What Might Have Been?
Every year, without knowing it, actors are fired or hired to fulfill roles that at one time were meant for other actors. It happens in literally every single movie being made. Sometimes, though, changes are made during pre-production or even while filming and we are treated to some pictures that allow us to ask the question “What might have been?”
James Remar as Hicks in Aliens
Remar was a growing star and he had played in 48 Hrs a few years earlier and was given the rub by director Walter Hill. Hill told James Cameron about him and Remar was cast as Hicks in Aliens. They made it through a few weeks of filming before Remar was caught with illegal drugs and he was fired. At the time there was a story cooked up about him having to attend to personal matter back home but it was well known by the actors but they all kept their mouths shut out of respect for Remar. Remar said that Walter Hill wouldn’t hire him again for 12 years after the incident as he felt he made him look bad for recommending him to Cameron. An early scene where the Marines are arriving at the building in the rain still has the scenes shot with Remar as Hicks as the scene was too expensive to reshoot and you never seen Hicks’ face.
Stuart Townsend as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Stuart Townsend was hired to play the part of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings movies but was replaced by Viggo Mortensen the day before principal photography began. According to Townsend:
“I was 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.”
I for one and glad this change was made as Viggo was the bomb!
Will Smith as Neo in The Matrix
Will Smith has almost played a number of roles that could be on this list. The role of Django was written with Smith in mind but he turned it down because he felt that Django wasn’t the lead role and he didn’t want to play a supporting role. What a dummy! Smith also turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix and instead filmed the box office bomb Wild Wild West. Smith reportedly turned down the part because of skepticism over the film’s bullet-time effects. He later went on to say that he was “not mature enough as an actor” at the time. He also said that if he had played Neo he “would have messed it up.” I’m inclined to agree.
Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark
George Lucas originally wanted the mustachioed man himself, Tom Selleck, to play the archeologist extraordinaire that we all know and love. Lucas was afraid to cast Harrison Ford in the role as he had already used him for his Star Wars series and didn’t want him to become his “Bobby DeNiro”. Selleck did a screen test and Lucas and Spielberg offered him the role but Selleck had just filmed a pilot for a network TV show called “Magnum P.I.”. Selleck was unable to take the role of Jones after the series was picked up. The role would win Selleck an Emmy and make him famous but not Indiana Jones famous.
Sylvester Stallone as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop
Stallone was the actor in mind when the script was written but he became involved when the movie was about to be made. The script was sent to Stallone and he felt that it didn’t fit his particular set of skills as an actor so he re-wrote it and sent it back. The re-written script was much more of a straight up action movie instead of the comedic elements that were present before which ended up ballooning the budget by over 30%. They ended up rejecting the re-write and Stallone took his pages and incorporated it into his own cop action movie Cobra. Eddie Murphy was then hired on to play Axel Foley within a month of filming.
Jean Claude Van Damme as the Predator in Predator
A mostly unknown JCVD was originally cast to play the alien hunter in Predator. The thought was that his martial arts skills would make the creature appear more agile and ninja like but when he was compared to the hulking masses of Arnold, Carl Weathers, and Jesse Ventura, the Predator looked too small and super tall actor Kevin Peter Hall was brought in to play the creature. Also, the design of the creature was changed during filming and Van Damme reportedly complained about it being too hot in the suit and that his face wouldn’t be onscreen. I think everything worked out in the end and after seeing the original designs I thank God that Stan Winston came onboard and created the Predator that was used in the film.