Movie casting is, to a large extent, a big game of musical chairs. Everyone starts out happy clappy, but after a few rounds (of auditions), there are only a few players left in the running — and shit has gotten serious. And in many cases, the differences between the actor who landed the big role and the actor who just missed out are major. Jessica Biel in The Notebook, for example; Zooey Deschanel playing an Oscar-winning J.Law part?! Click through for some nearly real moments that could have meant your favorite movies would never be the same.
Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
Considering the massive success of The Hunger Games books, it's no surprise that actresses were lining up to audition for the role of fight-to-the-death underdog Katniss Everdeen and quite possibly preparing for a bloodbath at the studio if not the Cornucopia. Shailene talked about trying out for the role (opens in new tab) but there're certainly no hard feelings: she thinks Lawrence is perfect for the role. (Shailene later scored own YA franchise as Tris in Divergent, because there are more than enough roles in this genre to go around right now.) Besides, getting caught and killed by a career tribute because you're too busy sunning your vagina (opens in new tab) is pretty awful way to go. Memorable, but awful.
Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez in Gigli
It's the early aughts: Juicy Couture tracksuits are the height of style and celebrity couple nicknames don't even exist yet. In a roundabout way, we have Halle Berry to thank for the latter — she was tied up with X-Men 2 and had to drop out of Gigli, in which she'd been originally lined up as the female lead (opens in new tab). J.Lo stepped into the role opposite Ben Affleck, and A-list supercouple and tabloid fave Bennifer was born. Gigli may have bombed, but we'll always have the delicious Bennifer moments in the "Jenny From the Block (opens in new tab)" video.
Amanda Seyfried, Lindsay Lohan, and Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls
Casting the Mean Girls' Plastics proved to be about as elaborate as a four-way phone call (opens in new tab): Rachel wanted to play Cady, but the studio thought, at 24, she was too old. (Boo, you whore.) Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan wanted to play Regina George, but after Freaky Friday was an unexpected hit, the studio felt she couldn't play "mean." Amanda Seyfried also lost out on Regina, but producer Lorne Michaels then recommended her for dim-witted Karen. Looking back though, seeing any of the lead actresses cast in any other role would be about as crazy as a world where "fetch" really happened. P.S. Jonathan Bennet also landed the role of dreamboat Aaron Samuels after another actor lost out — in an exclusive interview with Cosmopolitan.com (opens in new tab), Daniel Franzese explained the casting drama.
Anne Hathaway and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up
Although Heigl went on to kvetch about her part in the Judd Apatow hit comedy, Anne Hathaway was first offered the lead role as an entertainment reporter who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand. Anne ultimately passed, she told Marie Claire (opens in new tab), because she couldn't fathom doing the graphic birthing scene at the end of the film — the prospect of a vagina double, specifically. And in retrospect, try reconciling that role with Anne's Oscar-winning turn as Fantine in Les Miserables. (But then, you never know, if Heigl hadn't signed on, Izzie could be Chief of Surgery at Seattle Grace by now. Or not, given Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes' recent comments (opens in new tab).)
Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
The role that made Julia Roberts a household name almost never came to be. The original Pretty Woman script was for a dark indie film with lots of grit (read: cursing and drugs). After several rewrites, the lead role of Vivian was at first offered to Meg Ryan, but she passed (opens in new tab) — Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly also auditioned, but eventually it was Julia's work in Steel Magnolias that led director Garry Marshall to offer her the part. The rest is hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold history. Important note: Not casting Julia in Pretty Woman? Big mistake. Huge. (opens in new tab)
Rachel McAdams and Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four
Post-Mean Girls and pre-Wedding Crashers, McAdams considered joining the Fantastic Four franchise, but the Invisible Woman role eventually went to Jessica Alba, who had plenty of butt-kicking experience from her previous work on Dark Angel. Can you imagine a world where Rachel McAdams traded Noah Calhoun for the Human Torch (opens in new tab)?
Jessica Biel and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook
Oh, and speaking of Noah, we all tear up watching The Notebook, but Jessica Biel might be crying for a different reason: After a screen test with Ryan Gosling, she lost out on a role that she desperately wanted. (Jessica told Elle (opens in new tab) she auditioned with Ryan during a break from her shooting horror flick The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — and a very quick break, apparently, because she was "covered in [fake] blood" throughout and that's not a very Allie Hamilton look.) Picture this: Jessica and Ryan go method and fall in love on-set; they're all set to get hitched when Jessica runs off with the wedding singer — Ryan's one-time Mouseketeer co-star, one Justin Timberlake.
Mindy Kaling and Maya Rudoph in Bridesmaids
We don't know how Andy Cohen manages to get stars to confess their deepest darkest secrets so regularly on his Watch What Happens Live talk show (Maybe it's the open bar?), but best selling author, TV star and all-around boss Mindy Kaling recently spilled (opens in new tab) on a crushing professional disappointment: losing out on the bride's role in Bridesmaids (the part went to the brilliant Maya Rudolph). Would a Wilson Phillips song lip-synched by Dr. Mindy Lahiri have sounded as sweet? Not that Bridesmaids could have been any better, but with Mindy in the mix it certainly wouldn't have been worse — well, not until you play the scenario out. What if she'd got so tied up with Bridesmaids she doesn't have time to write, Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me?. No hit book means no The Mindy Project (making our Tuesday nights very sad indeed).
Blake Lively and Mila Kunis in Black Swan
Blake was one of many actresses vying for Natalie Portman's counterpart, the bad girl ballerina (opens in new tab), in Black Swan, but Mila's dark hair, dance experience, and friendship with star Natalie Portman sealed her fate.
Now, if Blake's turn as Lily had come to pass, we'd never be able to look at the artisanal ballet slippers sold on Preserve in the same way.
Zooey Deschanel and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Director David O. Russell originally envisioned Zooey Deschanel as his, well, silver lining for the female lead (and Anne Hathaway was cast, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts). Up-and-coming starlet Jennifer Lawrence eventually won over (opens in new tab) a reluctant Russell for the first of their now-numerous big screen collaborations and then tripped her way (opens in new tab) further into America's heart with her Best Actress Oscar win. If Zooey Deschanel was going to trip over at the Oscars, it would have to have been over her bangs, and that doesn't even make sense. Russell reportedly also considered Vince Vaughn over Bradley Cooper, to which, yikes.
Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, and Natalie Portman in Good Will Hunting and Romeo + Juliet
Age ain't just a number for Claire Danes. Thanks to the cult classic TV show My So Called Life, she was the ingénue that every director wanted to work with in the '90s. She turned down the part of Skylar in Good Will Hunting (even though she was rumored to be dating Matt Damon at the time) because she felt she was too young (opens in new tab) to play an Ivy League med student, and the role went to Minnie Driver instead. (And we've all seen Claire's cry face on Homeland, so we know exactly what would have played out if she'd found out Matt had dumped her while watching Oprah, as Minnie Driver infamously did (opens in new tab).) But on the flip side, she snagged the lead in Baz Luhrmann's modern adaptation of Romeo + Juliet because Luhrmann's original choice — Natalie Portman — looked too young and delicate (opens in new tab) when compared to leading man Leonardo DiCaprio, which is saying something because even DiCaprio looked young and delicate (and beautiful) in the movie.
Lily Collins and Leighton Meester in Gossip Girl
No xoxo for Lily Collins; she apparently thought her career was over (opens in new tab) when she lost out on the part of our favorite Upper East Side socialite and master schemer, Blair Waldorf. (This just goes to show how big a classy mindfuck Blair is, even in the real world.) She may not have scored the coveted headband or ruled from the steps of the Met, but Lily has gone on to star in films including The Blind Side and Mirror Mirror.
Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Director Doug Liman circled many of Hollywood's hottest actors to play the titular married assassins (Will Smith, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Johnny Depp were all considered), but eventually Nicole Kidman landed Jane Smith's role. She later dropped out (opens in new tab), though (some reports say it was a lack of chemistry with Pitt, others cite a long The Stepford Wives shoot). Angelina signed on to play Mrs. Smith in her place; one mega-scandalous divorce and six children later, Brangelina are the reigning King and Queen of Hollywood. And it's just too hard to imagine any other reality at this point. I mean, Bracole sounds like a dime store hemorrhoid cream or a type of fish.
Francis Bean Cobain and Kristen Stewart in Twilight
You can almost always count on Courtney Love for an outrageous story — in a 2013 interview with Howard Stern, she said the team behind the Twilight series wanted her daughter, Frances Bean, for the part of Bella, but Frances passed because she thought the source material was sexist. We're paraphrasing here; Courtney wasn't quite so diplomatic (opens in new tab) (please note that link contains a lot of Courtney Love cussing). The prospect of a world with no "Robsten" is too horrifying to behold, really. And let's not pretend Courtney wouldn't have been a crazed momager on set either, which could have jeopardized everything, i.e. the New Moon and Breaking Dawn sequels.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Campbell in Cool as Ice
Gwyneth Paltrow had her own Sliding Doors moment IRL with, wait for it, Vanilla Ice (opens in new tab). It's hard to believe, but when super-connected Paltrow was getting her start in show business, she was offered the lead role in the Vanilla Ice's modern retelling of Marlon Brando's classic movie The Wild One, because crazy stuff like that happened in the '90s, apparently. Her father, TV producer Bruce Paltrow, nixed the idea after reading a line about 69ing (um, awkward). Supermodel Naomi Campbell took the part instead — and Gwyneth went on to be cast by her godfather, Steven Spielberg, in Hook instead. Clearly this is an instance where daddy really did know best.
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