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Stephane L'hostis/Getty Images

29 Movies That Almost Starred Harrison Ford

Stephane L'hostis/Getty Images
Stephane L'hostis/Getty Images

By 1976, Harrison Ford had been acting for over a decade, most prominently as Bob Falfa in George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973), and Martin Stett in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). Unfortunately for Ford, he was still as well known for his carpentry as he was his filmography, and Lucas was against using the same actor in more than one of his movies. Still, there was hope: Lucas hired Ford to read lines as Han Solo during auditions with prospective actors, and Lucas was eventually convinced that the Chicago-born actor was the man to play the incorrigible Millennium Falcon captain with the heart of gold. Now, in celebration of the actor's 75th birthday on July 13, we're looking back at some films that almost featured Harrison Ford.

1. THE GRADUATE (1967)

Director Mike Nichols rejected the then 25-year-old Ford for Benjamin Braddock, who ended up being played by Dustin Hoffman. Nichols and Ford finally worked together in Working Girl (1988) and Regarding Henry (1991), the latter of which was written by The Force Awakens' writer-director J.J. Abrams.

2. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)

Ford flew 3000 miles to New York City—on his own dime—to audition for the role of Joe Buck. John Schlesinger went with Jon Voight.

3. ALIEN (1979)

Two years after Star Wars, Ford was turning down parts. He declined playing Captain Dallas, letting Tom Skerritt handle that.

4. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)

Ford was cut from the film. He played Elliott’s school principal. His face was not visible, because other than Elliott’s mother, Steven Spielberg tried to not show the faces of the adults.

5. MAKING LOVE (1982)

The then-controversial film was about Zach (Michael Ontkean), a doctor who is married to Claire (Kate Jackson), but starts a relationship with Bart (Harry Hamlin), a novelist. Ford, Michael Douglas, and Richard Gere all turned down playing the male leads. Making Love ended up being a commercial and critical failure.

6. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (1983)

Jack Nicholson won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Garrett Breedlove. Ford turned that role down.

7. BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984)

Ford admitted he was offered the lead after Sylvester Stallone dropped out, and before it was turned into a comedy starring Eddie Murphy. He said he saw the movie and had no regrets on declining. It helps that he starred in Witness (1985) instead, which landed him his first (and so far only) Oscar nomination.

8. BIG (1988)

Off of Anne Spielberg (Steven’s sister) and Gary Ross’ script, producer/director James L. Brooks spent six months waiting for Ford to play Josh Baskin. But Ford wasn't pleased with the choice of director. Eventually, Tom Hanks ended up playing the lead, with Penny Marshall directing.

9. DIE HARD (1988)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, and Ford all turned down the role of John McClane before Bruce Willis signed up.

10. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988)

There was “alleged idle talk” between Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Ford to star as Eddie Valiant before they moved on to trying—and failing—to contact Bill Murray. Bob Hoskins got the part.

11. GHOST (1990)

Ford read the script three times and didn’t understand it, so he turned the role of Sam Wheat down. Patrick Swayze apparently understood, and the rest was history.

12. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990)

Director John McTiernan tried to get Ford to play CIA analyst Jack Ryan, years before he would do so for the sequel Patriot Games (1992), replacing Alec Baldwin.

13. MISERY (1990)

William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Warren Beatty, and Ford said no to playing novelist Paul Sheldon. James Caan said yes.

14. CAPE FEAR (1991)

Martin Scorsese asked Robert De Niro to ask Ford to play the lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) in the remake of the 1962 thriller. Ford told De Niro he would only do it if he could play Max Cady and De Niro would play Bowden. De Niro did not want to do that.

15. JFK (1991)

Ford was Oliver Stone’s first choice to play district attorney Jim Garrison but he was unavailable, on a long vacation. Kevin Costner played the part instead.

16. JURASSIC PARK (1993)

Ford could have been Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill). Spielberg claimed he offered the role to the actor at the 30th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark after Ford said Spielberg only hired him for the Indiana Jones movies.

17. OUTBREAK (1995)

Producer Arnold Kopelson asked Ford to play Sam Daniels, but he said no. Dustin Hoffman, who became famous 10 years before Ford after he beat him out to play Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, said yes.

18. HALF BAKED (1998)

Dave Chappelle asked Ford to make a cameo in his movie. He declined, without giving a reason.

19. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)

Spielberg considered both Mel Gibson and Ford before tapping Tom Hanks to play Captain Miller, in an Oscar nominated performance.

20. THE THIN RED LINE (1998)

Sean Penn, on behalf of director Terrence Malick, called Ford and asked him to appear in the war epic alongside him, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, and John Travolta.

21. RUNAWAY BRIDE (1999)

Ford, Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas, and Ben Affleck were set to play Ike Graham during the 10-year development process. Richard Gere got the role as part of a Pretty Woman reunion with Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall.

22. THE PATRIOT (2000)

Ford believed the movie would be too violent. Mel Gibson was okay with that.

23. THE PERFECT STORM (2000)

Air Force One director Wolfgang Petersen wanted to work with Ford again, but he turned the lead role of Captain BIlly Tyne down. After Mel Gibson wanted too much money, George Clooney got the role.

24. PROOF OF LIFE (2000)

Ford and, once again, Mel Gibson could have played Terry Thorne in the action movie. Instead, director Taylor Hackford told the studio he preferred Russell Crowe for the role, and won the argument.

25. TRAFFIC (2000)

20th Century Fox decided they only wanted the Steven Soderbergh-directed project if Harrison Ford agreed to star. Ford became interested before backing out, and the major studio did, too. The movie ended up being produced by USA Films, and won four Oscars.

26. THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002)

Ben Affleck became the third actor to play Jack Ryan when Ford and director Phillip Noyce couldn’t agree on how to fix the script.

27. INSOMNIA (2002)

Ford and director Jonathan Demme worked on getting an American remake of the Norwegian thriller made. Ford was to play police detective Will Dormer but Christopher Nolan ended up directing, and Al Pacino took over the lead.

28. SYRIANA (2005)

Ford had questions over the validity of some of the geopolitical story involving petroleum products and the oil industry, only later finding that the parts he found untruthful were taken out. He said he wished he took the role of Rob Barnes after seeing the movie. George Clooney ended up playing Barnes, and won a Best Supporting Actor for his work.

29. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005)

Ford turned down playing small-town diner owner/mobster-in-hiding Tom Stall in David Cronenberg's crime thriller. Viggo Mortensen got the gig.

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John P. Johnson, HBO
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Charles Dickens Wrote His Own Version of Westworld in the 1830s
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

Charles Dickens never fully devoted himself to science fiction, but if he had, his work might have looked something like the present-day HBO series Westworld. As The Conversation reports, the author explored a very similar premise to the show in The Mudfrog Papers, a collection of sketches that originally appeared in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany between 1837 and 1838.

In the story "Full Report of the Second Meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything," a scientist describes his plan for a park where rich young men can take out their aggression on "automaton figures." In Dickens's story, the opportunity to pursue those cruel urges is the park's main appeal. The theme park in Westworld may have been founded with a slightly less cynical vision, but it has a similar outcome. Guests can live out their heroic fantasies, but if they have darker impulses, they can act on those as well.

Instead of sending guests back in time, Dickens's attraction presents visitors with a place very similar to their own home. According to the scientist's pitch, the idyllic, Victorian scene contains roads, bridges, and small villages in a walled-off space at least 10 miles wide. Each feature is designed for destruction, including cheap gas lamps made of real glass. It's populated with robot cops, cab drivers, and elderly women who, when beaten, produce “groans, mingled with entreaties for mercy, thus rendering the illusion complete, and the enjoyment perfect.”

There are no consequences for harming the hosts in Westworld, but the guests at Dickens's park are at least sent to a mock trial for their crimes. However, rather than paying for their misbehavior, the hooligans always earn the mercy of an automated judge—Dickens's allegory for how the law favors the rich and privileged in the real world.

As for the Victorian-era automatons gaining sentience and overthrowing their tormenters? Dickens never got that far. But who knows where he would have taken it given a two-season HBO deal.

[h/t The Conversation]

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Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. SHE WAS A JAZZ FAN FROM A YOUNG AGE.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. SHE DABBLED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AS A TEENAGER.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. SHE MADE HER STAGE DEBUT AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A NURSERY RHYME HELPED HER GET THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. SHE WAS PAINFULLY SHY.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. SHE MADE HER FILM DEBUT IN AN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MOVIE.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. SHE GOT SOME HELP FROM MARILYN MONROE.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. SHE WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAMMY.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. HER FINAL PERFORMANCE WAS AT CARNEGIE HALL.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. SHE LOST BOTH OF HER LEGS TO DIABETES.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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