Movie roles are recast pretty frequently. It’s just part of the business, with someone not pulling their weight on the set, or the director deciding they aren’t right for the part, or even the actor just deciding the project isn’t something they’re really passionate about. But it’s pretty rare that iconic roles wind up being recast, with a few notable exceptions. Here are some of those incredibly noteworthy exceptions.
Eric Stoltz was Marty McFly
We all love Michael J. Fox for so many reasons, but maybe none more than for his iconic portrayal of time traveling guitar player Marty McFly, who drove the DeLorean back to 1955, rode a hoverboard in the distant future of 2015, and finally went back to the Old West. But amazingly, he was so close to not playing Marty that there actually exists footage of the original choice, Eric Stoltz, playing the role.
However, after four weeks of filming, it was determined that Stoltz was playing the role in a far too serious, dramatic manner, and replaced him with a guy who had better comedic chops. Worked out pretty well for them, don’t you think?
Dougray Scott was Wolverine
At this point in time, Hugh Jackman is so ingrained in pop culture as Wolverine that it’s hard to imagine him playing any other characters. Even watching a movie like Les Miserables, you could only wonder when he was going to unleash those claws and just stick Russell Crowe in the gut. That’s why it’s kind of weird to consider the fact that, originally, the character was set to be played by Dougray Scott.
Who? Yeah, he’s a dude who was in the movie Ever After, and he was cast to play Wolverine until the production schedule for Mission: Impossible II went long, and he was forced to withdraw. His bad luck is our good luck, as it happens. Jackman has recently said he doesn’t plan on wearing the claws again, so hey, Dougray, maybe you’ll finally get your shot!
Barry Nelson was the First James Bond
James Bond has obviously been played by numerous people over the years, most famously by Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton. A lot of people even know that a guy named George Lazenby played the role, and even David Niven portrayed 007 once.
But the original Bond? That was some guy named Barry Nelson, who played 007 in an hour-long TV special based on Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale. It aired as part of the show Climax! Mystery Theatre, and featured the great Peter Lorre as the villainous Le Chiffre.
Stuart Townend was Aragorn
Viggo Mortensen had been kicking around Hollywood for years before landing one of the three leads in the epic Lord of the Rings series. However, starting with Fellowship of the Ring, Mortensen became a legitimate movie star. Of course, as you can probably guess, that very nearly didn’t happen.
Stuart Townsend, who perhaps most famously appeared in movies like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Queen of the Damned, was originally cast and actually trained for a couple of months for the role, only to be fired literally the day before filming began. Mortensen was convinced to take the role, and the rest is history.
Lance Henriksen Was The Terminator
Arnold Schwarzenegger has played a lot of big roles in his very long career, but the one that truly made him an international superstar was that of the Terminator, the ultimate killing machine sent back to kill Sarah Connor and prevent her from birthing humanity’s savior. However, when James Cameron wrote the script, he had a very different image of the terminator in mind: Lance Henriksen. Cameron wanted the terminator to look a little more average, though considering how creepy Henriksen can be he may have been even more terrifying than Arnold ever was.
Sylvester Stallone Was Axel Foley
Hey, you know the wise-cracking, fast-talking, street-savvy and just flat out hilarious cop role that was played by Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop? Well, we’d like you to imagine some of the funniest scenes, but this time insert Sylvester Stallone into them.
Kind of a different movie, right? Stallone, believe it or not, was actually attached to play Axel Foley, but some disagreements about the tone of the movie led to him leaving the project. Of course, that also allowed Murphy to slide into the role that made him a superstar, and Stallone took his concept of what the film should have been and made Cobra instead.
Frank Sinatra Was John Mcclane
Let’s start things off by pointing out that, what a lot of people do not realize is the fact that Die Hard was actually based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever, by an author named Roderick Thorp. The character of John McClane, made famous by Bruce Willis, was actually named Joe Leland in that and several other books in a series.
As it happens, Die Hard was not the first book in the series to make it to the big screen, as The Detective, starring the same Joe Leland/John McClane character, was released in 1968. Playing the lead role in that film, and thus becoming the original portrayal of McClane, just under a different name? Frank Sinatra.
Frank Sinatra Was Harry Callaghan
Yep, it’s Old Blue Eyes again. While Sinatra actually sorts of played one badass detective in John McClane, he almost tackled another in the form of “Dirty” Harry Callaghan. This isn’t some sort of speculation or a guy going out for a part of anything, either.
Warner Brothers bought the script to Dirty Harry specifically for Sinatra, and he was all set to play the role until one minor thing got in the way: a .44 Magnum handgun. Sinatra had broken his wrist years earlier, and because of the lingering gimpiness of his wrist, he couldn’t really hold that gun. So Sinatra bowed out, and Clint Eastwood slid right into what would become his most iconic role.