Summer 2023 is a great time to be a cast member of “Barbie.” Greta Gerwig’s studio comedy adaptation of Mattel’s iconic doll line has gotten rave reviews, soared past $1 billion at the global box office, and become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon. It makes you wonder — are the people who very nearly were a part of it experiencing some major FOMO right now?
As you’d expect from a film based on the most famous toy in the world, “Barbie” is the end result of a very long development process, one that goes all the way back to 2009 and involves a switch between three different film studios. Mattel initially started developing the movie at Universal Pictures, only for nothing to come from the deal, and moved the project over to Sony Pictures in 2014. During the film’s time in development at Sony Pictures, many writers and producers were attached at various points to work on the project — most intriguingly, Diablo Cody wrote a draft of a screenplay in 2015. And several potential Barbies — most notably Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway — boarded the project, only to leave at certain points.
In 2018, Sony Pictures’ deal with Mattel for the film rights expired, and the project moved over to Warner Bros. Pictures. Margot Robbie entered early talks for the role soon after, and officially took the part in 2019, and approached Gerwig to sign on as writer soon after. By 2021, Gerwig had graduated from just writing to full-on directing the film.
But even when Gerwig was locked in as the brain behind “Barbie,” a lot of talent was considered for the movie that didn’t end up making the final project. An eclectic bunch of names — Saoirse Ronan, Bowen Yang, Dan Levy — were considered for cameos or small roles in the film, only to pass due to scheduling conflicts. Here’s a guide to all the actors, writers, and directors that almost, but didn’t, join the “Barbie” movie. Entries are listed in roughly chronological order of the talent’s brief attachment to the project.
Here are those who were almost involved…
A ton of screenwriters, at some point or another, had a hand in writing or rewriting a script for the “Barbie” film: Jenny Bicks, Lindsey Beer, Bert V. Royal, Hillary Winston, and Olivia Milch are some of the writers who wrote a draft at some point. Arguably the most intriguing screenwriter who took a stab at the doll is Diablo Cody, the mind behind “Juno” and “Jennifer’s Body.” Cody boarded the project to rewrite the script in 2015, when the film was still at Sony Pictures, but her version was abandoned relatively quickly as more people were hired to write drafts, and her version never saw the light of day.
Perhaps the most famous talent that almost (but didn’t) make it into the “Barbie” movie, comedian Amy Schumer was tapped while the project was at Sony Pictures to play the main Barbie in the feature film. Schumer entered negotations for the project in 2016, and even took a stab at rewriting the script, but departed the project in 2017, due to creative differences with the producers in charge of the film who disagreed with her vision for it.
After Schumer exited “Barbie,” Sony Pictures sought a new leading lady to play the iconic doll in Anne Hathaway, who was reported to be circling the film in 2017. Once Sony’s option on the project expired in October, however, the project moved to Warner Bros., and Hathaway was dropped from the potential film.
While Sony was courting Hathaway for “Barbie,” they also recruited Australian director Alethea Jones, best known for her work directing TV, to helm their version of the film. Once the project moved to Warner Bros., Jones did not follow, due to contractual reasons. She was a director and EP on “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” and spoke about the show at IndieWire’s Consider This Event for Emmys season in June.
In 2018, when Warner Bros. acquired the “Barbie” movie rights from Mattel, one of the first directors considered for the project was “Wonder Woman” filmmaker Patty Jenkins. However, Jenkins dropped out of consideration after a very brief period of time.
Aside from Jenkins, Wonder Woman herself almost headed to Barbie Land. Before she signed on to play the lead, Margot Robbie was involved in the “Barbie” film as a producer, and was interested in casting Gal Gadot as the film’s main doll. Ultimately, Robbie decided to play the blonde herself, although Gadot said she was “touched” to learn she was a choice for the part.
In September 2022, “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” star Saoirse Ronan revealed to People Magazine that Gerwig had reached out to her about filming a small cameo appearance for “Barbie” during production. Ultimately however, Ronan was unable to play one of the many versions of the Barbie doll, due to scheduling conflicts with a different film. “I was gutted I couldn’t do it,” she said.
Ronan wasn’t the only “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” cast member tapped for a “Barbie” cameo. In July 2023, Gerwig told CinemaBlend that Timothee Chalamet, who she also worked with on both films, was approached to make a “specialty cameo” in the film. Again, scheduling conflicts interfered, and Chalamet had to pass. “It felt like doing something without my children. I mean, I’m not their mom, but I sort of feel like their mom,” Gerwig said.
In a July 2023 interview with Vanity Fair, “Barbie” casting director Allison Jones revealed some of the men who had to pull out of playing one of the Kens in the film, due to being unable to commit to filming in London for three months. One of the almost-Kens was Bowen Yang, of “Saturday Night Live” fame.
Dan Levy, best known for creating and starring in the Emmy-winning series “Schitt’s Creek,” was another performer approached to play a Ken who ultimately had to pass on the film.
Ben Platt, a Tony winner for “Dear Evan Hansen,” was the final Ken who passed on appearing in the film due to scheduling conflicts, according to Jones.
It’s hard to imagine anyone but Michael Cera playing Allan, the delightfully bland, one-of-a-kind doll who helps Barbie and her friends save Barbie Land from the Kens. But the original choice for the part was “Mindhunter” and Broadway star Jonathan Groff, who Jones said emailed her saying “I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I can’t do Allan,’” due to scheduling conflicts.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in July, “Bros” star Luke Macfarlane said he scored a small part in “Barbie,” but had to turn it down in order to star in Nick Stoller’s Apple TV+ series “Platonic.”
“It was one of those brutal things,” he told the Reporter. “Yeah, the timing couldn’t work out for both. I’m not trying to sound boastful. It was a small, little part, but I’ve never been part of some beautiful, big, cool thing like that. It would have been cool to be able to do both.”