How much control a creator has over casting when it comes to adaptations of their work is highly variable. In some cases, the adaptation is done by the creators themselves, in which case they have full control over it. In other, less fortunate cases, they end up not being in favor of casting choices but not being able to do anything about it, either.
From time to time, though, creators personally handpick a certain performer for a role. On occasion, the performer will turn it down, but other times, the handpick ends up being a successful choice.
May distantly relate to Doing It for the Art. Compare Comic-Book Fantasy Casting. See also Hypothetical Casting, where creators hypothesize about which actors could conceivably play the characters, Ascended Fancast, where the person who gets cast is someone the fans also wanted in the role, and Cast the Runner-Up, for when a performer doesn't get chosen for the role they auditioned for, but the creator instead casts them in a role they feel suits them better; in some cases, an original character is created specifically for them.
Please only list examples where the creator's choice ended up being the actual pick; times where the creator's choice turned down the part are equally if not more common.
- The Genie in Aladdin was written especially for Robin Williams. When met with resistance, the writers created a reel of his stand-up to animation of the Genie.
- James Earl Jones was chosen to voice Mufasa in The Lion King (1994) because the directors found his voice "powerful" and similar to a lion's roar.
- John Lasseter always wanted Tom Hanks to voice Woody in Toy Story because he "has the ability to take emotions and make them appealing. Even if the character, like the one in A League of Their Own, is down-and-out and despicable".
- Bill Paxton was cast as Pvt. Hudson in Aliens after a chance encounter with James Cameron at Los Angeles International Airport, during which he mentioned he would be interested in a role. The studio supported his casting because of positive feedback for his performance in Weird Science.
- David Fincher specifically cast Paul McGann and Ralph Brown in Alien³ because he was a fan of Withnail and I.
- Woody Allen not only wrote the role of Annie Hall especially for Diane Keaton, but he also based the character on her, too.
- The Back to the Future trilogy:
- Michael J. Fox was always Robert Zemeckis' and Bob Gale's top choice to play Marty McFly, based on his performance on Family Ties. Fox was initially unavailable due to his commitments on Family Ties, so they briefly went with Eric Stoltz; when they determined that Stoltz wasn't right for the role, they dismissed him (turning him into The Other Marty) and were able to get Fox.
- They also specifically had Mary Steenburgen in mind for Clara in Back to the Future Part III, and got their wish when her kids talked her into taking the role.
- Bob Clark specifically cast Olivia Hussey in Black Christmas based on her performance in Romeo and Juliet.
- Jean Simmons was suggested by J. Arthur Rank to star in Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder's screen adaptation of The Blue Lagoon after the world premiere of Great Expectations.
- John Singleton wrote the role of Doughboy in Boyz n the Hood, especially for Ice Cube, who he met while working as an intern on The Arsenio Hall Show. He cast Laurence Fishburne after meeting him while working as a production assistant and security guard on Pee-wee's Playhouse.
- The Disaster Artist: Tommy Wiseau believed that the only actors who could play him were either Johnny Depp or James Franco. The latter got the part in the end.
- When John Steinbeck met James Dean on the set of East of Eden, he remarked "He is Cal!"
- Escape from New York director John Carpenter always had Kurt Russell in mind for Snake Plissken. At the time, Russell was trying to overcome the "lightweight" screen image conveyed by his roles in several Disney comedies.
- John Hughes had Matthew Broderick in mind when he wrote Ferris Bueller's Day Off, saying that he was the only actor he could think of who could pull off the role, calling him clever and charming.
Certain guys would have played Ferris and you would have thought, "Where's my wallet?" I had to have that look; that charm had to come through. Jimmy Stewart could have played Ferris at 15...I needed Matthew.
- David Fincher cast Helena Bonham Carter as Marla in Fight Club based on her performance in The Wings of the Dove.
- John Cleese wrote the role of Wanda Gershwitz in A Fish Called Wanda for Jamie Lee Curtis after seeing her in Trading Places and realized that she could be sexy, duplicitous, and funny.
- Nicole Kidman was Philip Pullman's preferred choice for Ms. Coulter ten years before production started on The Golden Compass. Despite initially rejecting the offer to star as she did not want to play a villain, she signed on after receiving a personal letter from Pullman.
- J. K. Rowling had full say in casting the Harry Potter films (and later the Fantastic Beasts films) and insisted on a fully British cast. She hand-picked Robbie Coltrane, Evanna Lynch, Alan Rickman, and Maggie Smith.
- When discussing who should star in Hellboy (2004), Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola wrote down their first choice on a napkin. They unanimously picked Ron Perlman.
- John Hughes always wanted Macaulay Culkin to star in Home Alone because of his experience while shooting Uncle Buck.
- Steven Spielberg always had Sean Connery in mind for Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stating "Who better to be the father of Indiana Jones than the original James Bond?"
- Ridley Scott specifically cast Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend (1985) because he was a fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- Right from the beginning of production of Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola envisioned Bill Murray playing Bob Harris, wanting to show off "his more sensitive side" and feeling amused by the image of him dressed in a kimono. She described her mental pictures of Murray as a significant source of inspiration for the story. She later stated that she couldn't have made the film without him.
- When asked who should play her in a biopic, Joan Crawford named Faye Dunaway after seeing Chinatown. The result was Mommie Dearest.
- The role of Nino Brown in New Jack City was written especially for Wesley Snipes after Barry Michael Cooper saw him in the music video for Michael Jackson's "Bad".
- Debra Winger was the creators' preferred choice for Paula in An Officer and a Gentleman, based on her performance in Urban Cowboy.
- Pitch Perfect: Fat Amy wasn't even in the original script, and was essentially devised for Rebel Wilson after impressing the crew with her audition.
- The Princess Bride: When the casting director asked William Goldman how big a giant Fezzik should be, he replied "about the size of André the Giant." Guess who ended up playing Fezzik in the film!
- William Wyler commented when he cast Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday:
She had everything I was looking for: charm, innocence, and talent. She also was very funny. She was absolutely enchanting, and we said, 'That's the girl!'
- Al Pacino became interested in starring in a remake of Scarface since 1974, when he starred in a production of Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Producer Martin Bregman became interested, but Howard Hughes prevented the film from being acquired. Three years after Hughes died, eight of his films, including Scarface were sold to Universal. The result? Scarface (1983).
- Billy Wilder always had in mind Marilyn Monroe as "The Girl" in The Seven Year Itch.
- Mickey Rourke won the role of Marv in Sin City after just one meeting with Frank Miller.
I was only able to write down one thing - "Jesus Christ, he is Marv!"
- Stephen Sondheim agreed to let Tim Burton direct Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on the condition that he has casting approval. Burton would only agree to direct with Johnny Depp in the lead, and though Sondheim feared Depp's vocals would be too "rock-oriented", he approved Depp after a vocal audition. To approve the casting of Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, and to combat any rumor of nepotism (as Carter and Burton were romantically involved), she sent Sondheim no less than twelve audition tapes of her singing. Very impressed with her vocals, Sondheim immediately approved her.
- The role of Lydia Tár in Tár was written with Cate Blanchett in mind, and writer-director Todd Field has said that the film would've never seen the light of day had she said no.
- Paul Schrader wrote the role of Betsy in Taxi Driver with Cybill Shepherd in mind.
- Robert De Niro was Brian De Palma's first choice for Al Capone in The Untouchables. He wasn't available at first so they used Bob Hoskins instead but once DeNiro became available, Hoskins was paid to leave the role.
- Roald Dahl was ecstatic when Anjelica Huston was cast as the Grand High Witch in The Witches (1990). After Spike Milligan wasn't cast as Willy Wonka, Dahl had given up requesting casting decisions for adaptations of his book, but she had been his personal favorite for the role.
- Bruce Robinson cast Paul McGann as Marwood in Withnail and I after seeing him on the stage. Then he fired him because he felt that his Liverpudlian accent was wrong for the part. He was recast when Robinson couldn't find anyone else.
- The A-Team:
- The creators of Brooklyn Nine-Nine said that they wrote the role of Terry Jeffords with Terry Crews in mind to the point they named the character "Terry", so he'd have to accept it.
- Joss Whedon cast Juliet Landau as Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer after seeing her in Ed Wood.
- Doctor Who:
- Colin Baker was cast as the Sixth Doctor without an audition, as he was the only actor considered for the part.
- Russell T. Davies didn't audition anyone for the Tenth Doctor, as he knew that David Tennant would be perfect having worked with him on Casanova.
- Steven Moffat cast Matt Smith based on his audition for Sherlock. He originally planned that the Eleventh Doctor would be older, but he felt that Smith perfectly embodied the role. He planned to cast Peter Capaldi, who would succeed Smith.
- Chris Chibnall cast Jodie Whittaker having worked with her on Broadchurch.
- On Everything's Gonna Be Okay, the role of Drea Stevens was created specifically for actress Lillian Carrier, as she had originally auditioned for the role of Matilda Moss but lost out to Kayla Cromer.
- In the Japanese horror-comedy series Ghost Negotiator Tenma, the creator specifically cast J-pop idol and actor Tsuyoshi Domoto to play the titular character after working with him in another show and finding out Domoto was terrified of ghosts.
- Neil Gaiman insisted on having David Tennant play Crowley in the live-action adaptation of Good Omens.
- Legion: Harry Lloyd was offered the role of Charles Xavier without having to audition, and he happily accepted it.
- Jorge Garcia was cast as Hurley in Lost after J. J. Abrams saw him in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
- Jon Favreau chose several of the actors in The Mandalorian himself, including Pedro Pascal.
- By her own account, author Kerry Greenwood took one look at Essie Davis' audition for Phryne Fisher in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and said "Her! Her! I want her!"
- Before playing Perry Mason, Raymond Burr had primarily acted in a series of low budget films. And then he was invited to shoot a screen test for the role of Hamilton Burger. Days later, midway through the playback of Burr's test, the author of Perry Mason, Erle Stanley Gardner, who had never heard of Burr before then, stood up, pointed at the screen, and said "That's him! That's Perry Mason!" And the rest is history. Prior to Burr's casting, Mason had, both on screen and on the covers of the books, been presented as an older man, no doubt to go with Mason's stated experience as an attorney.
- Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss only had Benedict Cumberbatch in mind for Sherlock after seeing him in Atonement.
- When Taylor Swift released her re-recording of Red (2012), she not only included the legendary, original 10-minute version of "All Too Well," but released a short film to go with it, which she wrote and directed herself. She wanted Dylan O'Brien and Sadie Sink to play the couple from the very start, and even said in an interview that if Sink hadn't been on board, she might've considered it a sign and not done the film. Luckily, both Sink and O'Brien were very enthusiastic about being involved, and the film was made to Taylor's vision.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, it's said that Hideo Kojima specifically chose the late Chikao Ohtsuka to voice Big Boss, whose son, Snake, is voiced by Ohtsuka's own son Akio Ōtsuka in hopes that it could help the two actors, who were estranged at the time, reconcile. And it worked.
- Being the huge nerd that he is, Tetsuya Nomura chose Leonard Nimoy and Mark Hamill to voice Master Xehanort and Master Eraqus respectively in the Kingdom Hearts series starting with the English dub of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep specifically so he could pit Spock of Star Trek and Luke Skywalker of Star Wars up against each other.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The creators reportedly asked the casting director for a "Jason Isaacs type" to voice-act the villainous Admiral Zhao. The casting director got them the real thing.
- Batman: The Animated Series creator Paul Dini wrote the part of Harley Quinn for his college friend Arleen Sorkin after seeing her play a roller-skating jester in a Dream Sequence on Days of Our Lives.
- Gravity Falls: Kristen Schaal was always intended to voice Mabel, to the point that Alex Hirsch would've scrapped the show entirely if he couldnt get her.
- Lawrence Bayne was Gene Simmons' personal choice for the role of his Author Avatar Rock Zilla on My Dad the Rock Star.
- Steven Universe:
- Steven's parents were designed with the intent of being voiced by Tom Scharpling and Susan Egan, respectively, to the point Steven's father Greg was originally named "Tom".
- After failing an audition for Garnet, Erica Luttrell was later cast as Sapphire because Rebecca Sugar still wanted to work with her.
- According to one interview, Jim Davis was drawing Garfield while watching Rhoda, and when he heard Lorenzo Music as Carlton the doorman, decided that this was what Garfield sounded like. He got his wish in Here Comes Garfield, and every other animated Garfield until Music's death. Even then, every voice actor for the character afterwards took at least a few cues from Music's performance.