It is impossible to imagine anyone other than Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, or the voice of James Earl Jones not coming through Darth Vader’s helmet, or any one of your favorite Star Wars characters played by different actors. However, there exists an alternate reality in which the beloved sci-fi franchise is performed by an entirely different cast.
No, Harrison Ford was not George Lucas’ first choice to play Han Solo, Disney almost hired a young Oscar-nominee to play Rey, and DJ from Star Wars: The Last Jedi was not the first character from a galaxy far, far away that Benicio del Toro was considered for. Your interest may already be piqued now, but just you wait - very strange, these stories get.
The following is a list of eight celebrities who came close to filling the shoes of a Star Wars character. Be prepared: these are not the actors you're looking for.
Leonardo DiCaprio Could Have Played Anakin Skywalker
Whether you are a hater or a defender of Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of a pre-Vader Anakin Skywalker, you may have a whole new perspective on the Star Wars prequels once you learn that Leonardo DiCaprio was among George Lucas’ initial choices to succeed the role from Jake Lloyd in Attack of the Clones. According to an interview with The Short List, the actor claims that he did have a meeting with Lucas about the but felt that he was not “ready to take that dive.” Could the future Oscar-winner have delivered Anakin’s “I hate sand” speech to rousing perfection? Ehh.
Saoirse Ronan Could Have Played Rey
These days, Saoirse Ronan is an indie film queen, but there was a time when she almost became the face of Disney’s Star Wars trilogy. The then 19-year-old confirmed to Empire in 2013 that she did read for the role of Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in an audition that apparently included wielding a pretend lightsaber, but the part of the lonely junker-turned-Jedi would go onto British actress Daisy Ridley. While it is a relief that Ronan was able to save 2017 and 2019 for Oscar-nominated roles in director Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and Little Women, I think I could get used to the idea of Rey with an Irish accent.
Benicio del Toro Could Have Played Darth Maul
Ray Park has the pleasure of having played one of the most iconic villains the Star Wars saga in two films and even voicing him in the most recent season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but there was a time when his most famous character to date could have been the infamous Toad in Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Future Academy-Award winner Benicio del Toro had already been cast as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, but dropped out when he learned that George Lucas had cut out much of his dialogue before eventually returning to the franchise as the talkative code breaker, DJ, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I would say that everything worked out for the best because I cannot imagine Darth Maul with a stutter would have had the same effect.
Tupac Shakur Could Have Played Mace Windu
Samuel L. Jackson is one of the top reasons why some people still watch the Star Wars prequels, but, apparently, George Lucas’ first choice to play Jedi Master Mace Windu was Tupac Shakur. According to an interview with 2-Pac Forum, former Death Row Records engineer Rick Clifford claimed that the late rapper told him he was reading for the part in what would be 1999’s The Phantom Menace which, despite his murder in 1996 (roughly a year before the film began shooting), sounds impossible to make up. Coincidentally, Shakur’s Juice co-star, Jackson, would go on to play Windu, and help him acquire the only purple lightsaber in the saga’s history, but one can only imagine how getting a Star Wars role would have affected his all-too brief acting career.
Christopher Walken Could Have Played Han Solo
There is a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Christopher Walken (played by Kevin Spacey) auditions to play Han Solo, poking fun at how silly the pilot of the Millennium Falcon would be if played by the famously kooky actor instead of Harrison Ford. Well, as it turns out, the joke is really on us because the Oscar-winner was, apparently, one of George Lucas' top choices to play the scruffy Nerf Herder in 1977's Star Wars. However, as fate intended, Walken turned down the role for Woody Allen's Annie Hall, but had he accepted, we might be living in a world in which there are more bad Han Solo impersonations than Chewbacca impersonations.
Jodie Foster Could Have Played Princess Leia
Carrie Fisher was one of those actresses whom, whenever you saw her, you could not help but see her defining character: Leia Organa. That fate could have befell Jodie Foster, who declined an offer to play the Alderaanian princess in 1977’s Star Wars due to scheduling conflicts with her role as a teenage prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Had the future Academy Award-winner taken the role, the then 15-year-old’s fan appeal would have increased a hundredfold, but probably not for the same reason that many male, pubescent moviegoers in late ‘70s admired Fisher.
Orson Welles Could Have Played Darth Vader
James Earl Jones’ unmistakable voice is one of the key factors of Darth Vader’s commanding presence in Star Wars, but, according to an interview with the actor on BBC Radio, he almost did not get the role had George Lucas not deemed Orson Welles’ voice “too recognizable.” Yes, radio star and writer, director, and star of Citizen Kane was initially considered to voice the villain, which I still cannot even begin to imagine having the same impression. However, Welles’ would eventually go on able to voice a villainous character: Unicron in the 1986 animated The Transformers: The Movie.
Michael Jackson Could Have Played Jar Jar Binks
If you ever needed a reason to stop spewing hate at Ahmed Best, who played the infamously reviled Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, this bewildering piece of trivia should do the trick. Best revealed in an interview with Vice that Michael Jackson, hoped that George Lucas would cast him as the Gungan, but his request to play the role in full makeup and prosthetics (a la his zombified appearance in “Thriller”) instead of CGI lost him the part. The King of Pop’s star power might have been enough to silence Jar Jar haters for a while, at least, but, as Best adds in the interview, it is possible that Jackson would have ended up being bigger than the film itself, which might not have made Lucas very happy.
If you ask me, I would say that I am overall happy with the casting we have in the Star Wars films, but I still definitely want to see a cut of The Phantom Menace with Michael Jackson in full Jar Jar makeup. Be sure to check back for more updates from the world of Star Wars and other news in casting what-ifs here on CinemaBlend.