When James Cameron first approached 20th Century Fox for $250+ million to make a 3D movie at a time when hardly any 3D screens were in function, and with technology that had not yet been used in film, their first thought was probably: “Is Will Smith available?”
Although after realising that a Na’vi with the face of Will Smith would look unintentionally hilarious they probably searched around for other A-List actors to play the lead, and they did. Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhall to name a few. However Cameron insisted on an unknown, and he eventually insisted on Sam Worthington.
The list of iconic film roles that almost went to other actors is a long and continuous one. O.J. Simpson as the Terminator? Kurt Russell as Han Solo? Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly?! To this bunch, add Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal.
As James Cameron confirmed to MTV News, both those A-listers were being considered for the starring role of Jake Sully in “Avatar,” a part that ultimately went to then-unknown Australian actor Sam Worthington.
“They were bandied about,” the director said. “The studio was interested in having a name, I think really just for the part of it we’re doing right now, which is, ‘How do you sell this movie? What are the handles on this thing that we can sell it to the media somehow or get media attention?’ Well, having a name actor gets you on talk shows and all that sort of thing. So there was some value to that idea, and we explored it.”
“Ultimately we kept coming back to Sam,” he said. “Sam was the guy who just — he was the guy. Even with the accent and everything. You hear Sam talk and he sounds like Crocodile Dundee — but you hear him in the character and he’s utterly and completely the guy.”
After seeing Worthington in the role it’s pretty hard to imagine anyone else as Jake Sully, however it’s always interesting to hear what could have been if the usual studio politics played out. I’m sure Avatar would have made over $1 billion with or without an A-List actor as the lead. People rarely see films just because a certain actor or actress appears in the film anyway nowadays, it’s mainly about the film itself.