Cavill as Bond? Pam Anderson as Scully? These are the close ...

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Cavill as Bond? Pam Anderson as Scully? These are the close casting calls

The world would be a very different place if the actors originally chosen for iconic roles hadn’t missed out in the end

Michael Hogan

Paul Hollywood was a silvery whisker away from never having a TV career. When the BBC first commissioned The Great British Bake Off in 2009, after programme-makers Love Productions had been trying to sell the idea for four years, the BBC happily agreed to cast Mary Berry as the judge. However, the corporation wanted her sidekick to be Tom Herbert.

Who? Well, quite. Alongside sibling Henry, he formed one half of the Fabulous Baker Brothers, who were all the rage back then. Tall, dark, handsome and bearded, he’s a sort of younger, hipper Hollywood. After screen tests, though, Berry’s strong preference was for Hollywood, the Merseyside-born master baker. They not only clicked personally, but she believed his bread expertise balanced her background in patisserie. The doyenne of dough got her way. The BBC relented. Eleven years later, Hollywood is a household name and, as the only constant in Bake Off’s line-up, the show’s unofficial custodian.

The annals of TV history are full of such stories — nearly-weres, might-have-beens or didn’t-quite-work-outs. It makes for a sort of fantasy parallel world, where our favourite programmes are populated by entirely different faces...

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