There is a long, rich history of actors who have come this close to nabbing iconic roles—casting decisions that could have altered the course of cinematic history. From Cary Grant turning down James Bond in Dr. No to Tom Selleck passing on Raiders of the Lost Ark in favor of Magnum P.I., these “swaps” could have caused ripple effects akin to Biff’s acquisition of Grays Sports Almanac in Back to the Future Part II.
Many millennials are familiar with the aftermath of The Notebook, Nick Cassavetes’ 2004 weepie. It’s the film that launched the careers of two of this generation’s finest actors, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, who won Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards—making out onstage as they accepted it—and went on to date for 3½ years.Gosling was handpicked by Cassavetes to play brooding country boy Noah Calhoun, and the two chose McAdams, a relative unknown, as his star-crossed lover Allie Hamilton after a truly mesmerizing audition.
But it wasn’t a smooth shoot. At one point, according to Cassavetes, Gosling wanted McAdams fired. “Maybe I’m not supposed to tell this story, but they were really not getting along one day on set. Really not,” Cassavetes told VH1. “And Ryan came to me, and there’s 150 people standing in this big scene, and he says, ‘Nick, come here.’ And he’s doing a scene with Rachel and he says, ‘Would you take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off-camera with me?’ I said, ‘What?’ He says, ‘I can’t. I can’t do it with her. I’m just not getting anything from this.’ We went into a room with a producer; they started screaming and yelling at each other. I walked out. At that point I was smoking cigarettes. I smoked a cigarette and everybody came out like, ‘All right, let’s do this.’ And it got better after that, you know? They had it out… I think Ryan respected her for standing up for her character and Rachel was happy to get that out in the open.”
Of course, all of this could have never happened if Cassavetes and Gosling had chosen Gosling’s former Mickey Mouse Club co-star Britney Spears for the role of Allie.
“We met with a lot of actresses, and they were all very good,” Gosling told ET. Then, the interviewer asked if he screen-tested with Spears, and he embarrassingly replied, “I did, yeah. I hadn’t seen her really since she was about 12—we were both 12—so she’s grown up, but she was really good, actually. She did a really nice job. We were 12, I don’t remember much from when I was 12, but yeah, no, she did an excellent job, actually. That was cool.”“I’m sure Britney would have done a great job!” said McAdams. “I’m sure it would have been a totally different movie, but yeah, I just heard that the other day. I had no idea! I was very fortunate. I was sort of at the end of the line, and I know they’d sort of done a cross-country trip—Nick and Ryan together—looking for the girl, and I sort of squeaked in there.”
Gosling, Spears, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, and Justin Timberlake all starred in the early ’90s revival of The Mickey Mouse Club. And Gosling and Timberlake were particularly tight, even living together as roommates for a period—since Gosling’s family was over in Canada and the show shot in Los Angeles.
“[Gosling’s] mother had to keep her job in Canada the second year that we were on the television show and my mom was his guardian for six months, so we actually lived together,” Timberlake told Ellen DeGeneres. “We used to do terrible things, we thought we were so cool. Looking back on them, it wasn’t as bad as I thought they were at the time. We stole a golf cart and were like, ‘Yeah, we stole a golf cart!’ Meanwhile, you know what it’s like on a backlot—there are golf carts everywhere. So we stole a golf cart and drove into MGM Studios—which is totally illegal, by the way—and I was like, ‘What you wanna do, thug?’ and he was like ‘I don’t know, ’Cuz.’ And so I was like, ‘I don’t know, man, I’m in the mood for some vanilla,’ and he was like, ‘I’m in the mood for some chocolate.’ So we went and got milkshakes.”