It’s always fun to muse on what could have been in movies and I started thinking about several (now iconic) characters that could have been very different.
In Back to the Future, Eric Stoltz had shot 3-5 weeks of footage before Michael J. Fox replaced him. Apparently producer Steven Spielberg thought Stoltz played the role too seriously for a comedic role and and Fox was hired. An interesting scene filmed with Stoltz, but was never re-filmed with Fox, had Marty being held in detention with Mr. Strickland and escaping by setting off a fire alarm. I don’t think it would have added anything greatly to the film but it’s an interesting tidbit.
In The Lord of the Rings, Stuart Townsend was the original choice to play Aragorn but was replaced a day before filming. According to Townsend “I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began. After that I was told they wouldn’t pay me because I was in breach of contract due to not having worked long enough. I had been having a rough time with them, so I was almost relieved to be leaving until they told me I wouldn’t be paid. I have no good feelings for those people in charge, I really don’t. The director wanted me and then apparently thought better of it because he really wanted someone 20 years older than me and completely different.”
It’s hard to picture anyone other than Viggo Mortensen playing this classic role now, but it sounds like Townsend got screwed over pretty badly. Of course that is only one side of the story so I’m sure there’s more to it.
Yes, that is Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones; he did a screen-test (below) and he did a decent enough job, but there’s a reason Harrison Ford got it. Selleck’s Indy appears to be more aggressive and lacks the easy charm and likability that Harrison Ford brings to the character. Sean Young seemed pretty bad as Marion too.
Sam Neill did a screen-test for James Bond for The Living Daylights and I have to say that I think he would have been great. I do think Dalton was a great Bond though and he displayed Bond’s darker side long before Craig came along. Neill did lack a bit of charisma though, but it would have been interesting to see him in the role.
Sylvester Stallone was all set to play Superman before Christopher Reeve landed the role in the 70′s. He was considered, but Warner Bros. turned him down and it was wisely given to Reeve. As huge a fan as I am of Sly, he wouldn’t have made a good Superman… at all.
Of course, another actor that was 100% ready to portray the Man of Steel was Nicolas Cage in the 90s and there was even a costume designed. It was going to be directed by Tim Burton and after seeing the design I think we can all breath a sigh of relief that this never happened. Let’s hope they get it right next year.
So there you have it, 5 roles that could have turned out very different. I think the final decisions made for all of these roles were the right ones, but it’s always interesting to imagine “what if”…