The search for the original trilogy’s “big three” of Luke, Leia and Han was a wide search that went on for a while. One of the many, many actors considered for Han Solo before it was given to the effortlessly-cool Harrison Ford was Kurt Russell. He ended up not getting the role, as we all know, but luckily he went on to have a great career nonetheless.
When Lucas looked to recast an older Anakin Skywalker for Attack of the Clones, one of the actors who came into serious consideration was perennial superstar Leonardo DiCaprio. People will continue to relitigate Hayden Christensen’s take on the character until the oceans dry up, but it is hard to deny the tantalizing prospect of Leo taking on the role.
It is no secret that in creating Star Wars, Lucas drew much inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s work, especially The Hidden Fortress. In that vein, he also tried to hire one of Kurosawa’s most beloved collaborators, Toshiro Mifune. Lucas offered the massively talented—and by that time, aging—Japanese actor the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but sadly he turned it down.
The late Tupac Shakur died in 1996, but it has been widely reported that he was seriously considered for the role of Mace Windu. Whether he would have beaten out Samuel L. Jackson for the role is unclear and probably always will be, but it is an undeniably interesting alternate version of The Phantom Menace to consider.
Before they settled—or rather, lucked out—with James Earl Jones as the imposing voice of Darth Vader, Lucas and company discussed the possibility of Orson Welles, whose dulcet tones are never unwelcome. Ultimately, the decision apparently came down to Welles being to recognizable—and perhaps too expensive. Like Welles’ prospective role in another space fantasy film, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune, it was sadly not to be.