The Force Wasn't With Them
Find out which big-name actors missed out on being cast in the original Star Wars trilogy.
The scene: a long time ago in a casting office seemingly far, far away. George Lucas, then prepping Star Wars, and Brian De Palma, then gearing up for Carrie, semifamously held several weeks of joint casting sessions. This, of course, has helped fuel all manner of fan rumors over the years, most of them about as probable as spotting one of those cantina aliens bellied up to your neighborhood bar. Witness the Internet gem about Carrie Fisher being set to star for De Palma, but swapping roles with Sissy Spacek because of the nudity in Carrie. (Says Fisher, “Not only do I love being nude, I would’ve been nude then. Maybe. But anyway, it’s total bullshit.”) The following actors, however, were given varying degrees of consideration by Lucas:
Nick Nolte as Han Solo. “Anybody who was up-and-coming at that point was certainly brought in,” says veteran casting director Dianne Crittenden, who worked on the movie early in her career. “I remember there was one day we had in Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss. John Travolta was one of the guys. And we talked about Robert De Niro. We actually didn’t really audition people [initially], we just brought them in to meet George.”
Amy Irving as Princess Leia. “I think that’s the only case where [George and I] had similar desires casting-wise,” De Palma told premiere in a 2001 Carrie retrospective. American Graffiti’s Cindy Williams came in to read, and Terri Nunn, later the Cruella-coiffed singer for the ’80s pop group Berlin, was another candidate for Leia’s cinnamon-bun hairstyle (although her interpretation actually elicits a roll of the eyes from Harrison Ford in a clip slated for inclusion on the Star Wars DVD). Karen Allen—who, of course, went on to costar in another Lucas-produced blockbuster a few years later—was also considered.
William Katt as Luke Skywalker. Although Lucas biographer Dale Pollock lists him as a Han Solo hopeful, Katt (who ended up playing Tommy in Carrie and later starred in TV’s The Greatest American Hero) told premiere in 2001, “I read for Luke Skywalker. I don’t even think I was told about Carrie.” Crittenden, meanwhile, lobbied for Dennis Dugan, who went on to direct the comedies Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, to play Luke. “To me,” she says, “he felt like a quintessential farmboy.”
Toshiro Mifune as Obi-Wan Kenobi. There’s an unconventional logic in Lucas’s thinking here—the result of some early brainstorming—given the samurai vibe of the Jedi, not to mention the way he was influenced by Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, in which Mifune starred.
Orson Welles as the voice of Darth Vader. Another early idea; Lucas reportedly decided that Welles would sound too recognizable. Good-bye late-career splash, hello Paul Masson.