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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?

Lucasfilm
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.

Orion Pictures
"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.

Disney/Lucasfilm
"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.

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3
Leonardo DiCaprio, Paul Walker, And (Maybe) Christian Bale Could Have Been Anakin Skywalker

Darth Vader's descent into evil should have been a harrowing moment in film history. Instead, what we got felt more like a high school production of an elementary school student's script called Stay Off Sith, It Will Hurt You! At least some of that blame can be put on the actors playing Anakin Skywalker: that random child whose life was destroyed by Internet jerks and Hayden Christensen, aka the guy who ruined your DVD copy of Return Of The Jedi.

Lucasfilm
Judging by his expression, Anakin spent the afterlife spying on Ewoks having sex.

It's true that Christensen was being asked to read dialogue that sounded like it was written by an alien trying to puzzle out what this mystery called humanity is. But consider this for a second: What if Anakin had been played by an actor you'd heard of?

As it happens, a whole bunch of well-known actors were up for the coveted part. At one point, Leonardo DiCaprio was the top contender, but he bowed out of the race due to "other commitments" (meaning "movies more likely to give me an Oscar in two to three years, tops"). Lucas also considered both male principals from Dawson's Creek. If you're thinking that wouldn't have been an improvement, try watching any relationship-y scene from that show followed by the blossoming romance from Episode II, and see which one makes you hate the very concept of love.

Lucasfilm
And rattails, if you didn't already.

Late Fast And The Furious star (and big Star Wars fanboy) Paul Walker was also in the running, but who could buy that guy as a hotshot pilot? It was even rumored that Christian Bale was Lucas' first choice to play Anakin, which could have brought some much-needed intensity to the role (to the possible discomfort of crew members with sensitive ears). But no, none of these actors held a candle to the future star of Jumper.

2
Han Solo Could Have Been Played By Kurt Russell, Christopher Walken ... Or Freddy Krueger?

It's hard to separate Han Solo from Harrison Ford. Swap out Chewbacca with that lady who played Ally McBeal, and they're pretty much the same person: a grumpy, adventurous pilot.

Newsweek
Never tell him the odds.

But Han Solo almost ended up way different. For starters, George Lucas didn't want to hire any actors whom he'd worked with on American Graffiti, so Ford was ruled out automatically. One of the actors to audition for the role was Kurt Russell, but if you're picturing Snake Plissken with a blaster right now, remember that in the '70s, former child star Russell was still making Disney movies. Meaning that this guy could have been Han Solo:

Disney
"Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a bowl of Crumply Crunch at your side."

Other audition-goers included Nick Nolte (before he became Jabba's monkey-lizard sidekick in real life) and a young Christopher Walken, who probably would have ended up blasted to death by a Stormtrooper while stopping to pause between words. Walken later said that he "didn't even know it was called Star Wars," adding, "I'm sure I was terrible." Though it would have been quite intense if Han had challenged Greedo to a game of Russian roulette.

Universal Pictures
At least it would've been clear who shot first.

But that's not even the most insane would-be Solo. Before he became typecast as an undead, pun-obsessed child murderer, future Nightmare On Elm Street star Robert Englund was a struggling actor auditioning for whatever role he'd come across. One of those roles happened to be a surfer in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, but at age 29/30, he was deemed "too old" for the part. However, since Coppola and Lucas evidently conducted casting sessions like key parties, Coppola shared the actor with the neighboring Star Wars auditions, and Englund ended up trying out for Han Solo.

There may be some alternate reality where Harrison Ford is known for wearing a rubber mask and killing promiscuous teenagers, but in our plane of existence, Englund didn't get the part of Solo. The reason? "Too young."

21st Century Film Corporation
Pro and/or Con: The Freddy Krueger R&B album might not have existed.

But Englund's connection with Star Wars didn't end there. Like any working actor, he had some random young dude sleeping on his couch. After splitting a six-pack with him, Englund happened to mention that the movie also had a teenage hero role he should go after. Oh, and that drunken couch-surfer's name happened to be Mark Hamill. So while Englund didn't land a job, he did put his mark on the classic trilogy by suggesting that his deadbeat houseguest sober up, wash the Cheeto crumbs off his hands, put on some damn pants, and go embody the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.

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1
Michael Jackson Really, Really Wanted To Play Jar Jar Binks

While the fanboy community has come to consensus that Jar Jar Binks ruined Star Wars, our childhoods, and even the glass containers that hold jam, we have news for you: It was almost even worse. Like, "Watzupwitu" worse.

This bit of info comes straight from the source: Jar Jar himself. Ahmed Best provided the voice and motion capture work for Jar Jar. He was committed to the point that he wore a Jar Jar costume on set, which either helped the other actors get into character or tipped them off that George Lucas was about to take a steaming dump on his own legacy.

Lucasfilm
Note Natalie Portman in the background, calculating how many guards she'd have to tackle to make a run for it.

Best was recruited for the film after performing in Stomp, but unbeknownst to him, the man who was at one point the biggest superstar in the world was actively pursuing the role of Jar Jar. While at a Michael Jackson concert with Lucas, Portman, and Lucas' kids, Best and the gang went backstage to meet the King of Pop. Lucas introduced Best to Jackson as "Jar Jar." Which seems like a weird thing to do, but remember that this is the guy who thought that a Howard The Duck movie wouldn't be a creepy shitshow.

After Jackson got awkward and left, Best asked Lucas what the hell was going on. Lucas responded: "Well, Michael wanted to do the part, but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like Thriller." Lucas was being a dick and making Jackson feel shitty that he didn't get his dream role, in other words.

Lucasfilm
This is from back when he made Jackson think he could play Darth Vader.

So there it is. Michael Jackson wanted to be Jar Jar Binks. This never came to pass, either because having Jackson's familiar high-pitched voice would have been super-distracting, or because putting Jar Jar in prosthetics wouldn't gel with George's vision of making everything in the movie look like a depressingly hollow shell of reality. Thankfully, this meant that nine-year-old Anakin wasn't forced to wear a creepy veil when going out in public.

J.M. McNab co-hosts the pop culture nostalgia podcast Rewatchability, which can also be found on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @Rewatchability.

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Be sure to check out 35 Last-Second Casting Changes That Altered Movie History and 21 Casting Ideas That Would Have Changed Movie History.

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