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Actors almost cast in video game movie disasters

Over the years, some big stars—including Jake Gyllenhaal, Timothy Olyphant, and Milla Jovovich—have appeared in video game movies, but there have also been many stars who've dropped out or rejected offers to appear. The fact is, no one wants to be associated with a dud, and video game movies have a tendency to be quite awful (just read about the video game movie curse). Here are some actors who narrowly avoided starring in video game movies that ended up being disasters.

Tom Hanks (Mario in Super Mario Bros.)

Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel's Super Mario Bros. is perhaps one of the most infamous video game movie adaptations of all time. Starring a slew of renowned actors, such as Dennis Hopper, Bob Hoskins, and Fiona Shaw, this would-be blockbuster had a lot going for it: a great cast and flashy special effects, not to mention being based on a hugely popular game franchise. However, it failed to capitalize on any of that—critically or commercially.

We can only be thankful that more people didn't jump on board, because many actors were considered for roles in the movie, including Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks). Shortly after producer Roland Joffe secured the film rights to Super Mario Bros., production studio Lightmotive started scouring for top-tier Hollywood talent—and Hanks was on their list.

According to Jeff Ryan's book Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America, the studio approached Hanks for the role of Mario—and he actually came close to signing on. Fortunately for his future résumé, Nintendo and the producers backed out of the agreement because they were unwilling to meet his reported $5 million salary demand. The studio eventually cast Hoskins, who would later name Super Mario Bros. as the greatest disappointment of his career.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (King Koopa in Super Mario Bros.)

Imagining a two-time Academy Award-winning actor like Tom Hanks in the role of Mario in a video game movie seems unfathomable enough, but the original choice for Hanks' potential onscreen rival is equally baffling.

In the time between playing the Terminator and being the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger almost took up the role of King Koopa, a.k.a. Bowser, in the Super Mario Bros. movie. It's unclear whether he considered the role or was merely approached for it, but no matter what happened behind the scenes, Schwarzenegger never joined the movie. Instead, the role eventually went to Dennis Hopper, who Rocky Morton described as extremely difficult to work with and a contributing factor in the movie's "harrowing" development.

Michael Keaton (King Koopa in Super Mario Bros.)

After Schwarzenegger turned down the opportunity to play King Koopa in Super Mario Bros., Lightmotive turned their eyes towards another megastar: Michael Keaton.

Hot off the heels of playing Batman for the second time, Keaton was on the studio's radar for King Koopa. He was eventually approached for the role, though he turned it down for unknown reasons. Since talks were underway at the time for a third Batman movie, perhaps Keaton wanted to keep his schedule open. It's theoretical, but it wouldn't be the first time an actor or actress turned down a role due to scheduling conflicts.

Dustin Hoffman (Mario in Super Mario Bros.)

With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Keaton, and Tom Hanks either turning down or being rejected for roles in Super Mario Bros., it's clear that Lightmotive had their work cut out for them in finding a suitable cast. Interestingly, of all the people the extensive casting search found for the role of Mario, the only person who truly wanted the part was Dustin Hoffman. The Oscar-winning actor wanted the part so much that he flew out to New York to meet with the movie's Nintendo liaison, Bill White.

According to Black J. Harris' book, Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation, Joffe told White that Hoffman was interested in the role, and White couldn't have been happier—he believed Hoffman "had the perfect skill set to achieve Nintendo's lofty goals." Unfortunately, Nintendo of America's then-president Minoru Arawaka didn't feel the same way. Arawaka thought Hoffman just wasn't right for the part; instead, he wanted to go with Danny DeVito.

Danny DeVito (Mario in Super Mario Bros.)

Before the studio approached Tom Hanks for the role of Mario, their main choice for the video game movie was Danny DeVito, who was at the time gearing up to play the Penguin in Tim Burton's Batman Returns, alongside Keaton as Batman. Nintendo's Arawaka felt that DeVito "resembled a pudgy, charismatic plumber as much as anyone in Hollywood," and the producers liked the fact that DeVito had years of experience starring in family-oriented films. DeVito didn't agree, and ended up turning down the role so he could focus on his directing career, which at the time meant directing and starring alongside Jack Nicholson in Hoffa.

Gary Coleman (himself in POSTAL)

Private video game developer Running With Scissors struck gold in 1997 with POSTAL, a not-so-subtle reference to the United States Postal Service mass shootings in the late '80s and early '90s. The game launched a series—the only series, in fact—that kept the developer afloat for over 20 years.

Its popularity eventually led to infamous director Uwe Boll acquiring the film rights from studio president Vince Desiderio under the stipulation—according to Boll's commentary for the POSTAL DVD—that Boll would write the script and direct the movie. Instead of focusing on the franchise's grittier aspects, Boll set out to make a comedic political satire. Because the movie included an offensive opening sequence satirizing the 9/11 attacks, the vast majority of theaters in the U.S. refused to host the movie. In fact, POSTAL initially opened in only four theaters, thus ensuring its failure at the box office.

It's good, then, that Gary Coleman decided not to reprise his role in the movie as himself (the "celebrity") from the POSTAL 2 game. Despite reports suggesting that he accepted an offer to star in the film, Coleman never appeared, and never gave a reason for why he rejected the offer. Nevertheless, with the number of negative reviews the film got, Coleman dodged a career bullet with POSTAL.

David Boreanaz (Matt Addison in Resident Evil)

By now it should be apparent that video game movies have rarely even come close to critical success—and the Resident Evil series is no exception. Despite not hitting high marks with critics, the Screen Gems action-horror franchise has definitely had a good run at the box office, accumulating over $915 million worldwide across five movies. With a sixth and allegedly final installment, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, on the way, perhaps there will be enough interest to push the series over the billion-dollar mark.

Over the years, many actors and actresses have come and gone through the franchise, including Bones star David Boreanaz. After finding fame as the vampire Angel on Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and then later leading the show's spinoff, Angel, he caught the eye of production company Constantin Films, who approached Boreanaz for a role in Paul W.S. Anderson's Resident Evil.

In December 2000, Ain't It Cool News reported that Boreanaz had been approached to star as Matt Addison, aka the Nemesis, in the movie. However, Boreanaz later chose to remove himself from the running, presumably due to scheduling conflicts with Angel. The role ended up going to Eric Mabius. Still, Boreanaz hoped to have a small role in the film, telling Sci-Fi Wire in 2001, "Resident Evil is still there, a possibility. So, yeah, I'll see what happens." Nothing ever came out of those negotiations.

Demi Moore (Lara Croft in Tomb Raider)

Lara Croft is one of the most beloved video game characters of all time, having recently set the record for highest number of magazine cover photos—1,230—in history. "Lara Croft is one of the most vital and iconic characters in gaming, with a powerful legacy and a string of great games under her belt," said editor of Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition Stephen Daultrey.

The aforementioned number of magazine covers includes those from movies, culture, and lifestyle magazines, not just from video game magazines—and we bet Angelina Jolie was on the cover of a lot of them leading up to her debut as the big-screen version of the character in Simon West's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But before Jolie was cast as the English archaeologist, Paramount Pictures reportedly looked into casting Demi Moore.

It's unclear if Moore chose not to move forward with the role or if the studio simply lost interest. All we know is that Jolie eventually joined the film and became the face of Lara Croft for many years. Now Warner Bros. is looking to change that with their 2018 Tomb Raider movie, starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft.

Cameron Diaz (Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat)

A few years after Super Mario Bros. arrived in theaters, New Line Cinema followed up with their own high-profile video game movie: Mortal Kombat (directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, who would later go on to launch the Resident Evil movie franchise). Loosely based on the video game series of the same name, Mortal Kombat was an enormous success for the studio, earning over $122 million worldwide on an estimated $18 million production budget. However, it was a critical disaster.

Fans of the movie will remember former Miss Teen USA Bridgette Wilson, starring as United States Special Forces officer Sonya Blade, but she wasn't the studios' or the producers' original choice for the role—that honor goes to Cameron Diaz. As associate producer Lauri Apelian later told it, she and producer Lawrence Kasanoff were at New Line's headquarters at the same time Charles Russell's The Mask was in post-production.

"Cameron Diaz was not a household name. No one knew her. New Line said, 'Why don't you look some of the dailies that are coming in from this film and see what you think of this young, unknown actress,'" recalled Apelian. "As soon as we saw the dailies from The Mask, there was no question that she was a star." Shortly after casting her in the role, the producers enrolled her in an intense training regimen to prepare her for the movie's martial arts requirements. She ended up dropping out of the project after breaking her wrist shortly before shooting was due to begin—and instead of adding another effects-heavy blockbuster to her list of credits, she embarked on a string of lower-key efforts that included The Last Supper and She's the One.

Steven Spielberg (Himself in Mortal Kombat)

It's difficult to determine off the bat just who is a so-called "gamer" and who isn't. Vin Diesel once described Dungeons & Dragons as a "training ground for the imagination," and Steven Spielberg apparently loves the Mortal Kombat games—so much, in fact, that he was originally scheduled to have a cameo appearance in the Mortal Kombat movie.

Unfortunately, scheduling issues prevented the world-renowned director from starring in the video game movie, but that doesn't mean he wasn't represented in some way. New Line ended up hiring Sandy Helberg to play the director of Johnny Cage's latest movie in Mortal Kombat—and Helberg's character bore a certain resemblance to Spielberg.