Some actors and actresses are known for certain roles; even if they have guest starred in every television series out there and made films for every genre there is, there are certain works they will always be known for forever. Like Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, David Schwimmer in Friends, Linda Hamilton in The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Hilary Duff in Lizzie McGuire.
Well, imagine if some of the most well-known movie characters we know and love were played by different people. Imagine being these 15 stars that are listed here; 15 stars who turned down 15 different awesome roles! Talk about regret...
They are still famous, but they could have been cast in award-winning roles that are fan favorites! Winona Ryder was almost not the star of Beetlejuice. Julia Roberts could have not been in Pretty Woman. Harrison Ford was almost not Han Solo. Emily Blunt could have been an Avenger. Kate Winslet was almost not Rose in Titanic. I could go on and on with strange facts like these actors and actresses, but just keep scrolling to learn about 15 times that some of the biggest names in Hollywood passed on some of the biggest roles known to fans!
15 Mark Wahlberg - ‘Brokeback Mountain’
Brokeback Mountain was released in 2005 to tell about a complex emotional (and personal) relationship between two cowboys. The film won numerous awards, such as Golden Globe Awards, Critics' Choice Movie Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, and a great deal of that was due to the cast, made up of Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams.
But Mark Wahlberg was considered for this film, too. He read the script, and he was actually "a little creeped out." Since the movie is all about an intimate gay relationship and is quite graphic. The script was super descriptive, something that Marky Mark must have not been 100% comfortable with or something he felt like was not a good fit for him.
Wahlberg told director Ang Lee that he liked him and his work, and that he would be happy to talk about it more, to discuss what it would look like to have Wahlberg playing a gay cowboy, but he was happier when Gyllenhaal took the part instead. It was also a role that Gyllenhaal ended up winning a Bafta for.
So think: Gyllenhaal and Ledger are known for this film, but the award-winning piece could have starred Marky Mark instead!
14 Juliette Lewis, Diane Lane, Brooke Shields, Molly Ringwald, & More - ‘Beetlejuice’
Winona Ryder is a talented actress who has been entertaining the world for decades. Some of her best work comes about through creepy shows like Stranger Things or odd films like Edward Scissorhands, Alien: Resurrection, and, of course, Beetlejuice.
In that 1988 classic from Tim Burton, she played Lydia, the young girl who moves into that scary old house and befriends the ghosts. But guess what? Yep, Ryder was almost not this character; the character who dressed in black, took photographs, and introduced fans to another world.
Juliette Lewis, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Justine Bateman, Molly Ringwald, and Jennifer Connelly all turned down the same role!
Loughlin is Aunt Becky from Full House. Parker is Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. Ringwald is part of the Brat Pack from the ‘80s... So they all already had roles that made them iconic, and it would have been strange to see them in Beetlejuice. Ryder seemed to be destined for sci-fi works and silly films with scary parts — like stories from Tim Burton and stories that star Michael Keaton as a sleazy ghosts in black-and-white stripes. So we are thrilled that she landed this iconic role.
13 Leonardo DiCaprio - ‘American Psycho’
American Psycho, from the year 2000, was a comedy horror film based on a 1991 novel of the same name. Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, Justin Theroux, and Reese Witherspoon are just a few of the actors and actresses who brought this story to the big screen. Bale's lead performance was praised and criticized, since his character was disturbing, barbaric, and brilliant all at the same time. And, once again, we have a moment in history that almost changed everything.
Bale—whose bloody face can be seen clearly when imagining scenes from this film—almost did not play Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
Leonardo DiCaprio passed up a reported $20 million, and this was after he had already expressed interest in the role and after the film’s studio sent out a release that said DiCaprio would star in American Psycho.
In the film industry, things change all the time: the title of movies, filming locations, dates of releases, certain parts or scenes and, yes, even characters change. Roles are cut, added and recast all the time. So it may have not been the end of the world when DiCaprio backed out, but it certainly seems shocking, since the role is a big one, with a big paycheck attached to it, and it would have been fun to see him bring Bateman to life.
12 Sean Connery - ‘The Lord of the Rings’
Even people who have not read all the books or seen all the movies know about The Lord of the Rings. These fantasy stories that are set in the fictional world of Middle-earth and follow a hobbit named Frodo Baggins (played by Elijah Wood). Most people know that Sir Ian McKellen starred in these films, playing Gandalf, who was a wizard and member of the Istari order. He was the leader of the Fellowship of the Ring and the army of the West.
Another Sir—Sir Sean Connery —could have played this bearded wizard, but he apparently did not understand it all enough to accept.
He read the book. He read the script. He watched the movie. And he still could not keep up with all the journeys, the characters, the fantastical moments... So McKellen ended up taking the role, one for which he is quite known. And he himself thinks the films would have been very different if Sean Connery had played Gandalf. For starters, Gandalf would have come from Scotland! It would have definitely been different, but both Connery and McKellen are well praised, talented, and so experienced. Maybe they can join up in a future film from The Lord of the Rings!
11 Sandra Bullock - ‘Million Dollar Baby’
Million Dollar Baby is a 2004 sports drama that was directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood. He also starred in the film, along with Hilary Swank, who played Mary Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald, an aspiring boxer. Morgan Freeman also appeared as Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, a gym assistant and former boxer. This inspiring film won four Academy Awards, and its cast helped it win those awards.
But its cast was almost different...
Sandra Bullock almost played Maggie. Sandra Bullock could have won an Oscar for this film. Sandra Bullock almost got down and dirty, training as a boxer. But Bullock was apparently filming Miss Congeniality 2 during this time, and since she had already starred in Miss Congeniality, playing an F.B.I. agent who had to undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant, she chose to go that route instead of starring in this new film. I'm sure it was a decision that Hilary Swank was probably grateful for and excited about!
This is just another example, straight from Hollywood, about yet another movie that is popular and stars popular actors and actresses. I could have starred a different actress, making for a movie that told the same story, yet in an entirely different way, with an entirely different star.
10 Christina Applegate - ‘Legally Blonde’
Legally Blonde came out in 2001. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde came out in 2003. And Legally Blonde 3 has been recently confirmed by Reese Witherspoon herself!
Witherspoon stars in these movies as Elle Woods; the blonde in pink who should not be underestimated. She went to Harvard Law School, she made a difference when it came to animal testing, she ended up with the guy she liked... She had it all and looked fab doing it! And some may say that any ol’ blonde could have played Elle Woods, but Witherspoon is known for this role (among others).
Even though Christina Applegate was considered for this role, she said Witherspoon "did a much better job" than she would have.
Applegate, who has starred in films like Anchorman and shows like Married with Children could have certainly gone on to play Elle Woods, but since she had just played the dumb blonde in Married with Children, she decided to pass, which gave Witherspoon the chance and space she needed. So Applegate did not want to repeat roles, but in 2015, she said, "What a stupid move that was, right?" At least she understands what she missed out on with this missed opportunity!
9 Michelle Pfeiffer - ‘Pretty Woman’ & ‘Basic Instinct’
Michelle Pfeiffer is an actress and a producer who has received international acclaim and won many awards for work in Scarface, The Witches of Eastwick, Dangerous Liaisons, Frankie and Johnny, Batman Returns, What Lies Beneath, Hairspray, Ant-Man and the Wasp... but not for Pretty Woman and Basic Instinct!
Julia Roberts took the lead role in Pretty Woman, a super popular romance film with Richard Gere in 1990. Sharon Stone, however. played the lead character in Basic Instinct, an erotic thriller with Michael Douglas from 1992.
Apparently, Pfeiffer is kind of a prude and modest, so these two roles did not seem like a good fit for her — especially the bare scene in Basic Instinct.
So even though Pfeiffer missed out on starring in two big films from the early ‘90s, she is still a well-known and celebrate actress, More importantly, she stayed true to herself, not selling out just for another gig or just for another paycheck. She did not feel comfortable with something, so she just said no. Period. End of story. What an inspiring story, one that could apply to so many areas of life and one that fits nicely here, in this list of turned-down roles — which continues below!
8 John Travolta - ‘Forrest Gump’
Forrest Gump came out in 1994, and it was based on the 1986 novel of the same name. It won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. It also won Golden Globes, People's Choice Awards, and Young Artist Awards. There is now even a restaurant chain based on the film.
The Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and numerous people and other works have referenced scenes and lines from this movie.
Most of the iconic lines came from Tom Hanks, who starred as Forrest Gump, but John Travolta was offered this role, too. He obviously turned it down, and instead starred in Pulp Fiction, which is another huge film! But Travolta is not as known for Pulp Fiction as Hanks is for Forrest Gump. And, furthermore, both of these films went up against each other at the 1995 Oscars, where Forrest Gump won six awards and where Pulp Fiction just won one. They say that everything happens for a reason... They also say that we never know what we are going to get, but we are glad we got these two stars in these two films!
7 Rachel McAdams - ‘The Devil Wears Prada’
The Devil Wears Prada, a 2006 comedy-drama film based on the 2003 novel of the same name, was all about a college graduate who became a co-assistant in New York for a leader in the fashion industry. Meryl Streep played the fashion boss, an editor of a popular fashion magazine, and for that role, she won many award nominations, including her record-setting 14th Oscar bid.
Anne Hathaway played her co-assistant, Andy Sachs, however we could have seen Rachel McAdams in that role instead.
McAdams has starred in popular thrillers, well-known rom-coms and, of course, hits like The Notebook and Mean Girls. So she has had those big roles, and she is known for these and more. So she could have definitely acted alongside Streep, trying to make her way in the fashion industry. Just a broke girl trying to survive day-to-day interactions with Miranda Priestly (who was apparently inspired by Anna Wintour, who has been editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988). But the role went to Hathaway. Hathaway is known for this film. Years have gone by since its theatrical release, and we have all survived. So I suppose things worked out well and worked out how they were meant to... But I would have liked to see that, personally.
6 Will Smith - ‘The Matrix’ & ‘Django Unchained’
Keanu Reeves played Neo in The Matrix, and since then, Will Smith—who turned down the role—said he would not have been right for the part. It's a complicated movie, which made it complicated to pitch, and even after Smith watched it, he thinks he would have messed it all up!
He admitted that, at that point in time, he was not as experienced in the industry, which would have hurt the film. But Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, went on to be in the second and third films in the Matrix trilogy, and Reeves worked with their son, Jaden Smith, in The Day The Earth Stood Still.
The Matrix is not the only big movie that Smith passed on, though; he also turned down the lead role in Django Unchained, which Jamie Foxx took.
In Smith’s eyes, Django Unchained should have been more of a love story — not one that was just full of vengeance. So if he had been older...if the story had been different...if this were a different world...fans would have seen Mr. Will Smith in these two films. But instead, we have just enjoyed him in other works (that are not The Matrix nor Django Unchained!).
5 Al Pacino - ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope started the Star Wars film franchise, when it was released back in the year 1977. Of course, it starred Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and James Earl Jones as the well-known voice of Darth Vader himself, but it also almost starred Al Pacino as Han Solo!
Pacino, a legend within the industry, is apparently very selective when it comes to roles.
And when someone is as famous as Pacino, they can be selective! Plus, he did not want to take roles that would not be a good fit for him or roles that he was not very interested in, so he passed on Martin Sheen's role in Apocalypse Now, Richard Gere’s role in Pretty Woman and more... So Harrison Ford became Han Solo and is still playing the character today.
Ford, like Pacino, has been seen in tons of great stuff, but to many, he is just Han Solo, the cynic who co-pilots the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca. With all the Star Wars films that are being made today, though, who knows: Pacino could still end up being in one or more of them, since crazier things have happened.
4 Tom Cruise & Rob Lowe - ‘Footloose’
In 1984, a musical drama called Footloose was released. It starred Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack, a teen who moved from Chicago to a small town where dancing and rock music were banned. The film was loosely based on real-life events that took place in the religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma, and there was a remake in 2011. But Bacon’s portrayal in this film, with its well-known soundtrack, has gone down in history.
And Tom Cruise, one of the world’s most popular actors, could have starred as Ren!
In the ‘80s, Cruise was already showing up in hits like Risky Business, Top Gun, and Rain Man, so he could have easily added another great film to his résumé. But he decided to film All the Right Moves instead, and I wonder... WAS this the right move? I think so, because Rob Lowe—another popular star of the 1980s—also had to turn down the role of Ren due to an injury.
So it seems like the part really was meant for Mr. Kevin Bacon, and we are learning, through all of these passed-on roles on this list, that things work out exactly how they are meant to work out.
3 Tom Hanks - ‘Jerry Maguire’
Speaking of Tom Cruise and a role that he did end up getting, one of his biggest and most beloved films is Jerry Maguire. This 1996 film combined romance, comedy, drama, and sports. It was nominated for five Academy Awards and three Golden Globes. And Cameron Crowe, the film’s director, said he wrote the movie with Tom Hanks in mind, but Hanks was directing That Thing You Do.
(Plus, Crowe apparently took so long writing that by the time he was done and ready to start filming, he felt that Hanks would be too old for the part!)
Therefore, he could not play the lead in Jerry Maguire, but he approved of the runner-up choice: Tom Cruise. He said it couldn’t have been anybody other than him! This proves that just because things change does not mean that success still won’t come; Jerry Maguire was a hit. It brought in more than $273 million worldwide, against its $50 million budget, making it the ninth top-grossing film of 1996. Even if Hanks does have any regrets about passing on this role, it was so sweet of him to praise Cruise for his work.
2 Emily Blunt - ‘Iron Man 2’
Natalia Romanova is the Black Widow, a superhero created by Stan Lee for Marvel Comics. She was one of the bad guys and a Russian spy, but she is now an agent with S.H.I.E.L.D. — a member of the superhero team the Avengers.
On the big screen, this character was first seen in Iron Man 2 in 2010, and she has now been seen in The Avengers from 2012, Captain America: The Winter Soldier from 2014, Avengers: Age of Ultron from 2015, Captain America: Civil War from 2016, and Avengers: Infinity War from 2018. She will also be in the next Avengers film, coming out in 2019, and each time, she is played by Scarlett Johansson.
However, Emily Blunt turned down the role back when Iron Man 2 was being created.
She said it was because of timing, since she was probably busy with other responsibilities, but rumors stated that a recast came out about due to a low paycheck for the actress. Whatever the reason, Blunt does not live with regrets, and even though she is not known as Black Widow, she is still open to playing a super heroine in the future, so we do have that to look forward to! Blunt also thinks that Johansson has done an amazing job and that she nailed it. So there is no reason to even think about "what could have been."
1 Gwyneth Paltrow - ‘Titanic’
In 2015 Howard Stern and Gwyneth Paltrow were having a conversation on this very topic: all about big and popular roles that actors and actresses turned down and missed out on.
Apparently, Paltrow declined a part in Boogie Nights, and during that conversation, Stern tried to ask her about turning down another role: the role as Rose Dewitt Bukater in Titanic.
Paltrow said her mother will hurt her for talking about turning down movie roles, since she considers that to be not very ladylike. Therefore, all Paltrow really said was that she “couldn’t change the past,” which is so true.
So, once again, here we are stating that everything happens for a reason, and even in Hollywood, (maybe especially in Hollywood and in the film industry!) mistakes can turn out for the best.
Winona Ryder was supposed to be in Beetlejuice, Julia Roberts was meant to play the lead in Pretty Woman, Harrison Ford was born to be Han Solo, and Kate Winslet will always be our Rose. And that is okay, because we love Paltrow as Pepper Potts on the Avengers and Iron Man films, as Margot Helen Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums, as Rosemary Shanahan in Shallow Hal, and as Holly Holliday in Glee.
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