As kickass as lightsabers and space battles are, it's the casting that made Star Wars such a lasting success. The fact that these actors could read George Lucas' lines believably is what elevated that first movie from "really nice Power Rangers episode" to "instant classic." Think about it. Can you imagine anyone else playing Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? Can you even picture a movie where Princess Leia isn't Carrie Fisher, or where Luke's best friend Biggs isn't played by the pizza delivery guy from every '70s porno?
The name "Biggs" came with his contract.
Of course you can't, and not just because television and smartphones have irradiated your imagination out of existence. Those roles are iconic. But a long time ago, in some shitty production office far, far away, the cast of the Star Wars saga wasn't set in carbonite. And it was almost pretty damn different ...
5 Tupac Shakur Reportedly Read For The Part Of Mace Windu
It's a little-known fact that Samuel L. Jackson's character in the Star Wars prequels wasn't named "Jedi Master Sam Jackson," and was in fact a scripted character called "Mace Windu." Proof of that? Other people totally auditioned for the part ... including, apparently, Tupac. Yes, that Tupac -- the State Senator from Michigan.
Kidding. We meant the guy you were really thinking about.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"Help me, Obi-Wan Keno-- Ehh, you know what, I got this."
According to Rick Clifford, an engineer at Death Star Row records, while chatting about upcoming movie projects in 1996, Tupac let it slip that he was about to read for a part in the new George Lucas film -- which turned out to be a little movie called Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace II Society. Tupac would have been an ideal candidate for the CGI-saturated production, having previous experience acting opposite basically nothing.
"Jar-Jar? I done full Belushi."
If you think there's no way this could happen, please take a step back and consider how weird it is that Samuel L. Jackson, a dude famous for saying "motherfucker" perfectly, ended up in Star Wars. Tupac didn't get the part, but even if he had, the fact that he was murdered before Episode I started shooting might have endangered his participation in the film anyway (though it didn't stop the release of his three postmortem movies: Bullet, Gridlock'd, and the classic I Faked My Death And I'm Living In Cuba). The biggest tragedy of all, of course, is that the icon was robbed of the opportunity to be immortalized as a pen for all eternity.
"Hmmm, what Jedi implement would it make sense to turn into a pen? Ah yes, their feet."
4 The Voice Of Darth Vader Was Almost Orson Welles
Actor James Earl Jones is probably more famous for voicing Darth Vader than for being actor James Earl Jones. He's certainly better-known than David Prowse, the guy who actually walked around and waved his hands in a threatening fashion inside Vader's suit. Jones' deep, distinctive voice turned what could have easily been a cheesy sci-fi bad guy into the embodiment of piss-your-pants evil.
And yet the voice of Darth Vader was almost performed by legendary actor/director Orson Welles. Welles, as we all know, is famous for his second-greatest achievement, Citizen Kane -- his greatest work being that video where he gets hammered while filming a wine commercial. Seriously, even if there were a video of a baby panda lip-syncing "The Macarena" with scantily-clad women, this would still be the greatest thing on YouTube:
According to Jones, Lucas even turned to Welles first, but he changed his mind because he was afraid Welles' voice might be too recognizable. There was no chance of that happening with Jones, since he was unemployed at the time. It's hard to imagine what Welles' version would have been like, exactly, though it almost certainly wouldn't have had the lasting cultural impact of Jones' performance. Just look at the fact that Darth Vader as we know him is one of the greatest characters in movie history, and Unicron from Transformers: The Movie (Welles' biggest voiceover role) ... isn't.
Strangely enough, Charles Foster "Citizen" Kane and Darth Vader ended up having similar biographies in the end. Both were taken from their parents as children by mysterious strangers with the promise of a better life, both became major dicks, and both left behind beloved toys (the Rosebud sled and goddamn C-3PO).
Warner Bros., Lucasfilm
The wrong one died in a fire.