Iconic Movie Roles Almost Played By Other Actors

Originally Published: 

Some movie roles are just so iconic that it can feel nearly impossible to imagine any different actor playing the part. Think about it: Who else but Reese Witherspoon could play Elle Woods? Or, how could anyone but Robert Pattinson possibly be Edward Cullen? Although these stars are inextricably connected to their most memorable roles now, Hollywood is all about options, and those seminal movie characters nearly went to other big names. These iconic movie roles almost played by other actors are so shocking to look through. (I mean, it’s truly wild to imagine some alternate reality in which Princess Mia Thermopolis was someone other than Anne Hathaway.)

The casting process for major movies can, of course, be extensive, as directors, producers, and writers come together to find the perfect person to bring their characters to life. When everything works, a movie character can become iconic and impossible to separate from the actor who performed the role so well. But it takes time to find the right actor for each part, and a lot of times, another major star will get very close to nabbing a lead role, only to lose out to a fellow A-lister for some reason or another.

Curious about which beloved movie roles were almost played by someone else? Take a look at some of the most surprising and interesting cases of a classic movie character nearly being played by a different person.

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Entertainment — Iconic Movie Roles Almost Played By Other Actors
Originally Published: 

1. Britney Spears As Allie In 'The Notebook'

One of the most beloved romances of all time was almost completely different. As hard as it might be to imagine, Britney Spears actually tested for the role of Allie in The Notebook, which Rachel McAdams would later make famous. Spears' fellow Mouseketeer Ryan Gosling revealed to ET that he did a screen-test with Spears during the casting process, and despite not being known as an actor, she was actually very good!

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2. Ashton Kutcher As Patrick In '10 Things I Hate About You'

Heath Ledger won everyone over as the bad boy with a heart of gold Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You, but if things had gone just a little differently, that part would have gone to Ashton Kutcher. No, you're not being punk'd. The film's producer, Andrew Lazar, revealed that the casting process for Patrick was at one point narrowed down to three actors: Heath Ledger, Josh Hartnett, and Ashton Kutcher. According to Lazar, Ledger's chemistry with Julia Stiles was just undeniable, so he got the part.

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3. Reese Witherspoon As Cher In 'Clueless'

Someone other than Alicia Silverstone in that iconic yellow plaid outfit? As if! But it almost happened. Reese Witherspoon came very close to nabbing the lead role in Clueless. In an interview with ET, director Amy Heckerling recalled meeting with Witherspoon at a hotel bar and being very impressed by her, but at that time, she had already decided Silverstone was the perfect Cher.

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4. Robin Williams As Hagrid In 'Harry Potter'

Rubeus Hagrid is one of the most beloved characters in the Harry Potter fandom, and Robbie Coltrane's portrayal of the lovable groundskeeper is a big reason for that. So imagine how differently fans would see Hagrid if he had been played by Robin Williams. According to casting director Janet Hirshenson, Williams called up director Christopher Columbus to ask to be in the first movie, but he was turned away because the film had a strict "British actors only" policy.

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5. Jessica Simpson As Jamie In 'A Walk To Remember'

It's true: In a parallel universe, Jessica Simpson would have sung "Only Hope" instead of Mandy Moore. A Walk to Remember director Adam Shankman revealed that Warner Bros. was having him look into Simpson for the lead role in his film, but after he heard Moore's song "I Wanna Be With You" by chance on the radio, he was set on having Moore as the star.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, Warner Bros.

6. Jim Carrey As Buddy In 'Elf'

Before Will Ferrell made Buddy the Elf the iconic character everyone rewatches during the holidays each year, the part was supposed to go to Jim Carrey. Yep, Carrey was the original star slated to play Buddy in Elf, and it’s easy to see why: Carrey's zany charm feels like the perfect fit for Elf; plus, he already had serious Christmas cache from starring in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But in the end, Elf just took too long to make (the script had apparently been floating around Hollywood for a decade), so Carrey moved on to different projects and Ferrell swooped in to nab the part.

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7. Gwyneth Paltrow As Rose In 'Titanic'

Talk about a titanic casting decision. Before casting directors had decided on Kate Winslet for the role of Rose, Gwyneth Paltrow was the other frontrunner for the part. Of course, Winslet wound up winning out in the end.

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8. Matthew McConaughey As Jack In 'Titanic'

Gwyneth Paltrow was not the only huge star to just barely miss out on a lead role in Titanic. Matthew McConaughey originally read for the role of Jack Dawson, and he would have gotten it too, if not for Leonardo DiCaprio's undeniable charm. Director James Cameron revealed that he decided to cast DiCaprio after noticing every woman in his studio flocking to his meeting with the young star.

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9. Christina Applegate As Elle In 'Legally Blonde'

Reese Witherspoon totally destroyed the "dumb blonde" trope when she became superstar lawyer Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, but surprisingly enough, she was not the first choice for the part. It's easy to see why Christina Applegate would have been the frontrunner to play Elle looking back: She had become the prime example of the "dumb blonde" trope thanks to her character of Kelly Bundy on Married... with Children — but that’s exactly why she passed on the part. Applegate revealed she was scared of being typecast at the time, so Witherspoon took the part instead.

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10. Henry Cavill As Edward In 'Twilight'

Robert Pattinson is synonymous with the vampiric role of Edward Cullen now, but if it had been up to Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, fans would have been introduced to Henry Cavill as the lovestruck vampire. While the 2008 movie was in the midst of its casting process, Meyer took to her website to share that she believed Cavill was the perfect choice to play Edward. But the studio decided to go with Pattinson instead, and a blood-sucking heartthrob was born.

Matthias Nareyek/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, Summit Entertainment

11. Jennifer Lawrence As Bella In 'Twilight'

Before Jennifer Lawrence became a household name in 2012 as the star of The Hunger Games, she nearly landed the lead role in another major YA franchise. Lawrence revealed that she auditioned to play Bella Swan in Twilight, even though she didn’t really know the movie would become a massive hit at the time of her audition. Of course, the part wound up going to Kristen Stewart instead.

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12. John Krasinski As Captain America In 'Captain America'

Marvel execs were not messing around when they began casting Captain America at the start of their cinematic universe. The studio reportedly auditioned a long list of Hollywood's leading men for the patriotic superhero, and John Krasinski came the closest to the part out of all of them. Krasinski revealed he had even tried on Cap's costume, but learned that Marvel chose Chris Evans over him on the day of his wife, Emily Blunt's, birthday.

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, Marvel

13. Rachel McAdams As Andy In 'The Devil Wears Prada'

Anne Hathaway absolutely nailed the party of schlumpy reporter-turned-fashionista Andy in The Devil Wears Prada, but that role would have gone to Rachel McAdams instead if the studio had its way. Fox offered McAdams the role multiple times, but she repeatedly refused because she was stepping away from mainstream films at the time. Hathaway later revealed she was the ninth choice for the part, but still wound up getting it.

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14. Leonardo DiCaprio As Max In 'Hocus Pocus'

Leonardo DiCaprio could have become a Halloween icon if things had worked out differently. Hocus Pocus director Kenny Ortega revealed to Entertainment Weekly that he fell in love with DiCaprio when he auditioned to play Max in the Disney Halloween movie. But sadly, Ortega was unable to actually cast him because, at the time, DiCaprio was also up for What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, which would end up earning the actor his first Oscar.

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15. Tom Hiddleston As Thor In 'Thor'

Marvel fans now know Tom Hiddleston as Thor's villainous half-brother Loki, but originally, Hiddleston tested for the part of the thunder god himself. Although Marvel went with Chris Hemsworth for the heroic role, studio excs liked Hiddleston so much that they kept him around and gave him the part of Loki. You can even see Hiddleston's audition to play Thor in the bonus content on the Thor: The Dark World DVD and Blu-ray.

Noam Galai/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, Marvel

16. Kate Hudson As Mia In 'The Princess Diaries'

Can you imagine Kate Hudson playing the frizzy-haired Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries? Well, she's one of the many actors who nearly got the part. Since Hudson has known director Garry Marshall since childhood, it's easy to see why he would consider her for the royal role. But Hudson reportedly wound up turning the part down, as did other megastar actors like Cameron Diaz, Jessica Biel, and Kirsten Dunst. Their loss was Anne Hathaway's gain, though.

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17. Mindy Kaling As Lillian In 'Bridesmaids'

That infamous wedding dress poop scene was almost Mindy Kaling's. The actor revealed that she was called in to audition for the role of Lillian in Bridesmaids, and she worked very hard on her audition because she loved the movie so much. But the role went to Maya Rudolph instead.

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18. Hilary Duff As Lola In 'Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen'

In the early 2000s, Lindsay Lohan was the queen of teen movies, but Hilary Duff nearly starred in one of Lohan's fan-favorite flicks. In the midst of the two actors' very public feud, Duff was offered the role of Lola in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, but the part wound up going to Lohan instead.

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19. Evan Peters As Peeta In 'The Hunger Games'

Evan Peters is now known for his spine-tingling roles on American Horror Story, but before the horror franchise began, he nearly got the part of Katniss' kind and generous co-tribute, Peeta Mellark. In an interview with Vulture, Peters revealed he screen-tested alongside Jennifer Lawrence during the casting process. Ultimately, the part went to Josh Hutcherson, and Peters turned to the dark side as an AHS mainstay.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, Lionsgate

20. Emma Roberts As Katniss In 'The Hunger Games'

In another world, one-time couple Emma Roberts and Evan Peters could have actually been the leads in the Hunger Games movies. Roberts revealed she was one of the several stars who auditioned to play Katniss Everdeen in an interview with MTV, but the process didn't end up going her way. Just like Peters, Roberts rebounded quickly from the Hunger Games rejection by turning to American Horror Story.

Morgan Lieberman/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images, Lionsgate

21. Lindsay Lohan As Regina In 'Mean Girls'

The whole social hierarchy in Mean Girls was nearly completely turned on its head. Director Mark Waters revealed to Vulture that Lindsay Lohan was originally going to be cast as queen bee Regina George. However, the studio decided to go a completely different route and suggested Lohan play nervous transfer student Cady Heron instead. Rachel McAdams, who actually originally auditioned to play Cady, wound up becoming Regina instead.

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22. Jesse McCartney As Sebastian In 'She’s The Man'

An Amanda Bynes classic almost had an added dose of star power. Director Andy Flickman revealed to E! that Jesse McCartney was the top choice to play Viola’s twin brother Sebastian in the teen comedy. Since the movie’s premise hinged on finding an actor with a close resemblance to Bynes, producers were convinced McCartney was a perfect choice, since he has a similar bone structure as Bynes, but the pop star was unavailable to shoot at the time. Luckily, the casting directors found James Kirk, who also resembles Bynes.

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23. Timothée Chalamet As Spider-Man In 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

Before Tom Holland was swinging around New York City as the third big-screen iteration of Spider-Man, Timothée Chalamet nearly flew into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The actor revealed to Vulture he was on Marvel’s shortlist when the studio was casting for Peter Parker, but his audition didn’t go so well. “I read twice, and I left sweating in a total panic,” Chalamet said, going on to admit he wanted to run back into the room and try again, but his agent talked him out of it.

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24. Taraji P. Henson As Dina In 'Girls Trip'

The role that put Tiffany Haddish on the map nearly went to a comedy legend. Taraji P. Henson told The Root she was nearly cast as the Flossy Posse’s party-starting wildcard in Girls Trip, but she felt like the part belonged to someone else. “That was Tiffany’s blessing,” Henson said. “Thank God for Tiffany.”

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25. Heath Ledger As Batman In 'Batman Begins'

The line between superhero and supervillain is clearly very thin. One of Heath Ledger’s most iconic performances is as The Joker in The Dark Knight Rises, but before getting that part, he actually was approached to play Batman in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Nolan revealed he met with Ledger about playing Bruce Wayne when casting Batman Begins, but Ledger apparently said he wasn’t interested in being in a superhero movie. But the actor changed his tune after he saw the film and was impressed by it, so he met up with Nolan again to audition for Batman’s arch-nemesis in the sequel.

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