Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher are Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia — the trio who made movie history when Star Wars debuted in 1977. And while it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the iconic roles, Star Wars almost had a completely different main cast.
In 1975, when George Lucas was auditioning actors for his now-classic space opera, he linked up with filmmaker friend Brian De Palma to cast Star Wars and De Palma’s Carrie simultaneously. The pair saw hundreds of actors and actresses, with the filmmakers calling back several dozen hopefuls for further study.
In the end, Lucas narrowed down his field to six actors, grouping them into two different ensembles. He took an all-or-nothing approach — it was to be either one group or the other. (You can see Hamill and Ford address the method in this interview from July 1977.) In one group, Ford, Hamill, and Fisher. And in the other, the Star Wars cast that almost was…
Will Seltzer as Luke Skywalker
A young television actor named Will Seltzer, appearing at the time on the soap opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, caught Lucas’ eye during auditions. According to Fred Roos, who served as a casting consultant on the movie, Seltzer was the second choice for the part of Luke Skywalker. In the video above, you can see how he might’ve had a similar “everyman farm boy” appeal, but Hamill’s looks and acting chops gave him the edge.
Terri Nunn as Princess Leia
’80s music fans may recognize Terri Nunn as the lead singer of Berlin, the synthpop group best known for their hit “Take My Breath Away” on the Top Gun soundtrack. But in the mid-’70s Terri was a young model and actress looking for parts in Hollywood.
In the clip, you’ll see how effortlessly Nunn handles Lucas’ challenging dialogue, but she seems to lack the sense of determination that Carrie Fisher ultimately brought to the table.
BONUS: The man who appears briefly at the beginning of this clip is legacy Star Wars franchise sound designer, Ben Burtt helping out with line readings.
Christopher Walken as Han Solo
Yes, there’s an SNL skit with Kevin Spacey doing a hilarious impression of Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo, but no joke… it really did happen. Walken read for the part, with Lucas placing him in one of the two finalist groups. Sadly, video of Walken’s Star Wars audition is nowhere to be found.
Walken, primarily a New York stage actor at the time, had appeared in a couple of feature films — The Anderson Tapes and The Mind Snatchers — when he auditioned. Ultimately, Lucas seems to have preferred Ford’s blasé delivery to Walken’s staccato style. Walken didn’t get Star Wars, so he made The Deer Hunter, a role that won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and fixed the upward trajectory of his career.