Being a professional actor is quite the hit or miss profession. Hollywood is a fickle place – sometimes you get the part, and sometimes you don’t, and the very fabric of our own pop culture consciousness is shaped by the outcome. Han Solo could’ve been played by Kurt Russell. Marlon Brando could’ve been the star of “Rebel Without a Cause.” And the rebooted Man of Steel could’ve come in the form of … Nicolas Cage.
Here are some audition tapes and screen tests where the thespians in question didn’t get the gig. Hey, it all works out in the end.
“I hate him, I hate his stupid face.” 23-year-old Marlon Brando screen tests for “Rebel Without a Cause” in 1947. The world wasn’t quite ready and instead held out for James Dean.
Who wouldn’t cast Paul Newman? The makers of “East of Eden” (another James Dean film) went with Richard Davalos rather than the blue-eyed young thespian.
No less than 32 actresses read for the part that went to Vivien Leigh in “Gone With the Wind.” Here are most of them. The casting directors’ brains were probably gone with the wind by the end of this.
Judy Garland won the part of Helen Lawson in “Valley of the Dolls,” but she was fired and replaced with Susan Hayward after showing up on set whilst a bit somewhere over the rainbow, if you catch our drift.
“Look at those radiation readouts!” And look at Kurt Russell reading for the part of Han Solo in “Star Wars.” Don’t worry, Kurt — you’ll get to be Snake Plissken in a few years.
Speaking of Han Solo, Harrison Ford was almost a movie star in France before he was a movie star in America. Here’s his screen test for Jacques Demy’s “Model Shop” (1969).
Here’s a young actor and actress doing a screen test for the destined-to-be number-one box office success of all time (until director James Cameron’s next feature, anyway). The lady got the part. The gentleman did not.
Sometimes you screen test for a part and you not only don’t get it but you don’t even know what it’s for. Here’s Sandra Bullock auditioning for … something, circa 1991.
For all of you “Superman Returns” haters out there – just think, we could’ve gotten Nicolas Cage in Tim Burton’s “Superman Lives” instead. There’s only a costume test pic … and it’s more than enough.
You don’t have to be famous to audition for the greatest filmmakers on the planet, you know. Brian Atene, a 20-year-old student from Juilliard, “perhaps the finest acting institute in the world,” made this audition tape (of sorts) for Stanley Kubrick. He never sent it. That’s probably for the best.