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It’s hard to picture any actor other than Harrison Ford as Han Solo…or Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia…or Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, but there were other actors who auditioned or refused roles in Star Wars. In fact, several Oscar winners were offered parts in the now-iconic sci-fi franchise—only to turn them down, so actors like Ford, Fisher and Hamill could become the household names we know today.
With nine main Star Wars films (and a handful of others), there have been a lot of roles to fill in the galaxy far, far away. And if we’ve learned anything from the Star Wars sequel trilogy (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker premieres Dec. 20, just FYI), it’s that the creative minds behind the franchise love to cast unknowns. We wouldn’t have Daisy Ridley, John Boyega or Kelly Marie Tran without them.
As for the OG actors, Hamill told The New York Times in 2017 that he almost turned down a chance to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker in 2015’s The Force Awakens. “I thought, why mess with it? The idea of catching lightning in a bottle twice was ridiculously remote,” he said. “No one wants to see the 50-, 60-, 70-year-old versions of us, running around, bumping heads on the Death Star. It’s sad.” In fact, all three OGs returned for the first film in the sequel trilogy to bring back full-on nostalgia. “Can you imagine if I was the only one to say no?” Hamill told The New York Times. “I’d be the most hated man in nerd-dom.”
In honor of the end of another Star Wars trilogy, we rounded up the actors you may not have known were almost cast in Star Wars. Find out who they are ahead.
Al Pacino as Han Solo
Al Pacino as Han Solo? The Oscar winner, who is best known for his role in The Godfather, told fans at an Evening With Pacino event in 2013 that he was offered the role of Han Solo in the first Star Wars film in 1977 but passed because he didn’t connect with the story.
“It was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script,” he said.
Burt Reynolds as Han Solo
Reynolds told Business Insider in 2016 that he was also offered the role of Han Solo but turned it down because he didn’t think the part was right for that time in his career.
“I just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time,” he said. “Now I regret it. I wish I would have done it.”
Sylvester Stallone as Han Solo
In an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2014, Stallone revealed that he auditioned for Han Solo. In the end, Stallone told director George Lucas and other producers that the film wasn’t a fit for him.
“Let me just make it easy for you,” Stallone said he told Lucas. “I would look like crap in spandex leotards and a ray gun. Guys in space don’t have this face. I get it.”
Kurt Russell as Luke Skywalker
Russell told USA Today in 2017 that he was in the final round to play either Luke Skywalker or Han Solo but dropped out of the process to star in ABC’s The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, a western show that only ran for one season.
“[I was] interviewing for the part of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. On tape, it exists,” he said. “I didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. Something about a Death Star and a Millennium Falcon. I was actually pretty [close], in the final running, but I needed to give an answer to ABC to do a western show.”
He continued, “I asked George, ‘Do you think you’re gonna use me?’ He said, ‘I don’t know if I want to put you with him, or those two guys together.’ I got to go to work, so I did the western. Clearly, made the right choice.”
Jodie Foster as Princess Leia
Foster was as young as 14 when she was asked to play Princess Leia Organa in the first Star Wars film. The actress told Total Film in 2005 that she passed on the role because of her busy schedule at the time. “I was doing two films back-to-back at the time,” she said. “It would have been fun. But my career would have been different, and I’m happy with the one I’ve got so I don’t really regret it.”
She continued, “And honestly, I was 14 or 15 at the time and it was when they were still conceiving those characters as very young. By the time they got to making it, they had a totally different conception of the film.”
Leonardo DiCaprio as Anakin Skywalker
DiCaprio was an “It” boy when Hayden Christensen debuted as Anakin Skywalker in 2002’s Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. He told Short List in 2015 that he met with Lucas over the part but, in the end, turned it down.
“[I] just didn’t feel ready to take that dive,” DiCaprio said. “At that point.”
Ryan Phillippe as Anakin Skywalker
Phillippe told MTV News in 2008 that he auditioned with Natalie Portman (who played Padmé Amidala) for the part of Anakin Skywalker but wasn’t ultimately chosen.
“I read with Natalie Portman,” he said. “I think it was sort of an age thing in their mind. It wasn’t quite right, but yeah, they were interested.”
Rooney Mara as Jyn Erso
Mara told Deadline in 2016 that she met with Rogue One director Gareth Edwards for the part of Jyn Erso, who was played by Felicity Jones. Eventually, she chose to drop out of the process because of her schedule.
“I met with the director, and I really liked him, but then I didn’t end up reading for it. I was working and it wasn’t the right thing for me, so I decided not to read for it,” she said.
Saoirse Ronan as Rey
Ronan told Empire in 2013 that she auditioned for a part in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Though she didn’t specify the character she auditioned for, Ronan revealed that one of the scenes involved taking a lightsaber out of bag, which something that Rey (Daisy Ridley) did in the movie.
“Everyone has auditioned for it,” she said. “So many people I know have gone in for the part I’ve gone in for, and guys who’ve gone in for a particular part, so I’d imagine J.J. [Abrams] is probably just scanning the earth to find the people that one needs, but nobody has a clue what it’s about, and nobody’s read the script.”
She continued, “I think it’s the only time I’ve ever thought, ‘You know what? Even if I don’t get it, I had so much fun auditioning, pretending to take out a lightsaber out of a bag, kind of inspect it, and not know what it is.'”
Eddie Redmayne as Kylo Ren
In an interview with Uproxx in 2016, Redmayne revealed that he auditioned for villain Kylo Ren, who is played by Adam Driver. He told the publication that he flubbed the audition after putting on a “ridiculous” accent.
“So, I was going for, I think, for Adam Driver. They gave me like a Star Trek scene—or like something from Pride and Prejudice,” he said. “It was one of those films. With films that top secret, they don’t give you the actual lines. So they give you a scene from Pride and Prejudice, but then they tell you you’re auditioning for the baddie. If you’re me, you then put some ridiculous voice on.”
Redmayne continued, “That was really a hilarious moment. Because it was Nina Gold, who I have to thank a lot because she’s cast me in several films. And she was just sitting there and I was trying again and again with different versions of my kind of ‘koohh paaaah’ [Darth Vader breathing sound] voice. And after like ten shots she’s like, ‘You got anything else?’ I was like, ‘No.'”
Michael Jackson as Jar Jar Binks
So, Jackson was never considered for Jar Jar Binks but the singer really wanted to play the character. Ahmed Best, who voiced the character in the Star Wars films, told Vice in 2015 that Jackson wanted to play Jar Jar via prosthetics, hair and makeup rather through CGI, which is how the character eventually made it on screen.
“Me, Natalie Portman, and George’s kids—we were at Wembley arena at Michael Jackson’s concert. We were taken backstage and we met Michael,” Best said. “George introduced me as ‘Jar Jar’ and I was like, ‘That’s kind of weird.'”
Best then asked Lucas why he introduced him to Jackson as Jar Jar. “He said, ‘Well, Michael wanted to do the part but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like ‘Thriller,'” Best said. “George wanted to do it in CGI. My guess is ultimately Michael Jackson would have been bigger than the movie, and I don’t think he wanted that.”
Michael B. Jordan as Poe Dameron or Finn
Jordan confirmed to The Huffington Post in 2013 that he auditioned for The Force Awakens. The actor didn’t specify which character he played, but considering there were two new male leads in the film, fans suspect that the part was either Poe or Finn.
“I mean, everybody’s going in on this project. They’re trying to figure out what they want. That’s another incredible franchise. It’s pretty crazy!” Jordan said.
He continued, “We’ll see how it happens. I don’t know how I can do everything.”
Jesse Plemons as General Hux
Plemons told Vulture in 2016 that he auditioned for a role in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. The actor said he didn’t make it beyond the first audition but still had people congratulating him as if he got the role. He didn’t specify what the character was, but fans speculate that it was General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson.
“Even after the movie was filmed, I would get calls from people like, ‘Heard about Star Wars, congratulations!’ It’s like, ‘You heard some different information…’ Plemons said.
He continued, “I had gone in and read, and then I was going to meet J.J. Abrams, and then, all of a sudden, it was released that I was going to do it. I’d only auditioned once, and I hadn’t even met him yet. So that was bizarre because I heard from everyone. I’m like, ‘No. No, no, no. Stop it.'”