How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in ’80s Movies – Part I

17 Jun


As you know, I love looking into which actors were almost – and in some cases, actually were – cast in movies (see: How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in Blockbuster Movies).  Whether actors passed on roles, didn’t quite make the cut, had scheduling conflicts, or missed out when production got delayed, so many films could have turned out completely differently.

Today, I’m looking at the glory of the ’80s film.  I’ll start with a classic.

The Karate Kid

When you think Ralph Macchio, you think Karate Kid.  That’s mostly because he’s never done anything else (well, there was Karate Kid II and Karate Kid III), but also because he pulled off being such a lovable wiener turned karate champion like no one else could.  He also pulled off being 15 when he was in fact 22 at the time of filming, which is equally as impressive.  But the role of Daniel Larusso was offered to, and turned down by, Charlie Sheen.  I can’t picture that at all.  For one thing, he wouldn’t have been so doubtful about ‘winning’.

Also, Pat Morita almost didn’t play Larusso’s mentor/love interest Mr Miyagi.  He was initially turned down as the producers had issued a directive that no comedians be given a role, but after blowing the casting directors away with his audition, he earned the part as well as an Oscar nomination.  Okinawa was proud.

Feel good, Danielsan?

Feel good, Danielsan?

Wall Street

Someone who actually did win an Oscar, alongside Charlie Sheen no less, was Michael Douglas.  He played Gordon Gecko en route to the award in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.  He wasn’t the first choice however.  That was Richard Gere.  Gere turned it down, and Douglas greedily took the part because, well, greed is good.

Interestingly, Tom Cruise petitioned hard for the part of Bud Fox, but Charlie Sheen was always the first choice for the role.  Not that the ’80s was a tough time for Cruise; not only did he get to later work with Oliver Stone in Born on the Fourth of July, but he also starred in one of the most iconic films of the decade…

Top Gun

This movie is so ’80s that I can’t every type ‘Top Gun’ without hearing the musky tones of the immortal Kenny Loggins throatily singing Highway to the Dangerzone.  (Sidenote: this song was intended for Toto to perform, making Top Gun an amazing near casting choice for both the film and its song!  Awesome!)

I also can’t help but see Tom Cruise swaggering in a white shirt, leather jacket, and aviation sunnies.  But he almost didn’t land the role of cocky pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell.

That role was offered to Matthew Modine who, thinking his star was on the rise and the movie would be a flop, turned it down.  Top Gun went on to be the highest grossing film in 1986 and launched Cruise into superstardom, leaving Modine saying, “I feel the need – the need to get a new agent!”

Also, it is rumoured that Val Kilmer didn’t want to be in the film, but was contractually obliged to.  No wonder ‘Iceman’ was such a cold bastard.

Kenneth Clark Loggins.  A god of the '80s.

Kenneth Clark Loggins. A god of the ’80s.


Speaking of Tom Cruise (and Kenny Loggins – that guy is an ’80s movie hit making machine!), he almost landed the role of dancing rebel Ren McCormack in Footloose on the strength of his famous underwear scene in Risky Business.  However, he had a scheduling conflict, so the casting directors looked to Rob Lowe.  After three auditions, they finally decided he was their man.  That is until he was prevented from playing the role after injuring his knee (probably from having to do so many auditions).

In the end, of course, it was Kevin Bacon who ended up sticking it to the man through song.  Still, the thought of missing on the opportunity to see Cruise dancing up a storm fills me with lament.

Blade Runner

One of the great sci-fi films of all time, Blade Runner starred Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, but it was Dustin Hoffman who was slated to play the jaded Replicant hunter.  Although a talented actor, the 5’5½” Hoffman is not the person who springs to mind for such an action packed role.  As it turns out, he felt the same, and asked for several changes to the script to make it less physically demanding and the character less of a “macho man”.  Eventually the studio gave up on Hoffman, and after looking at a whole host of other options, settled on Ford.  Not a bad option.  After all, the guy is Han Solo and Indiana Jones – that’s hard to top.

Back to the Future

Probably one of the most famous near casting choices ever was for Marty McFly in the great Back to the Future trilogy.  There was a wide casting call, and one of the young men that auditioned was Johnny Depp.  He missed out, and went on to play Officer Tom Hanson on 21 Jump Street.


(Sidenote II: Depp initially turned down playing Hanson, and the role was instead given to Jeff Yagher. But the network wasn’t happy with him, and after three weeks of production booted him out.  Executive Producer Patrick Hasburgh tried his luck and offered it to Depp again, who accepted the second time around.  Imagine being cast in a role, shooting it for weeks, and then getting the can.  That would never happen, surely?  Well…)

The number one pick to play McFly was Michael J. Fox.  Unfortunately for both Fox and the studio, Fox’s commitments to Family Ties were so onerous at the time that he couldn’t take time out to shoot the movie and he had to decline the role.  Eric Stoltz was then cast and production began.  But it didn’t go smoothly.  Great Scott!

Stoltz allegedly didn’t get along with anyone, disagreed with the tone of the film, and was far too intense for director Robert Zemeckis’ liking.  So, after four weeks of filming, Stoltz get politely shown the door.

See - I'm not making it up.  This is heavy!

See – I’m not making it up. This is heavy!

Zemeckis tried Fox again, and this time around was successful.  Not without a few difficulties though.  In order to accommodate Family Ties, the film was shot from 6pm to 6am, with outdoor scenes completed on the weekends.  Also, re-shooting Stoltz’s scenes cost an extra $3 million, a lot when you consider that the total budget for the film ended up being $19 million.  I’m sure the studio didn’t complain; Back to the Future was the biggest grossing film of 1985, raking in over $350 million.  Would it have been as successful without Michael J. Fox at the helm?  Hell no, and I don’t need to take a trip in a DeLorean to know that.

What other big roles in ’80s movies were almost given to different actors?   Log back on to Hesaidwhatnow? later for Part II and find out.  Here’s a clue: it may involve cops, ghosts, and taking a day off school…

One Response to “How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in ’80s Movies – Part I”

  1. Barkley Mason January 11, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    Awesome post! I look forward to reading Part II.

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