The Almost Cast: 7 Actors Who Almost Starred in Blockbuster Hits

Whether you’re someone who has to go to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster movies, or perhaps you prefer to spend your evenings or weekends on the sofa binging the cult classics. However you watch them, films are the perfect escapism to everyday life offering a fully immersive experience when going to the cinema.

But what if Neo in The Matrix, played by Keanu Reeves, could have been played by Will Smith? Fun fact, Will pursued a lead role in Wild Wild West instead, which was dubbed a financial disaster in comparison to The Matrix’s global success. Or, perhaps, Matt Damon took on the role of Jake Sully instead of Sam Worthington in Avatar. According to Matt, ‘I’ve left more money on the table than any actor’. He also regrets passing up the opportunity of working with James Cameron due to the fact that he works so infrequently.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine a lead role being played by anyone else when an actor’s performance has been so iconic. Yet, thanks to the latest AI image-based tools*, here at The Insurance Emporium, we have reimagined what these actors could have looked like if they’d played the lead role in these seven blockbuster movie classics. So why not grab some popcorn, while we take you through who didn’t make it to the final edit.

The Almost Cast

Starting with the actors that turned down opportunities or were skipped over in favour of another actor, we have…

Brad Pitt as Neo in The Matrix

While we’ve already covered the fact that Will Smith turned down a role in The Matrix, you may not have heard that Brad Pitt was also a potential lead. Speaking at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, after initial reluctance to comment on parts he’d passed on, Pitt said: “I did pass on The Matrix. I took the red pill. That’s the only one I’m naming… I wasn’t offered two or three. Only the first one. Just to clarify that. I come from a place, maybe it’s my upbringing, if I didn’t get it, then it wasn’t mine. I really believe [the role] was never mine. It’s not mine. It was someone else’s and they go and make it. I really do believe in that.”

Pitt added: “If we were doing a show on the great movies I’ve passed on, we would need two nights.”

The Matrix ratings:
IMDB: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

Jack Nicholson as Michael Corleone in The Godfather

It may be hard to imagine anyone other than Al Pacino playing the iconic role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, but it previously emerged that director Francis Ford Coppola had sent the script to Jack Nicholson in a bid to entice him to the role. However, Jack had a strong belief as to why he needed to turn down the part.

“Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians. Mario Puzo had written such a great book that if you go back to it, you’ll see so much of what was special about the movie.” He added, “There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone.”

Nicholson’s rationale as to why he felt he should turn down the part had real credibility, the family’s Italian heritage was at the core of the book, and it would seem equally important in the actors’ authentic portrayal when playing the various roles in the movies.

The Godfather ratings:
IMDB: 9.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Britney Spears as Allie in The Notebook

Almost 20 years since its debut on cinema screens The Notebook has been thrown back into the spotlight thanks to Britney Spears’ audition tape being shared for the first time ahead of her memoir – The Woman in Me.

Britney gave a stellar performance during her audition, reportedly beating the likes of Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson, and Claire Danes, to mention a few of the big names who auditioned for the role, with producers having to choose between her and Rachel McAdams.

Matthew Barry, casting director for the movie said, “Britney wasn’t just good – she was phenomenal,’ said Barry as he recalled the audition in a Los Angeles studio on August 18, 2002.

It was a tough decision. Britney blew us all away. Our jaws were on the floor. I was blown away. Absolutely blown away. She brought her A-game that day.”

In Britney’s upcoming memoir she said: “The Notebook casting came down to me and Rachel McAdams, and even though it would have been fun to reconnect with Ryan Gosling after our time on The Mickey Mouse Club, I’m glad I didn’t do it.

If I had, instead of working on my album In the Zone, I’d have been acting like a 1940s heiress day and night.”

The Notebook ratings:
IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%

Claire Danes as Rose in Titanic

Having already filmed Baz Luhrmann’s take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, there was a possibility for Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio to reunite as the lead actors for James Cameron’s Titanic. However, while Danes says DiCaprio was willing to take the plunge, she said she ‘really wasn’t ready for it.’

Speaking on a podcast, Armchair Expert, Danes was asked if she had been offered the lead role in Titanic. She said that while she wasn’t entirely clear on the particulars, there was a “strong interest” in her taking the part. While Gwyneth Paltrow and Gabrielle Anwar were also considered for the role, the part eventually went to Kate Winslet.

Titanic’s Ratings:
IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Jennifer Lawrence as Bella Swan in Twilight

Of all the ‘almost cast’ actors, it is arguable that Jennifer Lawrence shares an uncanny resemblance to Kristen Stewart who portrayed the role of Bella Swan in the Twilight movie franchise. However, despite their similarities, it wasn’t meant to be for Lawrence.

On The Rewatchables podcast, Lawrence explained: “I auditioned for Twilight [and] they turned me down immediately.

“I didn’t even get a callback [laughs]. But my life would’ve been totally different. I got Hunger Games I think, like, a year later.”

Yet, Lawrence wasn’t overly concerned about missing out on the part in Twilight, rather it was the role of Alice in Wonderland, saying “The only time I’ve been truly devastated by losing an audition – because most of the time, you’re like, ‘Ah, wasn’t meant to be, move on, what can you do?’ – was in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. That one devastated me.”

Twilight Ratings:
IMDB: 5.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%

Sliding Doors Moment – Recasting Stories

Moving on from the ones that got away to the ones that very nearly happened.

Dougray Scott as Wolverine in X-Men

Had Dougray Scott not been filming Mission Impossible II, alongside megastar Tom Cruise, the X-Men movie franchise could have looked a little different. Scott was ready and raring to go as Wolverine in the original X-Men, however due to filming for MI2 overrunning he was unable to take on the role.

“Tom Cruise didn’t let me do it,” Scott told The Daily Telegraph. “We were doing Mission: Impossible and he was like, ‘You’ve got to stay and finish the film’ and I said I will, but I’ll go and do that as well.

“For whatever reason he said I couldn’t.”

Scott continued, “He was a very powerful guy. Other people were doing everything to make it work.”

Despite the change in lead to Hugh Jackman, Scott doesn’t hold any resentment towards his fellow actor. “I love what Hugh did with it,” he said. “He’s a lovely guy.”

X-Men Ratings:
IMDB: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

Leonardo DiCaprio as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

To conclude our journey, we leave you with the depiction of Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

The film’s director, Mary Harron was set on Christian Bale playing the lead part from the offset, but the studio went with Leonardo DiCaprio, fresh from his successful part in Titanic.

However, according to Guinevere Turner, who starred in the film as one of Bateman’s victims and co-wrote the screenplay, DiCaprio got cold feet about the project because of Gloria Steinem, who strongly opposed the book written by Bret Easton Ellis.

“I believe I’m the one who started that rumour,” she told Vice in a 20th anniversary oral history of the film. “I mean, I don’t know if it’s a rumour. My friend, who had just spoken to Gloria Steinem, said that Gloria Steinem took Leonard DiCaprio to a Yankees game, I believe, and said, ‘Please don’t do this movie.’”

Turner said she had heard that Steinem told DiCaprio: “Coming off of Titanic, there is an entire planet full of 13-year-old girls waiting to see what you do next, and this is going to be a movie that has horrible violence toward women.”

Turner continued: “Soon after that, Leo dropped out, so who knows what really happened?”

Therefore, when DiCaprio left, the role became Christian Bale’s part, and the rest is history.

American Psycho Ratings:
IMDB: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

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