Can you imagine any Star Wars characters being played by different actors? You probably can’t because the franchise is so successful that many actors in the films will forever be known as their Star Wars characters. It would be really strange to see anyone other than Harrison Ford play Han Solo or Mark Hamill play Luke Skywalker.
In fact, the vast majority of actors who have appeared in the Star Wars franchise are identified almost entirely by their Star Wars roles. Most actors in the Star Wars franchise never really found success in other roles. There are exceptions of course. Harrison Ford went on to be Indiana Jones and became a massive movie star, and some actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Alec Guinness and Liam Neeson were already big stars before starring in Star Wars movies.
Mark Hamill is the definitive voice of the Joker, but first and foremost he will always be a naïve young farm boy who became the galaxy’s most powerful Jedi. All of the Star Wars films could have looked much different if these actors hadn’t been cast. Here’s a look at 15 actors who were almost cast in Star Wars.
15 Karen Allen as Princess Leia
Karen Allen ended up starring in a George Lucas created franchise eventually. The actress was cast as Marion Ravenwood in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. She reprised that role in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
However, before all that she was considered for the role of Princess Leia. If she were cast she would have been in both of Lucas’ mega franchises just like Harrison Ford.
14 Bill Murray or Chevy Chase as Han Solo
Bill Murray will forever be Peter Venkman, and his portrayal of the smarmy Ghostbuster will be his most important role in the pop culture lexicon. However, he was almost a part of a number of other pop culture phenomena.
He was almost Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman, and he was almost Han Solo, too. Bill Murray wasn’t the only SNL star who was considered for the role of Han Solo. Chevy Chase was in contention, too. It’s hard to envision either of these goofballs as Han Solo, but Murray at least has proven he has the range to pull off more dramatic fare.
13 Tupac Shakur as Mace Windu
Can you picture this extremely odd casting choice? Sam Jackson may be awesome, but he certainly doesn’t have the street cred that Tupac had. Tupac might have made Mace Windu the most menacing Jedi of all time.
Rolling Stone reported that Tupac auditioned to play the purple lightsaber wielding Jedi shortly before his untimely death in 1996. The news broke when Rick Clifford, who was as an engineer at Death Row Records, revealed that Tupac had auditioned with George Lucas for the role. Even if Tupac had been cast, they would have had to replace him because The Phantom Menace didn’t start filming until after his death. Coincidentally, Jackson and Tupac appeared together in the 1992 crime thriller Juice.
12 Gary Oldman as General Grievous
According to The Guardian, union rules meant that Gary Oldman didn’t end up as the voice of General Grievous in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Oldman had been cast in the role and was set to start recording lines for the film, but because the film was not made with members of the Screen Actors Guild, Oldman dropped out of the role.
"Gary was excited and looking forward to working on the film. The snag is that the movie is being made without members of the Screen Actors Guild. It means Gary would have been working illegally overseas. Out of respect and solidarity with the other members, he could not and would not consider violating the rules of his union," said Oldman’s spokesperson in an interview with the Daily Star. Lucasfilm sound editor Matthew Wood ended up playing General Grievous.
11 Leonardo DiCaprio as Anakin Skywalker
Things could have turned out very differently for not only the Star Wars prequels but also the career of one of Hollywood’s finest actors if the role of Anakin Skywalker went to someone other than Hayden Christensen.
One of the frontrunners for the role was Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio has become one of the best, if not the best, actors working in Hollywood today, and it is doubtful if he would have had such a stellar career if he took a misstep and was cast in the much-maligned Star Wars prequels. The movies probably would have been better, but DiCaprio’s career might not have been filled with as many critically acclaimed movies like Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can and The Departed.
10 Orson Welles as Darth Vader
The voice of Darth Vader had to be powerful and menacing, and that’s why the man in the suit (David Prowse) did not provide the dialogue for cinema’s greatest villain. Instead, the booming and frightening voice of James Earl Jones was used. You don’t get much more intimidating than James Earl Jones.
However, another iconic voice was almost used. Legendary director Orson Welles was almost the voice of Darth Vader, according to Page Six. “I created a villain . . . I knew the voice had to be very, very special,” Lucas said during an American Theatre Wing Gala that honored Jones. “And I had to make a choice — a choice that was a tough choice, but an easy choice, really — between Orson Welles and James Earl Jones . . . [Jones] won hands down.” Welles ended up playing another sci-fi villain - he was the voice on Unicron in The Transformers: The Movie.
9 Christopher Walken as Han Solo
At one point, George Lucas didn’t want to cast anyone from his film American Graffiti in Star Wars, and that’s why so many other actors were considered for the role of Han Solo before Lucas finally realized not casting Ford just because he wanted a fresh face was a mistake.
Lucas even considered Christopher Walken for the scruffy nerf herder known as Han Solo. According to The Daily Mail, Lucas only gave in to casting Ford when Ford, who was working as a carpenter by day, showed up at Lucasfilm to fix a door. Can you even picture Walken as Han Solo? In an episode of SNL, Kevin Spacey did an impression of Walken as Han Solo, so that might give you an idea.
8 Ryan Phillippe or Paul Walker as Anakin Skywalker
A lot of actors were considered for the role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, and other than Leonardo DiCaprio none of them are particularly impressive. As terrible as Hayden Christensen was, you should remember that it could have been worse. It could have been Ryan Phillippe or Paul Walker.
“I think it was sort of an age thing in their mind. It wasn’t quite right, but yeah, they were interested,” Phillippe told MTV about his screen test. Paul Walker reportedly camped out to screen test with Natalie Portman. It was decided that he was simply too old to play Anakin Skywalker in 2002’s Attack of the Clones.
7 Mel Blanc as C-3PO
Mel Blanc was known as the man of 1000 voices, and he very well could have been the man of 1001 voices if he was cast as C-3PO in Star Wars: A New Hope. Mel Blanc was the greatest voice actor of all time, and he certainly could have been very convincing as the butler-like C-3P0.
It has been reported that he auditioned for the role, and even suggested that Anthony Daniels would be better suited for the role than him. Daniels ended up not only being the voice of C-3P0 in every Star Wars film, but he was the man inside the suit in almost all of them, too.
6 James Caan as Han Solo
James Caan is perhaps a bit resentful that he didn’t end up playing Han Solo in the Star Wars movies. The Godfather actor was reportedly a top contender for the role.
Caan remarked about the casting of Harrison Ford as Han Solo in an interview on The Howard Stern Show: “They didn’t want an actor,” Caan explained, “that’s why they got Harrison Ford.” Caan said that Ford wasn’t even adept at being an “extra” in one of his movies. Caan famously passed on the role of Superman in Donner’s Superman: The Movie, too.
5 Toshiro Mifune as Obi-Wan Kenobi
It’s no surprise that the works of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa heavily influenced George Lucas when he was developing the Star Wars saga. Lucas even almost cast one of the actors from Seven Samurai in Star Wars: A New Hope. Could you imagine a Japanese actor playing wise old Obi-Wan rather than screen legend Alec Guinness?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mifune’s daughter broke the news that her father turned down the role during an announcement for Tokyo Comic Con. He was also considered for the role of Darth Vader, but turned down all offers because he thought the films would look ”cheap.”
4 Jodie Foster as Princess Leia
Jodie Foster was in consideration for the role of Princess Leia, but it was at a time when the original concept for a new hope had the characters much younger. Foster’s hectic schedule and the decision to make Leia a young woman rather than a teenager meant that foster was not cast.
“I was doing two films back-to-back at the time. It would have been fun. But my career would have been different and I’m happy with the one I’ve got so I don’t really regret it. And honestly, I was 14 or 15 at the time and it was when they were still conceiving those characters as very young. By the time they got to making it, they had a totally different conception of the film,” she said in an interview with Games Radar.
3 Christopher Lee as Grand Moff Tarkin
Legendary actor Christopher Lee did end up starring in a Star Wars film much later in his career. He played Sith apprentice Count Dooku, aka Darth Tyranus, in Attack of the Clones, and he reprised the role briefly in Revenge of the Sith.
Long before the prequels, Lee was in the running for a role in the original Star Wars trilogy. He was almost cast in the role of Grand Moff Tarkin, but eventually his good friend and Dracula co-star Peter Cushing was cast as the Imperial general instead.
2 Kurt Russell as Han Solo
This casting choice really doesn’t seem all that far-fetched today. After all, Kurt Russell has many of the same qualities as Harrison Ford. He can certainly play the smarmy and sarcastic rogue action hero nearly as well as Ford can. In 1977, this casting choice would have seemed a little bit out of place though.
Kurt Russell wasn’t Snake Plissken yet, and he hadn’t starred in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China. Back in the day, Russell was a child actor in Disney films. If he had been cast as Han Solo he would today be part of the biggest Disney franchise ever! His screen test for the role was impressive, but Ford was the right choice.
1 Al Pacino as Han Solo
The Telegraph reported that Al Pacino was offered the role of Han Solo. "It was mine for the taking, but I didn’t understand the script," he said. Pacino is the greatest actor of all time, and even though Star Wars was nominated for best picture at the Oscars, it’s certainly not The Godfather, Serpico or Dog Day Afternoon.
Pacino probably made the right choice turning down the role in Star Wars. Sometimes actors are just too good to star in campy fare like Star Wars. It’s too bad he didn’t have the foresight to turn down Jack and Jill, too.