Life on Mars almost starred Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone as Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt

The time-travelling BBC drama originally had very different casting - and a different title...

Life on Mars

Life on Mars co-creator Matthew Graham has revealed that the iconic duo of DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) and time-traveller DI Sam Tyler (John Simm) could have looked very different.

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Speaking to fans on social media during last night’s Life on Mars watch-along, Graham revealed that Once Upon A Time star Robert Carlyle was at one point approached to play Sam Tyler, while King Arthur actor Ray Winstone “considered Gene [Hunt]”.

“We always wanted John Simm for the role but he was unavailable initially,” Graham tweeted. “So the incredible Robert Carlyle was approached and almost said yes. And Ray Winstone considered Gene. Both great actors but I’m so glad we got john and Phil [sic].”

The original 2006 series ran for two series, and focussed on the exploits of modern-day police detective Sam Tyler, who wakes up in the 1970s following a car accident.

Robert Carlyle / Ray Winstone
Robert Carlyle / Ray Winstone
Jack Rowland / Getty Images / E1 Entertainment

The show’s title is inspired by David Bowie’s song of the same name, which is playing on the radio in Tyler’s car when the accident occurs during the pilot episode.

However, Graham also revealed that various other titles were originally floated around, including “Ford Granada” and “Nick of Time”.

“They [the BBC] thought it might seem too confusing calling LIFE ON MARS – too SciFi. Peter Fincham our controller was a Bowie fan so we got to keep it! [sic],” he told fans.

Somehow we’re not sure “Nick of Time” would have caught on quite as well…

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Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes are available to stream on BBC iPlayer – check out what else is on with our TV Guide