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Movies & TV

04th Oct 2023

10 years ago, Hollywood couldn’t find a star for one of its biggest movies

Rory Cashin


They ultimately went with their 12th – TWELFTH! – choice for the lead role.

Released in cinemas on 4 October 2013, Gravity would go on to become the eighth biggest global box office hit of that year, managing to beat the likes of Man Of Steel, The Wolf of Wall Street, Thor: The Dark World, World War Z and The Wolverine.

That is quite the feat for a movie from Alfonso Cuaron, a genius filmmaker but whose previous outing – the modern sci-fi masterpiece Children Of Men – had been a massive box office bomb.

Not only that, but Gravity was ranked among the best movies by critics and awards ceremonies for the year, as well as the entire decade. To date, there are very few movies that managed to so effectively and so consistently push their audience to the edge of their seats.

In hindsight it seems like it would obviously be a huge hit, but in the run-up to the production, the folks behind the scenes were genuinely concerned that they would never get it off the ground, never mind get it into outer space. And that was because it seemed like literally every single performer in Hollywood was turning down the lead role.

Gravity couldn’t keep the actors in its orbit for long enough

For the leading role of Doctor Ryan Stone, Cuaron wanted someone who could carry the entire project basically on their own, much like Tom Hanks did in Cast Away.

The first person approached was Angelina Jolie, who had freed up some time in her schedule when she turned down a role in a sequel to 2008 action spy thriller Wanted. However, the free time was quickly decimated by In The Land Of Blood And Honey (which Jolie directed) and a sequel to hit 2010 action spy thriller Salt (which, much like Wanted, never actually got a sequel).

Next, Cuaron offered the part to Marion Cotillard, who turned it down in favour of working on a different sci-fi movie instead: Inception. Third on the list was Blake Lively, but the schedules for Gossip Girl and The Town made it impossible to free up the appropriate time to get the movie made.

Cuaron then received permission from the movie’s producers to make an offer to an actress without even having to do an audition: Natalie Portman, who had blown everyone away with her performance in Black Swan. But Portman was forced to turn the part down when the schedules for Thor and No Strings Attached got in the way.

Deadline reported that another seven actresses were considered for the role: Naomi Watts, Carey Mulligan, Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Abbie Cornish, Rebecca Hall, and Olivia Wilde.

Then, finally, on their 12th option, Warner Bros. offered the role to Sandra Bullock, who would go on to be nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her performance, ultimately losing to Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s dark comedy Blue Jasmine.

The supporting role of Lieutenant Matt Kowalski was slightly easier to fill. Cuaron had initially cast Robert Downey Jr. in the part, but he ultimately left to make a movie called How To Talk To Girls, another project that never actually saw the light of day. Once Bullock was cast in the lead role, George Clooney stepped up to the plate. And the rest is cinematic history.

Gravity is available to watch at home right now on Prime Video.

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