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)
We know too much about Mexico’s drug war and not enough. We hear about it constantly, about the 60,000 murders and the slaughter of innocents, but getting a sense of what that means on the ground — and how pervasive its cultural influence is — is harder to come by. The potent documentary “Narco Cultura” is an excellent place to start.
This dispassionate but devastating film looks at the drug wars from two very different but chillingly complementary perspectives. As directed and shot by Shaul Schwarz, an accomplished photojournalist who spent two years in this world as a still photographer before starting to film, “Narco Cultura” benefits from the access Schwarz earned through his time on the ground.
What this film does is reveal two very different societies — both exhibiting, each in its own way, unmistakable signs of collapse. What’s happening on the ground in Juarez, an epicenter of killing sometimes known as the murder capital of the world, is bad enough, but how that slaughter is reflected and refracted through the lens of Mexican American popular culture is in some ways equally shocking.
Our guides to these complementary worlds are completely different. In Juarez, we are in the company of Richi Soto, a soft-spoken but dogged crime scene investigator, while in Los Angeles and on tour we hang out with Edgar Quintero. He’s an ebullient twentysomething who is a rising star in the writing and performing of narcocorridos, hugely popular songs that glibly celebrate the savage killings and killers whose handiwork Soto painstakingly probes.
Soto works in what’s described as the busiest forensic department in the world. Juarez got that title because its murder total has risen from 320 in 2007 to 3,622 in 2010 (El Paso, Texas, just across the river, had five that year).
Quietly determined, Soto is not naive about his job: He knows full well that colleagues have been killed or quit in fear for their lives.
“You always go out with a prayer on your lips,” he says. “You’re not working in a flower shop.”
Still, Soto perseveres and takes us with him to experience his grim working conditions: mangled bodies, bloody streets, hysterical mothers who wail “shout, Juarez, shout about the pain they are causing” as well as children who trade stories of death the way other kids trade baseball cards.
Just as depressing is the realization that, the hard work of Soto and his colleagues notwithstanding, few of these murders actually get prosecuted. It’s no wonder that the people in Juarez exhibit little faith that the system works.
“Narco Cultura” goes back and forth between these scenes and the much cheerier life of Quintero, who apparently makes a nice living both writing songs celebrating the creators of this mayhem — “we’re bloodthirsty, crazy and we love to kill” is how one lyric goes — and being the frontman of a successful rock band, Buknas de Culiacan, that sings them.
Director Schwarz is much too sophisticated a filmmaker to push this comparison too hard, but it is rather boggling to witness the complete disconnect between the awful reality of the streets of Juarez and the songs that are written about that reality with zero direct knowledge of the situation.
Even more disturbing is the gradual realization that this kind of celebratory music is becoming wildly popular among Mexican Americans, that these sadistic killers are, against all reason, being idolized as entrepreneurial Robin Hoods who are rebelling against the System.
“The sky’s the limit,” one music executive boasts. “We can be the next hip-hop.”
“Narco Cultura” uses few talking heads, but the reaction of Juarez journalist Sandra Rodriguez to the narcocorrido phenomenon of drug lord glorification is especially apt:
“That these people represent the ideal of success, impunity and limitless power,” Rodriguez says, “is symptomatic of how defeated we are as a society.”
Someone else puts it more bluntly: “Youth now idealizes the devil.”
MPAA rating: R, for grisly graphic images of disturbing violent content, drug material, language and brief nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Playing: In selected theaters