The role: Dr. Ryan Stone, the beginner astronaut suddenly stuck in space when her space shuttle is damaged, and her thirst for life deepened.
The final pick: Sandra Bullock. Jolie was set to star alongside Robert Downey Jr. But Jolie’s management team wasn’t able to come to an agreement with Warner Bros.
The movie: “The Matrix” series
The role: Neo, a superhuman with the power to perform every single martial art and fighting style.
The final pick: Keanu Reeves. Smith passed on the role because he couldn’t envision the concept of “The Matrix.” Looking back, Smith said he wouldn’t have been “smart” enough to play the role at the time. He later starred in the sci-fi action film “I, Robot.”(Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner Bros.; Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images for MTV)
The role: Bella Swan, a teenager turned vampire with the skill to shield herself and others from mental harm. All the while, she’s madly in love with mind-reading vampire Edward Cullen.
The final pick: Kristen Stewart. Lawrence later landed the role of Katniss Everdeen in the equally popular series “The Hunger Games.”(Samir Hussein / Getty Images; Kimberley French)
The movie: “Michael Clayton”
The role: Michael Clayton, an attorney with a conscience, who breaks down the corruption surrounding a chemical scandal.
The final pick: George Clooney. To this day, Washington regrets turning down the role. “With ‘Clayton,’ it was the best material I had read in a long time, but I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong,” Washington said.(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press; Myles Aronowitz)
The role: Forrest Gump, a not-so intelligent former military man set to tell the story of his life.
The final pick: Tom Hanks. Travolta simply turned down the role and later admitted his decision was a mistake. For Hanks, the role earned him an Oscar for best actor in 1994.(Francois Durand / Getty Images )
The role: Cher Horowitz, the wealthy Valley girl up for anything that involves fashion, makeovers and, like, boys.
The final pick: Alicia Silverstone. Gellar couldn’t commit due to scheduling conflicts.(Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press; Paramount Pictures)
The role: Will Turner, an ace swordsman and budding pirate.
The final pick: Orlando Bloom. Law auditioned for the role to play Keira Knightley’s love interest, but was shoved aside for Bloom.(Jonathan Leibson / Getty Images; Peter Mountain / Disney Enterprises )
The role: Black Widow, a femme fatale formerly known as a Russian spy.
The final pick: Scarlett Johansson. Blunt passed on the role saying: “Usually the female parts in a superhero film feel thankless: She’s the pill girlfriend while the guys are whizzing around saving the world.”(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times; Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)
The role: Gandalf, a wizard and leader of the Fellowship of the Ring with great mental and physical power.
The final pick: Ian McKellen. Despite director Peter Jackson’s many attempts for Connery to play Gandalf -- he offered Connery $30 million on top of 15% of the film’s box office revenue -- Connery said he simply didn’t understand the story. During his audition read, Connery mistakenly referred to hobbits as bobbits.(Jason Szenes / EPA; New Line Productions)
The role: Vivian Ward, an assertive Hollywood Boulevard prostitute who finds love with a wealthy lawyer.
The final pick: Julia Roberts. Hannah rejected the role since she believed it was belittling to women. “They sold it as a romantic fairytale when in fact it’s a story about a prostitute who becomes a lady by being kept by a rich and powerful man,” Hannah said. Hannah, however, later portrayed a stripper in the drama “Dancing at the Blue Iguana.”(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Buena Vista / Getty Images)
The role: Spider-Man, the web-slinging, wall-crawling figure who has proved to be one of the most commercially successful superheroes.
The final pick: Tobey Maguire. A disappointed Prinze Jr. told late-night radio personality Howard Stern that he was originally cast as Spider-Man, but director Sam Raimi went with Maguire instead.(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times; Merrick Morton / Columbia Pictures)
The role: Han Solo, a sarcastic yet compassionate hero who helps for the common good.
The final pick: Harrison Ford. Al Pacino dismissed the role, saying: “It was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script.” Pacino turned down the “Star Wars” series and later starred in the Godfather trilogy, but found it to be “a long, awful, tiring story.”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Industrial Light & Magic)
The role: J.D., the money-stealing, good-looking thief who strikes up a romantic relationship with Thelma (Geena Davis), and ends up educating her on his holdup tactics.
The final pick: Brad Pitt. Clooney read with Davis several times, only to be booted for Pitt. Clooney admitted he didn’t see the movie for years, then decided to rent it one night and realized that Pitt was perfect for the role.(Brad Barket / Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; MGM)
The role: Scarlett O’Hara, a smart and charming woman searching high and low for love.
The final pick: Vivien Leigh. Davis turned down the role under the impression that Errol Flynn would play the part of Rhett Butler. (Clark Gable actually got the role.) Davis had refused to work with Flynn earlier, as their relationship off-screen was rocky. Davis even reportedly once slapped Flynn on the face.(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles Times Archives)
The role: James Bond, a British secret agent, with the code name 007.
The final pick: Sean Connery. Grant was 58 years old at the time of the audition and turned down the role because he was only interested in doing one Bond film.(Van Ness Films Inc.; Los Angeles Times Archives)
On a Friday a few weeks ago, the “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s” first full day in theaters, I made my way into the real world — or at least as real as Rick Caruso’s Americana at Brand gets — to see what the pre-"Games” party looked like, then take in the show.
Teenage girls were everywhere. Cliques of them expanding, dividing, circling like amoebas in the consumer petri dish of the place. From ripped jeans to designer duds, fresh-faced to pink punk-streaked hair, they crossed stereotypes. And the pitch — fevered but not dog-whistle high, more like a distant rumble — built like a thunderstorm brewing. The phenomenon was underway inside Pacific Theatres as well, where a showing of “Hunger Games” every 20 or so minutes kept things in perpetual motion.
Talking, texting, opinionated, excited, the girls were on fire. I was seeing the concrete embodiment of the abstract idea that there is a young female audience for an action franchise — one big enough and strong enough to support a so-called tent-pole movie long thought to be an exclusive obsession of young males.
Until recently, Hollywood either didn’t believe it existed — not as a collective force field — or didn’t value it. Catering to the young male demographic, specifically those ages 12 to 24, has been the industry’s economic raison d’etre for so long it is difficult to say exactly when girls stopped mattering to moviemakers.
Or at least mattering enough to compel studios to actively work at making their day too. There have been the occasional forays into genre projects built around a heroine — from the classic “Wonder Woman” to the more contemporary “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” for example — but these were anomalies.
When I say “young female franchise” I don’t mean in the old way, of girls swooning and desperate to make a good love match, knee-deep in self-esteem issues. But confident ones, sure of themselves, more in the mold of the “Hunger Games’” Katniss Everdeen and Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who embodies her so well.
The significance for Hollywood is sweeping. Developing action films specifically for girls has implications for every aspect of moviemaking — storytelling, style, casting. It will not be enough to simply substitute a heroine in for a hero; there are social and cultural differences between genders, nuances in the way battles are fought, relationships are developed.
If there was any lingering doubt about how potent the movie-consuming appetites of tween/teen/young-adult girls might be for action fare, you need look no further than the box office. Though the film is also drawing guys and older moviegoers, if what I witnessed that first day is any indication, girls are the ones driving “Hunger Games’” success.
On the financial front, the film is crushing it. By the close of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the film had earned roughly $300 million in the U.S. and $573 million more overseas.
As the final tally was being counted, the holiday take put “The Hunger Games” in contention for the No. 2 spot on best-ever second-weekend take on the money-making charts (the number-crunchers get specific in their slicing and dicing). That puts the film shoulder to shoulder with “Avatar” and “The Dark Knight” and just behind No. 1, “The Avengers.”
Katniss is running neck and neck with the big boys — Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and “Avatar’s” cyber-soldier.
As important is the kind of story the “Hunger Games” represents: Action and adventure drive the film, with romance a distant third. Exactly the kind of story that studios thought girls didn’t like. Lions Gate Entertainment now seems prescient for quickly hammering out a deal with producer and former Disney exec Nina Jacobson, who seems more prescient still for snagging the rights to adapt the book series not long after it began in 2008.
The ascendancy of girl power at the box office began to take shape with the “Twilight” series in 2008. Since both “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” began as young-adult books, it is easy to chalk up the movies’ popularity to those earlier on-page successes. While that is certainly a factor — half of Hollywood’s hottest properties have their roots in books or comic books — to write it off that way would be to miss the point.
“Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer and “Hunger Games” scribe Suzanne Collins didn’t create a market, they just understood it better than most — that girls wanted something they weren’t finding elsewhere, stories that spoke to them in different ways, heroines cut from a different cloth.
In “Twilight,” Meyer seeded action and girl power around romance, but she took care to ensure that Edward and Bella, boy and girl, vampire and human, were on equal emotional footing. It didn’t hurt that the power balance between the stars — Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattison, romantically linked throughout “Twilight’s” long run — always put Stewart ahead in the game.
“Hunger Games” is arguably the next iteration of the idea — with action and empowerment center stage and in the fine hands of Lawrence, who is showing herself to be a formidable and versatile actor.
Of course, the industry isn’t ignoring the big box office. The trailers I saw leading into “Catching Fire” included the coming action-fantasy-drama “Frankenstein,” the biblical apocalyptic action of “Noah,” and the latest action-fantasy installment of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” The most female-centric of the bunch included “Endless Love,” a dark romance, and the action-adventure “Divergent,” starring Shailene Woodley, whose breakthrough was as George Clooney’s acerbic teenage daughter in “The Descendants.”
“Divergent,” set for release this spring and the first of Veronica Roth’s sci-fi trilogy to be adapted for the big screen, is definitely one to watch. Woodley, like Lawrence, seems cut from tougher stock. The premise of the film is pure futuristic action-adventure, and while Woodley’s Beatrice Prior is aided by a young hunk played by Theo James, the fate of the world, or a dystopian Chicago, rests in her — not his — hands.
Also on the horizon are “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon and “Tracks” starring Mia Wasikowska — both stories of solo wilderness treks by women, extreme survival stories that should stand in league with any tales of this kind.
In the run for the money and the market that “The Hunger Games” is likely to inspire, I wager we will see as much bad as good. A final thought for those intending to enter the arena: They are demanding consumers — check out Twitter, Facebook and even old-school teen magazines, which spend a great deal of time and money catering to their desires. So best get it right or risk getting burned. These girls are on fire.