The Actors Who Could've Been In STAR WARS: The Original Trilogy - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Actors Who Could've Been In STAR WARS: The Original Trilogy

These aren't the actors George was looking for...

As with just about every movie made, before the lead actors and actresses are cast there are many more that audition or are considered for the role. Sometimes the person we see on screen and admire might not have been the studios first choice. So let's take a look at some of the actors and actresses who, if things had played out differently, could've ended up playing the lead roles in the original Star Wars trilogy.

William Katt as Luke Skywalker
Our young protagonist in Star Wars is, of course, played by Mark Hamill. He'd previously had a recurring part on the soap opera General Hospital, and a starring role on the short-lived sitcom The Texas Wheelers. It seemed after that he was destined for the occasional small screen guest role and a future in various television movies. Until his friend, and later to be Freddy Kreuger, Robert Englund was auditioning for a role in Apocalypse Now when, for reasons we will get to soon enough, he walked across the hall where auditions were taking place for George Lucas's Star Wars. After watching the auditions for a while, he realised that Hamill would be perfect for the role of, what was then called, Luke Starkiller. So later that day, Englund suggested to Hamill that he audition for the part. As Hamill himself recalled...
I went in and Brian De Palma who was interviewing for Carrie - the horror film based on the Stephen King novel - and George Lucas was there. He never spoke, so I was thinking and asking myself, is he Brian De Palma's assistant?
No Mark, he wasn't. But he was sharing a casting session with his longtime friend, and among the many, many young unknown actors the duo auditioned the two of them saw much potential in...

William Katt!

William Katt is probably best remembered for his leading role on The Greatest American Hero, but he could've been Luke Skywalker and remained in contention for the part for a long time. His audition with Kurt Russell (who was up for the role of Han) certainly impressed. It just impressed the other casting buddy more. As Brian De Palma eventually offered Katt the role of Tommy Ross, the ill-fated prom date of Carrie White in De Palma's film version of Carrie, and George Lucas took a (great) shot (kid) on Mark Hamill.

Christopher Walken as Han Solo
George Lucas initially rejected casting Harrison Ford for the role of Han Solo as he "wanted new faces" for his lead characters, and Ford had previously worked with the director on American Graffiti. Instead, Lucas asked the actor to assist in the auditions for Star Wars by reading lines with the other actors and explaining the concepts and history behind the scenes that they were reading. Ford actually did this for Mark Hamill's audition...

Lucas's decision to cast "unknowns" was not taken favorably by 20th Century Fox. Though it was his friend Francis Ford Coppola who convinced him he needed an established actor in a key role. So when it came to casting Han, Lucas offered the part to Al Pacino. Pacino passed...
It was at that time in my career when I was offered everything, I [had been] in The Godfather. They didn’t care if I was right or wrong for the role, if I could act or not act. ‘He’s in The Godfather. Offer him everything!’ So they offered me this movie. And I remember not understanding it when I read it. Another missed opportunity!
George also offered the part of Solo to Burt Reynolds...
I just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time, now I regret it. I wish I would have done it.
Many actors attended open casting for the role of Han, including a young Sylvester Stallone...
Yes as a matter of fact I did [audition] and it didn’t meet with much approval since when I stood in front of George Lucas he didn’t look at me once. Then I said ‘Well obviously I’m not the right type.’ But it all worked out for the best since I don’t look good in spandex holding a Ray gun.
As you saw previously in the first video, Kurt Russell was a serious contender for the part of Han Solo, but he became frustrated with Lucas' dragging his feet on offering him the part as he had another role to consider, as Russell explained some years later...
I was actually pretty [close], in the final running, but I needed to give an answer to ABC to do a western show. 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, I made the right choice.
With Russell out of contention, Lucas's auditioned an array of actors including; Nick Nolte, James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Tom Selleck, Billy Dee Williams (who, of course, later played Lando Calrissian), Perry King (who later played Han Solo in the radio plays) and Robert Englund.

Yep, Freddy Krueger again. After reading for Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and being told "he was too old" to play the surfer in the movie they sent him across the hall to read for a kooky science fiction project. He was then told "he was too young" for the part of Han Solo, but he did then make that suggestion to Mark Hamill. Funny how things work out, isn't it?

Anyway, George Lucas had now watched Harrison Ford audition with so many young actors, he was starting to be won over by Ford's portrayal of Han Solo, but there was one other actor who Lucas was also enamoured with, as Ford explained...
I read with more than a hundred actors. The story that I know is that there were two threesomes that they narrowed it down to, and I was in one of them. I had no idea that that was a potential situation. They asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ You know who the other choice was…Chris Walken.
Yep, Christoper Walken came close to playing Han Solo.

Jodie Foster As Princess Leia
Many young Hollywood actresses auditioned for the role of Princess Leia, including Terri Nunn, Amy Irving, and Cindy Williams.

Terri Nunn you may know better for her singing career. She fronted Berlin, as in Top Gun, Take My Breath Away, Berlin.

Amy Irving is another who ended up impressing Lucas' casting buddy Brian De Palma in her screen test for the role of Princess Leia...

Irving was offered, and accepted the role of Sue Snell in De Palma's Carrie. She also subsequently met Steven Spielberg and dated him until 1980. The breakup with Spielberg cost her the role of Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he had previously offered to her, (but they reunited and were married from 1985 to 1989), instead Spielberg cast Karen Allen.

Allen is a name that is also thrown around when it comes to actresses who were almost Princess Leia, but in 2012 Allen denied the rumour...
I don't know where that ever came from. Because when Star Wars was being made I had never done a film in my life. I was either still living in Washington, D.C., working in the theater or had just moved to New York and working in theater there, too. I had heard that rumor but I just can't imagine anybody knew who I was.
Cindy Williams was a frontrunner for the role. She appeared in Lucas' previous film American Graffiti as Laurie Henderson, Ron Howard's character's high school sweetheart, for which she earned a BAFTA nomination as Best Supporting Actress. She'd also just had an extremely successful guest spot on TV's top rated sitcom Happy Days, playing fun-loving brewery worker, Shirley Feeney. She was apparently dropped from consideration for the role of Princess Leia quite late but would've likely not been able to take the part anyway as she was already filming for her new sitcom, Laverne & Shirley.

And so we get to, Jodie Foster, who was just 14 when she was offered the part of Princess Leia. She turned it down because by the time the offer came through she had already signed a contract with Disney to start shooting a film as soon as she'd finished the one she was already working on. You may have heard of Taxi Driver! You also may have heard of Freaky Friday!! Foster was clearly in demand as the year she turned down Leia she also starred in Bugsy Malone, so she clearly didn't regret the decision...
I don’t think I’m going to be on my deathbed going, like, ‘Damn! I didn’t do Star Wars,’
Carrie Fisher was eventually cast under the condition that she lose 10 pounds (4.5 kg) for the role. Nice, eh? Fisher was well aware of the stiff competition she beat out for the part though...
Jodie Foster was up for it. That one I knew the most. Amy Irving and Jodie.

And I got it.
Yes you did!

Mika Kitagawa as Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
As we mentioned earlier, Lucas's decision to cast "unknowns" was not always looked upon favorably, and so he knew that he needed an established actor to play at least one important role. Lucas felt that the Obi-Wan Kenobi character would be perfect for that. Producer Gary Kurtz said,
The [Obi-Wan] role required a certain stability and gravitas as a character... which meant we needed a very, very strong character actor to play that part
Before Alec Guinness was cast, Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune (who starred in Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress) was considered for the role. According to Mifune's daughter, Mika Kitagawa, her father turned down Lucas's offers for Kenobi, and then subsequently for Darth Vader, because...
...he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai. At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride.
Finally, a couple of character voices that could've been very, very different...

Mel Blanc as the voice of C-3PO
Originally, George Lucas did not intend to use Anthony Daniels to provide the voice of C-3PO, just for him to squeeze into the tin suit! Lucas auditioned about thirty well-established voice actors for the protocol droid, including none other than Mr Mel Blanc.

You know Mel Blanc. Over the years he has provided the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, the Tasmanian Devil, and many of the other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoons. C-3PO was nearly one of his too, but according to Daniels himself, another one of the major voice actors also in contention, believed by some sources to be Stan Freberg, recommended Daniels's voice as a perfect fit for the role.

Orson Welles as the voice of Darth Vader
As you all know, David Prowse was the man in the Darth Vader suit, but he didn't provide the voice. He sure wanted to as he delivered all the lines on set and kept lobbying George Lucas to leave his voice track complete, but Lucas absolutely never intended this to happen. He was always going to dub him. During filming, the rest of the cast had nicknamed Prowse "Darth Farmer", due to his English West Country accent, so can you imagine just how menacing that would've been!

Nope, Lucas wanted someone with stature and originally intended for Orson Welles to voice Vader, but after deciding that Welles's voice would be too recognizable, he cast the lesser-known James Earl Jones instead.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Next time we look at the actors who could've been in the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy.

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