Last minute actor swaps that changed the films

Taryn Davies
Published: April 8, 2017

The final film we see in the cinemas isn’t always the one that went into production, more often than not there are director replacements, multiple writers adjust the smallest of sentences, and actors drop out too.

These are the last-minute actor swaps that could have resulted in a completely different film to the one we seen at the cinema.

Will Smith in Django Unchained

Jamie Foxx was brilliant in Django Unchained, but would Will Smith have drawn in even bigger audiences than it got?

Will Smith decided not to star in the film because he didn't think that the character was the lead, he said he needed to kill the bad guy.

Ryan Gosling in The Lovely Bones

Ryan Gosling was cast as the lead character in The Lovely Bones, but he didn't feel comfortable playing the character, so he gained 60lb to play. He never told the director though, and it's evident he was pretty annoyed by it because he then went on to hire Mark Wahlberg instead.

Last Minute Actor Swaps That Changed Movies Forever

Will Smith, Ryan Gosling, Dougray Scott, Debra Winger, Winona Ryder

Chris Farley in Shrek

Chris Farley was replaced by Mike Myers after his untimely death when he was just 33 in 1977. He'd completed lots of the film, and his brother revealed his character was a little more innocent and humble.

Dougray Scott as Wolverine

It's hard to imagine that anyone but Hugh Jackman could play Wolverine, but that very well might have been the case had it not been for scheduling conflicts with Mission: Impossible 2 that meant Dougray Scott had to pull out.

It's safe to say that Scott's choice for the sequel over the comic book hero was a bad career choice since he's had nothing of a similar success to Jackman.

Debra Winger in A League of their Own

Debra Winger was playing the lead in A League of their Own and rumour has it she walked off set because Madonna was cast in the supporting role. She left the film just days before filming and that meant Geena Davis never got as much baseball training as the other ladies, she still managed to convince of her sports skills in the film though.

Winona Ryder in The Godfather Part III

Sofia Coppola was the fourth in line for the role of Mary Corleone in the The Godfather Part III, the role first went to Julia Roberts who had scheduling issues. Then Rebecca Schaeffer who was actually murdered. Winona Ryder was then cast, but dropped out because of Edward Scissorhands.

Last Minute Actor Swaps That Changed Movies Forever

Matt Damon, Annette Bening, Kevin Costner, David Duchovny and Tina Fey

Matt Damon in Avatar

Matt Damon was hot property at the time Avatar started filming, he'd recently starred in The Bourne Trilogy and The Departed, but scheduling conflicts meant he couldn't take the lead in James Cameron's $237 million sci-fi blockbuster. Instead, it went to Sam Worthington.

Annette Bening in Batman Begins

Annette Bening was to play Catwoman in Batman Begins, but she ended up being pregnant and had to drop out. Instead, the role went to Michelle Pfeiffer.

Kevin Costner The Shawshank Redemption

Kevin Costner turned down the role in a film that regularly makes Best Films Ever lists, for one that makes the biggest flop list, Waterworld. He turned down the lead role of Andy Dufresne, which went to Tim Robbins instead.

Nicholas Cage The Wrestler

Nicolas Cage was originally in talks to play Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson in The Wrestler, but the role eventually went to Mickey Rourke. Cage later claimed that he resigned from the project because he didn’t want to use steroids to achieve the look of a wrestler.

David Duchovny in Batman & Robin

Once Val Kilmer turned down the chance to return to Batman, the role went to David Duchovny, who turned it down. George Clooney obviously went on to play him, and thankfully it didn't tarnish his career too much.

Stuart Townsend in Lord of the Rings

Stuart Townsend was cast as Aragorn but left because the director thought he was too young.  Viggo Mortensen didn't initially want the role because he thought it was too high-profile and knew it would take a lot of commitment, but he eventually joined the cast in New Zealand.

Michael Caine and Tina Fey in The Intern

Both Michael Caine and Tina Fey were rumoured to be starring in Nancy Meyers’ The Intern, but instead, Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway were cast.

Eric Stolz and Melora Hardin in Back to the Future

Eric Stoltz was too serious for the role of Marty McFly, that why he was replaced in the middle of filming. Michael J. Fox then got the role, but Melora Hardin also had to be replaced because she was too tall to star opposite him.

Last Minute Actor Swaps That Changed Movies Forever

Tom Hanks, Michael Masden, Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt

Tom Hanks in Jerry Maguire

Tom Hanks couldn't take on the role of Jerry Maguire because he was too busy directing his first movie. He's quite humble about it too, saying there's no one but Tom Cruise who could have played that role.

Michael Madsen in Pulp Fiction

Michael Madsen always regrets turning down the role of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, because he says the film he starred in instead, Wyatt Earp, was pure nausea.

Anne Hathaway in Knocked Up

Anne Hathaway backed out of Knocked Up because the story included the showing of a vagina, which she didn't think was necessary to the story.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Steve Jobs

Several high profile actors were associated with the leading role of the Apple creator Steve Jobs, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale, but as filming was scheduled to start, they found it difficult to nail down a star. Luckily, just before filming was about to begin, they hooked Michael Fassbender.

Brad Pitt in Almost Famous

Brad Pitt very nearly played Russell Hammon in Almost Famous, but Billy Crudup took the role.

Tobey Maguire in Life of Pi

Turns out Tobey Maguire is too much of a star for some roles, that's what Ang Lee thought at least. He'd even filmed all of his scenes, but then later replaced him with Rafe Spall.

Tobey was originally cast in Life of Pi but it was later changed to Rafe Spall

Tobey Maguire
Helga Esteb/

Leonardo DiCaprio in American Psycho

Leonardo DiCaprio was signed on to play Patrick Bateman in American Pschyo, but he received lots of criticism and wanted to change the character to be more humane. So, he ended up dropping out and director Oliver Stone went with him too.

Emily Browning in Twilight

Emily Browning turned down the role of Bella which ended up going to Kristen Stewart. Browning admits she doesn't have any regrets about turning down the role.

Emily Browning was first up for the role of Bella in Twilight

Emily Browning Helga Esteb/