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Actors Who Auditioned For A Different Role Than The One They Landed

Can you imagine Dorothy Gale without Judy Garland? How about Jules Winnfield without Samuel L. Jackson? Is there an Indiana Jones, a Han Solo, or a Rick Deckard without Harrison Ford? Sure, one can imagine pale imitations of these iconic characters played by other actors, but that's all they are — imitations. The most memorable roles in movie history were created by writers, directors, costumers, and cinematographers working in harmony, but without the right person donning those costumes, reading those lines, and being framed in those shots, it's all for naught.

These perfect pairings of role and actor seem inevitable, but they're anything but. In fact, sometimes actors who go on to play a character that will make them famous get there by auditioning for an entirely different role. Legendary villains have their roots in actors trying out for the role of the hero, and unforgettable do-gooders are sometimes born from auditions for bad guys. These are the actors who landed an entirely different role than the one they auditioned for.

Iwan Rheon auditioned to play a different bastard

Jon Snow wears many hats over the course of Game of Thrones. He's a bastard, a king, a member of the Night's Watch, a beloved brother, and an unlikely wildling. Kit Harington made every moment of the character's journey believable, whether he was commanding troops or learning of his own royal parentage. By the end of the series, he could communicate Jon's state of mind through the subtlest facial movements. It's hard to imagine anyone else filling Jon Snow's black leather boots ... but that was very nearly the case.

Iwan Rheon, who terrified audiences as the loathsome Ramsay Bolton, actually auditioned for the role of Jon Snow. Though the role went to Harington, Rheon made enough of an impression that the show's creators called him back to play Ramsay, infamous for torturing peasant girls, flaying people alive, and, ultimately, fighting Jon Snow to the death. "I think they made the right choice," Rheon said in 2016. "It would've been a very different Jon Snow if I'd played him."

Lindsay Lohan was almost a much meaner girl

Regina George is, as you may have heard, flawless. She's gorgeous, she's popular, and she's utterly ruthless. Mean Girls might be about taking her, and the system she operates within, down, but no one can deny her magnetism. Rachel McAdams is perfectly cast as the adolescent ice queen, especially in opposition to Lindsay Lohan's naive, homeschooled Cady ... but those roles were very nearly switched. Ten years after the film's debut, director Mark Waters revealed Lohan initially auditioned for the role of Regina, and McAdams tried out for the role of Cady.

"[Lohan's] energy is a very aggressive, testosterone-laden energy, and that's exactly what I knew I needed for Regina George," Waters reflected. But McAdams wasn't quite right as Cady, and Lohan was then riding high off Freaky Friday's success, in which she played a likable everygirl. Thus, McAdams became the chilling vision of blonde perfection that is Regina George, and Lohan stepped into the role of Cady Heron, Mathlete extraordinaire.

Alexander Ludwig wanted to represent a different district

Cato, the male tribute from District 2, has everything Katniss Everdeen lacks. While she's been raised in deprivation and forced to hunt illegally to feed her mother and sister, Cato has been raised since birth to compete in the Hunger Games. After years of relentless training, he's an unstoppable killing machine and very little else. Before his death, he's consumed by just how completely he has been molded by the Games. "One more kill," he rants, as he holds Peeta hostage, "It's the only thing I know how to do."

It's a testament to Alexander Ludwig's skill that the audience is on his side in that moment of tragic self-awareness. He has, after all, spent the rest of he movie trying to murder our heroine. But Ludwig's skill was originally going to be put towards a very different role — kind, even-tempered Peeta Mellark. "I made it my goal to physically sculpt my body so I could portray [Peeta,]" Ludwig remarked in 2012. Though he didn't end up playing the baker's boy from District 12, he did find much to enjoy about playing Cato. As he sees it, "It's fun playing the bad guy once in a while. I got to really experiment with a side of me that I've never seen before."

Rainn Wilson could've been the regional manager

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. Dwight Schrute is a man so strange and singular, these three nouns have come to symbolize him. Dwight is a farmer, a Starcraft enthusiast, a megalomaniac, and a passionate devotee of mustard-colored button-down shirts. It's impossible to imagine anyone but the incomparable Rainn Wilson playing the role, yet that was very nearly the case. Even more shockingly, Wilson initially auditioned for what might just be the only Office character more iconic than Dwight — Michael Scott.

Wilson revealed in a 2013 NPR interview that he did indeed audition for the role of Michael ... and that he's deeply embarrassed by his audition tape. "I just basically did my Ricky Gervais impersonation because I really didn't know what to do with the character," he lamented. But Dwight was another story entirely. "I knew Dwight was the one that was right in my wheelhouse. And I was like, oh, let me at this one." The rest is history — muddy, beet-stained, Schrute Buck-littered history.

Eddie Redmayne auditioned for a different, darker wizard

As magizoologist Newt Scamander, Eddie Redmayne leads the Fantastic Beasts movies with quirky charm. But he almost played a very different character in the Harry Potter universe — Lord Voldemort himself. Specifically, Redmayne auditioned to play Tom Riddle, Voldemort's teenage self in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It's easy to picture Redmayne in the role, as strange as that may sound. Both Riddle and Scamander require a certain aloofness, though Riddle's comes from simmering sociopathy and Scamander's comes from sheer obliviousness. Yet Redmayne's audition did not, apparently, go well.

"I properly failed and didn't get a call back," Redmayne told Empire in 2016. "Over the years, I always hoped I might be cast as a member of the Weasley family, but unfortunately not." Seeing Redmayne play uptight Percy, adventurous Charlie, or dashing Bill of the Weasley clan would indeed have been fun, but nowadays, fans can't picture him playing anyone but the wonderfully weird Newt.

Ashley Greene tried out for a totally different Twilight character

Alice Cullen, an immortal vampire with the ability to see the future, is one of the Twilight series most truly likable and supportive characters. When Bella turns 18, it's Alice who organizes her birthday party. When the villainous Volturi move to take Bella out, it's Alice who convinces them to leave her alone. On Bella's wedding day, Alice is there, ready with makeup palettes and curling irons. Ashley Greene plays her with elfin aplomb. Alice, in her hands, is compelling enough to helm her own series of movies.

However, Greene originally auditioned for the role of Bella, and she was disappointed when she didn't get it. But all was not lost, as Greene was brought back to audition for the role of Alice. "I worked more on it — that was all I did for a couple of days before I went in," she recalled in 2009. "I came in probably like five times before I actually got the role — and then I went home for Christmas and literally just had to wait and wait." As far as the fans are concerned, it all worked out for the best. Who else could've brought Alice to such lovable life?

James Franco auditioned to play a Marvel good guy

As Harry Osborn, James Franco plays one of the Spider-Man trilogy's most complex characters. He's Peter Parker best friend, the son of a respected businessman, and, for a while, Mary Jane's boyfriend. As time goes on, however, he loses every one of those distinctions. Spider-Man 3 sees him sink into madness as the new Green Goblin, yet it also sees him learn the error of his ways. By the time the movie ends, his legacy is as tangled as a spider's web ... and, in the wake of his heroic sacrifice, all that's left of him.

Franco originally intended to put his talents towards a very different character, however. Yeah, we're talking about Peter Parker, the series' headlining hero and Harry's BFF-turned-mortal-enemy. Franco got pretty far into the audition process, but in the end, the role of Spidey went to Tobey Maguire. However, Franco clearly made an impression, as he and Sam Raimi conferred on a phone call that convinced the director to bring Franco on as Harry — a role that few fans could imagine without him.

Chadwick Boseman tried out for a very different MCU role

Unlike so many Marvel heroes, T'Challa isn't quick with a quip. The star of Black Panther isin fact, one of the few MCU characters who seems to truly think before he speaks — perhaps because he's a king, and unlike, say, Thor, particularly conscious of his power. Chadwick Boseman brings a fascinating solemnity to the character. He isn't quiet, but he isn't uncomfortable with quiet. There's a reason he's the first character to emerge from the portals at the end of Avengers: Endgame: T'Challa's sheer presence makes it immediately clear that things are about to change.

It seems absurd to imagine Boseman in any other role, let alone a goofy one. After all, pre-Panther, the man made a career of portraying people like Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and other figures of massive cultural import. But in fact, Boseman originally auditioned to play Drax. Yeah, that's right, Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy, the guy who thinks he becomes invisible when he stands still. Though he didn't get the part, casting director Sarah Finn was impressed, and Boseman credits her with keeping him in mind when Marvel embarked upon the search for T'Challa. Sometimes, being in the room with the people who make decisions is what makes all the difference.

Tom Hiddleston wanted to bring the thunder

Try, for a moment, to imagine the MCU without Loki. Would Thor have ascended to the throne of Asgard on the first try, no pivotal life lessons about humility and sacrifice learned? Would the Avengers ever had something to avenge? Would the Hulk have found some other god to smash around and call puny? The MCU simply would not be the MCU without him. There but for the grace of Odin go we, apparently. Believe it or not, Tom Hiddleston originally auditioned for Thor.

A 2019 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon didn't just reveal footage of Hiddleston's audition — Hiddleston was there to react to it. "I think we can all agree, they cast the right actor," Hiddleston affirmed, and in truth, it is strange to see the man who would come to play the trickster god wielding Mjolnir. Hiddleston is talented enough that he might've been able to pull the role off, but in truth, can you imagine anyone else playing Loki with such loathsome charm? Marvel didn't just cast the right actor for Thor. They cast the only actor for Loki.

Laura Prepon auditioned for Alex in Orange is the New Black

As Alex Vause, Piper Chapman's drug-running ex-girlfriend in Orange is the New Black, Laura Prepon absolutely shines. Alex's life is riddled with bad choices, many of which she makes over the course of the show's run. But there's something about her that just won't stop trying to do right by the people she loves. After years of betrayal, forgiveness, mistakes, and way too many ill-advised hookups, Alex and Piper end up together, ready to face the post-prison future.

It's hard to picture anyone but Laura Prepon wearing Alex's signature glasses, but in fact, Prepon originally auditioned to play Piper. Showrunner Jenji Kohan didn't think Prepon, who exudes street smarts, would work as the naive Piper, but the audition still made one heck of an impression. "I was so dazzled by how f***ing good she was that it just was like, 'All right, what are we going to do with her?'" Kohan recounted in 2014. Thus, the role of Alex was tailored to Prepon's talents, and Piper's eventual prison wife was born.

Norman Reedus read for a different Walking Dead role

Back in 2010, Norman Reedus got a hold of The Walking Dead's pilot script and fell in love. Unfortunately, the show had wrapped up casting, but Reedus was undaunted. "I was like, 'Just get me in the room. I'll go in and do a guest spot," the actor told GQ in 2014. Eventually, Reedus was brought in and asked to read some of Merle Dixon's lines. The character had already been cast with Michael Rooker, but Reedus made an impression so deep that Frank Darabont, who developed the original comic for TV and acted as showrunner for the first season, created the character of Daryl for Reedus. 

Moreover, Reedus was given a tremendous degree of freedom to interpret the character as he wished — a freedom that, by all accounts, remains in Reedus' hands. As Daryl has deepened with every passing season, it's only become more and more clear how correct Darabont was to bring Reedus into the zombie-fighting fold and how right Reedus was to pursue a place in the series.