Oh, what might have been! Alison Lohman gives a terrific performance as the cursed loan officer Christine Brown in Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, which opens tomorrow. If not for the vagaries of scheduling, though, Ellen Page would have played the lead role. Would Page have been any better? We'll never know, but she joins a long list that inspires thoughts of 'What if ...?'
Once upon a time, we might have seen Leslie Howard as the titular Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi as The Monster. Instead, Colin Clive played the good doctor, Boris Karloff got a jump-start on life, and the rest is horror history. Here are seven more recent examples of actors and actresses who were considered for key roles in great horror films ... and the ones who replaced them, listed in chronological order. [Disclaimer: Based on information provided on IMDb's "trivia" pages, so no guarantees on accuracy.] Better? Worse? You decide.
Even though she was in her mid-20s, Spacek looks so young and fragile as Carrie that it's difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. Griffith was 18 or 19 and already had made an impression in Night Moves, The Drowning Pool, and Smile when she auditioned to play the telekinetic high schooler. Conveying Carrie's complexities might have been beyond her still-developing skills at that point. The pic above, left, is from Joyride, released the following year.
Reportedly, Lockhart was director John Carpenter's first choice to play Laurie Strode. The daughter of June Lockhart (Lassie, Lost in Space), Anne Lockhart was, like Sissy Spacek, in her mid-20s, but she looks pretty youthful in the aforementioned Joyride as well as in the original Battlestar Galactica (pictured above, left), in which she appeared about the same time. As things worked out, Carpenter was able to use another second-generation actress in her very first part.
I love Adrienne King's girl next door appearance -- and appreciate her survival instincts -- but Sally Field couldn't possibly have auditioned for this movie, could she? Coming off Norma Rae? No way! This one has gotta be incorrect, right, some kind of joke? On the other hand, she did appear in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (pictured above, left) the year before ... and I love the idea of an Academy Award-winning actress starring in a no-budget horror movie.
Hmm, this is another one that sounds suspicious. The IMDb trivia page claims director Stanley Kubrick "didn't think Williams would suit the part after watching his performance in Mork & Mindy (1978), as he deemed him too psychotic for the role." He also ruled out Robert DeNiro because he wasn't psychotic enough and considered Harrison Ford before settling on Nicholson. Supposedly, Stephen King suggested Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight.
Back to real life. Cartwright thought she was cast as Ripley until she was "called in to do some costume tests for the character of Lambert." Weaver is very, very good as Ripley, but the character didn't become an iconic figure until Aliens. Cartwright seems to fit Lambert like a glove, but the actress had been very good in a somewhat stronger role in Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Alien could have been Cartwright's launching pad, but Weaver go the nod instead and moved comfortably and capably into stardom.
The story goes that Johnny accompanied his friend Jackie on Jackie's audition for the movie. Director Wes Craven saw Depp, asked him to audition, and Jackie went on to do something called The Zoo Gang instead (the image above, left, is from the previous year's Losin' It). Hollywood can be so cruel! Jackie gets the last laugh, because now he gets to play Freddy Krueger in Samuel Bayer's reboot. Evidently Jackie doesn't take Johnny along on auditions anymore.
After Molly Ringwald and Reese Witherspoon turned down the part of Sydney Prescott, Drew Barrymore was cast, but then switched to the much briefer role of the hapless Casey Becker, insisting that "if she played Casey then it would make the audience think anything could happen." Barrymore made for a very good scream queen, but there is something delightfully deranged about the best-known cast member's fate. ("Oh, look, it's the little girl from E.T., all grown up! I love her! Why is she screaming? Where is he dragging her?") Before Neve Campbell got the nod, fellow TV starlet Melissa Joan Hart auditioned as well.