Famous Movie Roles Actors Turned Down
Insiders know it’s a miracle that any major movie ever gets made. So much goes into the process, from the sets and locations to the wardrobe and postproduction elements like editing. Each film requires thousands of people and years to complete. And nothing is more important than the casting, especially when it comes to big budget blockbusters…
The actors and actresses chosen to portray the characters define their movies. While a lot can be said for the writing and directing, if the casting isn’t right nothing else matters. All of the films discussed in this article succeeded for the most part, but they could’ve been much different, for better or worse…
Unlike the image above, which shows who many fans want to portray the next version of the iconic spy James Bond, all of the other casting options we’re actually a part of their films’ preproduction. It has yet to be revealed if Idris Elba has ever officially been approached to play 007, but from here on out, the popular characters compiled once belonged to someone else. Some turned down to opportunity, while others lost their chance. Read ahead to learn more…
Will Smith In The Matrix
The Matrix changed the way movies are made. The elevated sci-fi plot and never-before-seen special effects, combined with the brilliant casting of Keanu Reeves, created a perfect storm of ingredients that have rarely been matched since its release. The film’s star hadn’t had a hit like this in years, but his portrayal of Neo put his career back on track. Could it have done the same for Will Smith?
Will Smith was once the king of summer blockbuster’s, with hits like Independence Day and Men In Black, it seemed like his earl July releases couldn’t be beat. He was approached to play Neo in Matrix, but he said he just didn’t really get the pitch. He instead made Wild Wild West, which flopped.
After that, Smith never fully recovered. He’s still a giant star, but not at the same level that he could’ve been. What’s even crazier is that he got another chance to revitalize his career when Quentin Tarantino approached him for the lead role in Django Unchained, but again, Smith turned it down because he didn’t get it.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt In Brokeback Mountain
One of the riskiest casting opportunities came with the film Brokeback Mountain, which told the story of two cowboys who end up falling in love. At the time it was made, this kind of movie rarely got a wide release. Director Gus Van Sant had previously worked on the developing the film before Ang Lee took over, and he’d reached out to a lot of actors for the roles…
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger ended up with the career-boosting parts in the Oscar-winning film, showing that the willingness to do something different pays off. During his time on the project, Van Sant approached many notable stars, the most intriguing of which were Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, who will finally end up together in Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Pitt and DiCaprio weren’t the only A-listers to play it safe. Other stars who said no to the risky roles were Matt Damon, Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, and Ryan Phillippe, all of whom have certainly done other challenging performances. In retrospect, they probably all wish they’d said yes to this great film.
Leonardo DiCaprio In Boogie Knights
Leonardo DiCaprio is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, maybe of all time. Due to the extremely high public interest in his career, there’s a ton of information about many of his major casting decisions. We will now look a several roles he could’ve had, and try to figure out why he went another way…
Early in his career, DiCaprio was already an Oscar-nominated, highly desirable actor. Even before Titanic made him an international sensation, he saw much success in his films and performances. Back in 1997, he made a decision that he still considers his biggest regret when he said no to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, which delves into the dark side of The Golden Age of Porn.
DiCaprio says he turned it down because it was so early in writer/director PTA’s career, as well as being a pretty heavy undertaking. Leo’s friend Mark Wahlberg landed the part, and it took him from his difficult transition out of pop music teen heartthrob into serious actor. Boogie Nights became an instant classic, and hopefully one day these two will end up working together.
Leonardo DiCaprio In American Psycho
A few years later, DiCaprio was attached to American Psycho, another hardcore film that would launch its star’s career. Before Christian Bale was directed by Mary Harron, Oliver Stone wanted to turn the famous novel by Bret Easton Ellis into a miniseries. That fell through but the studio still tried to get Leo, even after Bale was cast…
This is another famous film that a lot of actors were considered for at one point or another during its development. Johnny Depp was the first, followed by Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Ewan McGregor. David Cronenberg was interested in directing, but due to his unusual ideas, Mary Harron ended up taking over. And she really wanted then-unknown Christian Bale.
There are two different versions of what happened with DiCaprio. One side says that Harron didn’t want him because he was too boyish for the part, and she worried his stardom and previous roles would distract from the tone. The other side says that DiCaprio pulled out due to similar concerns. Either way, Bale was perfect as Patrick Bateman, even though it would’ve been interesting to see a different take.
Christian Bale As James Bond
Christian Bale is one of the most talented actors of his generation. He is a brilliant performer who is able to inhabit any character, but is most well known for his portrayal of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. And this isn’t the only iconic role he’s had a chance to play. Back before Daniel Craig took over for Pierce Brosnan, who will be discussed next, Bale was approached for the part…
Interestingly enough, Bale turned down the opportunity because he didn’t want to be attached to a series that was super British. According to sources close to the actor, he feels that 007 represents every negative stereotype around England and its actors. He also wasn’t interested in another super violent film, joking that he’d already played a serial killer.
Interestingly enough, despite his previous comments and documented feelings on the offer, Bale has since stated that he was never officially approached for the role. It’s definitely possible that his name came up during the casting, and that he had only caught wind of the idea, but many feel he would’ve made a great secret agent.
Hugh Jackman As James Bond
Over the last half a century, seven actors have portrayed James Bond on the big screen, making this character different from any other in cinema history. Not all of the actors have gone on to have as successful of careers as Sean Connery, the most famous to play the part, but each actor put their own stamp on 007.
After Pierce Bronson’s final performance, the studio had many different ideas for the part. Daniel Craig ended up being cast, and took the role in a completely different direction, but before his involvement was finalized they’d looked at someone who was clearly much more similar to Bronson, except for the fact that he’s not British.
Hugh Jackman had just become a star, thanks to his role as Wolverine in the X-Men franchise, and this surely must’ve played a big part in his decision to turn down James Bond when the offer was brought to his attention. Doing two franchises at once would’ve seriously limited his availability, and he also wasn’t a huge fan of how 007 was being portrayed. Jackman wanted the secret agent’s films to be more realistic, and the rest is history…
Denzel Washington In Se7en
Brad Pitt has come up multiple times in this article, but until now, only as someone who didn’t end up in certain roles. When David Fincher was developing Se7en, one of the most iconic murder mysteries ever, he had a lot of tough castings decisions to make, from the two co-leads to the film’s diabolical killer.
Before Brad Pitt was cast as Detective David Mills, a role that showcased his range, it was offered to an actor who was much more experienced at the time. Denzel Washington thought the movie was way too dark and evil, but that was before he saw the final product, which he has since heavily praised.
Washington chose to make another detective thriller, Devil in a Blue Dress, which didn’t have much success when it was released. Coincidentally, one of the reasons he turned down Se7en was because he thought no one would see it, he now knows this was a big mistake. Director David Fincher has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most elite filmmakers, so it worked out for everyone.
Emily Blunt As Black Widow
Before the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, no one could’ve possibly known how insanely huge its films would become. Despite the previous successes of other comic book movies, the idea of having dozens of interconnected narratives with some of the biggest stars playing super heroes was unheard of. Because of this, casting was tricky…
Emily Blunt is currently on the Hollywood A-list, and will secure her status with next year’s Mary Poppins Returns, so her decision to turn down Marvel hasn’t haunted her as much as some of the other celebrities to be discussed later. She was the first choice to portray Black Widow, and conflicting reports say she either said no due to timing or the low paycheck…
Scarlett Johansson was eventually cast, and hopefully she’ll finally get a solo movie soon. Blunt doesn’t regret missing out on the MCU, but she’s a fan of the films and is more than willing to portray a super hero at some point. She told Screenrant, “I’m never regretful about not doing something…Like why even reminisce about what could’ve been?” There’s isn’t a much better attitude to have for this sort of thing.
Jim Carrey As Edward Scissorhands
Edward Scissorhands made Johnny Depp a star, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Very few actor/director combinations have worked as well as he has with Tim Burton. The duo has made almost ten movies together, and only Michael Keaton can ever remotely compete with their chemistry. But if there’s one other actor who could’ve done something interesting with the part, it’s…
Jim Carrey is one of the few actors with the dramatic chops, comedic range and overall quirkiness to pull off this kind of part. Before his career exploded with movies like Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, he was considered for Edward Scissorhands. While he has since proven his serious dramatic abilities, he hadn’t had the much needed experience at the time.
Producers were worried that his more comedic portrayal would’ve jeopardized the tone and overall presentation of the character and the film, so he didn’t make it much further than the initial casting period. Things worked out fine for Carrey, and others actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise were considered before Depp began his lifelong collaboration with Burton.
Johnny Depp As Ferris Bueller
Matthew Broderick has had a solid career, but he definitely peaked with his portrayal of Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The John Hughes film was a staple of the ’80s, with so many amazing moments and classic characters that continue to delight audiences of all ages. But Broderick wasn’t the first choice for the lead role…
John Hughes, the writer and director, claims that he had Broderick in mind when he penned the script, but that doesn’t always mean the studio won’t still explore their options. At the time, it was a big role to cast. Hughes was huge, having made The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Weird Science and Pretty in Pink…
Before Broderick was confirmed as Bueller, a young virtually unknown actor named Johnny Depp was considered. He had previously been in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Platoon, but he couldn’t compete with other up-and-comers like Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise. Ultimately, Broderick was perfect for the part, so no one else really stood a chance. And for what it’s worth, he would end up missing out on another big role decades later…
Matthew Broderick In Breaking Bad
Until now, this article has only discussed movies, but there are plenty of big television characters that could’ve been played by different actors. One of the most iconic is Walter White of Breaking Bad, portrayed brilliantly by the multiple Emmy award winning Bryan Cranston. But as hard as it is to imagine, he wasn’t the first choice for the part…
Back during the casting of the show, which was already taking a lot of big risks beyond who would play the characters, Bryan Cranston was really only known as a comedic actor. He’d been on the sitcom Malcom in the Middle, and it actually ended up being a guest spot on the X-Files with then-director Vince Gilligan, who would go on to create Breaking Band, that helped him get the part, but…
Before Gilligan insisted on Cranston, AMC wanted a more known actor for White. The executives reached out to John Cusack, who makes sense, and Matthew Broderick, who doesn’t. It’s easy to imagine Cusack as the character, as he’s played similar parts before, but Broderick is hard to even humor in such a complex role.
Anne Hathaway In Knocked Up
Judd Apatow, the writer/director behind The 40 Year Old Virgin, Funny People and Trainwreck, is a genuine hitmaker. He’s produced countless classic comedies and made the careers of almost everyone who’s starred in his movies. All of the actors who have benefitted from his support have been nothing but grateful, except for one. Katherine Heigl’s best film by far is Knocked Up, so why has she been so publicly against it?
Surely Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway would’ve been much better in the part, and wouldn’t have gone on to speak negatively about the movie, but alas. Not that her involvement with Knocked Up wasn’t also kind of confusing. Apparently, she turned down the role because of what she felt was unnecessary nudity, even though the scene in question was a childbirth sequence and that the naked body would’ve been a double…
Hathaway has bared all for other parts, so maybe there was more to her decision. When it came to Heigl, her performance was good, but it didn’t make sense when she started bashing the movie years later for being too sexist. Hathaway has gone on to have an amazing career, and Heigl, well…
Jack Nicholson In The Godfather
Many of the movies discussed here have been more modern, but crazy casting choices have been happening since the dawn of cinema. People love to argue about the best films of all time, and as fun as it is to have differing opinions, it’s pretty hard to beat The Godfather. The first two in the trilogy are essentially perfect, but…
Could you imagine anyone other than Al Pacino in the lead role? If a different actor had to portray Michael Corleone, Jack Nicholson would’ve made the most sense, especially considering the fact that he’s always awesome. Both performers are legends, and have been in some of the world’s most important movies, but it definitely seems like this one worked out for the best.
Nicholson didn’t feel he would’ve been able to do the part justice. Francis Ford Coppola offered him the part before it went to Pacino, but he turned it down because, according to him, “I knew The Godfather was going to be a great film, but at that time I believed Indians should play roles written for Indians and Italians should do the same.” Classic Jack.
Tom Hanks As Jerry Maguire
Hollywood’s two biggest Toms are the subject of this crazy casting changeup. When Cameron Crowe wrote the Oscar-winning Jerry Maguire, he had Hanks in mind, but ended up getting Cruise. This wasn’t a bad thing, as Cruise did a great job and went on to work with Crowe again on Vanilla Sky. So what happened with Hanks?…
In an interview with Dan Patrick, Crowe discussed the process, saying, “It was originally written with Tom Hanks in mind. He read the script and I had this wonderful conversation with Tom Hanks and people were waiting in the next room for the answer. And Tom Hanks was so complimentary and so great and said you know I’d love to do this but…”
“I’m doing ‘That Thing You Do,’ I should be doing that instead of this movie but good luck. I was so high on the Tom Hanks personality charisma that I walked into the next room and I was like I just had the greatest conversation with Tom Hanks and they said is he in or out? And I said no he’s not doing it but he’s so great!”
Bill Murray As Forrest Gump
Of all the big movies Bill Murray’s turned down, Forrest Gump has to be the most intriguing. When it came to the role that won Tom Hanks his second Oscar, Murray said he was in talks for the part and even did research with the original book. But he said he didn’t received the script and has still never seen the finished film.
Coincidentally, Murray was also up for Denzel Washington’s role in Philadelphia, the movie that won Hanks his first Academy Award. Director Jonathan Demme had originally wanted a more comedic actor, such as Murray and Robin Williams, but eventually went with Denzel. Back to Forrest Gump, Murray wasn’t the only big actor the producers considered.
At the time, director Robert Zemeckis offered John Travolta the role, but he turned it down. Why? In what was maybe one of the best calls in this article, his decision not to work with Zemeckis was so that he could do Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino, which revitalized his career. When it came to the awards, Gump cleaned up, but Pulp Fiction has had much more longevity in pop culture.
Michael Keaton In Groundhog Day
Before Bill Murray was in Groundhog Day, Michael Keaton turned it down. He told Entertainment Weekly that he just didn’t get it, adding, “This guy sounds like the kind of wry, sardonic, glib young man I’ve played — and it ended up being so great. But you can’t do it better than Bill Murray did it.”
Oddly enough, several years earlier, Bill Murray was considered for the role of Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s Batman, which ended up going to Keaton. Murray told MTV News in 2008 he “would have been a fine Batman.” It’s a shame we’ll never get to see a young Bill Murray as the caped crusader, especially alongside Jack Nicholson’s Joker, who will be discussed next. But first…
Keaton was also set to play the lead role in ABC’s Lost. The original idea was to use Keaton to promote the premier, and then, in typical JJ Abrams fashion, kill off his character almost immediately. The setup was perfect for Keaton, who didn’t want to be in a series, and loved the idea of doing something so unusual in such a big way.
John Lithgow As The Joker
Every single actor who’s played the Joker, from Cesar Romero and Mark Hamill to Jared Leto and now Joaquin Phoenix, has been compared to Jack Nicholson. The only one to truly transcend his portrayal in the first Batman was Heath Ledger, who won a posthumous Academy Award for his performance in The Dark Knight. But back to Burton’s Batman…
A lot of people don’t know that there was a version of Batman, with Joe Dante attached to direct, before Tim Burton’s film, and that John Lithgow was considered for the Joker in both of them. Nicholson ultimately got the part, as well as $100 million in profit participation. When it came to Lithgow…
He told Vulture, “My worst audition was for Tim Burton for Batman. I have never told anyone this story, but I tried to persuade him I was not right for the part, and I succeeded. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal. About a week later I heard they were going after Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson.” One of the main reasons Dante’s movie never got made is because the director was more interested in the villain than the hero.
Matt Damon In The Dark Knight
There have been so many super hero movies that it’s safe to say plenty of Hollywood’s A-list has been in talks with one of them at some point. Another Batman casting decision happened on the aforementioned The Dark Knight when director Christopher Nolan tapped Matt Damon to play Harvey Dent…
Also known as Two Face, the role ended up going to Aaron Eckhart. In an interview with MTV, Damon said it simply came down to timing, “It was a scheduling thing. But, I never spoke to Chris Nolan.” This isn’t unusual, as studios and casting directors will reach out to actors in the early stages of preproduction.
When Damon was asked about the film, he said, “Look, Aaron is a great actor, so the movie didn’t suffer for it. Every once in a while you get [an acting opportunity] and you can’t do it.” He also turned down James Cameron’s Avatar, along with Jake Gyllenhaal. The director told the LA Times, “Honestly, did I go out and try to woo them? No. I had my heart set on Sam Worthington. Maybe they sensed my lack of 100% commitment from me. Maybe it was the subject matter.”
Angelina Jolie In Gravity
Like Avatar, Gravity became a massive, sci-fi blockbuster that also earned a lot of awards. According to Variety, Angelina Jolie was originally set to play the lead in Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar winner; however, she passed on the role in summer 2010. And she wasn’t the only big star involved before Sandra Bullock and George Clooney…
Casting was one of the hardest parts of pulling off Gravity, and that’s say a lot considering the movie’s unreal special effects. Cuaron said, “We started developing stuff [trying] to figure out the technology. And the luxury [was] that we could try many things. And part of that was conversations with actors. I had conversations with Angelina, but then she went to do one film, and then she was going to direct [Unbroken]. Something happens, you part ways.”
When it came to the other part, Robert Downey Jr was considered. Cuaron explained that it all came down to the technology, which made it hard for RDJ to do this thing. “I think Robert is fantastic if you give him the freedom to completely breathe and improvise and change stuff.” But that just wasn’t possible on Gravity.
Thomas Jane In Mad Men
Back to television, another iconic part, Mad Men’s Don Draper, was almost played by a completely different actor. It’s hard to picture anyone other than Jon Hamm in the role, but according to the man himself, AMC actually wanted Thomas Jane, who went on to do another show.
In an interview with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, Hamm said, “I couldn’t have had less heat on me. Nobody knew who I was. The casting directors didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t on anybody’s list. The funny thing was, I think they went to Thomas Jane for it, and they were told that Thomas Jane does not do television. Now starring in Hung, by the way.” Hamm added, “They wanted fill-in-the-blank of TV stars, movie stars.”
This wasn’t as possible when they were developing Mad Men, well before giant movie stars starred starring in television programs regularly. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “At the time Mad Men launched in 2007, Hamm had a slew of guest appearances and roles on several network television series, including The Unit, What About Brian, Providence and The Division, but nothing as headline-producing as his role on the critics’ favorite.”
Paul Giamatti In The Office
The only television casting change harder to imagine than Thomas Jane as Don Draper is someone who’s not Steve Carell playing Michael Scott in The Office. Apparently, the producers originally wanted Paul Giamatti, who had just blown up due to his part in the Oscar-nominated Sideways. He’s a great actor, but…
His take on Michael Scott was much different than Carell’s, and this could have seriously changed the tone of the show. Luckily, he turned it down and continued to make great choices on the big screen. His version of the Dunder Mifflin boss wasn’t going to be as dumb as Carell was able to pull off, so it worked out.
There were other big casting changes before The Office started filming, like Adam Scott, who starred in Parks and Recreation, as Jim Halpert, Seth Rogen as Dwight Schrute, and Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet as Kevin. Also, Angela Kinsey, who played Angela, originally auditioned for Pam. And Michael Scott could’ve also been played by The Simpson’s Hank Azaria, Martin Short and Bob Odenkirk, who went on to do Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Ray Liota As Tony Soprano
James Gandolfini gave one of the best performances in television history as Tony Soprano on the HBO masterpiece The Sopranos. But unlike the last two entries, this early casting idea is much easier to imagine. Granted, it would be a completely different show, and losing out on what Gandolfini did would be a tragedy, but…
If anyone else could possibly work as Tony, it’s mob-movie legend Ray Liotta. His incredible performance as Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas has made him a go-to actor for these types of roles, from mob flicks to cop dramas and crime epics. He’s had a long, impressive career in film, and at the time, that’s what was most important to him.
Liotta told The Today Show in 2001 that he turned down The Sopranos so that he could work on movies. Back then, the contract called for a two-year commitment, and the series wound up lasting almost a decade, so Liotta was right to say no. He has since, like many movie stars, made the transition to TV in Shades of Blue.
Emma Watson In La La Land
La La Land was the biggest critical hit the year it came out, winning almost every major award that fall. The project was in development for a while, with two totally different leads early on. Young director Damien Chazelle, who went on to win the Oscar, had previously done Whiplash with Miles Teller. He was replaced by Ryan Gosling and…
Emma Watson almost had Emma Stone’s Oscar-winning part. Chazelle explained, “There was a moment where Emma Watson and Miles Teller were doing it. Neither of those casting things wound up lasting or working out.” It makes since that Teller would have been attached at some point, and Watson went on to do another hit musical, the live action version of Beauty and the Beast.
When asked about La La Land, Watson said, “It’s one of these frustrating things where names get attached to projects very early on as a way to build anticipation for something that’s coming before anything is really actually agreed.” This is the case with a lot of these entries, all of which took place at varying parts of the casting process.
Nicolas Cage As Green Goblin
Nicolas Cage has been up for a lot of great roles throughout his career. While Willem Dafoe was perfect as the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-man, there’s no question that Cage could’ve done something really wild with the part. He went on do Ghost Rider and was even set to play Superman at one point.
Beyond the Green Goblin, Cage was offered the role of Aragon in the Lord of the Rings. He told Newsweek, “There were different things going on in my life at the time that precluded me from being able to travel and be away from home for three years.” Cage was also set to play Randy “The Ram” Robinson in the 2008 film The Wrestler.
Director Darren Aronofsky’s first choice was the riskier actor who ended up in the movie, Mickey Rourke. Luckily for him, Cage decided against it, “The character is a wrestler who’s in trouble because of steroids. It occurred to me I wasn’t going to be able to achieve the look without resorting to steroids, which I would never do – so I resigned from the movie.”
Tom Cruise In Footloose
While it’s possible to connect Tom Cruise with Kevin Bacon in the famous game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, in which fans have theorized that everyone actor can be easily linked back to him. But a shortcut would be when they were both considered for the part in Footloose…
Bacon ultimately ended up in the movie, and thankfully so, as it seriously helped launch his career. Cruise had impressed the casting directors with his performance in Risky Business, but due to being committed to All the Right Moves, he had to say no to Footloose. The producers really wanted him for Ren McCormack in the 1984 musical, but they had to look elsewhere.
Before getting to Kevin Bacon, they also auditioned then-Brat Pack member Rob Lowe. He actually went in several times for the part, and it was looking like he’d get it until he had to pass due to an injury. Everything worked out for all three actors, with Cruise definitely making the most out of his career. But Bacon and Lowe would also enjoy a lot of success in Hollywood.
Henry Winkler In Grease
The Fonz in Happy Days was an iconic television character long before any of those discussed in this article. Aspects of Henry Winkler’s performance on that show are still referenced today. At the time, he was one of the biggest stars of the era, as Happy Days was a huge hit for multiple years, due it large part to Fonzie’s popularity.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the producers of Grease, the classic 1978 movie musical, would look at him for the lead role of Danny Zuko. The aforementioned John Travolta would go on to land the part, but not before Winkler considered the opportunity. It made Travolta’s career, so why did Winkler pass?
Not to say that Henry Winkler hasn’t had a great career since he stopped playing the Fonz, especially since he just won an Emmy for HBO’s Barry. But why did he pass up the leader or the T-Birds? In one of the more logical decisions discussed here, he didn’t want to be typecast, as the two roles were much too similar for him.
Julia Roberts In Shakespeare In Love
Julie Roberts has been one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood for decades, which means she’s been offered a lot of famous films. One of the hardest to look back on has to be Shakespeare in Love, which wound up winning Gwyneth Paltrow an Academy Award. And she gave an incredibly memorable acceptance speech.
Roberts wanted to star opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, who would’ve played Shakespeare. But, as cast member Simon Callow revealed in 2014, “Daniel wasn’t interested, so Julia withdrew and the whole thing fell through just six weeks before filming was due to begin.” She would go on to miss out on another Oscar-winning part, The Blind Side, in which Sandra Bullock played the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy.
She was also offered another Bullock part in The Proposal, but passed because she refused to take the pay cut. The movie ended up making over $317 million worldwide. And instead of The Blind Side, she went with Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day. She’d worked with the director before in the movie that made her a sensation, Pretty Woman. Read on to learn about who else was up for that part…
Molly Ringwald In Pretty Woman
In the ’80s, no one was bigger than Molly Ringwald, who had starred in a series of John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. Because of her popularity, she was probably considered for a lot of roles, including Pretty Woman. But she says she doesn’t regret turning it down, even after what it did for Julia Roberts’ career.
In a Reddit AMA, Ringwald explained, “Julia Roberts is what makes that movie. It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that.” The movie was a tough sell at the time, as a mainstream romantic comedy in which the lead actress would have to play a prostitute. Michelle Pfeiffer and Daryl Hannah turned it down, as well.
There’s also the added detail that early versions of the script were much more R-rated. The Brat Pack member wasn’t comfortable with what the film required of her, so she said no to Vivian Ward. It would’ve been a nice way to transition into the ’90s, but instead, she moved to France and basically disappeared. Roberts ended up with an Oscar nomination.
Al Pacino As Han Solo
Speaking of roles that made actors’ careers, there aren’t many examples bigger than Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Star Wars. But it almost went to Al Pacino. In a 2013 event “An Evening with Pacino” he revealed, “It was mine for the taking, but I didn’t understand the script.” Fair enough, and…
He was also offered businessman Edward Lewis in the aforementioned Pretty Woman, but Pacino admitted that he passed on that too. He also said no to John McClane in Die Hard, which ended up going to Bruce Willis. Pacino declared, “I gave that boy a career.” He has since also said that about Ford’s Solo.
Along with these, he said no to a role in The Usual Suspects and Martin Sheen’s part in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. When asked why he decided against the opportunity to play Captain Benjamin L. Willard, Pacino responded, “I know what this is going to be like. You’re [Francis Ford Coppola] going to be up there in a helicopter telling me what to do, and I’m gonna be down there in a swamp for five months.”
Tom Selleck As Indiana Jones
After Harrison Ford played Han Solo for George Lucas, he was one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood. When Lucas teamed up with Steven Spielberg for Indiana Jones, Ford was definitely in the running. But so was Tom Selleck, the star of the hit television show Magnum PI. Tragically for Selleck…
The producers of Magnum PI refused to let him be on the show and star in the movie that would’ve completely transformed his career. What’s even worse is that Selleck was officially offered the part. He couldn’t have possibly known this at the time, because if he had, he probably wouldn’t have chosen to turn down the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay on TV.
Interestingly enough, Lucas was the one who was reluctant to cast Ford as the adventure-seeking archeologist, as he didn’t want Ford to star in another one of his movies. But Spielberg really wanted him for the part after he saw Star Wars. They auditioned countless actors for the role, including Selleck, but Ford got it. He would go on to miss out on another massive Spielberg hit…
Harrison Ford In Jurassic Park
Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford have worked together on four Indiana Jones movies, with a possible fifth installment on the way. But these weren’t the only times the director wanted to cast the actor. He’s actually offered him some huge roles in a couple of his other biggest films, including…
According to /FILM, during a 30th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark in Los Angeles, Spielberg confirmed that he originally went to Ford for the role of Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. He said, “You know who I offered Jurassic Park to? This guy. Alan Grant, Jurassic Park, right here,” referring to Ford, who apparently changed the topic immediately. Wonder why?
While it’s easy to see Ford as Alan Grant, it’s a bit more of a stretch to imagine him in Schindler’s List, another Spielberg film he could’ve been a part of. The director not only wanted him involved, he offered him the lead of German industrialist and Nazi member Oskar Schindler. But Ford was worried his casting would be too distracting to audiences, who he wanted to fully appreciated the importance of the film.
Sean Connery In The Lord of the Rings
Another Indiana Jones alum, Sir Sean Connery, has also had his own casting snafus, and these could’ve been big. During the development process of the massive Lord of the Rings series, Connery was offered the role of Gandalf, which would’ve meant appearing in all six of the franchise’s films. So why did he turn down such an amazing opportunity?
When asked about his decision, Connery said, “I never understood it. I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it.” This has been a common reason for actors who have said no to big roles. It must just come down to gut instinct, which can be responsible for as many good choices as bad. Connery also turned down Morpheus in The Matrix for the same reason.
When asked about Connery’s LOTR call, the actual Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen, said, “The films would have been very different if it had been Sean Connery. Gandalf would have come from Scotland for a start!” McKellen went on to receive an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the bearded wizard.
Ian McKellen In Harry Potter
While Sir Ian McKellen made a great call by accepting the role of Gandalf in LOTR, he actually said no to another big fantasy franchise. When Richard Harris, the original Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, passed away, McKellen was offered the part.
In an interview with the Guardian, McKellen said, “People say to me, ‘Don’t you wish you’d played Dumbledore?’ I say no! I played Gandalf! The original. There was a question as to whether I might take over from Richard Harris but seeing as one of the last things he did publicly was say what a dreadful actor he thought I was, it would not have been appropriate for me to take over his part. It would have been unfair.”
Michael Gambon eventually replaced Harris as Dumbledore. Gambon said, “I knew him and he died and I took over his part in Harry Potter. He only did two films and I did six films and all I did was copy Richard.” Appropriately, Gambon would go one to receive the Richard Harris Award at an event celebrating British cinema, so it all worked out for the best.
Mel Gibson In Gladiator
Coincidentally, two controversial actors were both in talks to receive the Oscar-winning role of Maximus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. At the time, before a series of PR nightmares, Mel Gibson was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He was the first to be offered the part in the big-budget epic, which went on to win Best Picture at the 2001 Academy Awards.
But Gibson turned it down, reportedly because he felt he was too old for the very demanding role. During the making of the movie, he would’ve been in his forties, and apparently he was over trying to go to all the extraordinary lengths those kind of action movies need. Interestingly enough…
Russell Crowe, who ended up in the part, wasn’t much younger than Gibson. During filming, Crowe was in his mid thirties. But maybe the biggest difference between the two at the time was that Crowe had yet to reach Gibson’s level of fame and success, making him much more willing to do everything the role required. He went on to win the Oscar and become an A-list actor.
Christina Applegate In Legally Blonde
Reese Witherspoon has made many smart choices throughout her career, which has seen her sustaining her position as an in-demand and highly respected actress. She’s made sure to put herself in a variety of different roles, something that anyone in Hollywood needs to do to truly be taken seriously. This is exactly why Christina Applegate said no to Legally Blonde.
The role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde helped to make Reese Witherspoon a household name, but she wasn’t the first choice for the part. It was originally offered to Christina Applegate, of Married with Children and Anchorman fame, but she passed on the opportunity. According to the actress, it wasn’t because she disliked the script or the idea behind the movie, but instead…
Applegate felt she had played too many similar characters before, and worried that if she accepted it would be harder for her to do different kinds of roles moving forward. Back in 2015, she revealed, “I got scared of kind of repeating myself. What a stupid move that was, right?” She’s probably referring to the fact that the movie was a big hit and Witherspoon got a Golden Globe nomination.
Reese Witherspoon In Scream
As previously stated, Reese Witherspoon knows how to pick her parts, but that doesn’t mean she’s immune to the occasional bad call. Early in her career, when these kinds of decisions are almost more important than ever, she received an offered to play the lead of Sidney Prescott in Wes Craven’s iconic game-changing horror movie Scream…
At the time, she was starting to get a lot of offers, and had to be pretty careful about what she said yes to. Upon first glance, she didn’t see how Scream was different than any other horror movie. Before it came out, the genre was a bit stale and repetitive, especially on a mainstream level, so you can’t really blame her for her mistake, but…
Once the incredibly original and popular Scream was released, it started a trend in Hollywood that saw horror films becoming as successful as they’d ever been before, launching the careers of countless young stars. Luckily for the Oscar-winning Witherspoon, she didn’t end up needing the boost, even turning down a similar role in Urban Legend a couple years later. And Neve Campbell was roped into multiple sequels.
Michelle Pfeiffer In The Silence of the Lambs
Speaking of horror films, The Silence of the Lambs is arguably the most critically successful of the genre. Some might say it’s not technically a horror movie, falling more in the thriller category, but if so, it’s easily one of the scariest thrillers ever. Either way, the lead roles were amazing opportunities for all the actors involved, so why did Michelle Pfeiffer turn it down?
Ted Tally, the screenwriter, suggested Jodie Foster when he was working on the script, but the director, Jonathan Demme, wanted Pfeiffer. Despite the fact that Foster was lobbying for the part, Demme saw Pfeiffer in the film that went on to become one of three in history to win the big five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay.
But Pfeiffer couldn’t see beyond the disturbing subject matter, a factor that also caused her to say no to Basic Instinct. According to an interview with Contactmusic, she said, “I just couldn’t do that one, because of the sexual parts, the nudity. My father was still alive. I’m kind of prudish … And honestly? I am not that uninhibited about my body. I’m modest.”
Kevin Costner In The Shawshank Redemption
Tim Robbins’ portrayal of Andy Dufresne in Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption is definitely one of the highlights of his impressive career. Based on a story by Stephen King, the movie went on to receive a lot of awards attention, including seven Academy Award nominations. Robbins saw the potential in the film, but Kevin Costner didn’t…
Costner was a huge star at the time, and decided against The Shawshank Redemption because he wanted to focus on his passion project, Waterworld, which ended up becoming one of the biggest flops in the history of Hollywood. And it didn’t just derail his career, but was also one of the most problematic productions ever. Costner and the director Kevin Reynolds didn’t get along. Apparently, for this one, Costner didn’t really get along with anybody.
This was made worse when the filming went over budget and was then halted by terrible weather and issues with jellyfish stings. At one point, one of the stuntmen was actually lost at sea for hours. Even Costner got hurt, in fact, he almost died during a scene where he was tethered to the top of a boat when a giant storm suddenly hit.
Chevy Chase In American Beauty
Kevin Spacey has all but disappeared from Hollywood following the disturbing revelations that came to light from the Me Too movement. He left behind a lot of great work, including the role that won him his second Oscar. After receiving the award for Best Supporting Actor in The Usual Suspects, he would be acknowledged again for his portrayal of Lester Burnham in American Beauty. But he wasn’t the first choice…
Chevy Chase, another controversial actor, was initially offered the Academy Award-winning role, but turned it down because he was afraid it could hurt his family-friendly image. Interestingly enough, Chase also said no to another Oscar-winning part in the aforementioned Forrest Gump. So how did things work out…
Chase achieved great success early in his career, which saw him going from the breakout star of SNL to a lot of popular comedies. But when he tried to transition to more accessible roles, his career suffered. Despite his negative reputation as a difficult actor to work with, he experienced a resurgence on the TV series Community. It’s hard not to wonder how different things could’ve been for him and all of the actors discussed here.