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Top 10 Most Bizarre Movie Casting Ideas

by Jennifer Lafferty
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

We have all heard about actors almost being cast in a role even though they did not seem right for the part. However, some casting ideas are laughable or even outrageous. These are 10 of the all-time most bizarre would-be pairings of actors with memorable motion picture characters.

Related: 10 Shocking Films From The Early Days Of Hollywood

10 Laurence Olivier as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather

The Godfather Part 1 – The Meeting

Before director Francis Ford Coppola won the hard-fought casting battle with Paramount over who should play Vito, Michael, and Sonny Corleone in The Godfather (1972), the studio execs had some truly off the wall ideas about who should portray the major characters in this screen adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel, as recounted in such books as Mark Seal’s Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather. It’s hard enough trying to imagine actors like Robert Redford and Ryan O’Neal playing Michael Corleone, but even more shocking is that posh British actor Sir Laurence Olivier was in the running to play Don Vito Corleone.

Of course, Olivier was a versatile and amazingly talented actor, who Brando himself highly respected. However, the absurd possibility of Olivier playing this particular role finally compelled Brando to go after the part himself. However, the studio was so reluctant to hire him due to the actor’s string of box office flops and his difficult temperament that they insisted he agree to a screen test, a very small salary, and taking out a bond insuring against the loss of money due to his behavior before Coppola would even consider him. [1]

Watch a clip of Laurence Olivier to see if he would have fit the role!

9 Emilia Clarke as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey (6/10) Movie CLIP – The Play Room (2015) HD

While Anastasia Steele is supposed to be fresh and innocent when she meets Christian Grey in the steamy drama Fifty Shades of Grey, an actress with the kind of sweet, almost childlike, girl-next-door presence Emilia Clarke often exudes would have clashed in a disturbing way with this BDSM world. So, it’s probably a good thing she turned down the role, which went to the more obviously sensual Dakota Johnson. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Clarke realized that the occasional nudity she had to do in the first few seasons of Game of Thrones had “pigeonholed” her, which was why she decided against starring in the ultra erotic flick.[2]

Watch a clip of Emilia Clarke to see if she would have fit the role!

8 Ryan O’Neal as Rocky Balboa

Rocky (3/10) Movie CLIP – Pain and Experience (1976) HD

Apparently, Ryan O’Neal was so massively popular on the heels of Love Story (1970) that he was up for just about every male lead. This even included characters who were worlds apart from the preppy, waspy, boyishly charming O’Neal like gritty, underdog boxer Rocky Balboa. A struggling actor and screenwriter at the time, Sylvester Stallone was rejected for the role, which would eventually make him a cinematic icon. He refused to let United Artists make the movie from his screenplay unless he could star as the Italian Stallion himself.

The studio was offering to pay Stallone what was then considered an enormous amount of money in exchange for letting either O’Neal or Burt Reynolds play Rocky. However, Stallone was stubborn and knew how to live poor. As reported by the Toronto Sun: “I thought, $250,000 will go away, but the scar and the self-loathing of watching Ryan O’Neal play Rocky…I don’t know!”[3]

Watch a clip of Ryan O’Neal to see if he would have fit the role!

7 Britney Spears as Allie in The Notebook

The Notebook – Fight Scene

Britney Spears has acted in more than just music videos over the years, including several episodes of TV sitcoms and her 2002 coming-of-age feature film Crossroads. However, it is a stretch to imagine the iconic pop singer as the intense, complex Allie in the 2004 historical romance drama The Notebook, based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel. According to E! News, she was a top contender along with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jaime King, and Rachel McAdams for the role. It is impossible to say how Spears would have portrayed the character, but she seems much better suited to comedy.

The role of Allie went to a more natural choice, Rachel McAdams. Although she did not have a lot of acting credits to her name at the time either, her performance in this film and Mean Girls, released the same year, launched her career in a big way.[4]

Watch a clip of Britney Spears to see if she would have fit the role!

6 Al Pacino as Han Solo in Star Wars

Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) – Han Solo – Bounty Hunter (Harrison Ford)

As hard as it is to visualize Al Pacino involved in anything even remotely connected to the Star Wars franchise, it was reported that George Lucas offered Al Pacino the role of Han Solo in the first Star Wars (1977) film shortly after Pacino had reprised his character of Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part II. At the time, Pacino was hugely in demand.

Pacino was so hot that, “They didn’t care if I was right or wrong for the role, if I could act or not act,” said Pacino at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. He turned down the part, which, of course, went to Harrison Ford because Pacino claimed the script was too confusing.[5]

Watch a clip of Al Pacino to see if he would have fit the role!

5 Jennifer Hudson as Precious

Precious (6/8) Movie CLIP – Nothing To Write Today (2009) HD

Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson has played a number of challenging characters. However, it is still surprising to learn that she was asked to audition for the title role of damaged and horrifically abused teen mom in the heart-wrenching 2009 film Precious, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The reason why Hudson, who became a Weight Watchers spokesperson, turned down the opportunity was actually that she did not want to have to gain weight for the part. This is something she had done not long before in order to play Effie in Dreamgirls.

Director Lee Daniels had so much trouble finding an actress who was right for the character that Gabourey Sidibe, who went on to give an Oscar-nominated performance as Precious, was not cast until weeks before filming was set to begin. The fact that she was an unknown at the time made it easier to accept her in the part, which would have been a struggle for some other actresses.[6]

Watch a clip of Jennifer Hudson to see if she would have fit the role!

4 Doris Day as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate

The Graduate (1967) – “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”

While The Graduate (1967) was intended to be a satire, the choice of wholesome American sweetheart Doris Day as Mrs. Robinson would have pushed the film beyond satiric comedy into the territory of sketch-show spoofs. However, according to the Douglass K. Daniel book Anne Bancroft: A Life, Day was actually being considered before Bancroft was cast as the predatory seductress. It reported that Day turned down the part. She said the role “offended my sense of values,” quoted The Columbus Dispatch.

Bancroft played her so perfectly that Mrs. Robinson became not only her most memorable role but one of the most famous movie characters of all time.[7]

Watch a clip of Doris Day to see if she would have fit the role!

3 Justin Timberlake as Elton John in Rocketman

Rocketman (2019) – You’ll Never Be Loved Scene (4/10) | Movieclips

Although Sir Elton John would later describe Taron Egerton’s portrayal of him in the 2019 biopic Rocketman as “scary brilliant,” Egerton was not the first choice for the role. Justin Timberlake, who did an impressive imitation of Elton John in a 2001 music video for “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore,” was at one time a favorite for the part, but he was not actually offered it. However, Egerton’s critically acclaimed portrayal was so amazing—both in the context of the character as a showman and in his turbulent personal life—that his casting seemed meant to be.

It turned out that Egerton was not even the second choice to play John. He got the role after Tom Hardy, who had already been cast, quit the film. Regardless of whether or not Timberlake is capable of a demanding performance, the former Mickey Mouse Club star is known for his lighter fare, such as the 2011 rom-com Friends with Benefits.[8]

Watch a clip of Justin Timberlake to see if he would have fit the role!

2 Anne Hathaway as Alison Scott in Knocked Up

Knocked Up (9/10) Movie CLIP – People Like Pregnant (2007) HD

We’ve seen Anne Hathaway do wacky comedy before, but her natural classiness would make her seem out of place in any of Judd Apatow’s earthy and irreverent flicks, even the 2007 rom-com Knocked Up. Hathaway was initially cast to play smart, polished, and very desirable E! News reporter Alison Scott opposite Seth Rogen as slacker Ben Stone.

It’s easy to believe Hathaway left the production because of creative differences, but that doesn’t mean what you might think. Apatow told The New York Times that Anne Hathaway exited the project because she did not want the filmmakers to use footage of a real birth to make it appear that she was giving birth on screen. Katherine Heigl ended up playing Alison, who was everything the role called for but still managed to fit into the world of her unlikely love interest.[9]

Watch a clip of Anne Hathaway to see if she would have fit the role!

1 Bette Davis as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind (1/6) Movie CLIP – Scarlett Meets Rhett (1939) HD

The legendary talent search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind resulted in some surprising contenders such as Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford, but one of the weirdest ideas was Bette Davis in the role of the enchanting and coquettish Southern belle. Scarlett could be conniving and possessed an iron will, two things she had in common with many of Davis’s characters. But Scarlett often concealed these traits under layers of old-fashioned feminine wiles and gentile Southern charm. The sharply edged and feisty Davis wasn’t good at hiding anything, and her portrayal of Julie Marsden in Jezebel (1938) was more of an anti-Southern belle.

It was Warner Bros., the studio Davis was under contract to, that first came between Davis and the most coveted female role of the century. Apparently, Jack Warner only wanted her to play Scarlett if she did a movie called God’s Country, in which she would play a lumberjack. Iconic producer David O. Selznick wanted to cast Davis if he could get Errol Flynn for Rhett Butler. However, Davis “felt Flynn gave you nothing to work with—he just said his lines, and that was it.”[10]

Watch a clip of Bette Davis to see if she would have fit the role!

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen