scream movie drew barrymore 1996
Dimension Films

10 Iconic Horror Roles Almost Played by Unexpected Actors!

Ever wondered what it would be like if Michelle Pfeiffer was hunting down Hannibal Lecter, or if Eddie Murphy was the one appearing after you said “Candyman” five times in the mirror? Well, buckle up, horror fans, because we’re about to take a wild ride through the casting crypt of what could have been! In the mysterious world of horror movie casting, the “almost-weres” are as thrilling as the final screams.

Join us as we unearth 10 iconic horror roles that were almost played by unexpected actors. From legendary stars to surprising near-misses, this listicle is a scream-worthy peek behind the casting curtain. Grab your popcorn and dim the lights; the terror of alternate casting awaits!



silence of the lambs michelle pfeiffer
Silence of the Lambs (1991) Orion | Frankie & Johnny (1991) Paramount

Michelle Pfeiffer as Clarice StarlingThe Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Michelle Pfeiffer, known for her elegance and poise, was director Jonathan Demme’s first choice for Clarice Starling. She turned down the role, citing discomfort with the film’s dark content. Jodie Foster stepped in, delivering an Oscar-winning performance. Pfeiffer’s take on the character remains a fascinating “what if?” in horror history.



The Shining 1980
Warner Bros

Robert De Niro as Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980)

De Niro’s intense and methodical acting style could have brought a unique, mobster edge to Jack Torrance. Kubrick considered him but ultimately chose Jack Nicholson, whose manic energy defined the character. De Niro’s Torrance might have been a more internalized terror, adding a different layer of horror to the Overlook Hotel.



eddie murphy as candyman
Candyman (1992) TriStar | Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) Paramount

Eddie Murphy as Candyman in Candyman (1992)

Known for his comedic genius, Murphy was considered for the terrifying Candyman. Budget constraints led to Tony Todd’s casting, leaving fans to wonder how Murphy’s charisma might have transformed the character into a different kind of horror icon. Where would we be though without Todd’s sultry, baritone voice?




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nightmare on film street horror movie tshirts
im into survival - nancy - nightmare on elm street - heather langenkamp
New Line Cinema

Courtney Cox as Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Before becoming a household name on Friends, Cox was considered for the role of Nancy Thompson. Heather Langenkamp’s vulnerability won the role, but Cox’s strong presence could have brought a unique fierceness to Freddy Krueger’s nightmare world.



drew barrymore almost played Sidney Prescott in Scream Neve Campbell
Scream (1996) | Dimension Films

Drew Barrymore as Sidney Prescott in Scream

Drew Barrymore, initially cast as Sidney Prescott, chose the smaller role of Casey Becker due to scheduling conflicts. Her early demise set the tone for the franchise, but her portrayal of Sidney could have added a different dimension to the character, blending innocence with resilience.



halloween 1978 donald pleasance dr loomis
Compass International Pictures

Christopher Lee as Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978)

Horror legend Christopher Lee was offered the role of Dr. Loomis but declined. Donald Pleasence’s portrayal became iconic, but Lee’s deep voice and commanding presence could have added a different intensity to the relentless pursuit of Michael Myers. He often claimed it was one of the biggest regrets of his career.



american psycho leonardo dicaprio
American Psycho (2000) Lionsgate | The Beach (2000) 20th Century Fox

Leonardo DiCaprio as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000)

DiCaprio’s early attachment to the role of Patrick Bateman stirred controversy. He eventually left due to creative differences, paving the way for Christian Bale’s unforgettable performance. DiCaprio’s interpretation remains an intriguing mystery, a blend of charm and menace that could have redefined the character. Who knows, maybe he just didn’t enjoy Huey Lewis and the News.



the exorcist movie 1973
Warner Bros.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Regan in The Exorcist (1973)

The original scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, was at one point considered for Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist. Her mother, Janet Leigh, passed on the request to have a then 13-year-old Jamie audition, worrying the role would be too intense. Fate had the role instead go to Linda Blair, kickstarting her career in horror. Jamie Lee would get her own chance later in the decade with the iconic Halloween (1978).



freddie prize jr as billy loomis in scream 1996
Scream (1996) Dimension Films | I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) Columbia

Freddie Prinze Jr. as Billy Loomis in Scream (1996)

Prinze Jr., known for his boy-next-door charm, was considered for the role of Billy Loomis. Skeet Ulrich’s edgier take won the role, but Prinze Jr.’s Billy could have been a more deceptive and surprising killer, adding a twist to the slasher genre.



final destination 2000 ali larter devon sawa
New Line Cinema

Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst as Alex Browning/Clear Rivers in Final Destination (2000)

The Spider-Man duo was at one point on the creator’s wish list for Final Destination. New Line Cinema instead opted for Devon Sawa and Ali Larter, leaving fans to imagine how Maguire and Dunst’s chemistry might have added a romantic spark to the deadly premonitions.


These casting choices offer a thrilling glimpse into alternate realities of horror cinema. From elegance to intensity, innocence to experience, these actors could have brought unique qualities to these iconic roles. The dance of casting is filled with near-misses and tantalizing possibilities, and these examples remind us that in the world of horror, anything is possible. Now, who’s ready for a horror movie marathon with a side of tantalizing trivia?


Do you know of any actors that almost played iconic roles in horror? Let us know over in the Nightmare on Film Street discord!

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