29 Movies That Almost Starred Harrison Ford
By 1976, Harrison Ford had been acting for over a decade, most prominently as Bob Falfa in George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973), and Martin Stett in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). Unfortunately for Ford, he was still as well known for his carpentry as he was his filmography, and Lucas was against using the same actor in more than one of his movies. Still, there was hope: Lucas hired Ford to read lines as Han Solo during auditions with prospective actors, and Lucas was eventually convinced that the Chicago-born actor was the man to play the incorrigible Millennium Falcon captain with the heart of gold. Now, let's look back at some films that almost featured Harrison Ford.
1. The Graduate (1967)
Director Mike Nichols rejected the then 25-year-old Ford for The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock, who ended up being played by Dustin Hoffman. Nichols and Ford finally worked together in Working Girl (1988) and Regarding Henry (1991), the latter of which was written by The Force Awakens' writer-director J.J. Abrams.
2. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Ford flew 3000 miles to New York City—on his own dime—to audition for the role of Midnight Cowboy's Joe Buck. John Schlesinger went with Jon Voight.
3. Alien (1979)
Two years after Star Wars, Ford was turning down parts. He declined playing Captain Dallas in Alien, letting Tom Skerritt handle that.
4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Ford was cut from E.T. He played Elliott’s school principal. His face was not visible, because other than Elliott’s mother, Steven Spielberg tried to not show the faces of the adults.
5. Making Love (1982)
The then-controversial film was about Zach (Michael Ontkean), a doctor who is married to Claire (Kate Jackson), but starts a relationship with Bart (Harry Hamlin), a novelist. Ford, Michael Douglas, and Richard Gere all turned down playing the male leads. Making Love ended up being a commercial and critical failure.
6. Terms of Endearment (1983)
Jack Nicholson won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment. Ford turned that role down.
7. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Ford admitted he was offered the lead after Sylvester Stallone dropped out, and before it was turned into a comedy starring Eddie Murphy. He said he saw the movie and had no regrets on declining. It helps that he starred in Witness (1985) instead, which landed him his first (and so far only) Oscar nomination.
8. Big (1988)
Off of Anne Spielberg (Steven’s sister) and Gary Ross’ script, producer/director James L. Brooks spent six months waiting for Ford to play Josh Baskin. But Ford wasn't pleased with the choice of director. Eventually, Tom Hanks ended up playing the lead, with Penny Marshall directing.
9. Die Hard (1988)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, and Ford all turned down the role of John McClane before Bruce Willis signed up for Die Hard.
10. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
There was “alleged idle talk” between Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Ford to star as Eddie Valiant before they moved on to trying—and failing—to contact Bill Murray. Bob Hoskins got the part.
11. Ghost (1990)
Ford read the script to Ghost three times and didn’t understand it, so he turned the role of Sam Wheat down. Patrick Swayze apparently understood, and the rest was history.
12. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Director John McTiernan tried to get Ford to play CIA analyst Jack Ryan, years before he would do so for the sequel Patriot Games (1992), replacing Alec Baldwin.
13. Misery (1990)
William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Warren Beatty, and Ford said no to playing novelist Paul Sheldon in the adaptation of Stephen King's Misery. James Caan said yes.
14. Cape Fear (1991)
Martin Scorsese asked Robert De Niro to ask Ford to play the lawyer Sam Bowden in the remake of the 1962 thriller Cape Fear. Ford told De Niro he would only do it if he could play Max Cady and De Niro would play Bowden. De Niro did not want to do that, so Nick Nolte ended up in the role.
15. JFK (1991)
Ford was Oliver Stone’s first choice to play district attorney Jim Garrison in JFK, but he was unavailable, on a long vacation. Kevin Costner played the part instead.
16. Jurassic Park (1993)
Ford could have been Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill). Spielberg claimed he offered the role to the actor at the 30th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark after Ford said Spielberg only hired him for the Indiana Jones movies.
17. Outbreak (1995)
Producer Arnold Kopelson asked Ford to play Sam Daniels, but he said no. Dustin Hoffman, who became famous 10 years before Ford after he beat him out to play Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, said yes.
18. Half Baked (1998)
Dave Chappelle asked Ford to make a cameo in Half Baked. Ford declined, without giving a reason.
19. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Spielberg considered both Mel Gibson and Ford before tapping Tom Hanks to play Captain Miller, in an Oscar nominated performance.
20. The Thin Red Line (1998)
Sean Penn, on behalf of director Terrence Malick, called Ford and asked him to appear in the war epic alongside him, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, and John Travolta.
21. Runaway Bride (1999)
Ford, Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas, and Ben Affleck were set to play Ike Graham during the 10-year development process. Richard Gere got the role as part of a Pretty Woman reunion with Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall.
22. The Patriot (2000)
Ford believed the movie would be too violent. Mel Gibson was okay with that.
23. The Perfect Storm (2000)
Air Force One director Wolfgang Petersen wanted to work with Ford again, but he turned the lead role of Captain BIlly Tyne down. After Mel Gibson wanted too much money, George Clooney got the role.
24. Proof of Life (2000)
Ford and, once again, Mel Gibson could have played Terry Thorne in the action movie. Instead, director Taylor Hackford told the studio he preferred Russell Crowe for the role, and won the argument.
25. Traffic (2000)
20th Century Fox decided they only wanted the Steven Soderbergh-directed project if Harrison Ford agreed to star. Ford became interested before backing out, and the major studio did, too. The movie ended up being produced by USA Films, and won four Oscars.
26. The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Ben Affleck became the third actor to play Jack Ryan when Ford and director Phillip Noyce couldn’t agree on how to fix the script.
27. Insomnia (2002)
Ford and director Jonathan Demme worked on getting an American remake of the Norwegian thriller made. Ford was to play police detective Will Dormer but Christopher Nolan ended up directing, and Al Pacino took over the lead.
28. Syriana (2005)
Ford had questions over the validity of some of the geopolitical story involving petroleum products and the oil industry, only later finding that the parts he found untruthful were taken out. He said he wished he took the role of Rob Barnes after seeing the movie. George Clooney ended up playing Barnes, and won a Best Supporting Actor for his work.
29. A History of Violence (2005)
Ford turned down playing small-town diner owner/mobster-in-hiding Tom Stall in David Cronenberg's crime thriller. Viggo Mortensen got the gig.
This story has been updated for 2020.