While it’s difficult to imagine our favorite military and war films in a way other than how they were initially released, the casting process is notoriously difficult, with several actors being considered for roles they never wind up getting. We were curious about what some of these war movies would look like if different stars were cast, and we asked AI to reimagine them for us.
These are the results.
Mel Gibson as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator
It might be difficult to imagine someone other than Russell Crowe portraying Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator (2000), there were actually a number of actors considered for the part. Antonio Banderas was the first, followed by Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and the late Tom Sizemore. Crowe secured the starring role because of his performance in L.A. Confidential (1997).
The above image is what AI believes Gibson would look like if he’d gotten the part in the epic war drama.
Neil Patrick Harris as Pvt. James Ryan in Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan (1998) is one of the most popular war movies ever released, and we asked AI to reimagine the character of Pvt. James Ryan, as Matt Damon wasn’t the only one considered for the part.
Going into the casting process, director Steven Spielberg knew he wanted a relatively unknown actor to star as Ryan, which is why he considered Neil Patrick Harris and Edward Norton for the role. However, a visit to the set of Good Will Hunting (1997) earned Damon the role, who Spielberg described as having a “great American everyboy look.”
John Wayne as Maj. John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen
This is definitely one war movie we think AI got a bit out there with, as John Wayne definitely wouldn’t have brought in a cowboy hat to portray Maj. John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen (1967). That being said, the actor was the original person considered for the part, not Lee Marvin.
Wayne would have taken the part, too, if it hadn’t been for two distinct reasons: the character’s adultery and the film’s anti-war sentiments. The United States was in the midst of the Vietnam War at the time and he didn’t want to do anything to sway public opinion against it.
Steve McQueen as Col. Walter Kurtz in Apocalypse Now
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Marlon Brando portraying the tough Col. Walter Kurtz in 1979’s Apocalypse Now, but that was almost the case. Steve McQueen wanted the role, having turned down Capt. Benjamin Willard, but was unsuccessful, given he wanted a paycheck of $3 million, which would have set a bad precedent on set.
The above image is what AI believes the famed star would have looked like if he’d appeared in the war movie.
Keanu Reeves as Chris Taylor in Platoon
Platoon (1986) was the first of three films in Oliver Stone‘s Vietnam War trilogy, and arguably the most popular. Charlie Sheen has become synonymous with the character of Chris Taylor, but he wasn’t the first to be considered. Keanu Reeves, best known for The Matrix and John Wick franchises, was initially approached, but turned down the feature because of its violence.
As AI shows, we think he would have fit perfectly into the war movie!
Clint Eastwood as Capt. Benjamin Willard in Apocalypse Now
Steve McQueen wasn’t the only one to turn down the role of Capt. Benjamin Willard in Apocalypse Now – Clint Eastwood did, too!
When McQueen turned down the part, he suggested Eastwood to director Francis Ford Coppola. He wound up turning down the offer, as he didn’t want to be away from home for four months, nor did he know where the story would go, even though he’d read Heart of Darkness when he was a teenager.
Matthew Modine as Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell in Top Gun
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Tom Cruise portraying the part of the charismatic Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in 1986’s Top Gun, but that was almost the case! Matthew Modine was asked to sign on, but he turned the movie down to star in Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket (1987).
There was another reason for Modine’s refusal: he couldn’t get behind Top Gun‘s message. He viewed it as a recruitment tool for the US Air Force and Navy, at a time when the United States and Soviet Union were still in the midst of the Cold War, something that didn’t sit right with him. He also didn’t like that the plot blamed the loss of a US pilot on the Russians.
Val Kilmer as Pvt. J.T. ‘Joker’ Davis in Full Metal Jacket
Speaking of Full Metal Jacket, it’s a well-known fact that Val Kilmer was in the running to play Pvt. J.T. “Joker” Davis, before the role was given to Matthew Modine. The former even credits the actor for helping him secure the role!
As Modine recalls, he was sitting in a Los Angeles diner one day when he met Kilmer, who was less than pleased to see him, given his recent good run in Hollywood and a rumor about him being considered for the part of Joker. The encounter left a sour taste in Modine’s mouth, who immediately went to a payphone and inquired about the movie.
While he hadn’t initially been in the running to star in Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick decided to watch some of his previous films, which got him hired.
Michael Fassbender as Rafe McCrawley in Pearl Harbor
While we titled this article “We Asked AI To Recast Our Favorite War Movies – This Is What Happened,” we have a confession to make: we really didn’t like Pearl Harbor (2001). In reality, most viewers didn’t like it, which likely means Michael Fassbender is happy he didn’t secure the role of Rafe McCrawley.
It’s reported that the actor had auditioned for the movie, with Disney sending him a “really nice note” to inform him that he hadn’t gotten the part.
Harrison Ford as Capt. John Miller in Saving Private Ryan
Closing out our list of war movies recast by AI is another Saving Private Ryan character – this time, it’s Capt. John Miller. Tom Hanks was perfect in the role, but he almost wasn’t cast in the film, with Harrison Ford in the running to star in the lead. In the end, Hanks wound up being cast.
Someone else was considered for the part of Miller, and he was mentioned earlier in this list: Mel Gibson!