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Today it’s difficult to imagine the Star Wars movies looking any differently than they do today (Special Edition enhancements notwithstanding). However, movies always go through changes from idea to the screen and so there are always a number of places where different things could have happened. It’s at least somewhat common knowledge that Harrison Ford was not the first choice to play the role of Han Solo, but imagine what Star Wars would have been like if the role had been played by Michael Corleone.
With Star Wars now a major topic of conversation again, there has been a lot of looking back at what might have been. The Phantom Menace directed by Ron Howard. Anakin Skywalker played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Han Solo could have been Tom Selleck, or Christopher Walken. The Hollywood Reporter goes over a number of different possibilities, including that the Han Solo role was also offered to Al Pacino, who might have taken it, except he didn’t get it. The actor said:
Star Wars was mine for the taking, but I didn't understand the script.
It seems funny now, but if you think back to the late 1970’s it’s not that crazy a response. While big science fiction and fantasy blockbusters are just about the most common thing to see on a movie screen, in 1977 that wasn’t the case. The fact that Star Wars was not a traditional "hard" science fiction movie, with elements that would have been more at home in a Tolkien fantasy story, was probably part of why it was hard for Pacino to wrap his mind around. Add to that the fact that the guy who had been in two Godfather movies, probably didn’t see much need to lower himself for a sci-fi movie and that’s why you end up with a cast of unknown actors.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course, and now many of these people who had come close to the franchise now have to at least wonder what might have been. Much like the possibility of Leonardo DiCaprio joining the prequels, nobody can claim that Al Pacino lost anything by not joining Star Wars. He’s won an Oscar for Best Actor and been nominated several more times. He’s become one of the most well-known actors alive. Still, it’s a fun game to play to wonder how paths toward celebrity would have been different if other films had been chosen.
What does an Al Pacino Han Solo look like in your mind? A little more Serpico and a little less Indiana Jones? Can you even imagine anybody other than Harrison Ford in the role, or does your brain just fight the idea off?