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15 Major Roles Written For A Specific Actor, But Ultimately Played By Someone Else

Updated March 8, 2021 15 items

Every actor hopes for that special role - the one they can make their own, the one fans couldn't possibly imagine anyone else playing. But many iconic characters were not created for the stars we know and love in those parts today.

Even when roles in TV and film were specifically written for a particular actor, castings and character profiles can change on a dime when the star turns down the role they inspired, or a director or producer chooses to go in a different direction. Here are the most famous parts that were originally created for someone other than the actors we now know them in today.

  • Cameron Crowe took four years to write his crowd-pleasing hit about sports agent life. But by the time the screenplay was ready, the actor he had in mind to star was a little too old and a little too busy. Crowe revealed in Empire that he intended for Tom Hanks to play Jerry, but Hanks was almost 40, already had two Academy Awards under his belt, and wanted to direct when the film was being cast.

    Tom Cruise was the second choice to embody the slick sports agent who starts his own agency after a crisis of conscience gets him fired - and he did a lot more than show us the money in the part - he "completed" it.

  • James Cameron Wrote The Lead Role In 'Avatar' For Matt Damon 

    James Cameron wrote the CGI-driven fantasy blockbuster with Matt Damon in mind to star, but the A-lister turned it down to focus on the Jason Bourne films, losing out on the chance to be in one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.

    The role ended up going to newcomer Sam Worthington, who did a fine job, but as Damon told GQ, he lost out on more than a great role; Cameron offered him 10% of the profits, which means he would have made somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of a billion dollars, not including the sequels.

  • When a reporter asked Bette Midler if she had made any mistakes in her professional life, she answered honestly: "Many," pointing to the comedy Sister Act as one of the biggestShe claimed in Metro that the film was written for her but she passed because "my fans don't want to see me in a wimple."

    Of course, Whoopi Goldberg took the undercover nun role instead, and had such a big hit on her hands, she went on to do a sequel, as well. Meanwhile, the woman fans call "the Divine Miss M" will probably always regret the one time she wasn't.

  • Photo: Star Wars / 20th Century Fox

    The Force wasn't exactly how we came to know it when George Lucas first created the Star Wars saga. He did not have Sir Alec Guinness in mind when he conjured the wise Jedi mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Instead, according to Den of Geek, he wanted samurai legend Toshiro Mifune for the part - which should come as no surprise to those who spotted the enormous influence Japanese cinema, including the Mifune-starring Hidden Fortress, had on Lucas's galaxy far, far away.

    Alas, it never came to be, as Mifune was concerned that the sci-fi film might cheapen the image of samurai on film. Of course, Guinness's distinguished speaking style and presence made Obi-Wan a character of reverence and skill, both as a thinker and fighter... quite the opposite of a cheap onscreen figure.