Close Casting Calls: Al Pacino In Star Wars

May 4, 2016
On May The Fourth – Star Wars Day! – here’s one of the most famous casting near misses (and possible catastrophes) in the franchise’s behind-the-scenes history.

What Happened?

While Star Wars creator, George Lucas, looked to unknown actors to play his band of space adventurers in what would become his 1977 game-changer, a nervous 20th Century Fox offered the critical role of space smuggler, Han Solo, to almost every leading man in Hollywood, from Nick Nolte to Christopher Walken. “George Lucas came in and said, ‘There are three unknown people that I want to go with,’” reflected former studio boss, Alan Ladd Jr. “I figured that he’d gone this far, so he knows what he’s doing, but I’d be lying if I said, ‘Oh my God! Harrison Ford is perfect, Carrie Fisher is perfect, and Mark Hammill is perfect.’ I was very nervous about the cast.” On top of Fox’s list to play Han Solo was brooding method actor, Al Pacino, who turned the role down flat, seemingly due to a dislike for intergalactic adventures, since he also said no to Steve Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. In the end, not only did Lucas go against Fox’s wishes and cast Harrison Ford as Han Solo, but he also went against the advice of friend and equally influential filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola, who suggested that he cast major stage and screen actors in pivotal roles as he did with The Godfather, which of course starred Al Pacino.

Would It Have Worked? 

Um, no. Al Pacino has a screen energy totally at odds with the laidback, wisecracking demeanour of Han Solo. And also, with Pacino cast as Han Solo, Harrison Ford’s career as a leading man would not exist. And with no Ford, influential films such as Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Blade Runner would not have had the right movie star to see them through. As far as Pacino is concerned, the cult adoration which Star Wars inspired may have forced the notoriously shy actor to retreat to the stage in order to avoid the fan-boys, counting his Star Wars royalty cheques while playing Richard III for the umpteenth time.

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