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This Surprising Comedic Actor Almost Starred In The Sixth Sense

More than 20 years after its release, M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" is widely regarded not only as a genre re-defining masterpiece but a first-rate supernatural thriller whose head-spinning final twist remains the stuff of cinematic legend. It's also a film one can't even briefly think about without hearing the iconic line, "I see dead people." That line was, of course, uttered by Haley Joel Osment, who portrayed the film's tortured young protagonist Cole Sear. And as impossible as it is to think about "The Sixth Sense" without thinking about that line, it's just as impossible to imagine any other actor on planet Earth delivering it. 

That has a lot to do with just how great Osment is in the role, imbuing his young character with equal parts childish virtue and hard-earned, world-weary wisdom. The young actor was rightfully rewarded for his work with an Academy Award nomination, and unfortunately, a cinematic legacy that will likely forever pit him as a frightened 10-year old boy. However, it turns out Osment almost didn't say that line at all as another young actor from the era also had his eye on the coveted lead in "The Sixth Sense." And it may surprise you to learn that the actor was a comedic wunderkind whose resume would soon boast modern classics like "Arrested Development," "Superbad," and "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World."

The Sixth Sense would've been a very different beast with Michael Cera in the lead

That's right, the one and only Michael Cera actually auditioned for the role of Cole Sear in "The Sixth Sense." And while we're all a bit bummed we didn't get to see Cera tell Bruce Willis about seeing dead people, we can also admit that's probably for the best as, well, who can imagine the actor delivering the fateful line with as much open-wounded sincerity as Osment?

In a 2009 interview with Esquire, even Cera all but admitted he couldn't have, hilariously telling the publication he'd wholly misread the tone of the project during his audition. "I auditioned for 'The Sixth Sense,' which I didn't know was about seeing dead people," he said. "They didn't mention that in the breakdown. After seeing the movie, and remembering the scene they had me read ... It was the scene with the penny. Bruce Willis is saying, 'I can't be your doctor anymore,' and Haley Joel Osment starts crying and slides the penny over to him. It's a very emotional scene. And I did not do it that way. I did it upbeat. I said 'Some magic's real' very optimistically."

Seems the "The Sixth Sense" casting crew should probably be faulted for not cluing Cera in on the high drama of the scene he was reading, even if they should also be commended for casting Haley Joel Osment instead. As for Cera, don't feel too bad for him as things worked out pretty well for that kid, too.