Movie Trivia: Casting Changes in Popular Sci-fi and Fantasy Movies
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Movie Trivia: Casting Changes in Popular Sci-fi and Fantasy Movies

Interesting trivia regarding some of the most popular Sci-Fi and Fantasy movies are the various casting changes that happened for the lead roles. This article lists these instances including the specific Sci-Fi and Fantasy movie, the role, and the casting change.

When a movie gets in production, usually the producers, directors or the writers of the movie already have a cast or at least an actor or actress for the lead role in mind. However, there are instances when the intended cast members don’t go according to plan. A casting change happens for a variety of reasons: salary negotiations that fell apart, scheduling conflicts, interventions from higher management, or even poor relationships with other cast members on board. This article lists those instances from popular Sci-fi and Fantasy movies. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t deal with a casting change in the middle of a movie franchise, such as during a sequel. This list primarily talks about originally intended actors and actresses for roles from popular Sci-fi and Fantasy movies that, for reasons that will be discussed, eventually went to other actors and actresses. The list below discusses the popular Sci-fi or Fantasy movie, the role involved, and the casting change.

Popular Sci-fi or Fantasy Movie: Back to the Future (1985)

The Role: Marty McFly

Original actor: Eric Stoltz

Casting Change: Unique in this list is that actor Eric Stoltz had actually shot 4 weeks of filming before the casting change. The casting change was deemed a must by director Robert Zemeckis due to Stoltz’s lack of the needed humor in the role, which the director initially had in mind. This was concurred by producer Steven Spielberg, and eventually also by Stoltz. Stoltz personally felt that he did not fit the role. Young actor Michael J. Fox ended up portraying Marty McFly and made three popular movies out of it. Back to the Future currently comprises numerous critics’ best lists in Classic and Sci-fi movie genres.


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Popular Sci-fi or Fantasy Movie: The Matrix (1999)

The Role: Neo

Original actor: Will Smith

Casting Change: Would you believe that originally, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Will Smith would have been Neo, the man who would be The One, and the saviour who would defeat Agent Smith and save Zion? Smith turned down the role after having doubts on the movie’s over reliance on special camera effects and ambitious bullet-time scenes. The casting change led to Canadian actor Keanu Reeves, who went on to star in arguably one of the most innovative, imaginative, and influential Sci-fi movies of modern times. Smith wound up starring in the critically panned Wild Wild West movie. Being that Smith at that time was mostly an action-oriented actor, the casting change was right on.


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Popular Sci-fi or Fantasy Movie: The Matrix (1999)

The Role: Trinity

Original actor: Sandra Bullock

Casting Change: Lost in all the talk surrounding The Matrix is Sandra Bullock, who at that time was among the most popular lead actresses, being offered to portray Trinity before it went to Carrie-Anne Moss. She turned down the role because she couldn’t see herself acting alongside the actor the studio intended to play the role as Neo. This was before Keanu Reeves was cast. It is not exactly known if she was referring to Will Smith or to some other actor whose name was thrown in during early casting negotiations. Can you imagine Sandra Bullock with her hair dyed jet black in a black jump suit performing all those martial arts moves?

Popular Sci-fi or Fantasy Movie: The Matrix (1999)

The Role: Morpheus

Original actor: Sean Connery

Casting Change: Multiple sources are divided in whether it was the role of Morpheus or actually the role of The Architect that was originally intended for the popular Scottish actor. Connery passed on the role because he couldn’t understand the script. The role fell on the lap of Laurence Fishburne. The role of Morpheus ended up being as popular as the trio of Neo, Trinity, and Agent Smith.


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Popular Sci-fi or Fantasy Movie: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Role: Aragorn

Original actor: Nicolas Cage

Casting Change: After three successful movies, the role of Aragorn has defined the career of Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen. Without a doubt, you wouldn’t consider the casting for that role a mistake. What about if it was Nicolas Cage leading the Fellowship? Does it feel right? Anyway, fact of the matter is Cage was offered the role (even as Neo in The Matrix) but turned it down because of the huge time demand of the movie franchise, which was shot in New Zealand. Cage cited family obligations. And even with LOTR being one of the most popular fantasy movie franchises of all time, Cage remains satisfied that he was able to spend meaningful time with his family. You could call this a casting change that worked for both sides.


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Popular Sci-fi of Fantasy Movie: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Role: Gandalf

Original actor: Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart

Casting Change: As with his experience with The Matrix, actor Sean Connery also didn’t understand the plot, and ended up turning down the role. One bit of trivia: Connery’s participation in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which also had a plot that didn’t really interest him, was triggered by his regrets of turning down The Matrix and LOTR. Also heavily considered was Patrick Stewart, who is popular for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation back in the 80’s and 90’s and recently as Professor X of the X-Men franchise. Stewart met with Peter Jackson, who had intended to cast the English actor for the role. Interestingly, Stewart wanted another role, which he hasn’t disclosed. Saruman, maybe? Or Elrond? Conflicts with the script also played a part in the casting change. In the end, fellow English actor Ian McKellen portrayed Gandalf and won awards as Best Supporting Actor.


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Be sure to check out casting changes in popular drama movies.


The Matrix (

Sandra Bullock Tells All (

Roles turned down by Sean Connery (

New York Con Reports, Pictures and Video (


Eric Stoltz as the original Marty McFly

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Comments (3)
Ranked #1 in Film Production

Interesting film review.

These are excellent movies.

Voted up. Yes, excellent