There’s nobody quite like Christopher Walken in Hollywood. In an industry where nearly every actor has at least one or two contemporaries who could fill their shoes, Walken is an original. From his pompadour to speaking cadence, the man truly stands out among the pack, which is probably why he’s had a successful career that dates back half a century. Even with all of his box office and indie hits, there’s been a few big parts that he’s missed out on. With the actor celebrating his 72nd birthday this week, now is the perfect time to look back at seven roles that Walken could have had, but let pass him by.
1. Star Wars (1977): Besides Al Pacino, Christopher Walken once had a chance to command the Millennium Falcon. Walken was George Lucas’ second choice in case he couldn’t get Harrison Ford, who had gone back to carpentry work at the time.
While we don’t have a Han Solo audition tape of Walken, we do have the next best thing: Kevin Spacey playing Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo.
2. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988): When Martin Scorsese began casting for the film, he originally offered the part to Aidan Quinn. When he dropped out, Scorsese looked at Walken before deciding that Willem Dafoe would look better with a Jesus beard.
3. Reservoir Dogs (1992): Who would play Mr. whatever-color was a rotating door during the casting process for Reservoir Dogs. Steve Buscemi auditioned Mr. White, Tarantino wrote Mr. Pink for himself, Samuel L. Jackson auditioned for Mr. Orange, and George Clooney got rejected for Mr. Blonde. Christopher Walken was offered the role of Mr. Blonde, but turned it over to Michael Madsen.
4. The Usual Suspects (1995): Not to say that Chazz Palminteri wasn’t great in the movie, but he really lucked out with landing the role of Special Agent Kujan. Director Bryan Singer had his eye on Palminteri from the get-go, but the actor was busy at the time, and Singer offered the part to big guns Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Christopher Walken, who all gave it a pass. Palminteri then opened up his schedule for one week to shoot his part before returning to A Bronx Tale on Broadway.
5. Meet the Parents (2000): Robert De Niro said that he had reservations about doing Meet the Parents, and he ultimately felt pushed into it by Jane Rosenthal, his Tribeca Productions partner. The studio considered casting his Deer Hunter co-star before he eventually got on board.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003): Walken looked a bit like a sea weathered Jack Sparrow in last year’s Peter Pan Live!, but was actually briefly considered for the role despite having 20 years on Johnny Depp. In the end, Disney decided that the younger Depp was the captain to helm their $3.7 billion treasure fleet.
7. Sin City (2005): Robert Rodriguez went after Walken and was ready to offer him the part of Senator Roark in 2005. He turned it down, and Rodriguez landed Powers Boothe instead.