Some movies are hard to imagine without their stars. Actors become famous for inhabiting their parts so completely that we think of them as very nearly the same people. Hollywood casting, though, is in some ways an employment process like any other, and in some famous cases the actor whom the director and studio originally chooses is different from the one who winds up on screen. Here are 5 famous actors who became the answers to Oscar-night trivia questions, instead of collecting statues themselves.
"The Silence of the Lambs" is one of only three films to win the so-called Big Five Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay. (The other two are "It Happened One Night" and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.") Jodie Foster's career-reviving performance as Agent Clarice Starling, though, only came about after the more popular and bankable Michelle Pfeiffer passed. Pfeiffer had been attached to the project, but ultimately decided that the material was too dark and disturbing. After Pfeiffer dropped out and Foster signed on, Anthony Hopkins was brought in to replace Gene Hackman as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Daniel Day-Lewis is an entry level Oscar trivia answer in his own right: the only actor to win the Best Actor award three times. The third of those came for playing Abraham Lincoln, in Steven Spielberg's 2012 biopic of the 16th President. Day-Lewis is famous for losing himself in roles: stories about his "becoming the character" abound. He nearly never got the chance with Lincoln, though. In 2010, Day-Lewis's fellow Irishman Liam Neeson quit the project out of frustration, never expecting Spielberg to finish the movie. "Lincoln" was nominated for 12 Oscars, and won 2.
Russell Crowe won an Oscar for his performance as the tortured gladiator Maximus in Ridley Scott's epic. He was not, however, the first Australian actor to be offered the role of the Spaniard in ancient Rome. Mel Gibson, who won two Oscars for "Braveheart" in 1995, turned down the role because, at 43, he thought he was too old to be believable in the fight scenes. Crowe, eight years younger, took his place.
Michael Douglas won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Wall Street tycoon Gordon Gekko. It redefined his career for good or ill, and he'll always be imagined in suspenders and pomade, telling the 1980s that "greed is good." Director Oliver Stone first offered the part to Richard Gere, who would have used it to show his development from his callow role in "An Officer And A Gentleman." Gere, who went on to play his share of amoral businessmen, wasn't interested in "Wall Street."
Marlon Brando's most famous contribution to Oscar trivia is his refusal of the Best Actor award for "The Godfather" in 1973. Before shooting started, though, Brando's influence was felt in the casting department. Paramount Pictures wanted to cast its star Burt Reynolds as the hotheaded older brother Sonny Corleone, but Brando was not willing to work with Reynolds, and Francis Ford Coppola was not willing to work without Brando. The actor got his way, and James Caan played Sonny. Caan was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Award, along with his castmates Al Pacino and Robert Duval.
Many of these casting choices are difficult to really believe. Without these roles, would the actors be the stars they are? Without the actors, would the films have worked at all? On Oscar night and during every trip to the theater, this kind of behind the scenes information can serve to remind us of all the hard work and all the decisions that go into putting dreams on the silver screen.