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Huge stars who missed out on major roles

It is part of the unique magic of movie making that actors sometimes are cast in roles that become indelible in the public's imagination and come to define their careers. The specific alchemy that occurs between the casting process, the actor, and the story leaves us with the impression that no one else could ever have possibly played that part.

Obvious examples of this kind are Ian McKellen's Gandalf, Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow, or Harrison Ford's double feature of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. But what if the great casting wheel had continued to spin and landed on the name of another? Here is a peak behind the curtain of inevitability that celebrates the great "what ifs" of the silver screen.

John Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, and Jim Carrey as Ferris Bueller

If you were a teenager in the 1980s, you know that no one had it better than Ferris Bueller. Beloved by everyone—"the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude"—Ferris Bueller was such a persuasive teenage fantasy because it didn't feel like it was that far out of reach. And Matthew Broderick carried off the good-natured, quick-witted character with a natural ease. However, Broderick wasn't a lock from the start. A number of young actors wanted to take a joyride in a 1961 Ferrari 250GT California including John Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, and Jim Carrey. They were all passed over for Broderick's natural comic timing and boyish charms. And for that, all we can say is, danke shoen.

Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, and Sylvester Stallone as Han Solo

Everyone knows that the coolest character in the Star Wars universe is not some no personality having, drone fathering, and fairly incompetent bounty hunter named Boba Fett. It's Han Solo. Han Solo is an American hero who combines three things we love: space, cowboys, and pirates. But instead of Harrison Ford's roguish charm, what if we had met Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, or Al Pacino in a Mos Eisley cantina? One can imagine Pacino's take on some of Solo's iconic lines: "Who YOU calling SCRUFFY lookin'? Hu ah!" Fortunately, Lucas already had a relationship with Ford from their previous effort, American Graffiti, which helped secure his hold on the part.

Jennifer Lawrence as Bella Swan in Twilight

As the wildly popular series lurched, inevitably, toward movie screens, young actors and actresses began lining up to be cast as the chief protagonists in an interspecies romance. Among the throngs of hopefuls looking to play Bella was Jennifer Lawrence. Sadly, there was evidence that Lawrence had smiled once, so she lost the part.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Rose in Titanic

When James Cameron set out to recreate one of the most famous tragedies of the 20th century and place a love story smack dab in the middle of a hopeless situation, Kate Winslet was an inspired choice. Until then, Winslet had done a kid's movie (A Kid in King Arthur's Court), an independent film (Heavenly Creatures), and a couple of literary adaptations (Hamlet, and Sense and Sensibility). She faced off against a number of other actresses including Apple's mom, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Stuart Townsend as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings

Much was made on the grueling schedule that the actors and crew had to endure as they made all three Lord of the Rings movies in one long series of shoots. The actors who were part of the actual "fellowship" became so close knit that they received matching tattoos as a sign of their camaraderie. Viggo Mortensen was among that group, though he was almost never cast as the true king of Gondor. Up until the start of filming, Stuart Townsend had been tapped to play the role, until the film's producers decided that Townsend looked too young to play the weathered heir of Isildur.

Robert DeNiro as Josh in Big

Tom Hanks has, for some time, been America's favorite actor. It's hard to say exactly when that run started, but you could certainly do worse than claiming Big as a starting point. Affable, earnest, and with a disarming charm, Hanks was a perfect choice to play the role of a 13-year-old boy who wakes up in the body of a full-grown man. Now, take your crazy pills and imagine Robert DeNiro dancing on a piano with Robert Loggia because that almost happened. The film's director, Penny Marshall, went for DeNiro first, but the iconic star demanded a salary 3 times what Hanks was willing to take for the role.

Liam Neeson as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln

It seems like a Saturday Night Live sketch that was aching to be made. "They've taken half his country. He wants it back. Lincoln." In what could have been the most action packed period political drama, Liam Neeson was originally cast to play America's sixteenth president. Obviously, the movie would've ended too quickly once the South received a tersely worded telegram informing them of the president's "very particular set of skills" that the "Railsplitter" had acquired over a long career. Instead, we got a customarily brilliant performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, arguably one of the greatest actors alive today, who also received an Academy Award for his efforts.