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When It Comes to Casting: What If?

Cillianmurphy Isn't casting a funny thing? Think of all the movies in which, in hindsight, another actor just would never do. I've just stumbled upon the tidbit that Cillian Murphy (Red Eye, Cold Mountain, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) was originally cast to play the lead guy in Once, a part taken and executed to subtle perfection by musician Glen Hansard. Nothing against Murphy, who has considerable talent, but to me having him instead of Hansard in Once would have totally ruined, or at the very least utterly and irrevocably changed, the picture.

Murphy is somewhat well known, and his demeanor and tone are generally on the colder side. His cheekbones could cut glass. Hansard, on the other hand, was a totally unknown actor, warm and scruffy and soft. He pulled off a special vulnerability, and perhaps his performance wouldn't have been as authentic if he hadn't been such an amateur actor. Who knows?

That's what's so crazy about casting. We are always free to wonder: "What if?"

Leonardodicaprioandkatewinslet What other movies would have been totally different if casting had gone differently? Are these things totally random, or is it fate or destiny that the right actor will get the right part? What if the studio had its first choice and Matthew McConaughey had play doomed lover Jack Dawson in Titanic? I'd also heard that the studios wanted Chris O'Donnell in the lead. And Fay Wray as Rose? Would Kate Winslet have had such a huge breakthrough if she hadn't won that part? I shudder to think of a movie world without the lovely Kate Winslet.

Robertdeniroyoung Or think of Robert De Niro or Willem Dafoe sauntering around as Bill "The Butcher" in Gangs of New York instead of Daniel Day-Lewis. Could they have pulled off the handlebar mustache? Day-Lewis got the lead -- and an Oscar nomination -- for In the Name of the Father, a role Gabriel Byrne originally intended to play.  And Byrne starred in The Usual Suspects with, among others, Chazz Palminteri (playing U.S. customs agent Dave Kujan), a role offered, again, to De Niro and also Al Pacino, who expressed later it was the film he most regretted turning down.

Whew! What are some other kooky examples of casting "what ifs"?

--Anna Bengel

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You put a ratty beard on Cillian Murphy-- like the one he sported for "Love Song" in the West End-- and he absolutely could have done "Once." He has a great singing voice, and he can act all kinds of loneliness and longing with his eyes. He was an idiot for backing out of "Once"-- especially if he left it in order to do that Danny Boyle crap-fest "Sunshine."

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