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Freddie Mercury and Rod Stewart Could Have Had David Bowie’s ‘Labyrinth’ Role

Fox Photos / Jim Henson Productions / Keystone
Fox Photos / Jim Henson Productions / Keystone

Hardcore fans of Jim Henson’s cult classic Labyrinth have long been well aware that David Bowie wasn’t the first choice to play the film’s antagonist, the Goblin King. But a new book celebrating the movie’s 30th anniversary reveals just how many other names Henson spitballed before settling on his star.

NME reports that the book, titled Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History, includes handwritten notes from Henson’s archives that offer a new level of insight into the years of preparation that went into Labyrinth — including a glimpse of the director’s other ideas for who could play the Goblin King. Before signing Bowie, he apparently considered a list of rock stars that included Queen‘s Freddie Mercury, Rod Stewart, Who singer Roger Daltrey, Ted Nugent and then-former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth.

As previously reported in our look at Bowie’s role in the film, his eventual selection only came after Henson considered a slew of stars that also included Prince, Michael Jackson, Sting and Mick Jagger — and when Bowie did sign on, it led to extensive changes to the story that screenwriter Terry Jones later pinpointed as damaging.

“He went for David Bowie, and it all went away for about a year. When the script came back, I didn’t recognize any of it,” said Jones. “Jim said, ‘Can you do a bit more to it? David Bowie doesn’t want to do it anymore because it wasn’t funny anymore.’”

Labyrinth ultimately didn’t fare as well as expected at the box office, but it’s gone on to enjoy cult status among generations of filmgoers, and remained one of Bowie’s most widely recognized roles. Still, it’s hard not to imagine what kind of Goblin King we might have gotten if Henson had ended up going in another direction.

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