Once you come to love a star in a role, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing that character. But it’s fun to hear about the castings that almost happened. Star Wars: The Force Awakens launched the final act in the Skywalker Saga with Rey as the central character. Daisy Ridley ended up getting the role, but so many other actresses wanted it. One of those actresses was Jessica Henwick.
The Iron Fist and Game of Thrones alum is now starring in Underwater with Kristen Stewart. While talking about her new sci-fi movie, Jessica Henwick discussed how she ended up in The Force Awakens as Jess Pava, and what happened to Pava after her appearance. Turns out, J.J. Abrams wrote the character of Jess Pava for her after breaking her heart when she didn’t get the role of Rey after a six-month audition.
I can only imagine the disappointment. Six months of auditions was probably several callbacks, each one dangling the hope. It’s cool that she got to be in a Star Wars movie at all, and Jess Pava developed her own little fan base even with such a small appearance. But Rey. Rey is the main character of the new trilogy. Do you think Abrams knew when he was casting Rey that he planned to do THAT with Rey’s parents?
Anyway, Jessica Henwick may not have gotten to lead the new Star Wars movies, but she does have a role coming up in Godzilla vs Kong and she played Colleen Wing in Iron Fist and The Defenders. She also played Nymeria Sand on Game of Thrones, and she’s now in theaters as Emily Haversham in Underwater. She’s definitely getting her name out there.
But these kinds of almost-played stories make me think of other close castings. Apparently Leonardo DiCaprio was offered Anakin Skywalker. Paul Walker reportedly wanted the job (via TIME) and was bummed not to get it. Ryan Phillippe even tested for the role, which ultimately went to Hayden Christensen.
Christopher Walken was reportedly almost Han Solo instead of Harrison Ford. Kurt Russell said he auditioned for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and took himself out of the running to do something else. Sylvester Stallone said he auditioned for Han Solo and George Lucas didn’t even look at him. Al Pacino said he was also offered Han Solo, but he said he was offered everything at that point in his career after The Godfather.
Jodie Foster reportedly turned down the chance to play Princess Leia, and Laverne & Shirley‘s Cindy Williams was also in the running. Rooney Mara almost played Jyn Erso in Rogue One, although she didn’t get very far in that casting process because of a scheduling conflict.
And Rey? Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s own daughter — who also ended up with a new role in the Star Wars sequels — said she met with J.J. Abrams to discuss the role of Rey. The great Saoirse Ronan reportedly auditioned for Rey as well, and said she had such a great time auditioning and pretending to take a lightsaber out of a bag that the experience was enough on its own.
J.J. Abrams seemed to create a lot of little roles for various actors who didn’t make the cut for big roles, or who maybe didn’t have time for them — from Jessica Henwick and Billie Lourd to Dominic Monaghan and Keri Russell’s new characters in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It’s possible one of the new characters will end up with a spinoff, since the movie left room for some.
Jessica Henwick can now be seen in Underwater, which was actually filmed a few years ago and is only just now releasing in theaters. Maybe J.J. Abrams can put in a good word for her to be in Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian Season 2?