As we all know, casting for the lead role in a movie can be a lengthy process with many qualified candidates to sift through before making that final decision. And also obvious, the choice of actor in a role can sometimes end up making the difference between a box office success and a mediocre film.
Through the decades there have been many starring roles that were almost cast with a different lead, possibly changing the audience response to the character and the movie. In retrospect, trying to visualize someone else in the role sometimes leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what in the world they were thinking of with their first choice.
Here's a sample list of films and the stars that almost didn't get the role, some of the second choices earning an Oscar for their performances.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow in that first movie was originally intended for Jim Carrey, but when a scheduling conflict forced him to bow out the role went to Johnny Depp who put his own indelible stamp on the character in a series of Pirates Of The Caribbean films.
Drive: Hugh Jackman was originally signed for the role that ended up being Ryan Gosling's.
Lord Of The Rings: When Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf, it went to Sir Ian McKellen.
American Psycho: It was originally Leonardo DiCaprio who was eventually replaced by Christian Bale.
Men In Black: Chris O'Donnell was originally cast but due to the director's insistence Will Smith replaced him.
Basic Instinct: Kelly McGillis was considered before the role went to Sharon Stone.
Dirty Dancing: Val Kilmer was considered but the role eventually went to Patrick Swayze.
The Shining: The iconic Jack Nicholson role ("Here's Johnny!") almost went to Robin Williams.
Pretty Woman: Molly Ringwald turned down the role that was a career maker for Julia Roberts.
Silence Of The Lambs: Michelle Pfeiffer almost had the role that won Jodie Foster one of her Oscars.
Indiana Jones: George Lucas was pushing for Tom Selleck but Steven Spielberg held out for Harrison Ford.
The Matrix: Ewan McGregor was cast first in the Keanu Reeves role, but turned it down in favor of Star Wars Episode 1.
Gladiator: Mel Gibson turned down the role that won an Oscar for Russell Crowe.
Titanic: Matthew McConaughey was first choice, but the role ultimately went to Leonardo DiCaprio.
Forrest Gump: John Travolta turned down the role that earned Tom Hanks one of his Oscars.
Chicago: John Travolta also turned down the role of Billy Flynn with the role going to Richard Gere.
Iron Man: Tom Cruise turned down the role due to script issues. It was then offered to Robert Downey, Jr., along with Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3.
And now let's go back several decades to some movies from the 1940ish time frame.
The Wizard Of Oz: MGM wanted to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox to play the role of Dorothy. When that negotiation didn't work out, the role went to Judy Garland.
Robin Hood: Jack L. Warner wanted James Cagney cast in the title role that went to Errol Flynn who seemed born to play the part.
Gone With The Wind: Every leading actress in Hollywood was tested for the coveted role of Scarlet O'Hara and all were rejected. The movie had actually started filming before a British actress named Vivien Leigh (married to Laurence Olivier at the time) was finally cast as Scarlet.
The Maltese Falcon: George Raft turned down the role of Sam Spade because he felt it was 'not an important film' so to the delight of director John Huston, the role went to Humphrey Bogart.
Casablanca: Ronald Reagan was first considered for the Humphrey Bogart role in one of the all time classic films.