Critics have been in raptures over Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's performances in showbiz romance A Star Is Born, the much-adapted story of an up-and-coming young singer and her relationship with a jaded rock star. But, Variety recently revealed, director Cooper's first choice for the role of the grizzled singer-songwriter Jackson Maine was not himself, but rather former White Stripes blues-twister Jack White.
It's a good thing Cooper's turn in the film is so good, because the idea of a Gaga-White love story is bizarrely tantalising. But we can always imagine what could have been in the theatre of our minds - along with some of the other great film roles that were very nearly nabbed by moonlighting musicians...
Billy Idol in Terminator 2: Judgement Day
When Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 defected to the good side for the sequel to 1984's The Terminator, space was opened up to create the 1990s' first great villain. Enter the malevolent, liquid-metal shapeshifter T-1000 with his deeply unnerving running style, as so iconically played by Robert Patrick. But this enduring performance, all the more unsettling for Patrick's everyday appearance, was nearly a star turn by platinum pop-goth Billy Idol, until he was ruled out by a motorbike accident. In a way, James Cameron's initial choice of Idol makes sense: the singer was a devotee of cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction that was a strong influence on the Terminator films. But then, in another way, it makes absolutely no sense at all.
Madonna in Casino
Sharon Stone gives a tour-de-force performance as Ginger McKenna, the wife of gambling gangster Ace Rothstein opposite Robert De Niro in Casino, and was nominated for a best actress Oscar. But she had to talk Martin Scorsese into giving her the part - he'd originally considered, among others, Madonna, whose recent films included Dangerous Game, A League of Their Own and Dick Tracey, for the role.
His final choice would have rankled with the queen of pop: last year, as Rolling Stone reported, a private letter from the 90s was auctioned in which she bemoaned the fact that Stone had "the film career I'll never have", describing her as "horribly mediocre".
Björk in Tank Girl
But once she hit the big time with her album Debut, Hollywood inevitably came calling. She was offered the role of Tank Girl's sidekick and sometime lover Jet Girl in the 1995 adaptation of Jamie Hewlett's cult comic, but politely declined, worried it would be a distraction from her music. Jet Girl was eventually played by Naomi Watts, with Lori Petty as Tank Girl, but Björk's Army of Me did appear on the film's excellent soundtrack.
Christina Aguilera in Knocked Up
The unlikely couple of Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen give the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up its heart.
But it could have been even more unlikely: the part of TV presenter Alison Scott, who conceives after a drunken one night stand with Rogen's Ben Stone, was offered to Christina Aguilera, who turned it down, preferring to focus on her music.
Willow Smith in Annie
The lead role in this 2014 remake of the classic musical was written with producer Will Smith's daughter Willow, best known for her 2010 hit Whip My Hair, in mind. After that song Willow felt a little overwhelmed by her sudden fame, and didn't fancy pushing herself even further into the spotlight. "She said, 'You know Daddy, I don't think so," Will Smith told the audience during a 2013 event at Philadelphia's Temple University. "And I said, 'Baby, hold up!' I said, 'No, no, no, listen, you'll be in New York with all of your friends and Beyoncé will be there. You will be singing and dancing,' and she looked at me and said, 'Daddy, I have a better idea: how about I just be 12?'"
The part of the plucky, hard-knocked orphan from Harlem was ultimately played by Quvenzhané Wallis.
David Bowie in A View to a Kill
If you're as cool as David Bowie was, pretty much everybody wants you to be in their film or TV show. And Bowie was in many, from the highs of A Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, Cat People and Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence to hilarious cameos in the likes of Zoolander and Extras. One part he didn't fancy though, was that of Bond villain Max Zorin in 1985's A View To A Kill, opposite Roger Moore. He was announced in the role in early publicity for the film, but he turned it down. In Nicholas Pegg’s book The Complete David Bowie, he said: "I didn't want to spend five months watching my stunt double fall off cliffs."
The part was also offered to Sting, but finally went to Christopher Walken. More recently, Bowie was also due to appear in the third season of David Lynch's Twin Peaks (he played haunted detective Phil Jeffries in the 1992 spin-off film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), but was too ill to take part in the filming. Instead, he granted Lynch permission to reuse old footage of him, on the condition his attempt at a Louisiana accent be overdubbed. In the new series, the character of Jeffries returned both in the dubbed form of David Bowie, and as a surreal machine.
Beyoncé in Beauty and the Beast
Beyoncé's film career has been somewhat less flawless than her musical ventures. From her role as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers In Goldmember to 2009’s Obsessed (her… "interesting" drama with Idris Elba), there are good reasons why she probably chooses her roles very carefully these days
Bill Condon, who directed Beyoncé in Dreamgirls, also offered her a role in the 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast: that of talking feather duster Plumette. Beyoncé decided to let Gugu Mbatha-Raw do the honours, reportedly (and understandably) feeling it wasn't quite a big enough part.
Prince in The Fifth Element
Prince, like Bowie, was a dream casting for many screenwriters, but by and large kept to his own film projects. Luc Besson wrote the part of the flamboyant media star Ruby Rhod in the 1997 cult sci-fi The Fifth Element specifically for the singer, but touring schedules meant it wasn't to be, and the part was ultimately played by Chris Tucker. A couple of days after Prince's death in April 2016, Besson shared some costume design artwork by Jean Paul Gaultier and featuring Prince's likeness on Twitter.
Prince's former protégé Vanity - Denise Matthews - meanwhile, left her part as his love interest in Purple Rain in 1983 because she was offered the role of Mary Magdalene in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. His other casting choices reportedly included Sting as Pontius Pilate and Ray Davies as Judas Iscariot. When the film was finally released in 1988, however, the roles were taken respectively by Barbara Hershey, David Bowie and Harvey Keitel.
Mick Jagger in Fitzcarraldo
Mick Jagger is the nearly-man for a bizarre variety of roles. As well as nearly Scorsese's Pontius Pilate he nearly had a role in Werner Herzog's cult classic Fitzcarraldo. Jagger was to play Wilbur, an assistant to Klaus Kinski's Fitzcarraldo, the Irishman who tries to pull a steamship over a mountain in the Amazon in order to fulfil his dream of building an opera house in Peru. When delays and Jagger's commitments scuppered the plan, Herzog cut the character.
A few years before, Jagger had also made a bid to voice ringbearer Frodo in an animated version of JRR Tolkien's fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings, released in 1978. As director Ralph Bakshi told The Hollywood Reporter: "He wanted to come up and see what we were doing… so I’m walking through the studio with Mick Jagger and the girls start to scream and faint." Sadly for Mick, actor Christopher Guard had already recorded the part.
Marilyn Manson in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The glam metal provocateur announced in 2006 that he planned to make his directing debut with the film Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, with Tilda Swinton, Lily Cole and Angelina Jolie rumoured to be in line for roles, and Marilyn Manson himself to play his literary hero Carroll. The solitary trailer that emerged caused the requisite amount of shock, but the full project never materialised; Manson later said writing the script had been "damaging to my psyche", and fellow devotee of darkness Tim Burton ultimately beat him to the punch as Carroll-related films went with his 2010 Alice In Wonderland. Manson was also reportedly in the running for the role of Willy Wonka in Burton's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, before the director plumped for Johnny Depp.
Britney Spears in The Notebook
The romantic drama of choice for the millennial generation is driven by the chemistry between its leads Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. McAdams was the final choice in a long hunt to find the right actor to play Allie. At one point, Gosling later revealed, he even screen-tested with his former Mickey Mouse club compadre Britney Spears, whom he hadn’t seen since he was 12. As McAdams later diplomatically told Entertainment Tonight, "I'm sure Britney would have done a great job! I'm sure it would have been a totally different movie."