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Actors Who Had To Audition Multiple Times For A Role

Sometimes, film producers and casting directors just know when they have their guy or girl. Other times, it's a bit more of a process. While it must be extremely gratifying to be the only actor considered for a hot role, one can imagine it to be equally satisfying—if not also nerve-wracking—to bang your head against multiple auditions for a contested part, only to land it anyway. These actors were put through the audition wringer, but emerged victorious—and in many cases, it's become difficult to imagine anyone else being cast.

Samuel L. Jackson - Pulp Fiction

To say that Samuel L. Jackson's turn as conflicted hit man Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction was a star-making performance would be a ridiculous understatement. The character's infamous pre-murder monologue became instantly seared into the pop culture consciousness, and it's still so indelibly associated with Jackson that even his more recent, equally iconic role—as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—can't escape its shadow. The part seemed to have been specifically crafted for Jackson, and indeed it was, which makes it all the more shocking that he almost let it slip through his fingers.

Jackson had been told by co-writer/director Quentin Tarantino that the part had been written for him, and that his audition wasn't really an audition, just a reading. Jackson therefore didn't exactly give it his best effort, and left the reading confident that the role was in the bag—until Puerto Rican actor Paul Calderon came in and absolutely killed his audition, leaving Tarantino applauding. Producer Harvey Weinstein intervened, letting Tarantino know of his strong preference for Jackson, and strongly suggesting to Jackson that he give a second audition which would "blow (Tarantino's) balls off." 

Jackson was a little irked about the whole situation, and a line producer mistaking him for Laurence Fishburne right before the audition didn't help his crappy mood, which actually ended up helping his performance. The rest is history, and Jackson's career has never stopped seeing benefits.

Michael Biehn - The Terminator

It's well-known that James Cameron considered casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as Kyle Reese, the hero of The Terminator, rather than as the unstoppable killing machine. He wisely reconsidered, reasoning that he needed an actor who was not only not so physically imposing, but also capable of a bit more depth than Arnie. Michael Biehn was a virtual unknown at the time of his casting, having only a few supporting roles in film and TV under his belt—but he was pretty much perfect in the role, investing Reese with live-wire unpredictability as well as genuine pathos. 

He almost didn't land the role for a peculiar reason: earlier in the day, he had auditioned for a stage production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and he was so keen to get the part that he had spent the entire day forcing himself into a heavy Southern accent. He apparently did such a good job of this that he had trouble shaking it during the Terminator audition, and the twang didn't go over so well with Cameron. But he managed to land a second audition, by which time he had rinsed all of the Southerner out of his system, and the role was his. While he would never reprise it in a sequel—although he did come close—his portrayal of Reese is a cornerstone of the Terminator franchise.

Ed Harris - The Right Stuff

Ed Harris was a struggling film and television actor with only a handful of minor credits when he landed the coveted role of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, in 1983's The Right Stuff. Harris auditioned for the role in 1981 for director Philip Kaufman, and admitted that he was a nervous wreck. "I didn't do a very good job. Phil kept asking me to smile more, you know. And be more gregarious, and there's nothing like trying to smile when you're nervous. You know what kind of smile that is."

Nevertheless, he was called in for a second audition about a month later, and this one would be videotaped. Harris remembers this audition going slightly better, although Kaufman recalled it a little differently. "Phil insists that I hit the wall with my fist when I went out, because I was still a little pissed off about my performance," Harris said. But he was offered the role, and delivered a widely acclaimed performance that happened to coincide with Glenn's brief flirtation with running for President, raising the film's profile yet further. Harris has gone on to an enviable career, despite apparently flubbing the two most important auditions of his life. 

Steve Buscemi - Miller's Crossing

National treasure Steve Buscemi first got a taste of the spotlight thanks to his role in 1992's Reservoir Dogs as Mr. Pink, a part that Quentin Tarantino originally wrote for himself. Before that, he had just been another hardworking, weird-looking character actor—but another of his most fruitful collaborations began in 1990, with a small part in the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing.

The Coens made Buscemi audition twice for the relatively minor role—he appears onscreen only once—but they then apparently fell completely in love with him, as they went on to cast him in Barton FinkFargoThe Hudsucker Proxy, and The Big Lebowski. Buscemi has also become a favorite of directors such as Tim Burton, Tarantino, Michael Bay, and Adam Sandler—even if they can't seem to stop killing him off.

Joel Kinnaman - Robocop

Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman is best known to American audiences for his role as Stephen Holder on the AMC and Netflix drama series The Killing, an acclaimed performance that has so far not translated to tons of offers for lead roles in Hollywood films. He jumped at the chance to audition for director Jose Padilha's 2014 remake of Paul Verhoeven's classic Robocop, and he would eventually be offered his chance at his first big Hollywood blockbuster—but producers didn't make it easy.

Kinnaman told IGN that he was asked to audition for the role of Alex Murphy three times, and to add insult to injury, he was busy on the set of The Killing at the time—in Vancouver. He was finally offered the part after his third trek to LA, but although the talented Kinnaman gave the role everything he had, the film unfortunately failed to please fans or critics. 

Kinnaman can currently be seen on the Netflix series House of Cards, and he also landed a supporting role as Rick Flag in Warner Brothers/DC's Suicide Squad and its forthcoming sequel.

The entire cast of Mortal Kombat

The 1995 film adaptation of the legendary video game series Mortal Kombat is one of the most spectacularly silly things ever put to film, and it's become a minor cult classic almost in spite of itself. But the film's producers were as weirdly serious as the film is seriously weird, and many of its cast members have described an audition process as brutal as the most obsessed-over big budget blockbuster. 

Robin Shou, who as Liu Kang is the closest the film has to a lead, elaborated to The Hollywood Reporter, saying, "I read seven times. My agent friend had never heard of anyone who had to read seven times. I had to read for the producers, the director, the casting director, the line producer... It was grueling." Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, who was cast as Sonya Blade, agreed: "I went back and auditioned and met with them so many times. Probably seven. I kept going back and going back and meeting with Paul and Larry and the producers... and thought, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to lose the part' because they couldn't make a decision."

In the end, the producers' obsession with details didn't exactly make it onto the screen. But the film was a financial success, which means a reboot is right around the corner.

Ray Liotta - Goodfellas

If you ask five Martin Scorsese fans what his best film is, you're likely to get five different answers. He's unquestionably one of the greatest directors of all time, and while it's usually films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull that end up on all-time top ten lists, some critics insist that 1990's Goodfellas is not just Scorsese's best but the best film of all time. Ray Liotta was cast in the lead of what was only his fifth feature film and first starring role at the time, and Scorsese wanted to just hand it to him outright—it was the film's producers that needed convincing.

They were adamant that Liotta was nowhere near a big enough name, and made him audition several times for Scorsese over the course of an entire year. Liotta would later joke that he thought they "would've rather had Eddie Murphy," but Scorsese stuck to his guns, and the role of Henry Hill would largely come to define Liotta's career. Oddly, the two have not worked together since—but Scorsese's latest project, The Irishmanis reuniting much of Goodfellas' cast, and Liotta has said that he'd love to be involved.

Warwick Davis - Willow

Short in stature but long on talent, Warwick Davis first came to the attention of George Lucas after being cast as an Ewok in Return of the Jedi. He had answered the casting call on a relative whim, having no prior acting experience or ambitions, but made enough of an impression on Lucas that he began developing his next project with Davis in mind—Willow, a fantasy adventure that Lucas had been kicking around since the early 1970s. This time it was the film's director, Ron Howard, who was determined to put the producer's choice through his paces.

Speaking to GamesRadar, Davis said that Howard "wanted to make sure that I was indeed the right man for the job. So I had to audition several times, finally winning the role. Which is nice, actually having gone and won the role, as opposed to just being handed it on a plate, though having George Lucas in your corner obviously helps." 

Davis has gone on to a stellar career, appearing in the Harry Potter series as Professor Flitwick and returning early and often to the Star Wars universe.

John Boyega - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Being cast as one of the leads in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a lifelong dream come true for John Boyega, a self-proclaimed superfan who delivered a winning performance as turncoat Stormtrooper Finn. But since The Force Awakens was the first sequel to the original trilogy and a J.J. Abrams film, the casting process could charitably be described as intense. Boyega told British GQ that his auditions consisted of multiple rounds lasting seven months, and compared it to "The X-Factor but without the TV show around it." 

It ended up being worth it, as Boyega's performance has earned him prominent roles in the next two proper Star Wars films and also led to his casting in the forthcoming Pacific Rim sequel. It might all be a little bit overwhelming for the young actor if not for the mentorship of Tony Stark himself—Robert Downey Jr., who knows a thing or two about the pitfalls of quick success and has taken it upon himself to see that Boyega doesn't chart a similar path.

Tom Holland - Spider-Man: Homecoming

Speaking of young mentees of Tony Stark, not many roles were more coveted among younger actors than the first version of Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Immediately after the partnership between Sony and Marvel Studios was announced in early 2015, speculation ran rampant about who would fill the web-slinger's shoes, with names like Asa Butterfield and Logan Lerman being dropped among the frontrunners for the role. Of course, we now know that 21-year old Tom Holland is Peter Parker, and likely will be for literally decades to come—but beating out his competition meant going to the audition well over and over again.

Holland revealed to Good Morning America that he auditioned eight times for the role, because all of the videos he'd sent Marvel Studios of himself doing backflips were apparently not enough. His final audition was a screen test with Chris Evans—Spidey's confrontation with Cap during Captain America: Civil War's airport brawl, during which he finally got to show off his backflipping prowess. "So, I said to the producers, 'Do you want me to do a flip?' They were like, can you do a flip? Well, yes! I've been sending you all these videos for weeks!"

Holland will next appear as Spidey in Avengers: Infinity War, teaser footage of which recently made fans lose their minds at Disney's D-23 event. It may have been a laborious process, but Marvel can at least rest assured they won't have to cast Spider-Man again for a long while.