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Gandalf (Sean Connery) and Hannibal Lecter (Gene Hackman)

Indiana Jones (Tom Selleck) and Neo from The Matrix (Will Smith)

LIFE’s mega-gallery of stars who nearly made it to the biggest roles in cinema history, but thankfully (in most cases) didn’t. Some you’ll know. Some you won’t.

We reckon Hackman would have made a great Lecter.

VIEW THE GALLERY: Almost Cast: Who Lost Iconic Roles? (LIFE)