Over the years there are a lot of bizarre near-miss casting choices where a well-known role was nearly played by somebody else before going on to the final, iconic actor. Somewhere out there is a Bizarro dimension where Tom Selleck was Indiana Jones, Eric Stoltz stayed on for all three Back to the Future movies, and where one of my favorite all-time movie characters – Corporal Dwayne Hicks from Aliens — was played not by Michael Biehn, but by James Remar. Can’t picture that one? It would look a lot like this:
Weird, am I right? Remar played the role for a couple of weeks before leaving due to that old saw, “creative differences,” and being replaced by the one, the only, Michael Biehn. In fact, there are still a couple of shots of Remar in the finished film, angles where Remar’s Hicks has his back to camera, meaning they could get away with using the existing footage. According to Wikipedia:
At least one piece of footage featuring Remar made it into the final version of the film, when the Marines enter the processing station and the camera tilts down from the Alien nest, though Remar is not seen in close-up. He is also filmed from the back as the Marines first enter the compound on LV-426 and when “Hicks” approaches the cocooned woman, again filmed from the rear so the viewer is unable to tell it is Remar and not Michael Biehn.
It’s almost impossible for me to imagine anyone other than Biehn playing Hicks, and I honestly can’t imagine what Remar would have been like in the role. At any rate, this is one time where I’m thankful for those “creative differences,” because they allowed Biehn to complete his “Trilogy of James Cameron Science Fiction Bad-assery” with Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss.
Thanks to filmmaker Gavin Rothery’s blog for posting the shots.