The Audition Tapes That Bagged Film's Greatest Roles

Ever wondered how Han Solo or Michael Corleone were cast? Watch on for an insight into the genesis of some of Hollywood's most famous roles

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Even the worlds most famous actors have to sometimes stand in a sterile room in front of a bunch of strangers, read some lines from a piece of people and cross their fingers that they got the job.

Thanks to the internet, these slightly embarrassing (but always entertaining) audition tapes find a welcome home beyond the studio archives, allowing us to take a fascinating glimpse at iconic characters in their very earliest incarnation.

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From Pacino almost missing out on the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather to James Dean going head to head with Paul Newman for the lead role in East Of Eden, we bring you seven of the best.

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1 | James Dean & Paul Newman – East Of Eden

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A bit of an awkward one here as James Dean and Paul Newman compete for the role of Cal Trask in the 1955 adaptation of John Steinbeck's epic novel. Although this screen test consists of the actors being told to look one way then the other, it's clear Dean's understated cool has the edge over Newman's preppy exuberance, a quality that would shine through in what was Dean's first feature film role.


2 | Harrison Ford – Star Wars

A typically un-enthusiastic introduction from Harrison Ford sets up a black and white clip from the actor's Han Solo audition. From the incredulous delivery of lines to the reluctant body language, it seems little was changed between Ford's audition and his eventual performance. Not bad for someone George Lucas originally hired as a carpenter to refurbish his home. 

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3 | Al Pacino – The Godfather

Could Michael Corleone have been portrayed by anyone else? Well yes, actually – Paramount Pictures executives were reluctant to cast a relatively unknown actor in a major role, and only the insistance of director Francis Ford Coppola led to Pacino getting the part. This video shows why he was right to back his man.

4 | Hugh Jackman – X-Men

A relatively low-key audition from Hugh Jackman, who was only brought in after Dougray Scott turned down the role. A lot of work seems to have been done between Jackman's audition and the final role, with Wolverine's world-weary slant on life intact, but the sarcasm, eye-rolling and "stroppy teenager" approach rightly dropped. 


5 | Robert Downey Jr – Iron Man

Look at the production values, look at that suit and that smarmy charm. It might have been leftfield casting at the time, but there was no way anyone other than Robert Downey Jr was going to land the role of Tony Stark and Iron Man. 


6 | Mark Hamill – Star Wars

After seeing the recent images of a bearded Mark Hamill taking a break from shooting Star Wars Episode VII, this pre New Hope audition seems to have aged terribly. Reading alongside Harrison Ford, Hamill plays Luke a lot cooler than he appears in the first Star Wars film, without a trace of the earnestness displayed by the young moisture farmer from Tatooine. 


7 | Christian Bale – Batman

Auditioning in Val Kilmer's old batsuit – which appears to be several sizes too small around the chin – Christian Bale reminds us all why he was born to play Batman. His weight (and the suit may) have changed but, the actor's imposing growl and physical menace remained the same throughout Christopher Nolan's influential trilogy.

 


Which was your favourite?

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