Some of the most iconic characters and stories seen in film to date could have had extremely different outcomes if alternative actors had been cast in these famous roles. 

Here are 10 actors who nearly played some of the most iconic characters of all time:

Will Smith – Neo, The Matrix

Will Smith was approached to play the part of Neo in the 1999 film The Matrix, but turned it down for other opportunities. He joked on his YouTube channel about being astounded by the concept and how it would be filmed, “So… I made Wild Wild West.” he said. The role instead went to Keanu Reeves, who portrayed the character of Neo in three films.

Al Pacino – Han Solo in Star Wars

Al Pacino revealed he turned down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars after reading the ‘very confusing’ script that was reportedly not for him. The role ultimately went to Harrison Ford, after reportedly meeting George Lucas while delivering a door from his carpentry business. 

John Krasinski – Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Actor-Director John Krasinski has been quizzed in several TV interviews about screen-testing for the First Avenger, Captain America. When asked about the role, he said he even got to try on the infamous superhero suit, “I acted my heart out that day, and it didn’t work out”. The role ultimately went to fellow Bostonian, Chris Evans who had previously played The Human Torch in Marvel’s Fantastic Four. He donned the Captain America suit in 10 Marvel films over a period of 8 years.

Cillian Murphy – Batman in The Dark Knight

The actor’s Bruce Wayne audition tape surfaced online in 2016, giving fans a preview of what could have been. Murphy himself has stated he didn’t feel he was right for the role of Batman and although he was considered by director Christopher Nolan, he was instead cast as the villain Scarecrow. Murphy reprised his Scarecrow role, A.K.A Dr Jonathan Crane in all three of the Dark Knight trilogy.

Wesley Snipes – T’Challa in Black Panther 

It is hard to imagine anyone other than the late Chadwick Boseman portraying the iconic King T’Challa in Black Panther, but a film nearly went ahead in the early 1990s. Wesley Snipes has discussed how he nearly took on the role in 1992 after longing to bring a black comic book hero to the big screen. Various developments featuring Marvel creator Stan Lee took place throughout the ’90s but the film with Snipes never materialised.  

Marilyn Monroe – Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s 

Blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe was originally set to be cast in the iconic role but pulled out when her acting coach suggested playing a call-girl might not be good for her image. In a 2016 documentary and ode to the classic movie, Director of Crazy About Tiffany’s Matthew Miele told The Telegraph that casting Hepburn instead of Monroe “changed everything about the image so I think they lucked out with that.”.

Gwyneth Paltrow – Rose in Titanic

The iconic role of Rose in the major motion picture Titanic almost went to Gwyneth Paltrow. She surprisingly turned down portraying the leading lady and in later years admitted she wasn’t sure why she gave up the role. Kate Winslet was later nominated for an Academy Award as Rose and her original screen test featuring Clueless actor Jeremy Sisto as Jack surfaced online back in 2012.

Mindy Kaling – Lilian in Bridesmaids

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Comedy writer and actress Mindy Kaling revealed she lost out on a role in the 2011 global success, Bridesmaids. It was a role the actress was desperate to play but ultimately went to SNL regular Maya Rudolph. Kaling revealed the snub was one of the most disappointing rejections of her career, “I practised it so much and was so into it, and I loved that whole cast. That was one that was a heartbreaker.”

Jennifer Hudson – Precious, in the film Precious

Journalists claim the American Idol singer turned down the leading role of Precious because she did not want to gain weight for the role after completing the Academy Award-winning Dreamgirls. Hudson states her script included “things and places” she did not want to go or feel the need to portray. Gabourey Sidibe instead took on Precious and was nominated for Best Actress at countless awards ceremonies

Sarah Harding – Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class

In a 2010 interview, Girls Aloud’s Sarah revealed she was looking to embark on an acting career and had been called back three times to read for the superhero blockbuster. Despite getting far in the casting process she eventually lost out to Mad Men actress January Jones. Harding later took on roles in both St Trinian’s films and appeared in 5 episodes of Coronation Street.

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