to Vulture, Baron Cohen’s movie fell apart because Queen’s co-founders, Roger Taylor and Brian May, “approached the movie with a ‘certain amount of caution’ in an effort to preserve Mercury’s legacy, while Cohen reportedly remained interested in a ‘gritty R-rated tell-all’ about the singer.'”


Hugh Grant as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

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British stage and screen star Kenneth Branagh was ultimately cast as the narcissistic Gilderoy Lockhart.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, according to Slashfilm, “Hugh Grant almost played the less-than-genius wizard Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In a report published by the Guardian, Grant’s agent confirmed that the actor was forced to bail on the Harry Potter movie. [Grant] ditched his role in the franchise to star in Two Weeks Notice alongside actress Sandra Bullock.”


Adam Sandler as Sergeant Donny Donowitz, aka “The Bear Jew,” in Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Eli Roth was the one who got to bring this grisly role to the big screen.

Weinstein Company / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, according to Screen Rant, “Speaking to RTÉ.ie in 2008, while promoting the black comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Sandler confirmed he had been approached by Tarantino to join his new project (at the time, the title hadn’t been revealed), but he was going to be shooting another movie at the same time, so he had to turn it down. Sandler added he was disappointed to have to leave the project, and that he had known Tarantino for a long time, and had even talked about working together for a while.”


Toshiro Mifune as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977)

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You’re probably familiar with Sir Alec Guinness originating the role of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.

20th Century Fox Film Corp / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, According to the Hollywood Reporter, legendary actor Toshiro Mifune (who starred in the Akira Kurosawa film Hidden Fortress, which inspired Star Wars) turned down the Jedi Master role because he was worried it would look cheap. Mifune’s daughter Mika, speaking at an event in Tokyo with Steve Wozniak, said, “I heard from my father that he was offered the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai, on which George Lucas had based a lot of the character and fighting style.”


David Bowie as Niander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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Jared Leto ultimately landed the role of Niander Wallace in the highly anticipated 2017 film.

Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, speaking with Metro, director Denis Villeneuve said, “Our first thought [for the character] had been David Bowie, who had influenced Blade Runner in many ways.” He continued, “When we learned the sad news, we looked around for someone like that.”


Emily Blunt as Black Widow in Iron Man 2 (2010)

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I’m sure you’re all familiar with the fact that Scarlett Johansson plays Black Widow in the MCU to much acclaim.

Merrick Morton/©Paramount / courtesy Everett Collection

However, according to Entertainment Weekly, “Emily Blunt was the original choice for the Avenger superspy, who first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2. Blunt reflected on the situation [on Howard Stern]: ‘I was contracted to do Gulliver’s Travels. I didn’t want to do Gulliver’s Travels,’ Blunt admitted, explaining how her involvement in the film meant she was contractually obligated to an ‘optional picture deal’ with 20th Century Fox. Despite the fact that Blunt speaks fondly about her time on set with ‘a lot of really lovely people who were heaven to work with,’ the actor still harbors emotions about the decision. ‘It was a bit of a heartbreaker for me. I take such pride in the decisions that I make, and they mean so much to me, the films that I do.'”


Winona Ryder as Mary Corleone in The Godfather: Part III (1990)

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Director Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter, Sofia Coppola, notoriously played the role of Mary Corleone, Michael Corleone’s daughter.

Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, according to Insider, Coppola took on the role only after Winona Ryder, who had originally been cast, “suddenly left the movie following what was later diagnosed as a nervous collapse.” According to Andy Garcia, who played Vincent, “[Ryder] was on another movie so she wasn’t even in the original week of rehearsals we did in Napa when we first started. But Sofia was there and she sat in and read the part even back then. So when Sofia was cast I was like, ‘Let’s go. I’m all in.'”


Antonio Banderas as the Phantom of the Opera in The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Gerard Butler, in his first big onscreen role, ultimately landed the titular role in the Broadway musical’s big-screen debut.

Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

However, back in 2001, the Guardian confirmed that Antonio Banderas would be playing the Phantom. Just a couple of years later, though, Playbill reported that director Joel Schumacher had passed on Antonio Banderas (and other actors like Hugh Jackman) “in search of a younger cast.”

Consolation prize: You can see Banderas sing the “Phantom of the Opera” duet alongside Sarah Brightman from their appearance in Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hall Celebration back in 1998 here:

View this video on YouTube

The Shows Must Go On! / Via youtube.com


Glenn Howerton as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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You’re more than likely familiar with Chris Pratt playing the beloved role of Star-Lord in the MCU.

Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, according to NME, director James Gunn revealed during a Q&A on his Instagram stories that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia actor Glenn Howerton was THIS CLOSE to landing the fun-loving role. “When asked about who else had auditioned for the role, he replied: ‘I would never share who auditioned & didn’t get the role unless they shared it first – many people know @glennhowerton auditioned & was my 2nd choice for the role.'”


Yvonne Strahovski as Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel (2019)

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Oscar winner Brie Larson, of course, famously plays the titular role of Captain Marvel in the MCU.

Walt Disney Co. / Everett Collection

However — and this is WAY more of a rumor than the rest of the stories — but allegedly, there was a time when Chuck star Yvonne Strahovski was in the running to play Captain Marvel. Back in 2011, Screen Rant reported that “a new (and pretty wild) rumor claims that Yvonne Strahovski could be cast as Ms. Marvel in The Avengers movie.” The information source was a fan site that claimed “to have inside word from ‘a protected source inside Marvel’ who names Strahovski as the actress being cast as Carol Danvers.”


Chris Farley as Shrek in Shrek (2001)

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Ever since Shrek debuted, Mike Myers has been forever tied to the role of everyone’s favorite ogre.

Paramount / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

However, his SNL co-star and friend Chris Farley was the original comedic talent to play Shrek. According to Yahoo Entertainment, “Chris’s brother Kevin Farley (in a 2015 interview) said the Saturday Night Live and Tommy Boy star had recorded nearly all of Shrek’s dialogue before he died of a drug overdose in 1997. And Farley’s version of the character would have been markedly different from the one we all know, ultimately voiced by his SNL costar Mike Myers, who gave the character a distinctly Scottish brogue. Originally, the Shrek character was a little bit more like Chris, like a humble, bumbling innocent guy.”


Michael K. Williams as Django in Django Unchained (2012)

Mark Sagliocco / WireImage

Jamie Foxx ultimately took up the mantle of Django in this revisionist Western.

Weinstein Company / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, according to IndieWire, Michael K. Williams — perhaps best known for his performances as Omar on The Wire and Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire — had actually met with director Quentin Tarantino about the lead role in Django Unchained. He said, “The rumors of me being considered for the lead role in Django are very true. I was in meetings with Quentin, QT as I call him. It came down to Jamie and I.”


Nicolas Cage as Superman in the almost-made Superman Lives

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Originally set to be released in the ’90s, Superman Lives was a canceled project set to star Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel with a script by Kevin Smith and Tim Burton in the director’s chair.

Courtesy Everett Collection

Allegedly, the reason Warner Bros. canceled Burton’s Superman film was that they were unhappy with the performance of Mars Attacks!, which bombed at the box office. In an interview with Inverse, Jonathan Gems (who wrote Mars Attacks!) said, “They [Warner Bros.] punished Tim. He had this wonderful project, with Nicolas Cage going to play Superman. The script was absolutely brilliant. They had incredible ideas for it. And then Warner Bros. dumped it and never gave a reason.”


Carrie Fisher as Miss Scarlet in Clue (1985)

Paul Harris / Getty Images

Lesley Ann Warren played femme fatale Miss Scarlet in the ever-popular whodunnit.

However, Carrie Fisher was originally cast in the role. In a BuzzFeed article from 2013, it was explained that a week before rehearsals, director Jonathan Lynn got a call informing him that Carrie Fisher was in rehab. Lynn explained, “I was very naive. I didn’t know what she was talking about. When I met her at a restaurant, she had actually fallen over a chair, but I had just thought she was shortsighted or something. She sniffed a lot, and she said she had hay fever, which of course I believed.”

Paramount / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection


Bob Hoskins as Al Capone in The Untouchables (1987)

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Robert De Niro ultimately starred as famous monster Al Capone in this Academy Award nominated film.

Paramount / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

However, Hoskins had also been in the running. Kinda. The Metro reported that in an interview with Absolute Radio, Hoskins said, “Brian De Palma sent me a script for The Untouchables and said, ‘Look at Al Capone.’ I went to meet him at his hotel, and he said, ‘Really, I want Robert De Niro to play him.’ And I thought, Well great, what am I doing here? He then said, ‘But if he doesn’t do it, would you sort of step in?’ and I said, ‘Yeah of course I will.’ Anyway, months went by, and I read the papers and saw De Niro was doing it. I’d sort of forgotten all about it, and then Linda — my Mrs. — was opening the post one morning and said, ‘What’s that?’ and it was a check for £20,000. It said, ‘Thanks for your time, Bob. Love, Brian.'”


Finally, Prince as Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element (1997)

If you’re a fan of Luc Besson’s iconic fashion-forward sci-fi flick, then you know Chris Tucker played Ruby Rhod.

Buena Vista International / Courtesy of Everett Collection

However, according to Entertainment Weekly, Prince was originally going to play the role. Unfortunately, “The music icon was going to play eccentric media personality Ruby Rhod, but because of his tour schedule at the time was unable to star in the sci-fi film.”

In fact, days after Prince’s death, Luc Besson shared a sketch of Prince in costume (from a Jean Paul Gaultier — who designed the costumes for the film — exhibit) on his Twitter account:

Prince by @JPGaultier. He was supposed to play Ruby in the 5th Element…but couldn’t find dates during his tour…😢

04:10 PM – 23 Apr 2016

Twitter: @lucbesson

So, there you have it! Glimpses of what COULD HAVE BEEN. What do you think? Is there any other actor you know of who almost starred in a famous leading role? Tell us in the comments below, and who knows, maybe there’ll be a part two.