We found out yesterday that Michael Jackson wanted to play everyone’s favorite non-Porkins Star Wars character, Jar Jar Binks, in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and he even talked to George Lucas about it. My favorite thing about the whole story: Ahmed Best saying, “George introduced me as ‘Jar Jar’ and I was like, That’s kind of weird.” And an insult.
Anyway, would that goofy Gungan be any more tolerable had he been voiced by Jackson? Nope. It’s also unclear, for obvious reasons, how much better or worse the Star Wars films would have been with the following actors and actresses, who were all in the running at some point to play an iconic character before either dropping out or not hearing back.
Jodie Foster was only 15 years old when the original Star Wars came out, yet she was still considered for the part of Princess Leia, “when they were still conceiving those characters as very young,” according to the Silence of the Lamb star. She turned it down, though, because, “I was doing two films back-to-back at the time. It would have been fun. But my career would have been different and I’m happy with the one I’ve got, so I don’t really regret it.”
Star Wars would be so much better and SO much worse if instead of Harrison Ford, George Lucas had cast Sylvester Stallone as Han Solo. Sly, right before the Oscar-winning success of Rocky, went in for an audition, but knew immediately he wasn’t the right guy for the part. “When I stood in front of George Lucas, he didn’t look at me once,” he said. “Then I said, ‘Well, obviously I’m not the right type.’ But it all worked out for the best since I don’t look good in Spandex holding a ray gun.” A rare moment of humility from the guy who gave us Staying Alive.
A lot of strapping young actors were considered for Han Solo — Christopher Walken included — so I’ll only include one more, because it’s a doozy. Oscar-winner Al Pacino said that the part was “mine for the taking,” but he ultimately said no. Why? “I didn’t understand the script.” In that same article, Pacino also revealed that he found The Godfather trilogy “a long, awful, tiring story.”
Meanwhile, Jack and Jill made total sense to him.
Haley Joel Osment
Playing Anakin Skywalker, and the subsequent irrational hate he received from literally everyone on Earth, doomed Jake Lloyd to a miserable childhood. In 2012, the Jingle All the Way star, who all but quit acting after The Phantom Menace, said, “Other children were really mean to me. They would make the sound of the lightsaber every time they saw me. It was totally mad.” The part very nearly didn’t go to him, though: Haley Joel Osment, of The Sixth Sense and, um, Entourage fame, auditioned to play Annie, but ultimately never heard back. The Phantom Menace was the top-grossing movie released in 1999. The second highest? The Sixth Sense.
The auditions for Carrie, Brian De Palma’s superior adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, were held at the same time as the ones for Star Wars, so there’s a lot of could-have-beens between the two films. Carrie Fisher nearly played, well, Carrie, and Amy Irving, who’d later receive an Academy Award nomination for Yentl, was considered for Leia. Instead, this happened.
My personal favorite Star Wars rumor is George Lucas’ original idea for getting Anakin to the Dark Side. It was far superior to his mom being killed by Tusken Raiders, or whatever: a sexy witch made him. Look, we’ve all done crazy things in the presence of sexy witches, and this sexy witch was going to be played by Sybil Danning, the star of such B-movie classics as Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf and Amazon Women on the Moon. Eventually, Danning portrayed “Alien Queen” in The Phantom Empire, which is basically like being in two Star Wars movies.
The great Trace Beaulieu, who played Dr. Clayton Forrester and voiced Crow T. Robot for much of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s must-see run, read for the part of Jar Jar Binks. Lisa Marie Presley was not there. Rather, Beaulieu’s agent made him do it. He didn’t have any recording equipment, though, so he called up his MST3K cohort J. Elvis Weinstein, and asked him, “Hey, can I borrow your recording thing? I gotta do this stupid voice for this Star Wars, which could be cool, but I’m reading the script and it’s just…oh, the dialogue is horrible! It’s almost bad Jamaican patois.” Beaulieu thought, “Boy, this is really awful! Oh well, must be good, though!” It was not.
It’s hard to imagine anyone but James Earl Jones voicing (and David Prowse moving as) Darth Vader, but he was a sloppy, deep-voiced second to who George Lucas originally wanted. The daughter of Toshiro Mifune, the iconic Japanese actor who starred in Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and many other Akira Kurosawa films, said that Lucas offered Mifune the role of Obi-Wan, which he turned down. Lucas countered with the chance to play Vader. “The villain’s helmet was apparently designed with Mifune in mind,” writes Kotaku, “and if Mifune had taken the role, his face supposedly would have been visible.” He still said no.
Sirius Black himself dodged a bullet when he backed out of voicing General Grievous, the most poorly conceived of Star Wars villains, because Revenge of the Sith was “being made as a non-SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) film.” Gary Oldman’s management company released a statement saying, “George Lucas and gang agreed to hire Gary Oldman if he in fact would become a union buster, and perform work illegally overseas. As a resident of America, and also a member of SAG, out of respect and solidarity with the other members, he could not and would not consider violating his union’s rules.” Also, General Grievous was dumb as hell. That’s a good reason, too.
Okay, fine, one more Han Solo.