17 Movies That Would Have Been SO Different With The Original Cast

Photo: Snap Stills/REX Shutterstock.
This story was originally published on February 1, 2016.

Only three people know for sure the exact timeline of events that led to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston getting divorced and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie getting together. The official demise of one relationship and beginning of another is something that really should only be the business of the parties involved. Unfortunately for Pitt, Aniston, and Jolie, however, we have Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

It’s hard to imagine a reality in which Pitt and Jolie never got together after meeting on the set of the 2005 movie, in which they played married assassins and displayed some of the most smoking-hot chemistry in the history of the moving image. But guess what? We almost didn’t have Brangelina, because Pitt and Jolie weren’t the original stars of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. That’s how much the casting of a film can alter people’s destinies. Also, can you imagine anyone else bringing such über-cool to John and Jane Smith?

Mr. & Mrs. Smith
isn’t the only film to undergo a reshuffling that changed everything. In fact, there's a movie that underwent one helluva nightmarish production before finally getting released last Friday: Jane Got a Gun, a Western starring and produced by Natalie Portman.

The original director, Lynne Ramsay, never showed up to the first day of shooting. Her lack of confidence in the project led to stars Bradley Cooper and Jude Law exiting, as well. Cooper and Law were replaced by Joel Edgerton (who also co-wrote the film) and Ewan McGregor. Gavin O'Connor stepped in to direct, but one can’t help but wonder how the movie would have turned out with the original trio of Portman, Cooper, and Law. Actually, Michael Fassbender was set to play Jane’s (Portman) husband before Cooper and Law were brought on, but he had to depart to shoot X-Men: Days of Future Past. So add Michael Fassbender into the mix of what might have been.

Some of your favorite movies of all time were almost completely different. They would have been unrecognizable if they’d been made with the original cast members. Get ready to have your mind blown when you realize which iconic roles were actually late-in-the-game replacements.
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Back to the Future (1985)
Original cast: Eric Stoltz
Role: Marty McFly

Not only was Eric Stoltz originally cast as Marty McFly, he played the role for five whole weeks of shooting before writer and director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Robert Gale decided Stoltz’s comedic sensibilities weren’t what they’d envisioned for the part. Stoltz has starred in other things since his Back to the Future dismissal, but it had to sting at least a little bit when he was forced to revisit his rejection all over again upon the release of the Back to the Future trilogy on Blu-ray, which includes clips from his limited time on set.
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Back to the Future
Official cast: Michael J. Fox
Role: Marty McFly

It’s hard to imagine anyone beside charismatic and funny Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. He went on to star in two more Back to the Future movies.
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Photo: Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages/REX Shutterstock.
The Godfather Part III (1990)
Original cast: Winona Ryder
Role: Mary Corleone

Ryder dropping out of Francis Ford Coppola’s third film in the Godfather saga led to rampant speculation. People thought she was pregnant with her boyfriend Johnny Depp’s baby or that she’d had a nervous breakdown. That wasn’t the case.

In a 1990 interview with The L.A. Times, Ryder says, “The whole thing has been blown out of proportion. I’d done three films in a row: Great Balls of Fire, [Welcome Home] Roxy Carmichael, and Mermaids. Right after [Mermaids] wrapped, I flew to Rome with a terrible upper-respiratory infection and a 104-degree fever. I literally couldn’t move. The studio doctor told me to go home, said I was too sick to work. It wasn’t my choice. It was out of my hands. Sure it’s disappointing, devastating in fact. I wish it didn’t happen...but it did.”
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The Godfather Part III
Official cast: Sofia Coppola
Role: Mary Corleone

Francis Ford Coppola’s decision to replace the ailing Ryder with his own daughter led to one of the most maligned performances in cinema history.
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Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Original cast: Natalie Portman
Role: Juliet Capulet

Portman was 13 to her Romeo Leonardo DiCaprio’s 21 in Baz Luhrmann’s sumptuous and modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s doomed love story. A 1996 New York Times profile reports that Portman dropped out of the role of Juliet because, “Fox said it looked like Leonardo DiCaprio was molesting me when we kissed.” Eek. Never was a story of more woe than Juliet being molested by her Romeo.
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Romeo + Juliet
Official cast: Claire Danes
Role: Juliet Capulet

Claire Danes was a slightly more age-appropriate 17 when she stepped in for Natalie Portman opposite Leo. Danes seemed like more of a natural fit for the updated R+J Luhrmann was cultivating, having spent two years playing an angsty teen on My So-Called Life.
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Photo: VILLARD/SIPA/REX Shutterstock.
American Psycho (2000)
Original cast: Leonardo DiCaprio
Role: Patrick Bateman

Lions Gate actually announced that DiCaprio had been cast as Wall Street’s yuppie serial killer at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. This was very surprising to director Mary Harron, who’d already offered the part to Christian Bale. Harron refused to meet with DiCaprio, insisting that he wasn’t at all the right actor to play Patrick Bateman. She also didn’t care for DiCaprio’s built-in fanbase of 13-year-olds from Titanic, who probably shouldn’t be flocking to a movie about a man brutally victimizing women.

Rather than agreeing to Harron’s vision for the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel, the studio brought in Oliver Stone to direct and rewrite Harron’s script. Eventually, DiCaprio and Stone couldn’t agree on what direction the film should take, so DiCaprio left to film The Beach. Stone departed as well, and Harron re-took control of American Psycho.
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American Psycho
Official cast: Christian Bale
Role: Patrick Bateman

Lions Gate gave Mary Harron the project back with a few conditions. Christian Bale could be the lead (you have to know that Bale wasn’t the star back then that he is now; American Psycho would be a career-making performance for him) as long as the budget didn’t go over $10 million, and Harron would stock the rest of the cast with stars the public would recognize. She agreed, and cast Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, and Chloë Sevigny in supporting roles.
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Photo: Ken McKay/ITV/REX Shutterstock.
X-Men (2000)
Original cast: Dougray Scott
Role: Wolverine

You know, Dougray Scott, from...things. Okay, that’s not being fair. The Scotsman has been steadily working since 1990, but he might have become an international star like Hugh Jackman had he been able to play Wolverine as scheduled in the first X-Men movie. Unfortunately, shooting on Mission Impossible: II ran long, and they were forced to replace Scott with a little known Australian actor named Hugh Jackman.
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Official cast: Hugh Jackman
Role: Wolverine

Everything worked out fine — better than fine, actually. Audiences loved Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and he went on to earn the 2004 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz. He hosted the Oscars in 2009 and the Tony Awards in 2014. Jackman has also bulked up to play Wolverine many, many times again throughout the years, not just in ensemble X-Men films, but in solo outings, as well.
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Photo: Gregory Pace/BEI/REX Shutterstock.
Meet the Parents (2000)
Original cast: Jim Carrey
Role: Greg Focker

In the inchoate stages of Meet the Parents, Jim Carrey was supposed to star as the in-over-his-head man meeting his future in-laws for the first time, while Steven Spielberg was set to direct. Both Carrey and Spielberg offered notes on the script in 1996 (which gives you an idea of how long things take to happen in Hollywood; four years isn’t even that long for a film to be in development), and Carrey is the one who came up with the last name Focker for the character. Unfortunately, both Carrey and Spielberg were forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
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Meet the Parents
Official cast: Ben Stiller
Role: Greg Focker

Ben Stiller starred and Jay Roach directed. “I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?
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Photos: Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX Shutterstock; Gregory Pace/BEI/REX Shutterstock.
Almost Famous (2000)
Original cast: Brad Pitt & Sarah Polley
Roles: Russell Hammond (Pitt) & Penny Lane (Polley)

Yep, we almost didn’t have Kate Hudson as Penny Lane. Sarah Polley was set to play the free-spirited groupie, but then she decided to drop out to work on a project of her own called The Law of Enclosures. Kate Hudson was originally going to play Zooey Deschanel’s role.

Cameron Crowe actually wrote the role of hard-partying rock god Russell Hammond for Brad Pitt. They worked on the role together for a few months, but then Pitt told Crowe that he just didn’t understand the character. Billy Crudup wound up playing the part. It remains unclear how Brad Pitt struggled to wrap his mind around the life of a good-looking, hard-partying rock star.
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Almost Famous
Official cast: Billy Crudup & Kate Hudson
Roles: Russell Hammond (Crudup) & Penny Lane (Hudson)

One easily forgets that Crudup starred as rock god Russell Hammond, but Kate Hudson as Penny Lane IS Almost Famous.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX Shutterstock.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Original cast: Brad Pitt
Role: Jason Bourne

When you start researching projects various actors have been attached to throughout the years, one inevitable question arises: “What movie hasn’t Brad Pitt been attached to?”

Some roles, he straight-up turns down (he reportedly passed on Hugh Grant’s character in About a Boy because he didn’t think such an attractive man would need to pretend to be a single father to meet women...oh, Brad). And sometimes, he’s attached to projects that never come to fruition due to scheduling issues. That’s what happened with the Bourne movies. Pitt was on board to play Jason Bourne, but dropped out when shooting conflicted with his role in Spy Game. His loss, Matt Damon is probably thinking right about now.
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The Bourne Identity
Official cast: Matt Damon
Role: Jason Bourne

At this point, Matt Damon and amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne are one and the same. He played Bourne in The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) before handing Jeremy Renner the mysterious government hitman reins in 2012’s The Bourne Legacy. Damon and Bourne director Paul Greengrass clearly haven’t gotten their fill of the saga, though, because a fifth Jason Bourne film hits theaters July 29, 2016.
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Photos: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX Shutterstock; Joe Schildhorn /BFAnyc.com/REX Shutterstock.
Chicago (2002)
Original cast: Goldie Hawn & Madonna
Roles: Roxie Hart (Goldie Hawn) & Velma Kelly (Madonna)

The name on everybody’s lips was gonna be...Goldie. Yup, once upon a time, Goldie Hawn was signed on to play the up-and-coming ingenue who finds out that murder equals showbiz infamy opposite the more seasoned Velma Kelly (Madonna). As the development process continued, it was reported that director Nicholas Hytner thought that Hawn, 53 at the time, was “too old” to play Hart. Liz Smith, who wrote about the slight in S.F. Gate, noted that the actress who originated the role in the stage production of Chicago in 1975, Gwen Verdon, was 50 at the time. Madonna eventually left Chicago to film The Next Best Thing. (Great move, Madge.)

The New York Times chronicled even more of the film’s myriad production troubles in a March 2003 article. “Martin Scorsese was discussed as the director, with Robert De Niro playing the tap-dancing lawyer; Nicole Kidman and even Barbra Streisand were wooed in vain," to name a few.
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Official cast: Renée Zellweger & Catherine Zeta-Jones
Roles: Roxie Hart (Zellweger) & Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones)

The final lineup of Chicago is a great example of the stars aligning. Both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah, who played Matron Mama Morton, received Best Supporting Actress nominations. Zeta-Jones won. Zellweger was nominated for Best Actress. Rob Marshall received a Best Director nomination. In total, the film won six of 13 nominations at the 2003 Academy Awards, including the night’s grand prize, Best Picture. When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you.
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Photo: Gregory Pace/BEI/REX Shutterstock.
Gigli (2003)
Original cast: Halle Berry
Role: Ricki

According to a 2001 report in Variety, Berry “ankled Gigli [in September 2001] due to a scheduling conflict with X-Men 2,” in which Berry plays Storm.
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Official cast: Jennifer Lopez
Role: Ricki

One might say that Berry dodged a bullet with this one. Gigli, which stars Lopez opposite her boyfriend at the time, Ben Affleck, has become a recurring punchline in Hollywood because of how bad it is.
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Photos: REX Shutterstock; Masatoshi Okauchi/REX Shutterstock.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Original cast: Nicole Kidman & Johnny Depp
Roles: Jane Smith (Kidman) & John Smith (Depp)

It’s a little bit harder to find confirmation that Depp was ever officially signed on to play John Smith (although it shows up in every article about “roles Johnny Depp almost played”). On the other hand, Nicole Kidman was definitely attached to play Jane Smith. She was set to star opposite Brad Pitt, but had to drop out when shooting ran long on The Stepford Wives.
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Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Official cast: Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt
Roles: Jane Smith & John Smith

Just look at this chemistry. Feel it. It’s burning off the screen. We almost didn’t have this. God bless The Stepford Wives and its overly long shoot.
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Photo: Brian To/Variety/REX Shutterstock.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Original cast: Kel O’Neill
Role: Eli Sunday

Actor Paul Dano originally had a much smaller part as Eli Sunday’s brother, Paul Sunday. According to a 2007 profile of Daniel Day-Lewis in The New York Times Magazine, Dano replaced O’Neill, the original actor cast as Eli, midway through shooting, possibly because O’Neill was intimidated by DDL’s habit of staying in character as megalomanic oilman Daniel Plainview. Day-Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson deny this claim, but let the official record show that Kel O’Neill was most definitely dropped from the production midway through shooting.
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There Will Be Blood
Official cast: Paul Dano
Roles: Eli & Paul Sunday

Guess Paul Dano could hold his own against extreme method actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Eli and Paul Sunday became identical twins to explain why Paul Dano played both parts, and we have the indelible image of Day-Lewis screaming “I drink your milkshake. I drink it up.” at Paul Dano.
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Photo: Michael Buckner/Variety/REX Shutterstock.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Original cast: Ryan Gosling
Role: Jack Salmon

Ryan Gosling was cast as a father grieving his murdered daughter in the adaptation of Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel. Unfortunately, the actor and director Peter Jackson had conflicting visions for the role.

In 2010, Gosling told The Hollywood Reporter that, “We had a different idea of how the character should look. I really believed he should be 210 pounds.” The actor chugged cartons of melted Häagen-Dazs when he was thirsty to get his weight up. “I just showed up on set, and I had gotten it wrong. Then, I was fat and unemployed," he said.
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The Lovely Bones
Official cast: Mark Wahlberg
Role: Jack Salmon

Gosling was replaced with Mark Wahlberg, in somewhat of an out-of-character role for the actor. The Lovely Bones wasn’t a hit at the box office, but the cast wasn't the main problem.
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Photo: Gregory Pace/REX Shutterstock.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Original cast: Emily Blunt
Role: Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson was just one of several actresses who screen-tested for the role of Natasha Romanova — a.k.a. Black Widow — the Avenger who first makes her appearance in Iron Man 2. She lost out to Emily Blunt. Luck was on Johansson’s side, though, because Fox decided to exercise an option it had placed in Blunt’s The Devil Wears Prada contract saying she had to make one more film for the studio. That film ended up being the 2010 adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels, a massive box-office flop.
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Iron Man 2
Official cast: Scarlett Johansson
Role: Black Widow

Johansson officially stepped into Black Widow’s catsuit for Iron Man 2, and she dons it again (and again) for each Avengers movie — in addition to the Captain America franchise.
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Photos: MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock; Carlos Tischler/REX Shutterstock.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Original cast: Anne Hathaway & Mark Wahlberg
Roles: Tiffany Maxwell (Hathaway) & Pat Solitano (Wahlberg)

Mark Wahlberg was actually instrumental in helping bring Silver Linings Playbook to the screen. He brought SLP director David O. Russell onto 2010’s The Fighter — which Wahlberg both starred in and produced — after Darren Aronofsky left the production. The Fighter went on to garner seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Director, which inspired Wahlberg and Russell to develop more films together.

Wahlberg signed on to play the male lead in Silver Linings Playbook opposite Anne Hathaway, but the studio reportedly replaced him with Bradley Cooper “because they felt he was hungrier and would work for cheaper,” according to Matt Muzio, Russell’s cousin. Per The Wrap, Wahlberg being replaced also led to a personal falling-out between the actor and director.

In a January 2014 interview with Howard Stern, producer Harvey Weinstein claimed that Anne Hathaway dropped out of the film because “David [O. Russell] and Anne had some creative differences. They didn’t see eye to eye.”
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Silver Linings Playbook
Official cast: Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper
Roles: Tiffany Maxwell (Lawrence) & Pat Solitano (Cooper)

We all know how this one turned out. Jennifer Lawrence turned in an Oscar-winning performance as a young widow who meets Cooper’s character, Pat Solitano, after he’s been released from a mental institution. Cooper also earned an Oscar nomination and David O. Russell scored another Best Director nod. The movie received eight Oscar nominations in total, including Best Picture.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/REX Shutterstock.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Original cast: Benicio Del Toro
Role: Khan

Del Toro was in serious talks with director J.J. Abrams to play the film’s villain, but apparently the deal went sour when the actor and studio couldn’t agree about money. Isn’t that how it often seems to go? No matter; Del Toro says he has no regrets about leaving the film.
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Star Trek into Darkness (2013)
Official cast: Benedict Cumberbatch
Role: Khan

Well, they found an actor whose name starts with the same first three letters as Benicio, but beyond that similarity, the two couldn’t be more different. One can’t help but wonder how Del Toro’s portrayal of the Star Trek baddie would have differed from Cumberbatch’s.
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Photo: Matt Baron/REX Shutterstock.
The Intern (2015)
Original cast: Reese Witherspoon
Role: Jules Ostin

Tina Fey and Michael Caine were originally circling the roles that would eventually go to Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. Fey and Caine never officially signed on, nor could the movie get the funding writer/director Nancy Meyers required from Paramount. Meyers repackaged the film and took it to Warner Bros. with Reese Witherspoon in the lead role opposite Robert De Niro.
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The Intern (2015)
Official cast: Anne Hathaway
Role: Jules Ostin

Witherspoon reportedly dropped out of the film due to scheduling issues, and Anne Hathaway stepped in opposite De Niro.