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Keira Knightley In 'The Dark Knight Rises'?: An A-Z Of Who Nearly Starred In The Movies Of 2012

by Oliver Lyttelton
December 7, 2012 3:23 PM
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Thanks to the Internet and its relentless demand for content, the casting process is more transparent than it's ever been before. Wishlists, longlists, shortlists, offers and denials are all made public almost as soon as they happen, with studios often using them as a way of gauging fan reaction to possible ideas. There are many, many drawbacks to this, but in hindsight, it can also be kind of fun to take a look back at what might have been if one actor ended up taking a role in a film over another.

So, with 2012 creaking towards its end, we've taken most of the major releases of the year and dug through the archives to work out who was in the running, in negotiations, or even in cast in them, before we ended up, for better or worse, with the casts that we saw on screen. Are there films you think would have been improved with the original actors involved? Are there some you think dodged a bullet? Or do you have your own ideas of actors who might have brightened up some of this year's movies. Let us know in the comments section.

"21 Jump Street"
Emma Stone was originally announced as part of the cast -- presumably in the role taken by Brie Larson -- but Sony decided it was more important for her to play Gwen Stacy in "The Amazing Spider-Man."

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"
Before Benjamin Walker took the title role, Eric Bana had a meeting on the project, while Adrien Brody, Josh Lucas, James D'Arcy, Timothy Olyphant and Oliver Jackson-Cohen also auditioned. Tom Hardy had been the first port of call for Dominic Cooper's role of sidekick Henry Sturgess, while Joaquin Phoenix was also courted, somewhat optimistically. Scoot McNairy was courted for an unknown role, too. Most curiously, Trent Reznor was set to not only score the film, but also cameo as the vampire that kills Lincoln's mother, but the deal unfortunately fell apart.

"Alex Cross"
The Tyler Perry vehicle was originally intended to topline Idris Elba, with "Pitch Black" director David Twohy at the helm. One senses we got a downgrade with the finished product. 

"The Amazing Spider-Man"
Marc Webb landed the reboot directing job within days of it being announced, but Gary Ross and Michael Bay were also seemingly on the short-list, while Kathryn Bigelow was later said to have turned the film down. For casting, a whole host of names were seen for Peter Parker: Jamie Bell came closest, but Logan Lerman, Josh Hutcherson, Michael Angarano, Anton Yelchin, Aaron Johnson, Alden Ehrenreich and Frank Dillane were also in the mix. For Gwen Stacy, Emma Roberts, Imogen Poots, Teresa Palmer, Ophelia Lovibond, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Elena Satine, Mia Wasikowska, Lily Collins, Dianna Agron, Georgina Haig and Dominique McElligott were all on the list before Emma Stone nabbed the role. And for the villainous Lizard, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender and Phililp Seymour Hoffman were all seemingly considered, before presumably realizing that the role was severely underwritten...

"Anna Karenina"
Joe Wright's literary adaptation has an impressive cast as it is, but a fair few names slipped through the net too. Saoirse Ronan was long attached to play Kitty, while James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrea Riseborough were all theoretically on board at one point -- we imagine as Levin, Oblonsky and Betsy.

Richard Gere won acclaim for starring in this Sundance film, but it was originally intended for Al Pacino, with Eva Green also involved, as his mistress. Most curiously, rapper Drake was also in talks at one point, for the part eventually taken by Nate Parker.

"The Avengers"
When it emerged that Edward Norton wasn't going to be reprising the role of the Hulk, the first name linked to the role was a surprising one -- Joaquin Phoenix -- who opted to make "The Master" instead. Meanwhile, "Homeland" star Morena Baccarin, "Cloverfield" actress Jessica Lucas and fan favorite Mary Elizabeth Winstead were all down to the last few to play SHIELD agent Maria Hill. Given how thankless the part is, we're sure they're not kicking themselves too much.

He might have been in three blockbusters in nine months, but Jeremy Renner did show a little taste -- he was in talks for, but pulled out of, Peter Berg's board game adaptation.

"The Bourne Legacy"
Virtually every young actor around was in the running to take over the Bourne franchise before Jeremy Renner got the part: Jake Gyllenhaal, Garrettt Hedlund, Taylor Kitsch, Josh Hartnett, Tobey Maguire (!), Kellan Lutz (!!), Paul Dano (!!!), Michael Pitt, Oscar Isaac, Michael Fassbender, Luke Evans, Alex Pettyfer and Benjamin Walker were all mentioned by the trades. In the end, Universal reportedly backed either James McAvoy or Shia LaBeouf, while director Tony Gilroy favored Joel Edgerton (and, so we've heard, Isaac, who ended up with a small part in the film as a consolation prize). But when a gap opened in Renner's schedule, he ended up taking the part.

Princess Merida was initially to be voiced by Reese Witherspoon early on in production before the more authentically Scottish Kelly Macdonald stepped in.

"Cloud Atlas"
When initially announced, Natalie Portman was attached to the Wachowski Starship's epic (presumably for the roles taken by Bae Doona?) with James McAvoy and Ian McKellen also rumored for the parts that Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent ended up with.

Before R-Patz and Sarah Gadon, Colin Farrell and Marion Cotillard were set to play Eric Packer and his wife in David Cronenberg's film. When blockbuster duty called for both, Keira Knightley was briefly on the cards to reunite with her "A Dangerous Method" director on the project.

"The Dark Knight Rises"
Keira Knightley was also one of a number of actresses up to play Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises," screen testing alongside Jessica Biel, Kate Mara, Charlotte Riley and Gemma Arterton. Blake Lively and Natalie Portman were also mentioned early on, while Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz were both linked to the part that Marion Cotillard ended up taking.

"Dark Shadows"
Michael Sheen was originally planning to take the part that Jonny Lee Miller ended up with, before scheduling conflicts forced him out.

"The Dictator"
Kristen Wiig and "Community" star Gillian Jacobs both tested for the female lead, won by Anna Faris.

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More: Features, 2012: The Year In Review

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  • lorraine | December 17, 2012 9:26 AMReply

    Kindly use the full name of Robert Pattinson instead of R-patz? That is so 2009 and disrespectful to the actor. Thank you.

  • Mike | December 12, 2012 11:02 AMReply

    Imagine if Anne Hathaway could squeeze in in her schedule to play Silver Linings Playbook. We would probably see her as a double nominee come Oscar nomination day.

  • Logicmi | December 11, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    How is Scoot McNairy turning down Prometheus to do "Killing Them Softly" a smart career move? Prometheus was a huge hit and Killing Them Softly didn't do great at the BO and his middling reviews too.

  • Alan | December 20, 2012 10:42 PM

    McNairy will be appearing in the next films by David Michod, Steve McQueen, Jaume Collet-Serra and Lynn Shelton. Logan Marshall-Green will be lending his talents to a couple of James Franco-directed projects that no one will see. If a film is bad - or you are bad in it - sometimes (not always, but sometimes) it doesn't matter how much money it makes.

  • H | December 10, 2012 11:21 PMReply

    Very glad that Natalie Portman does not appear in Cloud Atlas. Imagine how would that awkward if that Neo Seoul sequence would have too many asian faces from white actors? Also Sonmi-451 is very complex character and I think that Doona Bae is excellent in that role.

  • Alan | December 20, 2012 11:18 PM

    Err, I thought that Portman would have been given a bigger part, like the one(s) that Berry took. The Playlist is just guessing.

  • jingmei | December 9, 2012 1:25 AMReply

    Bet if Keira Knightley played Catwoman, would attract more not only horny guys, but also female audiences who appreciate this hot and intelligent Brit actress. Welcome more such funny leak stuff! Especially including the damn awesome films such as Sound of My Voice. By the way, Sandra Bullock might be bit old to play Eastwood's daughter, not mention to hook up with Justin Timberlake. Silver Linings Playbook's final cast is good. Look forward to more works by Duncan Jones.

  • mass | December 10, 2012 9:02 PM

    Buh... what?

  • spassky | December 10, 2012 10:33 AM

    Um... what?

  • SFlare | December 8, 2012 2:20 AMReply

    Glad Knightley didn't get it. Too skinny and bony. Hathaway was excellent. Great film.

  • Josh Slater-Williams | December 7, 2012 8:23 PMReply

    I believe Ethan Hawke's cameo has been put back in for the 'director's cut' home release of 'Total Recall'.

  • DHE | December 7, 2012 4:45 PMReply

    I thought Sam Rockwell had Ben Mendelsohns role in Killing Them Softly. Also James McAvoy, and Ben Wishaw were considered to play Bilbo in The Hobbit.

  • Christian | December 7, 2012 4:02 PMReply

    Actually Christian Bale was also circling The Grey at one point before Liam Neeson.

  • John | December 7, 2012 3:58 PMReply

    Glad Hathaway was Selina Kyle, she did a fantastic job in a great movie.

  • Dryer | December 7, 2012 3:55 PMReply

    Would've loved to seen Knightly or Portmanteau as Catwoman but I don think either one would've improved the film just due Nolans bloated impractical script and direction

  • Alan | December 8, 2012 4:14 AM

    Take that Nolan: I decided to take an article about casting and highjack to bitch about you. I am a winner.

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