Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Alternate Dimension: What If Hollywood Went Their First Casting Choices?

Over the years, many past Hollywood blockbusters' success have been attributed to excellent casting choices. Now imagine if some of your favorite all-time classics contained different actors in the lead roles. Would those films have been as successful, popular and memorable as they are today? Follow me through a portal to an alternate dimension where original casting choices were selected and your favorite actors were left sitting on the bench… 

Nick Nolte and Christopher Walken are the well-known original choices for the roles of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, respectively. But imagine if two young acting prospects who made it to the screen testing phase, Kurt Russell and William Katt, were given the nod over Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. Russell went on to have a very good career and got the chances to play some cool characters, so that is a wash. Except Ford would have remained working as a carpenter on homes instead of being a multimillionaire and hooking up with Clarissa Flockhart. On the other hand, Katt’s most notable role is in The Greatest American Hero, a show that went the way of Heroes, with a superb first season followed by a nosedive straight towards cancellation. Hamill’s claim to fame was as Skywalker, for which he was also held back due to typecasting, so would his career have flourished if a jedi he did not, mmm – per Yoda?

Solo with an eyepatch!
Let’s go back to Harrison Ford for a second. Even as illustrious as his resume reads, if you ask someone what are their favorite roles of he played, Solo would be first quickly followed by Indiana Jones. The first choice to be the adventurous archeologist in Raiders of the Lost Ark was none other than Tom Selleck! Mind you, Selleck could have very well succeeded in the role, but instead the Lucas-Spielberg connection made Ford their man. Imagine if Selleck was Indiana. Would this have skyrocketed his career? Imagine the flipside of this alteration in the cinematic universe…Harrsison Ford as Magnum P.I. Harrison Ford in Three Men and a Baby and then a Little Lady. Harrison Ford in a guest cameo arch on Friends as Courtney Cox’s elder boyfriend. And finally, Ford signing autographs for $50 a pop next to Hamill at countless Sci-Fi conventions shortly thereafter. Just the thought of that should send shivers down your spine. 

Pretty dreamy, huh?

Corey Hart or Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly??!! Back to the Future is an almost perfect film, along with its subsequent sequels, but Michael J. Fox’s quirky portrayal of McFly made the film the classic as it stands today and hoisted his career into the stratosphere. We have all seen clips of Stoltz as Marty, and Stoltz is a fine actor with an excellent resume- don't get me wrong, but that would have been an absolute fail. Imagine if you will…"Mr. Sunglasses at Night" in the lead, as he was the original choice, shocking as that may seem. Never seen Hart act, so it is hard to gauge how he would have done, but if I were a betting man I would say that would have ruined the film and earned it a Golden Raspberry. Unless, he was the next coming of James Dean. Hart replacing Fox might have led him to star in Secret of My Success, then Light of Day (that one might have worked out), and then as Doc Hollywood. Maybe Hart could’ve saved the wreck that was Bright Lights, Big City. Nah…scratch that last thought.

"Don't time travel with a guy in shades, ya know."
Al Pacino turned down the role of John Rambo in First Blood after he learned that the Rambo character was not going to be more of a veteran psychopath (of course you would have loved that, Pacino). Pacino’s legacy is laced in gold, so this bizarre change in film history is not about future endeavors for the star actor, but rather for us as the moviegoers. The film would have still been a hit, no doubt. Close your eyes for a second and visualize Pacino, with headband tightly around his head, spouting this famous dialogue: 

“Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn't let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me? Who are they? Unless they've been me and been there and know what the hell they're yelling about!”   

Or how about: 

“Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of million dollar equipment, back here I can't even hold a job *parking cars*! “  

Boy what I would pay to see that. 

However, Pacino does not maintain the brawn to fit the Rambo mold. Meanwhile, Sylvester Stallone already hit pay dirt with Rocky and the following sequels, but he probably might not have been the big action star he is remembered as if Rambo slipped his grasp. Then, Pacino might have went down another road and starred in Cobra, which like it or not is a way better flick than Godfather III. Truth!

"You're the Disease and I'm the Cure, Fredo!"

Speaking of action stars, Jean-Claude Van Damme was the first choice for Predator. No, not Arnold’s part, but the actual intergalactic hunter. His martial arts skills seemed to be a perfect way to make Predator quick, agile and fearsome in hand-to-hand combat sequences. But let’s face it, Schwarzenegger would have towered over him like King Kong over an ant and realistically quashed him like a grape without those cool gadgets and weapons. Plus, we would have never experienced the joy of seeing him in No Retreat, No Surrender. Thankfully, the massively tall Kevin Peter Hall was chosen instead. The Predator’s intimidation factor lies in the fact that he is a hulking figure who matched the muscles of Arnold and made for a suspenseful final battle in that film. Still, imagine if JCVD was our Predator and during the big reveal when Predator takes off his mask, Arnold gasped: “You are one short m***** f*****!” instead. Hilarity would have ensued. We also would have been treated to everyone’s fantasy dream match: The Jean-Claude Predator vs. Danny Gover in Predator 2!!

"Get off dose stiltz, Van Damme!"

And what about Arnie? Sure he was a famous bodybuilder and was pretty successful in Conan, but what if he was never in The Terminator…easily his breakthrough role to super stardom. Believe it or not, James Cameron’s pal Lance Henriksen was the original selection to play the relentless killing cyborg from the future. If that happened, we would have been spared The Last Action Hero, but Arnie would also not have become the Guhva-nator yet Henriksen would still have probably followed the same career path. Definitely no T2 though. Arnie as the head vamp in Near Dark would have made for some surreal film moments.

The Terminator sure got creepy looking.

Leonardo DiCaprio was going to be Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. This really almost happened, but lucky for him (and very unlucky for us), Leo turned it down for mega blockbuster Titanic, a film constantly rammed down our throats The rest is history as Leo has starred in many high profile films and even had some Oscar nominations, plus pleased young girls everywhere who finally indulged Shakespeare with Romeo + Juliet. He probably would have gone onto a great career, following the heels of The Basketball Diaries, since fellow Basketball Diaries star Mark Wahlberg was considered a legitimate actor after his portrayal of Diggler, No role, and Markie Mark would still be jamming with the Funky Bunch…and John Cena would not have been able to rip off his look. Imagine if you will, Leo singing "The Touch" with John C. McGinley in Boogie Nights' touching scene.

One word…awesome! Had to put this pic in here again.
That’s it for this time, kiddos. Welcome back to the real world where Leo dates supermodels, Jean Claude Van Damme is still out of work, Harrison Ford turned over the whip to Shia LeBeouf, and Al Pacino belted “Woo-Hah!” And yes, my Photoshop skills are mad, yo.


Chuck said...

You do give us something to think about...and be glad most didn't happen!

Korsgaard said...

Alternate casting is a facinating mental excersize. Here's a few other interesting ones:

-OJ Simpson was briefly considered to play the Terminator. Cameron said no because he didn't think the audience would believe OJ Simpson could kill people.

-Mel Gibson was Speilburg's first pick to play Oskar Schrindler in Schrindler's list, and Gibson was ready to accept the part - until Spielburg saw the audition of Liam Neeson.

-The Lord of the Rings could have seen choices like Sean Connery play Gandalf or Stuart Townsend as Aragorn, and that's not even mentioning the decision to let Peter Jackson direct, despite having no experience outside of gory horror films.

-The Godfather could have had Danny Thomas play Don Corleone, Robert Redford play Michael Corleone, Paul Newman play Sonny Corleone, and George Kennedy play Tom Hagan.

Some more food for thought.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I didn't know about half of these. Selleck as Indiana could have been good. I agree Van Damme would have been a shrimpy Predator. I would love to live in a world where Titanic was not the huge mega-pic it is, so I wish he had done "Boogie Nights." Funny captions all around.

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