John Travolta as Han Solo?

There was a rumor that John Travolta had been considered for the role that made Harrison Ford a household name. Whether that’s true or not (and it is probably true that both Christopher Walken and Nick Nolte were considered) doesn’t matter now.  We have our Han Solo.  The Han Solo, as far as we’re all concerned.

Here are a couple more:

Eric Stoltz was originally cast in the role of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future franchise, not Michael J. Fox.   The role of Ripley of the Alien movies could have gone to Veronica Cartwright (she was cast as Lambert, the navigator of the Nostromo) instead of Sigourney Weaver.  Or, as the cast was intended to be unisex, Ripley could have been played by a man.

We come to view our heroes, heroines, and villains in a certain way.  In a book, a character is described by the author, who has a vision of what that character looks like.  But each reader will have a slightly different idea.  When we watch a film, the image of that character is burned into our brains.  Even though the actors are merely doing their job, if they do it well enough (or perhaps too well) they become the ONLY actor that could have possibly pulled off that role.  After seeing Star Wars a gazillion times, can you ever imagine John Travolta or Christopher Walken or Nick Nolte as Han?  Me neither.

  So, we’re going to play some games.  First, think of one of your favorite films (SF or otherwise).  Was the characterization perfect?  Could you see any other actor in the lead roles?  What if Ripley had been played by a male actor?  Which one would have carried it off with the strength and vulnerability of Sigourney Weaver? (BTW, can you tell I can’t imagine *anyone* other than her in that role?)

Another game:  Think of your favorite SF or SFR book, or if you’re a writer, your own book will work 🙂  What would be the ideal casting?  And hey, let’s go for broke here.  Pick any actors you want, living or dead.


Cathy Pegau‘s debut SFR Rulebreaker will be released August 8, 2011.



  1. ROFL at Travolta as Han Solo. Priceless! I seem to remember footage of Kurt Russell auditioning for that role as well. He was waaay too young at the time but he’d have been good a decade later. I agree about Ford, though–irreplaceable. And Sigourney as Ripley, no one else even comes close.

    One of the wildest near-misses I saw was Leslie Nielsen up for the role of main villain Messala in Ben-Hur! Yes, Frank Drebin of Police Squad nearly raced Charlton Heston in a chariot. The mind boggles. Here’s another: Clint Eastwood was offered the role of Superman a decade before Christopher Reeve!

    Ooh, I love the cast your own novel game. When I was describing the main characters for my upcoming SF book Sparks in Cosmic Dust (Carina, September 26), I sent the art department photos of Gemma Arterton (Prince of Persia) and Christian Bale. Not that Gemma’s pic was my desktop image or anything…

    My best bit of casting was for my Eleven Hour Fall SF trilogy. A couple of months after I wrote it, I saw Evangeline Lilly in Lost for the first time. Not only did she look EXACTLY as I’d imagined my heroine, she was kick-ass at survival *and* had the same first name–Kate. A genius am I!

  2. I simply cannot imagine anyone other than Weaver as Ripley. It’s just unimaginable and wrong even to think about.

    One of my favorite casting dilemmas is who should play Jaimie and Claire from the Outlander series if a film (or preferably HBO miniseries) was to be made. I’ve eventually decided they should be completely unknown actors getting their first big break. And they should be cast for talent more than looks. Oh, and Jamie should be played by a real Scotsman.

    For my own recent release, Blue Galaxy, I sent the art department a picture of Javier Bardem. They went with someone incredibly good looking, but Captain Javan Rhodes, in my mind, is so much older and more world-weary. He needed a few grey hairs and wrinkles, IMO. A face that has seen too much.

  3. Robert and Diane, so glad we’re all on the same page regarding Weaver/Ripley. I thinks she is the first SF character that totally embodied the kick-ass heroine and later added the love/ferocity of a mother bear. Sorry, guys, but no male actor could have pulled that off.

    Leslie Nielsen might have been a good Messala, but yes, having seen him as Drebin I can’t watch his earlier, serious films without expecting something goofy to happen.

    Robert–RE: pic of Gemma on desktop–Uh huh 😉

    Good choices your cover models! Your Javan might not mesh with the art department’s, Diane, but he is still quite hot 😉

    I told the art department I saw Alana de la Gaza (Connie Rubirosa on Law and Order) as Liv, and either Angelina Jolie or a darker Cate Blanchett as Zia. The preliminary cover they sent is dang close and amazingly gorgeous, as are all Carina covers 🙂 When I get the final I will share 🙂

  4. Great post Cathy! I can’t imagine anyone else as Han Solo or Ripley, either. Similarly, I can’t imagine anyone else, besides Nathan Fillion, in the role of Mal Reynolds from Firefly.

    I have to admit, the only book I’ve ever toyed around with trying to cast was a fantasy (The Belgariad), not sci-fi. As for my own books… I have very distinct ideas about what the characters look like and I rarely picture actual people in the role. The one exception was Cooper in one of my MIA Case Files books. He’s based on a combination of a friend and Sendhil Ramamurthy from Heroes.

  5. KC, I was going to include Nathan Fillion, but for some reason left him out! Yes, he will ALWAYS be Mal to me. Amid the various rumors of another go at “Firefly” I wondered if they would be able to get Nathan (why yes, we *are* on a first name basis 😉 ). If not, how would the manage?

    Oooh, I need to re-read The Belgariad. And while I don’t know who your friend is, I do find Sendhil Ramamurthy quite yummy 🙂

  6. In the case of Han Solo, it couldn’t have been anyone else but Harrison Ford. He didn’t just bring his looks, but his own twists, some of the most memorable lines–Leia, “I love you.” Han, “I know”
    That response was soooo the character!
    I don’t really cast characters with movie stars. I’m missing out on all the fun!

    1. Agreed, Ella. Ford was given the role, but he made the character. That exchange is one of the best to showcase Solo being, well, Solo 🙂

      You should play the movie star game with your characters. Who would you cast in Silver Bound?

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