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Keira Knightley In ‘The Dark Knight Rises’?: An A-Z Of Who Nearly Starred In The Movies Of 2012

Keira Knightley In 'The Dark Knight Rises'?: An A-Z Of Who Nearly Starred In The Movies Of 2012

Thanks to the Internet and its relentless demand for content, the casting process is more transparent than it’s ever been before. Wishlists, longlists, shortlists, offers and denials are all made public almost as soon as they happen, with studios often using them as a way of gauging fan reaction to possible ideas. There are many, many drawbacks to this, but in hindsight, it can also be kind of fun to take a look back at what might have been if one actor ended up taking a role in a film over another.

So, with 2012 creaking towards its end, we’ve taken most of the major releases of the year and dug through the archives to work out who was in the running, in negotiations, or even in cast in them, before we ended up, for better or worse, with the casts that we saw on screen. Are there films you think would have been improved with the original actors involved? Are there some you think dodged a bullet? Or do you have your own ideas of actors who might have brightened up some of this year’s movies. Let us know in the comments section.

“21 Jump Street”
Emma Stone was originally announced as part of the cast — presumably in the role taken by Brie Larson — but Sony decided it was more important for her to play Gwen Stacy in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”
Before Benjamin Walker took the title role, Eric Bana had a meeting on the project, while Adrien Brody, Josh Lucas, James D’Arcy, Timothy Olyphant and Oliver Jackson-Cohen also auditioned. Tom Hardy had been the first port of call for Dominic Cooper‘s role of sidekick Henry Sturgess, while Joaquin Phoenix was also courted, somewhat optimistically. Scoot McNairy was courted for an unknown role, too. Most curiously, Trent Reznor was set to not only score the film, but also cameo as the vampire that kills Lincoln’s mother, but the deal unfortunately fell apart.

“Alex Cross”
The Tyler Perry vehicle was originally intended to topline Idris Elba, with “Pitch Black” director David Twohy at the helm. One senses we got a downgrade with the finished product. 

“The Amazing Spider-Man”
Marc Webb landed the reboot directing job within days of it being announced, but Gary Ross and Michael Bay were also seemingly on the short-list, while Kathryn Bigelow was later said to have turned the film down. For casting, a whole host of names were seen for Peter Parker: Jamie Bell came closest, but Logan Lerman, Josh Hutcherson, Michael Angarano, Anton Yelchin, Aaron Johnson, Alden Ehrenreich and Frank Dillane were also in the mix. For Gwen Stacy, Emma Roberts, Imogen Poots, Teresa Palmer, Ophelia Lovibond, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Elena Satine, Mia Wasikowska, Lily Collins, Dianna Agron, Georgina Haig and Dominique McElligott were all on the list before Emma Stone nabbed the role. And for the villainous Lizard, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender and Phililp Seymour Hoffman were all seemingly considered, before presumably realizing that the role was severely underwritten…

“Anna Karenina”
Joe Wright‘s literary adaptation has an impressive cast as it is, but a fair few names slipped through the net too. Saoirse Ronan was long attached to play Kitty, while James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrea Riseborough were all theoretically on board at one point — we imagine as Levin, Oblonsky and Betsy.

Richard Gere won acclaim for starring in this Sundance film, but it was originally intended for Al Pacino, with Eva Green also involved, as his mistress. Most curiously, rapper Drake was also in talks at one point, for the part eventually taken by Nate Parker.

“The Avengers”
When it emerged that Edward Norton wasn’t going to be reprising the role of the Hulk, the first name linked to the role was a surprising one — Joaquin Phoenix — who opted to make “The Master” instead. Meanwhile, “Homeland” star Morena Baccarin, “Cloverfield” actress Jessica Lucas and fan favorite Mary Elizabeth Winstead were all down to the last few to play SHIELD agent Maria Hill. Given how thankless the part is, we’re sure they’re not kicking themselves too much.

He might have been in three blockbusters in nine months, but Jeremy Renner did show a little taste — he was in talks for, but pulled out of, Peter Berg‘s board game adaptation.

“The Bourne Legacy”
Virtually every young actor around was in the running to take over the Bourne franchise before Jeremy Renner got the part: Jake Gyllenhaal, Garrettt Hedlund, Taylor Kitsch, Josh Hartnett, Tobey Maguire (!), Kellan Lutz (!!), Paul Dano (!!!), Michael Pitt, Oscar Isaac, Michael Fassbender, Luke Evans, Alex Pettyfer and Benjamin Walker were all mentioned by the trades. In the end, Universal reportedly backed either James McAvoy or Shia LaBeouf, while director Tony Gilroy favored Joel Edgerton (and, so we’ve heard, Isaac, who ended up with a small part in the film as a consolation prize). But when a gap opened in Renner’s schedule, he ended up taking the part.

Princess Merida was initially to be voiced by Reese Witherspoon early on in production before the more authentically Scottish Kelly Macdonald stepped in.

“Cloud Atlas”
When initially announced, Natalie Portman was attached to the Wachowski Starship‘s epic (presumably for the roles taken by Bae Doona?) with James McAvoy and Ian McKellen also rumored for the parts that Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent ended up with.

Before R-Patz and Sarah Gadon, Colin Farrell and Marion Cotillard were set to play Eric Packer and his wife in David Cronenberg‘s film. When blockbuster duty called for both, Keira Knightley was briefly on the cards to reunite with her “A Dangerous Method” director on the project.

“The Dark Knight Rises”
Keira Knightley was also one of a number of actresses up to play Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan‘s “The Dark Knight Rises,” screen testing alongside Jessica Biel, Kate Mara, Charlotte Riley and Gemma Arterton. Blake Lively and Natalie Portman were also mentioned early on, while Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz were both linked to the part that Marion Cotillard ended up taking.

“Dark Shadows”
Michael Sheen was originally planning to take the part that Jonny Lee Miller ended up with, before scheduling conflicts forced him out.

“The Dictator”
Kristen Wiig and “Community” star Gillian Jacobs both tested for the female lead, won by Anna Faris.

“Django Unchained”
Though it was written for Will Smith, who ultimately couldn’t commit, Quentin Tarantino considered Idris Elba, Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard, Michael K. Williams and Tyrese to play the title role in his Western before giving it to Jamie Foxx. Meanwhile, more than any other film this year, actors were actually cast in the film, only to end up falling out or having their roles cut from the script altogether. The most high profile was for sidekick villain Ace Woody; Kevin Costner was originally cast, dropped out, and was replaced by Kurt Russell, who walked off the set after falling out with Tarantino. The role ended up being amalgamated into Walton Goggins‘ part. Also announced for the film but nowhere to be found in the finished product: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gerard McRaney, Anthony LaPaglia, RZA and Rex Linn.

Moon” director Duncan Jones was offered the script but had his own ideas for what a Judge Dredd movie would be and reluctantly passed.

“The Expendables 2”
Sylvester Stallone’s old folks home for action stars nearly took in John Travolta, Donnie Yen, Nicolas Cage, Christian Slater, Christopher Lambert and Antonio Banderas — but don’t rule them out of future installments. Taylor Lautner was also rumored for the “young” part taken by Liam Hemsworth.

Kelly Reilly‘s role of the junkie love interest was a hotly sought-after one. Olivia Wilde and “Hell On Wheels” star Dominique McElligott were in the running for the part too.

“The Grey”
The lead role in this man vs. wolf survival movie was originally intended for Bradley Cooper. But his schedule intervened, and his “A-Team” co-star Liam Neeson stepped in instead.

Dennis Quaid was originally announced to play Gina Carano‘s father in Steven Soderbergh‘s actioner, but Bill Paxton replaced him when Quaid’s schedule got too hectic.

When first mounted in 2007, this Anthony Hopkins-starring biopic was going to be directed by Ryan Murphy, the man behind “Glee” and “American Horror Story.” So as it turns out, yes, “Hitchcock” could have been worse.

“The Hunger Games”
The lead part of Katniss Everdeen was one of the more sought-after ones in recent memory — Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, Chloe Moretz, Jodelle Ferland, Lyndsy Fonseca, Emily Browning, Shailene Woodley and Kaya Scodelario all chased it before Jennifer Lawrence won out. For the male parts, Hunter Parrish, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, David Henri, Drew Roy, Robbie Amell and Alexander Ludwig (who got a bad guy role as a compensation) were in contention, while John C. Reilly was in early talks to play the part that Woody Harrelson ended up with.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
The only main cast member that dropped out from the Guillermo del Toro iteration of the project was Ron Perlman, who was seemingly likely to play dragon Smaug (though we know that del Toro looked at other possibilities for Bilbo at the time, including “The Hour” actor Joshua McGuire). But there were a few other actors mentioned along the way who never ended up involved. Brian Cox and Jack Thompson were both in the running to play dwarves, it seems, while British actor Rob Kazinsky actually started to film a role, before being forced to drop out for undisclosed reasons (he landed on his feet; he’s in del Toro’s “Pacific Rim.”) Meanwhile, when the project first started casting up, Michael Fassbender and David Tennant were both seemingly courted for parts, while there was a long-running saga involving Saoirse Ronan, but it seems that she didn’t end up in the film.

“Killing Them Softly”
Interestingly, Casey Affleck was actually the one who spilled the beans on the Andrew Dominik project, saying he was set to reunite with the director, presumably in the part that Scoot McNairy ended up taking. Somehow, it didn’t end up happening. He may have been replaced by Sam Rockwell, but again, the actor fell out, opening the way to the relative newcomer. Meanwhile, Javier Bardem, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin and Zoe Saldana were all rumored for parts at some stage, while Bella Heathcote and Garret Dillahunt actually shot small roles, but were cut out.

About a year before it actually got going, John Hillcoat‘s “Lawless” was gearing up under a different title, “The Wettest County,” and, aside from Shia LaBeouf, a different cast. Ryan Gosling, Michael Shannon, Scarlett Johansson and Paul Dano were all initially involved, with Amy Adams coming in a little later, and then dropping out due to pregnancy. The money fell apart, and Hillcoat set the film up again with Megan Ellison, with Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan and Jessica Chastain stepping in.

“Les Miserables”
When word of Tom Hooper‘s “Les Misérables” initially emerged, there was some talk of the show’s stage star Alfie Boe being pushed by producer Cameron Mackintosh for the lead, while Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Timothy Spall and Marion Cotillard were also said to be among those that the director had his eye on for various roles. One of the more solid potentials was Paul Bettany, who infamously turned down “The King’s Speech,” but auditioned to play Inspector Javert before being beaten out by his “A Beautiful Mind” co-star Russell Crowe. Meanwhile, the shortlist to play Eponine reportedly included Lea Michele, Evan Rachel Wood, Scarlett Johansson and Taylor Swift, the latter of whom went right down to the wire before newcomer Samantha Barks got the part.

“Life of Pi”
On his latest film, Ang Lee brought in one of his more regular collaborators, Tobey Maguire, to play The Author in the framing device. But after viewing a cut, he decided the presence of the “Spider-Man” actor was too distracting, and reshot the scenes with the lesser-known Rafe Spall.

Hardly a secret this one, but Liam Neeson was attached to Steven Spielberg‘s biopic for years, but in 2010, revealed he was now too old for the part (Lincoln died at 56). Enter Daniel Day-Lewis.

“The Master”
When first announced, Jeremy Renner was linked to the role that became Freddie Quell, but the film was delayed to fix script issues, and by the time it came back around, the actor was working on other projects. He wasn’t the only actor who missed out in this earlier incarnation: Reese WItherspoon was reportedly offered the part that was eventually played by Amy Adams, while Amanda Seyfried, “True Blood” actress Deborah Ann Woll and even Emma Stone auditioned to play Lancaster Dodd’s daughter (which presumably reduced dramatically in size by the time the film came to screens).

“Men In Black 3”
Almost as soon as it was announced, it was said that Sacha Baron Cohen was being courted to play the villain in “Men In Black 3,” though he swiftly turned it down, it would seem. Others linked to the film included Sharlto Copley (we think for the part taken by Michael Stuhlbarg), and Gemma Arterton (in Alice Eve‘s role), while Alec Baldwin was actually cast in the film, but exited when the second half of the shoot was delayed, replaced as the head of the 1960s Men in Black by David Rasche (again, the role must have been cut down a good deal, as Rasche is hardly in the film).

“The Paperboy”
A one-time Pedro Almodóvar project, “The Paperboy” first reared its head in the early part of 2011, with Lee Daniels trying to set the film up with Bradley Cooper and Alex Pettyfer in the lead roles, and Sofia Vergara also cast. It resurfaced a few months later with Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron on board instead, and Vergara soon departed in favor of Nicole Kidman, while Tobey Maguire, who was part of that second annoucement, dropped out, and was replaced by John Cusack.

Originally meant to be directed by Ridley Scott‘s son-in-law Carl Erik Rinsch (who’s making his own troubled feature debut with “47 Ronin“), the film that became “Prometheus” was, for about five minutes, a potential Leonardo DiCaprio picture; there was talk that he might have tried to squeeze in a reteam with his “Body Of Lies” director before production on “The Great Gatsby” (as David, perhaps?), but it never came to pass. Still, a fair few stars were surfacing the project early. Michelle Yeoh was an early choice to play Vickers, while Natalie Portman, Gemma Arterton, Carey Mulligan, Abbie Cornish, Olivia Wilde and Anne Hathaway were all up for the lead eventually played by Noomi Rapace, along with Charlize Theron, who took the smaller Vickers part instead. Also courted at one stage, for the role of Charlie, were James Franco and Scoot McNairy, who took “Argo” and “Killing Them Softly” instead. Good move, Mr. McNairy.

“The Raven”
For some time, Jeremy Renner was attached to play the cop in the Edgar Allan Poe-themed murder mystery. Bullet. Dodged. Ewan McGregor would have played Poe in that incarnation.

“Rise of the Guardians”
Leonardo DiCaprio‘s one of the few megastars never to have voiced a big CGI animation, but nearly broke that duck with DreamWorks‘ “Rise of the Guardians” this year. However, midway through production, he was replaced by Chris Pine.

“Safe House”
Once Denzel Washington was on board, “Safe House” became another one of those projects that every eligible male in Hollywood was up for. Jake Gyllenhaal, Shia LaBeouf, Taylor Kitsch, Chris Pine, Sam Worthington, Garret Hedlund, Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hardy and James McAvoy were all considered, but beaten by Ryan Reynolds.

When he first set up “Savages,” Oliver Stone met with Leonardo DiCaprio, James Franco and Garret Hedlund for the lead roles, while Jennifer Lawrence was actually in negotiations for the film, before proving how smart she is by pulling out for “The Hunger Games.” Teresa Palmer and Abbie Cornish both tested to replace her before Blake Lively got the role.

“Seven Psychopaths”
Mickey Rourke was originally cast as the dog-loving gangster in Martin McDonagh‘s “Seven Psychopaths,” but fell out with the helmer, publically calling him “a jerkoff.” McDonagh returned the compliment by including a gravestone with Rourke’s name on it.

“Silver Linings Playbook”
Something of a passion project, David O. Russell originally mounted the film with Vince Vaughn and Zooey Deschanel in the lead roles a few years back, but didn’t get the greenlight from Harvey Weinstein. After the success of “The Fighter,” he got it going again, but the cast wasn’t necessarily going to be the one we saw. He was at one point meant to reteam with Mark Wahlberg on the project, while Anne Hathaway was initially linked to the female lead, but dropped out for “Les Misérables.” Cooper came back on board (he’d been mentioned at the same time as Hathaway to begin with) and a number of actresses tested to replace Hathaway — Elizabeth Banks, Kirsten Dunst, Blake Lively, Rooney Mara, Rachel McAdams, Andrea Riseborough and Olivia Wilde. But it was Jennifer Lawrence who won out.

While still stuck in limbo, Mendes was reported to want longtime theater collaborator Simon Russell Beale for a part in his Bond film — perhaps the part taken by Ralph Fiennes? Rhys Ifans was also rumored for a role, though it was quickly shot down, while Asian actresses Tang Wei, Fan Bingbing, Li Bingbing, Shu Qi and Josie Ho were said to be in the running for a part, presumably Bérénice Marlohe‘s.

“Snow White and the Huntsman”
The male half of the title for Universal‘s fairy tale movie caused one of the trickier casting hunts in recent memory. Tom Hardy was the first to be offered the part, before Johnny Depp, Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman and Joel Edgerton all turned it down. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie was courted early on for the evil queen, and Felicity Jones, Riley Keough, Bella Heathcote and Alicia Vikander all read for Snow White. Eddie Izzard and Stephen Graham were both cast as dwarves in the film as well, but dropped out due to other commitments.

“Sound of My Voice”
Director Zal Batmanglij revealed on Jeff Goldsmith’s podcast that he and co-writer Brit Marling had nearly got the film set up a few years earlier, with two then-unknown actors in the lead roles: Andrew Garfield and Rooney Mara. Producers wouldn’t finance them with those names attached, the two exploded over the next few years, and Batmanglij made the movie anyway.

“Taken 2”
For about five minutes at the end of last year, it looked like Fox might not be able to make a deal with Liam Neeson to return for a second “Taken.” As such, Ralph Fiennes, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Sean Bean and Jason Isaacs were floated as replacements, before Neeson agreed to bring his particular set of skills back for the sequel.

Before Mark Wahlberg got involved, Seth Rogen was said to have been courted for the lead role in Seth MacFarlane‘s comedy, but having presumably seen some of the nastier “Family Guy” jokes about him, turned the film down. Adam Scott was also briefly in talks, to play the douchey boss role that Joel McHale ended up taking.

“This Means War”
Another film that quite rightly had trouble landing a lead, the one-time Chris Rock/Martin Lawrence project went through Seth Rogen, Bradley Cooper, Sam Worthington, Colin Farrell and Justin Timberlake before Tom Hardy sadly agreed to lie back and think of England in the spy “comedy.”

“Total Recall”
Those two names again: Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender were originally in the running alongside Colin Farrell for the unnecessary remake, but found better things to do with their time. Kate Bosworth, Diane Kruger, Eva Mendes, Paula Patton and Eva Green were up for the female leads, while Ethan Hawke actually shot a brief cameo as the previous incarnation of Farrell’s character, but it ended up on the cutting room floor.

“Trouble With the Curve”
Sandra Bullock was the original choice to play Clint’s daughter in this comedy-drama, but opted for Paul Feig‘s “The Heat” instead. Amy Adams went up to bat in her place.

“Wrath of the Titans”
Yeah, that was a movie! That came out in 2012! Who knew, right? Warner Bros.‘ hastily-forgotten sequel optimistically set its sights high early on, attempting to land Javier Bardem and James Franco for the roles eventually played by Edgar Ramirez and Toby Kebbell. Meanwhile, Rosamund Pike “beat” Hayley Atwell, Clémence Poésy, Janet Montgomery, Georgina Haig and perpetual runner-up Dominique McElligott (someone give the poor girl a part one of these days, she’s very good) to the female lead in the film.

“Zero Dark Thirty”
Kathryn Bigelow‘s Bin Laden film, after a false start stymied by the terrorist’s actual death, came together relatively quickly. Joel Edgerton who would have led that version, still has a role, but a smaller one here. But there were still a few names that fell by the wayside. Rooney Mara was initially linked to the part that Jessica Chastain ended up taking, while Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Nina Arianda were all mentioned around the same time.


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