When you think of classic princess stories, some like Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Sleeping Beauty immediately come to mind. Yes, Disney has really cornered the market when it comes to princesses, but there is one incredibly popular princess story that was not made by Disney — it was made by 20th Century Fox. The story is one of a young Duchess, forced to flee her home, who develops amnesia after hitting her head. Years later, still suffering from memory loss, the woman goes searching for her family.
If you are a fan, then you know that we are talking about the popular film Anastasia. While the film may not have been made by Disney, The House of Mouse owns the rights to the film now, since Disney purchased 21st Century Fox in 2019. Anastasia features the voice talents of Meg Ryan — who plays the titular princess. The film also features a number of other big names — John Cusack voices Dimitri, Christopher Lloyd voices Rasputin, Kelsey Grammar voices Vladimir, and Disney Legend Angela Lansbury voices the Dowager Empress Marie.
While the voices in this classic film are ones we couldn’t imagine anyone else playing, there was one voice that was almost incredibly different — John Cusack’s Dimitri. The Los Angeles Times recently spoke to legendary animator Don Bluth — who worked on a number of iconic Disney movies, including The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and Pete’s Dragon — who revealed that 20th Century Fox originally wanted another A-lister to voice the role. That A-lister was Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp.
In the early 90s, Depp appeared in a number of hit films, including Ed Wood and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, making him a top choice for the role of Dimitri. And, according to Bluth, Depp was interested in the role. However, he had one request that the filmmakers found so outrageous, that they decided to move on from Depp and find another actor for the role.
Bluth told The LA Times that Depp said, if he was going to voice the role, then he needed the character to look more like him.
Their first venture, “Anastasia” (1997), a dazzling musical about the lost heir of the Romanov family in czarist Russia, became the biggest box office success of Bluth’s career, grossing $140 million worldwide.
The filmmaker’s most indelible memories of the production include hiring artists from the Philippines due to a wage war between Disney and DreamWorks that created a shortage of stateside talent; passing on Johnny Depp for the role of Dimitri because the actor wanted the character to look like him; shooting an entire live-action iteration of the film with theater actors, and the use of digital technologies to enhance key sequences like the “Once Upon a December” number.
While it certainly would have been interesting to hear Johnny Depp voicing such a great role, John Cusack nailed it and, personally, we don’t think Dimitri needs to look any different than he does!
Would you have loved to see Johnny Depp voice Dimitri? Or do you think John Cusack was right for the role?