In the brutal world of Hollywood casting, a lot of movies can end up starring very different actors to the ones that those the producers initially wanted for each role. Sometimes, their original choice isn’t quite up to scratch. In other cases, the perfect actor or actress has to pull out of the film due to unforeseen circumstances. Whatever the situation, the movie casts that we eventually see are often the third or fourth lot of actors who’ve picked up those roles. We just don’t hear about all of the failures and unexpected changes!

Sometimes, though, info about a film’s original cast does make it into the public eye – especially when the original stars end up regretting pulling out of their role. You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for them when they realize they turned down a multi-million-dollar smash hit. It’s often hard to imagine any other actor or actress in our favorite roles, and it can be a bit of a surprise when you hear about what could have been! Here are just a few popular movies that almost had very different casts. Some of these former casting choices are seriously unexpected!

16. The Avengers

One of the keys to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success has been its seemingly perfect casting of each and every one of its superheroes. Can you imagine anyone but Robert Downey Jr. bringing Iron Man to life, or somebody other than Scarlett Johansson kicking butt as Black Widow? And let’s not forget Chris Evans, the adorable hunk who’s won all of our hearts as Captain America! However, it might surprise you that these roles almost went to very different people. Married couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski almost got the parts of Black Widow and Captain America! While this would have been kinda cute, the idea of them in those iconic roles just seems a bit strange. Even more alarming is the fact that Tom Cruise almost got the part of Iron Man. He definitely wouldn’t have done it justice. Robert Downey Jr. basically IS Tony Stark!

15. The Matrix

When you think of Keanu Reeves, The Matrix almost immediately comes to mind. It’s probably his most famous film, even if its two sequels are frankly better left forgotten. However, Keanu very nearly missed out on the role of Neo. The movie’s producers were apparently super keen to get Will Smith on board to take on the part! When Smith turned it down, Reeves got the call. I wonder if Smith regrets his choice now considering just how successful The Matrix was?

Neo isn’t the only character who was almost played by a totally different actor. Former James Bond incarnation Sean Connery almost got the role of Morpheus but lost out to Laurence Fishburne. Frankly, that was a good call by the producers. Connery just isn’t badass enough to be Morpheus! Plus, as the movie Highlander proves, sci-fi isn’t exactly his strongest genre.

14. The Lord of The Rings trilogy

The cast of the Lord of the Rings trilogy all seemed pretty much made for their parts. Could anyone other than Viggo Mortensen have made Aragorn quite so brooding and sexy? Probably not. The cast was also clearly perfect for each other off-screen: they all became such good friends that they got matching tattoos when the series ended. However, this bromance of epic proportions was almost altered by some pretty rogue casting on the part of Peter Jackson.

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Initially, Jackson wanted either David Bowie or Sean Connery to take on the iconic role of Gandalf. Seriously, what is it with Sean Connery?! While Bowie especially is an absolute legend, neither actor really fits the profile of a grand old wizard. Ian McKellen did a stellar job! More distressingly, we were almost robbed of Viggo Mortensen’s beautiful turn as Aragorn. The part almost went to Stuart Townsend. While we’re sure Stu is a great actor, well, he’s not Viggo, is he?

13. La La Land

This time last year, pretty much the entire world was caught up in the La La Land storm. The movie got rave reviews and won a ton of awards. It also notoriously un-won the Oscar for Best Picture in possibly the most awkward awards shows moment ever. Despite this, La La Land made Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone the talk of Hollywood. However, neither Gosling or Stone was initially slated to appear in the movie! Emma Watson and Miles Teller were initially supposed to portray Mia and Sebastian but were both dropped for apparently being “too demanding”! Watson apparently ordered that filming should take place in London before leaving the project altogether to make Beauty and the Beast. Teller allegedly asked for an extra $2 million on top of the $4 million he was already getting for the film. I wonder if they’re both kicking themselves now?

12. Titanic

James Cameron‘s Titanic has to be one of the most famous movies ever made. We can all tipsily sing “My Heart Will Go On” at parties. We all know that it’s Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio‘s big love story. However, that particular famous pairing almost didn’t happen! A number of young actors were initially slated to play the two lead roles before producers finally settled on Kate and Leo. Leo was almost cast alongside his future Romeo and Juliet co-star Claire Danes. Likewise, Gwyneth Paltrow almost snatched the role from Winslet. As for the role of Jack, we almost saw Macaulay Culkin or Matthew McConaughey perish in the cold waters of the Atlantic. I wonder if Rose would have made room for either of those two on the door that saved her?

11. Clueless

What child of the ’90s hasn’t seen the movie Clueless dozens of times? It’s one of the most iconic films of our generation! Alicia Silverstone totally nailed it as Cher Horowitz, the ditzy rich girl whose matchmaking gets her in a fair bit of hot water. She had so much chemistry with Paul Rudd – you were just praying that they’d get together already! However, we were almost robbed of Silverstone’s star turn. A pre-Buffy Sarah Michelle Gellar was originally slated to play Cher! She was offered the role by producers but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts. She couldn’t take time out of the soap All My Children to film the movie. To be honest, we’re kind of glad how things turned out! Silverstone got to play Cher, and Gellar got to kick ass as a vampire slayer!

10. The Harry Potter series

J.K. Rowling‘s insistence on casting British actors in the Harry Potter movies meant that some of the producers’ first choices were thrown out of the window. For one, they desperately wanted to cast legendary comic actor Robin Williams in the role of Hagrid! Williams even reached out in return to show his interest in the role, but unfortunately, he was just too American to cast. It’s a shame – while Robbie Coltrane was great in the role, we’re pretty sure Robin would have nailed the role too! It wasn’t just Americans who got the axe, though – the role of Severus Snape didn’t always belong to Alan Rickman! Tim Roth was in talks to get the role but declined it to star in Planet of the Apes. He probably regrets his choice now, let’s be honest.

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9. The Twilight Saga

The Twilight Saga made huge stars of both Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Sure, it’s now notorious for being a terrible series. Yes, it did lead to them starting a relationship that crashed and burned pretty spectacularly. But hey – they both got a lot of money out of it and a major career boost. However, things could have been very different for both them and the series as a whole. Originally, Jennifer Lawrence and James Franco were the producers’ first choices for the roles of Bella and Edward! Can you imagine?! Honestly, Jen is way too good for Twilight. Avoiding that role was probably a really good choice on her part. Katniss Everdeen is more badass than Bella Swan!

8. The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada is one of those chick-flicks that we all love to crack out at a girl’s night. Who doesn’t love watching Anne Hathaway telling Meryl Streep to go screw herself? As much as we love Queen Meryl, it’s a pretty satisfying scene. Streep totally nailed the role of frosty magazine editor Miranda Priestly, and it’s no surprise that she was the producers’ top choice for the role. However, adorable Anne Hathaway wasn’t always slated to play hapless assistant Andy! The role was originally going to go to Rachel McAdams. However, McAdams turned down the part several times because she was sick of starring in ‘mainstream roles.’ Hathaway was patient and eventually snagged the role when it was clear that McAdams really wasn’t interested. Anne’s wait paid off!

7. The Princess Diaries

Speaking of Anne Hathaway, she wasn’t originally in line to play everyone’s favorite princess Mia Thermopolis either! The lead role in The Princess Diaries almost went to the much better-known actress Cameron Diaz. Yes, really. Hathaway was a total unknown before Princess Diaries and had to fight hard to prove to producers that she was right for the role. Luckily, she was given the part in the end after Kate Hudson, Kirsten Dunst, and Reese Witherspoon turned down the part as well. The Princess Diaries ended up being her breakout movie!
More shockingly, Julie Andrews wasn’t always the top choice to play Queen Clarisse. Frankly, we can’t imagine anyone else in that role, but the movie’s producers obviously thought otherwise. They wanted Kim Basinger to play Mia’s grandma, but eventually realized that Andrews was a way better choice! We’re so thankful they had that realization.

6. Hocus Pocus

Poor, poor Leonardo DiCaprio. In numerous interviews, he’s made clear that he intensely regrets turning down a role in the Disney cult classic Hocus Pocus. That’s right – Leo was initially the studio’s first choice for the role of Max Dennison! However, he pulled out of the project due to scheduling conflicts with two other movies. While the two movies in question – This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – went a long way in advancing DiCaprio’s career, a bit of us still wishes he’d gone for Hocus Pocus instead. Apparently, at least a part of the actor feels the same way – he didn’t realize just how popular the movie would become. Yeah, Leo! You could have been part of a witchy cult phenomenon! Who needs Titanic when you have that?

5. The Notebook

Okay, let’s get real – we’ve all cracked out The Notebook when we’ve needed a good cry. In fact, most of us have probably never seen it without the picture being blurred by tears. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling made a pretty glorious couple (both on and off-screen) and that kiss is the stuff of legend. However, our favorite teary love story almost brought Gosling back into contact with a co-star from long ago. Pop princess Britney Spears was nearly cast in place of McAdams! Spears and Gosling worked together when they were kids on The Mickey Mouse Club, with Gosling even admitting he had a crush on the future pop star. However, their on-screen reunion never happened: when it came to screentests, McAdams and Gosling had unrivaled chemistry.

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4. Star Wars

When the very first Star Wars movie was made back in the 1970s, the decision to cast relatively unknown actors in the lead roles was a bold one. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill got their big breaks in the franchise, while Harrison Ford was propelled to international stardom. Truth is, the producers initially considered casting some big names in the project to make it more sellable. Al Pacino nearly got the part of Han Solo – while we’re sure he would have been great, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Ford playing the wise-talking smuggler! Orson Welles nearly beat James Earl Jones to the part of Darth Vader’s voice, while Jodie Foster nearly landed the role of Princess Leia. While these big names would undoubtedly have done a pretty good job, it’s hard to imagine them beating the performances of the actual cast.

3. The Hunger Games Series

She may now be an award-winning, in-demand actress, but Jennifer Lawrence was pretty much unknown when she was cast as Katniss Everdeen in the book-to-movie adaptation of The Hunger Games. She fought off some pretty tough competition to get the role, although hopefully not in a Hunger Games-style battle. One of the front-runners for the role was Emma Roberts of Wild Child and Scream Queens fame. She was nearly cast alongside Alex Pettyfer as Peeta, a coupling that definitely would have had chemistry – they sure did in Wild Child! However, Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were the last actors standing. We’re pretty glad Jen got cast and was immediately propelled to stardom. The world deserved to be introduced to her amazing acting skills!

2. ilver Linings Playbook

Another role that JLaw almost didn’t get was her star turn in Silver Linings Playbook. Apparently, the casting of Anne Hathaway in the lead part of Tiffany was pretty much a done deal. The producers were super excited to have her on board, and filming was pretty much ready to start. However, Hathaway pulled out of the project at the very last minute. The producers were left in a pretty tricky situation! Luckily, they realized that Lawrence would be just as good in the role. In the end, this last-minute cast change proved to be a stroke of genius – Lawrence ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of troubled Tiffany! All’s well that ends well.

1. Forrest Gump

It’s pretty hard to imagine anyone other than Tom Hanks taking on the iconic role of Forrest in Forrest Gump. The movie has become a total cult classic and is constantly quoted and referred to even now. However, Hanks almost missed out on this incredible role. John Travolta was given the part instead! However, Travolta ultimately decided to pull out of the project, something that he apparently regrets to this day. Well, yeah, John. The movie was a smash hit. You made a bad choice there. Still, at least he gave Tom Hanks the opportunity to win all of our hearts as Forrest! It was the role that ultimately led to his international stardom. We might not have had You’ve Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle if Travolta had got the role of Forrest!

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