Since the release of the original Star Wars film in 1977, a slew of names have surfaced as prospective would-be Millennium Falcon piloting smugglers who were nearly cast by George Lucas the first time around. Yes, Harrison Ford actually wasn’t the first choice to play everyone’s favorite scruffy Nerf Herder. He wasn’t even the 15th choice, by all accounts. So today, we look at some of the actors who almost pulled on those shiny black space boots to play one of the most iconic smugglers in all of sci-fi history. Here we take a look at 10 of the Actors who could have been Han Solo.
Harrison Ford is so dreamy, right? But Han Solo could have been a real nightmare. In a 2014 interview, Yahoo! Movies and a 2015 follow-up with the Hollywood Reporter, the man we all came to know as Freddy Krueger revealed he’d auditioned to play Han Solo. Robert Englund says he went to the Warner Bros. lot to read for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. They told him he was too old to play the surfer in the movie but they sent him across the hall to read for a project helmed by one of Coppola’s buddies, George Lucas. He was too young for Solo, but he did bring home some sides for Luke Skywalker, which he handed to the guy on his couch: Mark Hamill. Yes, the future Freddy Krueger was the guy who tipped off Mark Hamill about Star Wars. Incidentally, Englund also said he’d heard that Tom Selleck turned down the Han Solo role. Selleck was later offered the role of Indiana Jones, but had to turn it down after CBS picked up the pilot for the show Magnum P.I., a career defining character that earned Selleck an Emmy and made his mustache famous.
Nick Nolte is another guy who tried but failed to join the cast of Apocalypse Now and like Robert Englund, was reportedly considered for Solo. Rumor has it he turned down Indiana Jones, too! In a 2011 interview with MTV, Nolte admitted he would have made a quite-goofy Star Wars person. Nevertheless, the idea of Nolte as Solo did provide a great comedic premise for avowed Star Wars geek Patton Oswalt, who turned the premise into one of his best jokes.
Sylvester Stallone and Harrison Ford teamed up for a few scenes in The Expendables 3, but back when Harrison Ford was still working as a carpenter, Sly went in to see about donning the now iconic black vest and blaster that ultimately wound up with Ford. In a 2014 appearance on The Tonight Show, Stallone told Jimmy Fallon that he’d actually met with George Lucas and his producers, though he was pretty sure Lucas didn’t like him for the part from the start. “Let me just make it easy for you,” he told them, before the audition even began. “I would look like crap in spandex leotards and a ray gun. Guys in space don’t have this face, I get it.” Stallone did okay with the Rocky franchise, so all is good.
Al Pacino says he was offered everything after his star making turns in The Godfather, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Godfather Part II. Included in that list of everything, as he discussed with MTV at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, was Star Wars. The only problem was that the future Scarface didn’t understand the script they gave him or why he should play Han Solo. “I was in The Godfather,” he said. “They didn’t care if I was right or wrong for the role, if I could act or not act.”
Pacino wasn’t the only actor from The Godfather who was considered for Han Solo. Howard Stern once asked James Caan why he turned down the role when it was offered to him and he said bluntly, “They didn’t want an actor. That’s why they got Harrison Ford.” Damn, Sonny Corleone! James Caan can be pretty hilarious during interviews, particularly when he’s sitting with someone like Stern. He described Ford as “absolutely mediocre” and said he’d since become “arrogant” as well. Caan likes to poke fun, so it’s hard to say whether the beef is real. So… Badabing!
Speaking of “funny,” Irwin Fletcher may have convincingly passed himself off as a surgeon and as a friend of the Underhills, but could Chevy Chase have made a convincing Han Solo? He’s one of many names often tossed around as guys reportedly considered for the role back in the day. He did end up costarring with the late great Carrie Fisher, in a movie about the little people actors cast as extras in The Wizard of Oz, called Under the Rainbow, which was released between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Chase also lent his voice to the classic Family Guy sendup of Star Wars, Blue Harvest.
Chevy Chase isn’t the only Saturday Night Live veteran whose name is mentioned in nearly every almost-Han Solo conversation. The rumor that Murray turned down the part followed him for years. During a San Diego Comic-Con panel in 2015, Murray was asked whether the rumors were true. He was also asked if he’d consider playing Solo in the forthcoming spin-off. “I don’t know if I was up for it,” he answered. “I can’t tell you for sure. But I am working out in hopes of getting this new thing,” he joked. “I’m doing a lot of swimming and pilates.” Murray’s greatest contribution to the Star Wars universe, of course, came in January 1978, when his Nick the Lounge Singer graciously added lyrics to John Williams classic theme.
Speaking of SNL, remember Kevin Spacey as Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo? It’s a classic sketch and it’s apparently grounded in some piece of reality and we aren’t just talking about Walken’s own legendary appearances on Saturday Night Live. Supposedly, the Han Solo role in the original Star Wars was his for the taking, with some saying he was high on the list for George Lucas. Of course, Walken did end up with a part in another 1977 cinema classic: Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.
We haven’t seen a real Christopher Walken screen test floating around, but there is real footage of Kurt Russell auditioning for the role. In the decade before Escape from New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China, Russell read for both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, at one point reading alongside Luke hopeful William Katt, who would go on to star as television’s The Greatest American Hero in the 1980s. While doing press for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Russell admitted that during his Star Wars audition, he didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. “Something about a Death Star and a Millennium Falcon.” Watching Russell as John Carpenter’s Snake Plissken a few years later, it wasn’t hard to imagine him as Han.
Glynn Turman, who went on to land roles in Gremlins and HBO’s The Wire, recently spoke to Empire about going in to read for Star Wars. “In those days it said ‘black actor,’ ‘white actor,’ ‘Hispanic actor’ for every role, but it didn’t say either for the Han Solo part,” he explained. “It didn’t specify ‘black actor.’ I was rather pleased because I was just being called in as a talent.” According to the book Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, Lucas said the idea of Han Solo and Princess Leia as an interracial couple was just too risky at the time. Billie Dee Williams, who joined the franchise with Empire Strikes Back, certainly brought his own swagger to the Han Solo esque character of Lando Calrissian, a role taken over by Donald Glover in the Han Solo standalone film, about the smuggler duo’s early adventures. There have certainly been more names tossed around as possible Han Solo’s back in the day and in more recent years with the spinoff prequel.