Al Pacino as Han Solo? 7 unlikely stars who were almost cast in ‘Star Wars’


May the 4th be with you! Today is Star Wars Day, a holiday to celebrate everybody’s favorite galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars premiered in 1977, becoming a cultural phenomenon that’s still going strong today. It launched the careers of original stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.

American actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope written, directed and produced by Georges Lucas. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

But the cast of the iconic film almost looked very different: a surprising number of huge stars actually auditioned for the films back in the day.

Read more about the casting choices that might’ve been.

Al Pacino

Al Pacino has starred in many classic films in his career, like The Godfather, Scarface and Dog Day Afternoon. And at the height of his career, the Oscar-winner had a chance to play Han Solo.

“It was at that time in my career when I was offered everything,” Pacino recalled at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. “I was in The Godfather. They didn’t care if I was right or wrong for the role, if I could act or not act.”

However, Pacino ultimately turned down the role (and quite a hefty paycheck) because he didn’t understand the script.

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“So I was there and all of a sudden they gave me a script that was called Star Wars. I said, ‘I got the script, they offered me so much money, but I don’t understand it,’” he said in an interview for 92NY’s “People Who Inspire Us” series this year.

The role went to Harrison Ford, and the rest is history: “I gave Harrison Ford a career, which he has never thanked me for!” Pacino joked.

Christopher Walken

Another Oscar-winner who was an unlikely runner-up to play Han Solo: Christopher Walken.

It has been reported over the years that Walken was the second choice to play the Millennium Falcon’s rogue pilot, but Walken’s recollection is more modest.

“I did audition [for ‘Star Wars’] but I don’t think I came remotely close to getting the job,” Walken told the Financial Times. “About 500 other actors auditioned, so it wasn’t as if it was down to me and somebody else.”

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Walken also said he auditioned for Ryan O’Neal’s part in the 1970 romantic drama Love Story. While Star Wars and Love Story were two of the biggest hits of all time, Walken says he’s “lucky” to have been rejected.

“I was lucky because I’d have been awful in them,” he said.

Things worked out well for Walken. Around the same time Star Wars was released, he had two huge breakout roles in Best Picture winners: 1977’s Annie Hall (which beat Star Wars for the Oscars’ top prize) and 1978’s The Deer Hunter, for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell was considered by George Lucas for both of the film’s male leads: “[I was] interviewing for the part of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. On tape, it exists,” he told USA Today.

Like Pacino, Russell says he didn’t understand the script: “I didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. Something about a Death Star and a Millennium Falcon.”

But when the director was on the fence, Russell took himself out of the running to star in the ABC western series The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters.

“I was actually pretty [close], in the final running, but I needed to give an answer to ABC to do a western show. I asked George, ‘Do you think you’re gonna use me?’ He said, ‘I don’t know if I want to put you with him, or those two guys together.’ I got to go to work, so I did the western. Clearly, I made the right choice.”

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Jodie Foster

We all know the role of Princess Leia went to the late great Carrie Fisher, but she faced some tough competition for the role… including from two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster.

“Jodie Foster was up for it,” Fisher recalled to The Daily Beast in 2015. “That one I knew the most. Amy Irving and Jodie. And I got it.”

Foster, who was a teenager at the time, turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts with Taxi Driver, but doesn’t have many regrets about it.

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“I don’t think I’m going to be on my deathbed going, like, ‘Damn! I didn’t do Star Wars,’” the Silence of the Lambs star told Empire Magazine in 2017.

Over the years rumors have claimed that Meryl Streep and Sissy Spacek were also frontrunners for the role, but Fisher has denied this.

Cindy Williams

The late Cindy Williams recorded a screen test to play Princess Leia.Williams had starred in George Lucas’ previous film, American Graffiti.

Williams didn’t make the cut on Star Wars, but soon found her career-defining role in the sitcom Laverne & Shirley.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – 1973: Ron Howard and Cindy Williams as high school sweethearts in a scene from the Universal City Studios production of “American Graffiti” in 1973 in Northern California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

Sylvester Stallone

Rocky legend Sylvester Stallone also recently revealed he auditioned for a part in Star Wars, but recalls he wasn’t seriously considered — but he understands why.

“It didn’t meet with much approval… I stood in front of George Lucas he didn’t look at me once, obviously being very shy,” Stallone said in a 2010 interview with Ain’t it Cool News. “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,” Stallone joked.

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Michael Jackson

Perhaps the strangest bit of would-be Star Wars casting: pop legend Michael Jackson reportedly pursued the role of Jar Jar Binks in the 1999 prequel Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Ahmed Best, the actor who ultimately played Jar Jar, recalled learning from George Lucas that Jackson wanted to play the CGI-generated character in prosthetic makeup.

“He said, ‘Well, Michael wanted to do the part but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like ‘Thriller,’” Best told Vice in 2015. “George wanted to do it in CGI.”

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Best also suggested that wasn’t the real reason Jackson wasn’t cast.

“My guess is ultimately Michael Jackson would have been bigger than the movie, and I don’t think he wanted that.”

Jar Jar has been a very unpopular character among Star Wars fans, and we can’t imagine how different things would’ve been with a huge (and controversial) star like Michael Jackson playing the part.

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Star Wars is one of the greatest movie series of all time, and as much as we love all these actors, we can’t imagine the movie without Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and all the great stars who made it so special.

But it is fun to imagine what might have been! Would you have liked to see Al Pacino as Han or Kurt Russell as Luke? Share this story with your thoughts, and may the force be with you!


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