Lately, everyone has been talking about Kevin Spacey being replaced by Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s All The Money in the World. With only weeks left before the film’s release, Scott went back and reshot all of Spacey’s scenes with the new actor. That alone is enough to make this a trend-worthy topic. Now Plummer is receiving countless award nominations and nearly unanimous praise from critics, claiming it’s his best work in years.
While this is easily the most extreme example of an actor being replaced in a film, it’s far from the first. Now, of course, it’s impossible to predict what the film would’ve have been had the original choice worked out. What is certain is just how perfect the following actors and actresses turned out to be for the role they wound up playing.
1. Beverly Hills Cop
Sylvester Stallone replaced by Eddie Murphy
The original script for Beverly Hills Cop was meant to be a more serious picture. The first actor to be attached was actually Mickey Rourke. But he dropped out when scheduling fell behind. The producers next choice was Eddie Murphy. Because the script had gone through rewrites and become a more comedic picture, it seemed more appropriate to cast a comedian.
The studio, however, wanted a more bankable star. So, they offered the film to Sylvester Stallone. Being a seasoned screenwriter himself, Stallone decided to rewrite the script to his own liking. Changing his character into a leather-clad, monosyllabic biker. This, of course, was not the film that producers Don Simpson & Jerry Bruckheimer wanted to make.
Luckily, Stallone bowed out amicably, and they were able to hire Murphy, and, therefore, film the script that they originally had in mind. With Murphy in the lead, the comedy was heightened even more and the film went on to be one of his most beloved films and one of the highest grossing films of its year.
In case you’re wondering just how the film would’ve looked with Stallone, you actually can. He did eventually get to make the movie he had in mind, in the form of 1986’s Cobra. Of course, the less said about that dud, the better.
2. Back to the Future
Eric Stoltz replaced by Michael J. Fox
In this instance, the eventual actor actually was the first choice. Michael J. Fox was the actor director Robert Zemeckis’ originally wanted to play Marty McFly. Unfortunately, due to his commitments with Family Ties, Fox was unavailable. So, the filmmaker turned to Eric Stoltz, whose performance in Peter Bogdonavich’s Mask had Hollywood insiders labeling him as the next big thing.
However, after just a few days of shooting, Zemeckis knew he wasn’t right for the kind of film he was trying to make. Stoltz’ acting style just wasn’t right for the movie Zemeckis was trying to make. He was taking the part much too serious, and most of the film’s charm was being lost. He was forced to take a gamble.
With thousands of dollars of the budget already spent, he put up his own money and risked his entire career rather than make his movie with the wrong actor. Thankfully, by moving scheduling around and postponing their release date, Zemeckis and his producers were able to strike a deal with Fox.
This also turned out to be a great career move for the young actor, who became a huge overnight moviestar. With immense help from his spirited performance, Back to the Future was a colossal hit, and has gone on to become one of the most beloved films of all time.
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Tom Selleck replaced by Harrison Ford
Indiana Jones is one of those characters that are defined by the actor who portrayed them. When you think of the name, there is only one actor who comes to mind and you can’t possibly think of anyone else.
Well, had producer and co-writer George Lucas had his way, that person would have been Tom Selleck. Not wanting to repeat himself by casting the same actor in two iconic roles, Lucas simply wanted someone fresh. He’d heard great things about an up-and-coming young actor named Tom Selleck, and suggested him to director Steven Spielberg.
After a solid screen-test, Selleck was actually cast in the role. So, just to be clear. If everything had gone as originally planned, Selleck was everyone’s actual desired choice. Thankfully, however, much like the previous entry, the shoot wound up conflicting with his television schedule. Around the same time as his screen test, Selleck had also done a pilot for a show called Magnum P.I. Shortly after agreeing to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the show was picked up, forcing him to ultimately back out of the film.
This worked out very well for Harrison Ford, not to mention millions of movie-goers. Turns out that Spielberg always had him in mind for the role. He just wasn’t sure Ford would agree to a three-picture deal, due to Lucas’ failure to do so on Star Wars. Luckily, he loved the script, and saw the potential of the character. They were indeed able to sign him to a three picture deal, and a modern legend was born.
4. Dirty Harry
Frank Sinatra replaced by Clint Eastwood
Here is another career defining role. This time, however, the casting would’ve drastically affected the outcome of the character. I mean, it’s impossible to think of anyone else who could’ve filled the role. I mean, Clint Eastwood IS Dirty Harry, period.
But, there was actually a time when, under the direction of William Friedkin, the trigger-happy San Fransisco detective would’ve had a completely different LOOK. Instead of the gruff, disheveled interpretation made iconic by Clint Eastwood, the filmmakers originally wanted a more polished version which would have been depicted by Frank Sinatra.
Although he was a notorious tough guy himself, Ol’ Blue Eyes’ interpretation would’ve completely changed the feel of the entire picture. Everything that made both the film and the character so topical and iconic would’ve been lost. Likely becoming just another forgettable cop movie. I mean, even with Eastwood, the plot is pretty standard.
Without him, there’s no way this movie would still be as revered as it is today. Think about it. What Frank Sinatra film from the sixties do you still talk about today? Thankfully, due to a wrist injury he sustained during The Manchurian Candidate, Sinatra was forced to bow out. Of course, eventually so did Friedkin.
In stepped director Don Siegal, who had already worked with Eastwood on his previous three pictures. Everyone of them, in their own way, could actually be looked at as a precursor to this film. Together they were molding the “Eastwood persona” which would of course be perfected in the form of ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan. In fact, I don’t think either of them ever made a more definitive film.
Of course, Eastwood has gone on to star in and direct many great films, often at the same time, but this will always be the film that encapsulates his image as a tough guy and his reputation as a rugged leading man.
Dougray Scott replaced by Hugh Jackman
This is a choice that could’ve changed the cinematic trajectory of an entire genre. Back in 2000, the comic-book movie as we know it just didn’t exist. No one was willing to put big money behind the story of a bunch of freaks in tights. Then, 20th Century Fox gambled on a little-known comic property called X-Men and the rest is history.
Of course, there were many factors that combined to make this film a hit. It was easily the most ambitious film of its type to be made up to that time. Millions of people were just waiting for someone to make this film. One that actually took their beloved superheroes seriously.
However, there’s no denying that one of the biggest keys to its quality was the casting of Hugh Jackman to play Wolverine. He’s the character most people were coming to see, and the wrong actor could’ve really screwed things up. Thankfully, the filmmakers’ original choice, Dougray Scott, was forced to bow out due to extra shooting on Mission Impossible II.
A fine actor, to be sure, but nine X-Men/Wolverine films later, it’s quite clear that no actor could match claws with Jackman’s portrayal. In the nearly two decades since, Jackman has gone on to prove that he is also a dramatic force of nature and a natural song-and-dance man.
Yet, he has never been more enthralling on the screen than in the role that made him a star in the first place. Even when thinking back now to the very first film in the series, it’s his presence that stands at center-stage, and his performance that brings you back for that upteenth viewing.