True Tales of Second-Choice Performers Who Are Household Names Today
Author/humorist Jill A. Davis once said of second chances: “Like trains, they arrive and depart regularly. Recognizing the ones that matter is the trick.” Inevitably, in life we often watch others succeed as we take a back seat, but the important thing is being ready when it’s your time to shine. Here are true tales of second-choice performers who made the most of a break — and because of it, became living legends. Harrison Ford
After acting in a handful of forgettable movies in the late ’60s/early ’70s, Harrison Ford found work as a carpenter, and eventually ended up building cabinets for George Lucas’ home. As the decades have passed, the list of people considered for Han Solo has become the stuff of Hollywood legend: Al Pacino, Kurt Russell and even Burt Reynolds, who supposedly turned down the role. The person who impressed Lucas the most, however, was the carpenter who kept reading lines opposite the auditioning actors — and when “Star Wars” came out in 1977, it was Ford’s star that shined the brightest.
Author/humorist Jill A. Davis once said of second chances: “Like trains, they arrive and depart regularly. Recognizing the ones that matter is the trick.” Inevitably, in life we often watch others succeed as we take a back seat, but the important thing is being ready when it’s your time to shine. Here are true tales of second-choice performers who made the most of a break — and because of it, became living legends.
Fans still feel bad for Pete Best, the so-called “Fifth Beatle” who served as the band’s original drummer. But few give due respect to Ringo Starr, a man who took over the sticks at 22 while angry fans chanted, “Pete forever, Ringo never!” John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, however, along with producer George Martin, were convinced that the “lads” needed a more solid backbeat, and Starr was the right choice. Now, on the 50th anniversary of the infamous switcheroo, Starr has secured his place as the most famous drummer in the world and an irreplaceable member of rock’s greatest band.
True, Keanu Reeves was already a household name in the mid-’90s. When “The Matrix” came along in 1999, however, the actor had spent several years fronting bombs like “Chain Reaction.” Good thing, then, that Will Smith passed on the role of sci-fi savior Neo, telling Wired magazine in 2004: “I just didn't see [myself in that role]. I watched Keanu's performance — and very rarely do I say this — but I would have messed it up.” Reeves is undoubtedly a grateful second choice, as the bullet-time badassery of Neo revived his career and became his trademark role.
It’s hard to imagine anyone but the iconic four stars of “Seinfeld” quibbling about nothing. But believe it or not, when the show was casting, the role of Elaine nearly went to a more famous performer named … Rosie O’Donnell? Luckily, the break went to the right woman — and Julia Louis-Dreyfus hilariously (and awfully) danced herself into TV history.
It’s pretty easy to imagine Cary Grant as James Bond. But things became more creative when Grant turned down 007 producer Albert Broccoli for “Dr. No.” Instead, the license to kill went to a Scotsman with a far flimsier resume. Of course, Sean Connery defined the character in seven Bond films, then continued an Oscar-winning career that left decades of audiences both shaken and stirred.