Career-Defining Movie Roles That These Actors Passed On
Imagine a world where your favorite films had totally different actors. Could you have ever imagined Tom Hanks not playing Forrest Gump? Or Will Farrell not playing Buddy the Elf?
Find out which actors were almost cast in these iconic roles, and be prepared to have your mind blown!
Jack Nicholson Passes on Iconic Role in 'The Godfather'
Jack Nicholson, an icon of the film industry, made headlines when he passed on the opportunity of a lifetime in 1972 – playing the iconic role of The Godfather in the classic movie. Nicholson told Movieline in 2004 that he believed the role should have gone to an Italian actor instead.
It was a brave move, as he could have easily taken the part and gone on to become even more of a legend. Yet his decision to pass on the role exemplifies the kind of integrity, humility and respect he has for his craft. Nicholson has gone on to become one of the most respected and admired actors in the business, showing that sometimes it pays to stand by your principles.
John Travolta's Missed Opportunity: The Story of Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump wouldn’t be the classic movie we know and love today without the amazing performance of Tom Hanks in the lead role. However, it may surprise some to learn that Hanks wasn’t the first choice for the role. In fact, John Travolta was offered the role first, but decided to pass in favor of taking on the iconic role of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.
Though we can’t be sure what might have been had Travolta accepted the role in Forrest Gump, it’s safe to say it wouldn’t have been the same without Hanks. The fact that Travolta chose a different path makes the story of Forrest Gump even more interesting and intriguing.
Will Smith’s Regret: Turning Down The Matrix
Had Will Smith taken the lead role in The Matrix, he could have been a part of one of the most iconic films of all time. However, Smith revealed in an interview on his YouTube channel that he passed up the opportunity due to a lack of understanding.
He felt that the pitch for the movie sounded confusing and dull, so he opted to take on Wild Wild West instead. Despite his success in the latter, Smith doesn’t look back on his decision fondly. He admits to regretting his choice, and who can blame him?
A Match Made in Horror Heaven: Robin Williams Almost Played Jack Torrance in The Shining
The Shining, one of the most iconic horror films in history, almost had a much different lead actor. Believe it or not, the role of the ax wielding Jack Torrance was initially offered to the one and only Robin Williams!
Director Stanley Kubrick had the legendary comedian at the top of his list of choices to take on the iconic role. Although it’s hard to imagine anyone but Jack Nicholson in the part, it’s fascinating to imagine what could have been.
Leo, Brad, and Matt Pass on Brokeback Mountain
Before Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhal made history in Brokeback Mountain, the film was almost cast with three of Hollywood’s most iconic actors – Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. But sadly, all three turned down the opportunity, leaving the role to be taken on by two lesser-known actors.
It’s hard to imagine the film without Ledger and Gyllenhal, but it’s interesting to consider the film that might have been with three of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces. While they may have passed on the project, Brokeback Mountain still became a classic.
John Lithgow Talks Tim Burton Out of Casting Him for The Joker Role
John Lithgow and Tim Burton were set to collaborate on the 1988 Batman movie. However, at their first meeting, Lithgow shocked Burton by talking him out of casting him as The Joker. Speaking to Conan O’Brien in 2019, Lithgow recalled his rationale at the time: “Who is going to want to see a movie about Batman?”
Little did he know that the film would become one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. Burton went on to cast actor Jack Nicholson in the iconic role of The Joker, but Lithgow’s hesitation to portray him is an interesting look into the history of the beloved movie.
Burt Reynolds' Reason for Refusing to Play Bond
American actor Burt Reynolds had the opportunity to portray the iconic character James Bond in the movie Live and Let Die in 1973, but he rejected the part. In an interview with USA Today in 2015, he revealed the reason behind his decision – Reynolds was worried that the audience wouldn’t accept an American 007.
He thought that the famous British spy had to be portrayed by a British actor. Despite missing out on the role, Reynolds still holds a special place in the hearts of many movie goers.
Christina Applegate Missed Out On Iconic Role: "What a Stupid Move That Was"
Reese Witherspoon’s charismatic performance as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde is unforgettable, but it could have been Christina Applegate in the lead role. Applegate revealed in a 2015 interview with Entertainment Tonight that she was offered the part but declined due to fear of repeating herself.
“I got scared of kind of repeating myself,” she said. “What a stupid move that was, right?” Fans of the 2001 classic can only imagine what Applegate’s take on the iconic character would have been like.
Sean Connery Turned Down a Whopping $450 Million Payday for Lord of the Rings Role
Sean Connery was offered an incredible deal to play Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings franchise: a hefty $10 million per film, plus 15% of box office earnings. Unfortunately, the actor famously declined the role, saying he “did not understand the script.”
Little did he know, he was turning down an estimated $450 million payday! The opportunity of a lifetime may have been missed, but then again Connery went on to play plenty of other amazing roles instead.
Missed Opportunity: Al Pacino Almost Starred in Star Wars
Al Pacino, an actor renowned for his performances in films like The Godfather, had the opportunity to join the Star Wars universe as one of the top contenders to play Han Solo. However, Pacino declined the role due to his inability to understand the script.
In a 2014 interview with MTV, Pacino said that at the peak of his career, he was being offered every part. Despite not being the right fit for the part, he was still in consideration. It’s a shame Pacino didn’t jump at the opportunity to be part of such a beloved franchise.
Aaron Eckhart Grabs Opportunity after Matt Damon Declines The Dark Knight Role
When the opportunity to portray Two-Face in The Dark Knight arose, Matt Damon was initially the frontrunner for the role. However, due to scheduling conflicts, Damon had to pass on the offer and it was handed over to Aaron Eckhart. When talking to MTV, Damon praised the casting choice, saying, “Aaron is a great actor, so the movie didn’t suffer for it.
Every now and then you get one and you can’t do it.” This allowed Eckhart to take the reins and showcase his skill as an actor. The Dark Knight went on to be a massive success and Eckhart was praised for his performance.
Harrison Ford nearly Roamed with the Dinosaurs
For movie fans, the thought of Harrison Ford roaming amongst the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park is a tantalizing one. Sadly, the iconic actor reportedly turned down the role of Alan Grant in the film, though nobody knows the reason why.
Despite this, his legacy in the world of cinema is undeniable and it’s left to our imagination as to how different the film would have been had he taken the part. It’s a case of ‘what if’ that will remain a mystery, but it’s certain that Jurassic Park would have been a much different movie with Harrison Ford in the lead role.
Why Did Johnny Depp Refuse the Role in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'?
It’s a mystery that keeps movie buffs and fans of Johnny Depp guessing. Why did the Hollywood star decide to turn down the iconic role of Ferris Bueller in the 1986 classic ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’? Despite numerous reports of Depp rejecting the role, the exact reason remains a secret.
It’s certainly a puzzling situation that has left many wondering what could have been. Was it an issue with the script? Did he have a prior commitment? We may never know the answer, but one thing’s for sure, Depp’s refusal of this part has become part of Hollywood lore!
Emily Blunt's Missed Opportunity - How Scarlett Johansson Landed the Role of Black Widow
Who would have thought that Emily Blunt, the multi-award-winning actress, would have passed up an opportunity to play the beloved character Black Widow? In 2014, Blunt revealed that scheduling issues were the cause of her declining the role.
It was Scarlett Johansson who received the call up, yet it was only after Blunt had turned the part down that Johansson was approached. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role, but it’s exciting to consider what could have been!
Unlock the Mystery of Tom Selleck's Missed Opportunity
Before Harrison Ford became the face of Indiana Jones, Tom Selleck had the chance to don the iconic hat and whip. Unfortunately, due to his contract with Magnum P.I., Selleck was unable to make time for the role.
This meant that the world was denied Selleck’s charm and wit in the famous action-adventure movie. Thankfully, the role went to Ford, who made Indiana Jones an iconic character. We can only imagine what could have been if Selleck had accepted the role.
Truman Capote's Favorite Choice for Holly Golightly
Truman Capote, the renowned author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, had a clear preference when it came to who should play Holly Golightly in the film adaptation of his novella. He championed Marilyn Monroe for the role, yet his dream didn’t come to fruition.
The exact reason why Monroe didn’t star in the movie remains a mystery. It is speculated, however, that Capote wasn’t a fan of Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal. Whatever the case, Monroe will forever remain Capote’s first choice for the unforgettable character of Holly Golightly.
A Lost Opportunity: Nicolas Cage and the Lord of the Rings
Nicolas Cage had an opportunity to star in the iconic Lord of the Rings trilogy, but unfortunately had to turn it down due to a busy schedule. Although Cage told Newsweek that he doesn’t regret the decision, he does fantasize about what could have been had his circumstances been different.
Without a doubt, this was a missed opportunity for the beloved actor, whose portrayal of the characters could have been nothing short of brilliant. Though we may never know what could have been, we can only imagine the magic Nicolas Cage could have conjured in this beloved fantasy franchise.
McKellen Refuses to Take Over from Critic Harris
Ian McKellen is one of the greatest living actors, but even he can’t do it all. After the death of Richard Harris in 2002, McKellen was approached to take on the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.
Unfortunately, he had to turn it down. In 2017, McKellen told the BBC that he couldn’t “take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me”. Harris had once been quoted saying that McKellen was “technically brilliant, but passionless”. We may never know what McKellen could have brought to the role, but we can certainly appreciate his self-awareness and respect for his fellow actor.
Molly Ringwald: Behind the Scenes of Pretty Woman
Molly Ringwald was famously approached for the lead role in the iconic film Pretty Woman. In a 2012 Reddit AMA, Ringwald revealed that she had taken a look at the initial script, though she didn’t share why she ultimately decided not to pursue the role.
While the beloved actress is best known for her roles in The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, it’s fascinating to think of what could have been had she taken on the part of Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman.
Henry Winkler Reveals He Should've Heeded His Gut Instinct
Henry Winkler, famously known as Fonzie, revealed in 2017 that he had turned down the role of Danny Zuko in Grease, as he didn’t want to be typecast. However, he admitted he should have gone with his instincts instead.
“Listen to your gut – it knows everything,” Winkler said, hinting that he would have taken the role if he could have his time over. The actor added that though he didn’t regret his decision, he wished he had gone with his gut feeling. Winkler’s advice is a great reminder that, sometimes, our instincts are more reliable than logic.
Tom Cruise Passes Up Iconic Role in Footloose
Tom Cruise was offered the role of Ren McCormack in the iconic movie Footloose, but reportedly passed on the part due to a scheduling conflict with All The Right Moves.
While many fans of the movie would have loved to see the star take on the part, the role was eventually filled by Kevin Bacon, who delivered an electrifying performance. This casting decision ended up being a part of movie history, as the film went on to become an iconic classic.
Charlie Hunnam's 'Heartbreaking' Experience with Fifty Shades of Grey
Charlie Hunnam was all set to play Christian Grey in the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, even attending rehearsals for the film. However, he eventually had to back out due to scheduling conflicts and the experience left a lasting impact on him.
In an interview with V Man in 2015, he said, “It was the worst professional experience of my life. It was the most emotionally destructive and difficult thing that I’ve ever had to deal with professionally. It was heartbreaking.” Hunnam’s story of disappointment and heartbreak is one that many of us can likely relate to.
Bette Midler Passes Up Iconic Role: Missed Opportunity in Sister Act!
Bette Midler’s fans were in for a surprise when the singer and actress passed up the iconic role of Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act. In 2010, Midler spoke to Metro and explained her decision, saying that her fans did not “want to see [her] in a wimple”.
Despite this, ‘Deloris’ went on to become one of the most beloved movie characters of all time. While we don’t know how she would have played the part, Midler’s absence in this classic movie is still a missed opportunity.
Emma Watson's Missed Chance at La La Land
It’s a shame that Emma Watson had to pass up the opportunity to play the role of Mia Dolan in the award-winning La La Land. Scheduling conflicts with the filming of Beauty and the Beast meant that Watson could not take on the role, which eventually went to Emma Stone.
Watson opened up about the missed chance in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2017, saying, “It’s one of these frustrating things where names get attached to projects very early on as a way to kind of build anticipation or excitement for something that’s coming before anything is really actually agreed or set in stone.”
Matthew McConaughey Almost Played Jack in Titanic
Matthew McConaughey revealed to The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast in 2018 that he had auditioned for the role of Jack in Titanic and even walked away confident that he had secured it. Despite his confidence, he never got the part, which eventually went to Leonardo DiCaprio.
McConaughey shared that he had auditioned with Kate Winslet, saying it was a “good audition”. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to land him the role and he didn’t get an offer. His story is a reminder that, even with confidence and a good performance, things don’t always go as planned.
Gwyneth Paltrow Reflects on Turning Down the Iconic Role of Rose in Titanic
Gwyneth Paltrow almost starred in the iconic movie Titanic, famously turning down the role of Rose. But rather than dwelling on the missed opportunity, she has a much broader outlook. “I look back at the choices I’ve made and think, why did I say yes to that and no to that?” Paltrow said on the Howard Stern Show in 2015.
“You look at the big picture and think, there’s a universal lesson here.” Paltrow’s outlook is a reminder that our decisions, whether big or small, can have a lasting impact and that it is always important to be mindful of the broader context.
Hugh Jackman Almost Played James Bond in 'Casino Royale'
Hugh Jackman was almost the face of James Bond in Casino Royale. The Wolverine actor revealed in an interview with Variety back in 2017 that he was offered the role right before he began filming X-Men 2. Jackman explained that the scripts had become too unrealistic and he wanted Bond to become grittier and more realistic.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t given any say in the matter and he was also worried that if he accepted the part, he wouldn’t have time to work on his other projects. Ultimately, his decision to decline the Bond role allowed him to take on a variety of diverse roles, showcasing his incredible acting range.
Jennifer Hudson's Brave Decision To Refuse Precious Role
Jennifer Hudson made a brave decision to turn down the title role in Precious. Despite being moved by the film, she wanted to try a role that had nothing to do with her weight. This is a testament to her strong sense of self-worth, and her willingness to take a risk.
In her book I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down, Hudson wrote, “As much as I was moved by this film, I wanted to try a role that had nothing whatsoever to do with my weight.” The power of self-love, confidence and courage are all found in her story. Jennifer Hudson is an inspiration to us all.
Cher - Not the Right Fit for Morticia
Barry Sonnenfeld had a vision for the Addams Family movie and it didn’t include superstar Cher as Morticia. In an interview with The Guardian, the director revealed that while the studio was keen to cast the singer in the role, he wanted to go with relatively unknown actors instead.
Although Cher didn’t officially turn down the part, Sonnenfeld knew it wasn’t the right fit for the film. In the end, the role of Morticia was played with distinction by Anjelica Huston.
Bruce Willis: "I Just Didn't Get It"
Bruce Willis had a chance to be the lead actor in the classic movie Ghost but the actor, who was married to Demi Moore at the time, decided to pass on the offer. In an interview with The New York Times in 1996, he admitted that he was a “knucklehead” for not seeing the potential of the movie.
He said, “I just didn’t get it. I said, ‘Hey, the guy’s dead. How are you gonna have a romance?’ Famous last words.” Little did he know that the movie would become an icon, winning multiple awards and becoming a classic love story. Nonetheless, Bruce Willis still remains one of Hollywood’s leading actors.
Liam Neeson's Heartbreaking Decision to Turn Down Iconic Role in Lincoln
Liam Neeson was offered the lead role in the iconic movie, ‘Lincoln’, but turned it down. Reflecting on the decision, he cited changes to the script and the grief of losing his wife Natasha Richardson the month prior as the two major influences.
In an interview with GQ, Neeson said, “I thought, ‘I’m not supposed to be here…I don’t want to play this Lincoln. I can’t be him’.” He further added that, during the table read, he felt disconnected from the extraordinary piece of writing, which he attributed to his grief. Despite the missed opportunity, he remains thankful for his multitude of other experiences he’s had as an actor.
Missed Opportunity: Mel Gibson's Refusal to Star in Gladiator
Could you imagine Mel Gibson starring in Gladiator? Unfortunately, it was not meant to be as the actor reportedly turned down the lead role in this epic film. According to Paste magazine, Gibson believed he was too old to portray the action-oriented role.
Despite the actor’s refusal, Gladiator went on to become one of the most iconic films of all time, earning critical acclaim and 11 Academy Award nominations. It’s a shame that Gibson wasn’t able to take part in such an iconic movie. We can only imagine what could have been if he had accepted the role. Nonetheless, the film’s legacy lives on and Gibson moved on to other opportunities.
Tom Hanks' Surprising Rejection of the Iconic "Jerry Maguire" Role
Despite the entire production team counting on Tom Hanks taking the lead role in the iconic movie “Jerry Maguire”, the actor surprisingly rejected the part after reading the script.
Hanks was initially considered the perfect actor to play the part, as the character was written specifically for him. His rejection of the role left the production team in shock. Thankfully, the role was eventually taken up by another accomplished actor, and the movie went on to become a classic.
Jim Carrey Was Almost Buddy the Elf!
For all the Elf fans out there, here’s something interesting for you! Can you believe that Jim Carrey was almost Buddy the Elf? Yes, that’s right! The script for Elf was first created in 1993 and Carrey was ready to portray the role of Buddy.
But eventually, he turned it down due to other projects and reportedly, he was also hesitant to book the role after playing The Grinch. So, if it wasn’t for his hesitation, we would have seen Carrey as Buddy the Elf, instead of one of our favorite actors, Will Ferrell.
Emilia Clarke's Stand Against Objectification
For Emilia Clarke, the decision to turn down a lead role in the movie Fifty Shades of Grey was about more than just nudity. She had been treated poorly after nude scenes in Game of Thrones, and that experience made her determined to stand up for herself.
As she said, reflecting on the unwanted attention following her role in Game of Thrones, “I did it for the character – I didn’t do it so some guy could check out my tits, for God’s sake.” Clarke’s refusal to be objectified is inspiring, and an important reminder to be respectful of women.
Jason Bourne: The Making of an Iconic Franchise
It was one of the greatest casting coups in Hollywood history. Brad Pitt booked the role of Jason Bourne, only to have to walk away due to a scheduling conflict. Luckily, this opened up the opportunity for Matt Damon to assume the iconic role. His portrayal of Bourne was so believable and captivating that it gave birth to an entire franchise.
The Bourne films remain some of the most popular action films ever made. Much of it owing to Damon for his part in the movies. Pitt’s departure may have been unfortunate, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.
Sandra Bullock Passes on Iconic Role of Neo in The Matrix
The producers of The Matrix were so desperate for an actor to fill the role of Neo that they were willing to change the character to fit their desired star, Sandra Bullock. In 2019, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura told The Wrap, “We sent her the script to see if she was interested in it, and if she was interested in it we would try to make the change.”
However, Bullock declined the offer and the role went to Keanu Reeves, who went on to give a memorable performance which cemented him as an action star. Fortunately, Bullock’s decision turned out to be for the best, as Reeves’ performance was a key part of The Matrix’s success.
Jennifer Lawrence's Missed Opportunity
Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award-winning actress, but even she has had her share of near-misses. Before her incredible success, Jennifer auditioned for the role of Bella Swan in the Twilight franchise.
Although she was confident in her performance, she ultimately didn’t book the role. Despite this, Lawrence hadn’t realized the magnitude of the Twilight franchise, remarking to The Guardian in 2012 that she “had no idea Twilight would be such a big deal.” While it was a missed opportunity, it’s clear that Jennifer Lawrence’s career has still gone from strength to strength.
Missing Out On The Magic: Michael Keaton's Regret At Not Taking On Groundhog Day
Regret is a powerful emotion, and no one knows this better than Michael Keaton. Despite having a track record that includes blockbuster hits, the actor passed on the lead role in the iconic comedy Groundhog Day. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Keaton revealed that he “didn’t get” the allure of the film or character.”
He admitted that he saw a lot of himself in the character and that it turned out to be “so great,” but he knew that no one could have done it better than Bill Murray. Fortunately, Keaton soon found success in other roles, but the missed opportunity of Groundhog Day still lingers in his mind.
Angela Bassett Refuses to Accept Stereotypical Role
Actress Angela Bassett is an icon in the entertainment industry for her powerful performances in films such as ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’ and ‘Waiting to Exhale’. In 2002, she was approached for the lead role in ‘Monster’s Ball’, but refused to accept it.
She revealed to Newsweek that the reason for her decision was because the role was “a stereotype about Black women and sexuality”. Bassett has always been a strong advocate, and her refusal to accept the role was a testament to that. She continues to be a role model for women everywhere, inspiring them to unapologetically stand up for what they believe in.