Last year was another massive year for the Star War Wars uUniverse. Riding high off the success of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (which made over $1.3 billion worldwide at the box office), the franchise released another spin off movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, continued work on the new theme park Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, and sold more toys than any other property except LOL Surprise! and Marvel. At this point, it’s safe to say Disney is earning a pretty good return on the $4 billion it paid for the franchise back in 2012, so their emphasis on Star Wars is far from over. With so much money to be made on a franchise with global reach that has endured for decades, it’s inevitable that Disney (and Lucasfilm before that) would want to continue making as many Star Wars movies as possible. Each new film almost immediately sparks rumors of who will be cast in the lead roles, what the movie will be about, and endless other ones that get us excited well before the film hits theatres.
Casting for Star Wars is a tricky thing. Sometimes the casting choices are air tight, like Harrison Ford as Han Solo or Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Other times we’re left scratching our heads, wondering if Jake Lloyd was really the best choice for young Anakin Skywalker in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We can’t go back in time and change the choices we didn’t agree with, but its fun to speculate about what could have been better if different actors made the cut.
20 BETTER: CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AS HAN SOLO
According to Time Magazine, Christopher Walken was one of a handful of actors left to be considered for the role of Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy. This comes from Harrison Ford himself, as Time’s article goes on to mention that he told Rolling Stone that George Lucas wanted to cast him, and Walken was one of the last guys left competing for the part.
Of course, later on, we got to see Kevin Spacey reimagining what Walken’s Star Wars audition might have looked like. Spacey’s impression isn’t half bad, but it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see Walken actually get the role.
19 WORSE: SYLVESTER STALLONE AS HAN SOLO
Sylvester Stallone became a worldwide star after Rocky came out, but he almost ended up as one of the main characters in an entirely different franchise. He auditioned for the part of Han Solo in the first Star Wars film, but George Lucas wasn’t a big fan. Apparently he didn’t think he’d look good in a space suit anyway, which is sort of ironic now that he’s been in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
It wouldn’t have worked out anyway, as Rocky and Star Wars were being filmed at the same time in the late ‘70s. And yes, he it would have been ridiculous to watch Stallone trying to bumble his way through a bunch of sci-fi lines.
18 BETTER: KURT RUSSELL AS LUKE SKYWALKER (OR HAN SOLO)
Back in the day, Escape from New York bad boy Kurt Russell was in the running to play Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy. Apparently, he had an audition where he had to read a few sci-fi lines he didn’t understand, saying it was “something about a Death Star and Millennium Falcon.”
Russell almost landed the part, but he was being offered a part in a Western at the same time. He had to quickly choose which project he wanted to be a part of, and sensing that George Lucas was going to go in another direction anyway, he chose the Western over Star Wars.
17 WORSE: BURT REYNOLDS AS HAN SOLO
Riding high on successful movies like Deliverance and The Longest Yard, Burt Reynolds was offered the part of Han Solo in the original trilogy, but he turned George Lucas down. It’s something the late actor later regretted, saying, “I just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time. Now I regret it. I wish I would have done it.”
Reynolds tended to play macho roles over the years, which just doesn’t seem like a good fit for the Star Wars universe. His career was filled with just as many misses as hits; for every Smokey and the Bandit we also got The Dukes of Hazzard, so it’s hard to imagine he would’ve done better than Harrison Ford.
16 BETTER: AL PACINO AS HAN SOLO
Al Pacino -- who we’ve come to love from movies like The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, and Scent of a Woman -- was also almost cast as Han Solo. Pacino turned down the film, saying that he “didn’t understand the script.” Apparently Pacino was so sought after that he was offered a wide variety of roles at the time, regardless of whether or not directors and producers really thought he was the right choice.
In the end, Pacino actually regretted not being a part of the Star Wars franchise and called it a “missed opportunity.” At least we got Scarface out of it though, which is amazing in its own right.
15 WORSE: MICHAEL JACKSON AS JAR JAR BINKS
Rolling Stone reported that Michael Jackson wanted to play the loathsome Jar Jar Binks in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. After a concert in London, George Lucas introduced actual Jar Jar voice actor Ahmed best to Jackson backstage. Lucas later explained to Best that the “King of Pop” wanted to play the part, but that he “wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like Thriller.” If that doesn’t make you flinch, then we don’t know what will.
The role didn’t work out for Jackson as the singer didn’t want himself to be bigger than the movie, which is probably true as Jackson was still a huge worldwide star in the late ‘90s.
14 BETTER: JODI FOSTER AS LEIA ORGANA
The original vision for Princess Leia was for her and her twin brother Luke to be a little bit younger, possibly teenagers. This meant that a star younger than Carrie Fisher would be required, and Jodie Foster was one of the last women left in the audition process, even though she was only 14 at the time.
Other actresses like Sissy Spacek, Terri Nunn, and Meryl Streep were also considered for the part. Not only has Foster gone on to land great roles in movies like The Silence of the Lambs and Contact, she’s directed a few respectable films like 2011’s The Beaver and 2016’s Money Monster.
13 WORSE: LEONARDO DICAPRIO AS ANAKIN SKYWALKER
Heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio turned down Star Wars because he didn’t feel he was ready for that kind of stardom at the time. It’s funny he’d think that way since he was already well known for his role in Titanic. Hundreds of actors from unknowns to A-list stars were considered for the part of Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones, but luckily DiCaprio’s boyish good looks didn’t get the part.
Attack of the Clones came out the same year as Gangs of New York, so it’s possible that the amazing Daniel Day-Lewis vehicle that we enjoy today wouldn’t have been the same is DiCaprio skipped out to be Anakin.
12 BETTER: JIM HENSON AS YODA
Jim Henson obviously has a strong connection to Star Wars, as his studio created the puppets and creatures we see in the original trilogy, as well as in Episodes I, II, and III. Legendary puppeteer Frank Oz controlled and provided the voice for Yoda, but it was almost Henson himself who took on the role of the Jedi Master.
Apparently Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz approached Henson about doing the character himself, but he was just too busy running the company and everything else to do it. We’re not trying to knock Oz, who did an amazing job, but it would’ve been neat to see Henson’s own unique take on Yoda.
11 WORSE: ZAC EFRON AS FINN
At one time, Summerland actor Zac Efron was in talks to play a role in Episode VII: The Force Awakens. As a big Star Wars fan, Efron said “it would be cool” to be in one of the movies in the new trilogy. Some fans didn’t like the choice however, as backlash on Twitter asked Disney not to cast Efron.
When asked about the role while promoting Neighbors, Efron said there were “irons in the fire.” Although we don’t know why the producers ultimately passed on Efron, we can agree that John Boyega did a much better job than Efron possibly could.
10 BETTER: BENICIO DEL TORO AS DARTH MAUL
Back in the late ‘90s, Benicio del Toro was about as close as it gets to playing Darth Maul in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. He was cast in the role after a laborious casting process, but backed out when his screen time was cut. He was replaced by Ray Park, with Peter Serafinowicz providing his voice. That’s a lot of star power lost for one role.
But that wasn’t it for del Toro in the Star Wars universe, of course. He later appeared as the backstabbing villain DJ in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, though some people think his character is a little deeper than we might think.
9 WORSE: CHLOE GRACE MORETZ AS REY
Back in 2013, there were rumors going around that Kick-Ass actor Chloe Grace Moretz was in talks to play the role of a young female Jedi in the new Star Wars trilogy, a character that of course turned out to be Rey. At the time, Moretz told MTV that she was interested in a role but wouldn’t confirm if anything was panning out.
When director Matthew Vaughn was in the hunt to direct the new movie -- before JJ Abrams was chosen -- he also favored Moretz for the lead role. It seems like Vaughn’s non-hiring had something to do with Moretz not being involved, but Daisy Ridley was a much better choice for Rey anyway.
8 BETTER: CHRISTIAN BALE AS ANAKIN SKYWALKER
Wow, this one would’ve been killer. At first, Christian Bale (American Psycho, The Dark Knight) was a heavy favorite to play Anakin Skywalker in the rebooted trilogy. Supposedly, the idea was to have Bale play Anakin in two movies back when he was 26 years old.
During the press junkets for American Psycho, Bale was asked directly if he was involved in Star Wars, to which he responded: “My lips are sealed.” From Bale to Leonardo DiCaprio to Ryan Phillippe to Joshua Jackson, it seems like every major actor of the right age at the time was considered for the part. Most of them would have been better than what we got in Hayden Christensen, who was pretty much unknown at the time.
7 WORSE: JUDI DENCH AS MON MOTHMA
This one doesn’t have much weight, but apparently dame Judi Dench was in the running to play Mon Mothma in The Force Awakens at one point. It’s pretty far-fetched considering she typically plays serious roles in dramatic movies like Notes on a Scandal and mild-mannered roles in lame comedies like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The original Mon Mothma actress, Caroline Blakiston, was actually only a year older than Dench at the time production was starting, so it would be strange to pass her over in favor of Dench in the first place. Mon Mothma wasn’t the chancellor of the New Republic anymore in The Force Awakens anyway, so this rumor died pretty quickly.
6 BETTER: GARY OLDMAN AS GENERAL GRIEVOUS
Gary Oldman was all set to play the voice of General Grievous in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but he pulled out at the last minute because the movie was being made without an agreement with some of the members of the Screen Actors Guild.
According to his spokesperson, Oldman “was excited and looking forward to working on the film,” but the union issue got in the way. He would have had to work out of the country illegally and he just wasn’t willing to do that. Instead, he made his mark by appearing as Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which is just fine by us.
5 WORSE: HUGO WEAVING AS KYLO REN
A number of A-list Hollywood actors auditioned for the role of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, including Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Captain America: The First Avenger villain Hugo Weaving. While Weaving has had a long and varied career including big roles in The Matrix trilogy and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, he just doesn’t seem like he has the chops to play Kylo.
Weaving is a bit selective on what roles he takes, reportedly refusing to return to the MCU as Red Skull in future movies, so it’s hard to tell who killed his Star Wars casting. Adam Driver did a much better job than Weaving could anyway.
4 BETTER: SAOIRSE RONAN AS REY
Irish actor Saorise Ronan was among a handful of Hollywood stars to audition for the role of Rey in JJ Abrams’ new Star Wars trilogy. While Abrams hasn’t said anything about the matter himself, Ronan feels she lost the part because she talked about it in public. “I just shouldn’t have said anything,” she lamented. “I just auditioned for it, like everyone else did.” Ronan said it was especially fun to pretend to be wielding a lightsaber.
While it would’ve been great to see the Lady Bird star in a Star Wars film, Daisy Ridley did a pretty good job in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Still, Ronan has some serious acting chops so she could’ve brought even more emotional depth to the character.
3 WORSE: ROONEY MARA AS JYN ERSO
When casting for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story began, Rooney Mara was loosely considered for the lead role of Jyn Erso. She had one meeting with director Gareth Edwards, but decided she was just too busy to play the character. Her consideration didn’t even make it to the audition phase, as she says “it wasn’t the right thing for me.”
It was probably a good choice, as Mara appeared in Carol around the same time which earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. Felicity Jones was great in the role of Jyn Erso, so we didn’t miss anything by not seeing Mara in her place.
2 BETTER: MICHAEL FASSBENDER AS KYLO REN
According to Entertainment Weekly, Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Assassin’s Creed) was in the running to play Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. Timing was an issue as Fassbender already had something lined up when Star Wars was going into production. “We talked about a role,” Fassbender once told MTV. “I’m pretty sure I was busy doing something else in the summer he was kickstarting that.”
It’s too bad it didn’t work out because Fassbender has been superb as Magneto in the rebooted X-Men franchise so far. Adam Driver makes a fierce Kylo Ren, but it would have been cool to see another villain added to Fassbender’s already impressive resume.
1 WORSE: MILES TELLER AS HAN SOLO
War Dogs and Whiplash actor has been making a name for himself in Hollywood over the last few years, but playing Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story just wasn’t in the cards. He told Business Insider, that not getting the part was big relief, saying “I’m cool right now not being attached to a franchise.”
Teller also said that being part of Fantastic Four helped him realize what a huge commitment a Star Wars movie would be, as fans around the world are incredibly passionate about the characters and story lines. Solo was far from a great movie, so it’s doubtful that having Teller play Han Solo rather than Alden Ehrenreich would have made a huge difference.