A long time ago, in a prequel far, far away there was... no Leonardo DiCaprio because he passed on one of the lead roles! It turns out that it was almost DiCaprio opposite Natalie Portman in Star Wars Episodes II and III. So what went wrong... or right, depending on who you ask?
Well, in an interview with ShortList, Leonardo DiCaprio revealed that he simply wasn't ready to take on that type of role. DiCaprio did have a meeting with director George Lucas, who was keen to have him play the adult Anakin Skywalker. One meeting, that's as far as things got apparently.
In the same interview, Leonardo DiCaprio revealed that a similar situation occurred with Batman Forever. He sat for a single meeting with director Joel Schumacher. Though he didn't answer the question as to whether or not he felt he "dodged a bullet" by letting the role fall to fellow teen heart-throb Chris O'Donnell, his laughter in response says it all.
Although the decision to pass on the part of the Boy Wonder was certainly of little consequence -- since the next Batman movie stopped the franchise cold -- some Star Wars fans may feel pangs of remorse that, instead of Leonardo DiCaprio, we ended up with Hayden Christensen. Christensen's acting as the teen and adult Anakin Skywalker has, as New York Daily News writes, "become something of a contentious talking point among Star Wars diehards."
Could a megastar with multiple Academy Award nominations under his belt have given us a superior performance? While it's tempting to think so, there are a few significant reasons why it probably wouldn't have mattered.
#LeonardoDiCaprio turned down Anakin Skywalker's role in #StarWars... here's why https://t.co/ft9vV80PoL pic.twitter.com/CUFex1DRW9First, consider the fact that one of the worst aspects of the Star Wars prequels in the minds of many of fans was the script. While terrible line delivery may have grated on nerves, it's doubtful that even DiCaprio could have made a line about coarse sand feel organic or romantic.
— HT Entertainment (@htshowbiz) December 31, 2015
The fact that the movie featured copious amounts of CGI was also a sticking point, as it seemed George Lucas had no interest in relying on practical effects to ground the movies. By contrast, these type of effects featured more heavily in the well-received Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
'#StarWars: Force Awakens' is now the 10th highest grossing worldwide release of all-time https://t.co/6sGGJ0mYuz pic.twitter.com/14e7iSXOjuLastly, it's important to consider the timing of Episode II and Leonardo DiCaprio's career at that point. Leonardo DiCaprio became a huge sensation after starring in James Cameron's Titanic in 1997. DiCaprio wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. It's pretty clear based on his body of work both before and after the blockbuster. In 2002, we did see Leonardo DiCaprio, but it's in Gangs Of New York with acting great Daniel Day-Lewis. Liam Neeson, who played Qui-Gon Jinn in the first Star Wars prequel, also had a role in this critically-acclaimed Martin Scorsese film.
— Box Office Mojo (@boxofficemojo) December 29, 2015
Perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio passed on the movies due to something other than a Force-like sense that they were going to be a letdown. Having experienced so much massive attention to the point of it being an overwhelming distraction, Leonardo DiCaprio probably did not want to risk enduring another Titanic-like wave of fan obsession. Being a teen idol can be good for the short-term, but Leo likely realized that he had to be more cautious if he wanted to escape such limitations and enjoy an enduring career.
Look at what happened to Hayden Christensen. The actor actually took a major acting hiatius because the association with Star Wars was too much for him -- and he was a relative unknown before taking on the role of Anakin Skywalker. Imagine how intense things would have been for DiCaprio, already a noted actor and household name at that point.
His passing on Episodes II and III may have been disappointing to fans of the franchise, but it's hard to argue against Leo's Jedi-like intuition about his career.
Leonardo DiCaprio explains why he passed on the chance to play Anakin Skywalker: https://t.co/OmahBd4Cqa pic.twitter.com/6h7x7G0Mp3But before you give up on seeing DiCaprio as a costumed superhero or sci-fi figure, the now 40-year-old actor seems to have mellowed out about the possibility. When asked if he'd ever appear in such a film, Leonardo DiCaprio told Shortlist, "You never know. They're getting better and better as far as complex characters in these movies. I haven't yet. But no, I don't rule out anything."
— E! Online (@eonline) December 31, 2015
[Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Twentieth Century Fox/AP Images; Official Star Wars YouTube Channel]