When it comes to landing a role in Hollywood, be it in film or television, sometimes the actors think that they are either better than what is being offered to them, or their schedules conflict and they have no choice but to decline a part. What we have found is a long list of famous names who turned down roles that would have made them an even bigger star than they are (or were). Call it destiny or luck, we couldn’t imagine these actors in the roles that they passed on anyway; but we are stunned that they were just one decision away from changing the image of such a beloved role.
Sarah Michelle Gellar – Clueless
Sarah Michelle Gellar was approached for the role of Amber in the now cult classic film, Clueless. Amber, if you recall, is the role of the stuck up rich girl who is constantly trying to make fun of Cher. Gellar turned down the role because of a scheduling problem with the soap she was on at the time, All My Children. The role of Amber went to actress, Elisa Donovan, who nailed the role expertly. See, everything happens for a reason!
Thomas Jane – Mad Men
In the super popular television series Mad Men, there is only one clear star – Don Draper played by Jon Hamm, a role he seems to have been born for. However, the role wasn’t always meant for him. In fact, at the time of casting, Hamm was almost completely unknown. The role was actually designed for Thomas Jane, but he turned it down because he refused to do TV at that time.
Jack Nicholson – The Godfather
Jack Nicholson is a bonafide legend in Hollywood as is, but he could have been an even bigger star if he would have accepted the role of Michael Corleone, in the film, The Godfather. Paramount thought the film was a very big risk so they wanted an established star to play the lead role. Jack declined because he didn’t feel like he could connect with the role. Producers offered the role to other Hollywood heavyweights like, Warren Beatty and Robert Redford, but they all declined as well. The role ended up going to Al Pacino, and the rest is history.
John Travolta – Forrest Gump
In one of the biggest misses in John Travolta’s film career, he turned down the role of THE Forrest Gump. The reason behind his decline was more to do with the fact that he thought the film wasn’t going to do well, than anything else. Producers then offered the role to Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, who also turned it down. The role later went to Tom Hanks, who won an Academy Award for playing Forrest so splendidly in 1994. Travolta said thereafter that it was a mistake to pass on the part of Gump.
Bette Midler – Sister Act
To think that Better could have played the role of Delores Van Cartier (also known as Sister Mary Clarence) in Sister Act, is almost blasphemous! However, it’s true, producers thought Bette would have been perfect for the role, with her musical background and all, and they would have probably been right, but Bette turned down the gig because she was fearful of what her fans would think if she played a nun, being that she is Jewish. We can’t imagine that her fans would have had an issue with it, but it was for the best, Whoopi Goldberg killed that role!
Lindsay Lohan – The Hangover
Lindsay Lohan hasn’t always made the best decisions when it comes to her career and personal life. One of her lesser known passes were on the role the stripper in the hit film, The Hangover. The role ended up going to Heather Graham, who was funny and spot on the entire time. Lohan declined the role because she felt she was too young to play it, she was 20 years old at the time. Honestly, we have to agree with Lohan, the stripper role was meant to be a more mature one, and Graham fit the bill perfectly!
Emily Browning – Twilight
The multi-million dollar movie and book series about vampires, werewolves, and the confused human girls who fall for both of them star Kristen Stewart as Bella and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. But the role of Bella was originally supposed to go to Emily Browning. However, she decided to turn down the role because she had just finished filming another movie and was looking for a bit of rest and relaxation afterwards, and didn’t want to jump into a trilogy.
Jim Carrey – Edward Scissorhands
Jim Carrey was considered for the role of Edward Scissorhands himself. However, because Carrey was more of a comedic actor, he would have taken the role to a totally different place than the eventual Edward Scissorhands actor, Johnny Depp. It’s a good thing he didn’t get the job in the end, it would have taken Carrey’s career down a very different path than the one he took – making us laugh to the point of pain, that only he knows how to do.
Sandra Bernhard – Sex and the City
Funny-gal Sandra Bernhard was offered the role of Miranda in the HBO hit, Sex and the City, alongside Sarah Jessica Parker. The actress turned down the role in a very vocal way, she went on the Howard Stern radio show and talked about how bad the script was, how low the pay was and how she didn’t like Sarah Jessica Parker and couldn’t imagine working with her for a time. Well, we are sure Sandra would later eat her words as the show’s success made it a classic, and the role of Miranda went to Cynthia Nixon, who, at this point is totally synonymous with Miranda.
Johnny Depp – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Johnny Depp was offered the role of Ferris Bueller in the 80s classic film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Depp luckily turned down the role, which was later offered to Matthew Broderick, who played Ferris in a way that only Matthew could. The trouble-maker character would have been lost on Depp, who was busy with other projects at the time anyway. We mean, could you actually imagine Depp as Bueller?
Sandra Bullock – Million Dollar Baby
Sandra Bullock is one smart woman, but even smart women have their moments of weakness. Sandy was actually cast as the role of Margaret ‘Maggie’ Fitzgerald, in the film, Million Dollar Baby (directed by Clint Eastwood himself). After a few delays in production though, she decided to pull out of the role. Bullock lost out big time to actress, Hilary Swank, who not only got rave reviews for her acting, but earned herself an Academy Award for her tremendous role.
Julia Roberts – The Blind Side
Don’t feel too bad for Sandra Bullock though, she landed the role that Julia Roberts decided to pass on! Julia was offered the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy in the 2009 football film, The Blind Side. Roberts decided to accept a different project, the film, Valentine’s Day (directed by Pretty Woman director, Garry Marshall). Sandra Bullock’s performance in The Blind Side won her an Academy award, while Roberts’ film was a box office disaster.
Daryl Hannah – Pretty Woman
There was something about the script of Pretty Woman that made potential leading ladies run for the hills. Both Daryl Hannah and Molly Ringwald were offered the role of Vivian Ward in the film, but both decided that it wasn’t for them. Julia Roberts ended up as Vivian and we are over the moon about it! The way she naturally became the complicated escort with a bigger heart than she leads everyone to believe was an acting job only Roberts could have pulled off.
Matthew Broderick – Breaking Bad
Very much like Mad Men, AMC’s Breaking Bad was a show that was a risky job to take. However, Breaking Bad ended up being a mega hit that was basically the gift that kept on giving in the award and accolade department. Actor Bryan Cranston eventually landed the role of chemistry teacher and meth lab creator, Walter White, but the role was offered first to John Cusack and then Matthew Broderick, both of whom decided to pass on the project; bet they are regretting that decision, aren’t they?
Tom Cruise – Footloose
We could see why producers wanted Tom Cruise to play Ren McCormack in the dance film, Footloose; they probably thought he would be perfect after his little dancing number in Risky Business. Alas, Cruise decided to decline the part and accept a role in the film, All the Right Moves. The role of Ren was also offered to actor, Rob Lowe, but he had to back out after getting injured. The role famously went to Kevin Bacon, who made Ren everyone’s best friend and spirit animal.
Harrison Ford – Schindler’s List
This we couldn’t even wrap our heads around – Harrison Ford as Oskar Schindler? We don’t think so. Harrison Ford was offered the role by producers, a role of the German industrialist who was part of the Nazi party who saved thousands of Jews in the Holocaust, a role that is as vital in its casting as it is in it’s portrayal. Ford turned the role down after saying that he felt that audiences wouldn’t be able to look beyond the ‘Harrison Ford’ brand and into the character itself. The role ended up going to Liam Neeson, whose acting was spectacular and his portrayal as authentic as seemed fit.
Will Smith – The Matrix
Will was offered the role of Neo in the film, The Matrix. The role ended up going to Keanu Reeves, who made the role the cult classic it would later become. On being offered the role, Smith said, “In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up ‘The Matrix’. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don’t try and perform every moment.”
Garrett Hedlund – Fifty Shades of Grey
Both Garrett Hedlund and Charlie Hunnam were offered the role of billionaire heartthrob with a fetish for pain, Christian Grey, in the film adaptation of the successful books, Fifty Shades of Grey. Hedlund turned down the role because he couldn’t relate to the character. The role ended up going to stunner, Jamie Dornan, who made Christian Grey come to life like no one else could. The fans of the franchise were happy with Dornan’s casting, as his appearance is more in line with what the book described him as looking.
Angela Bassett – Monster’s Ball
Angela Bassett, in a calculated move, but one that will ultimately haunt her, passed on the role of Leticia Musgrove in the film, Monster’s Ball. Halle Berry would eventually be given the role and would succeed so much in her performance that she would be the first African-American woman to ever win an Academy Award. Bassett said that she couldn’t accept the role because, ”I couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality.” She says, ”Film is forever. It’s about putting something out there you can be proud of 10 years later. I mean, Meryl Streep won Oscars without all that.”
Mark Wahlberg – Brokeback Mountain
Perhaps slightly insensitive, but Mark Wahlberg turned down the role of Ennis Del Mar in the film, Brokeback Mountain because he was ‘creeped out’ by the sexual nature of the script, which was about a same sex relationship between two cowboys. While his comment was unnecessary, the role ended up going to Heath Ledger. Heath was the perfect actor for the role, as his depth and ability to get into the character couldn’t be compared to anyone else’s attempt.
Reese Witherspoon – Scream
Reese Witherspoon was offered the leading role in the film, Scream – Sidney Prescott. The role then went to Neve Campbell, whose career skyrocketed as a result. Reese made a smart move, she was known for her romantic comedies and light hearted films, making a film like Scream would have been a total departure from her sweet image that she had at the time and would be so loved for.
Drew Barrymore – Showgirls
In the smartest move of her career, Drew Barrymore declined the role of Nomi Malone in the film, Showgirls. The film is still considered one of the worst films of all time, and the leading role of Nomi went to Elizabeth Berkley, whose career never really recovered after that. Drew, although not shy of the camera at all, thought the film was a little too raunchy for her own taste. You know you’re overboard of Drew Barrymore won’t even do it!
Michelle Pfeiffer – The Silence of the Lambs
From the beginning, there was a toss between Jodi Foster and Michelle Pfeiffer for the role of Clarice Sterling in the film, The Silence of the Lambs. The role was initially offered to Pfeiffer, but she turned it down on account of the film being too violent for her taste. Foster would later get the role, as she also very much wanted it, and would forever be known as Clarice! The film is indeed very violent, but it has become one of the classics!
Katie Holmes – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Katie, Katie, Katie, how silly were you for turning down the role of Buffy Summers, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Holmes turned down the role to finish up her high school years; while that’s admirable, she absolutely missed out on one of the greatest roles of all time. Sarah Michelle Gellar ended up getting the role of Buffy, although she initially auditioned for the role of Cordelia, producers offered her the lead and she, smartly, accepted!
Melanie Griffith – Thelma and Louise
Melanie Griffith was offered the role of Thelma, in the classic film, Thelma and Louise, but TURNED IT DOWN. The role went to actress, Geena Davis, who worked alongside Susan Sarandon in the classic film. The 1991 movie became such a success that we can only imagine how silly Melanie felt at turning down such a role, although she did have other gigs lined up.
Ray Liotta – The Sopranos
Ray Liotta was the perfect type to play Tony Soprano in the HBO show, The Sopranos; which is why it was offered to him. However, Ray passed on the role in order to focus on his movie career. The part ultimately went to James Gandolfini, who made Tony Soprano a character to fear and love at the same time. The HBO series because one of the greatest shows in television history. Liotta missed out big time on this one!
Matt Damon – Avatar
Matt was approached to play the role of Jake Sully in the film, Avatar. The James Cameron film ended up being on of the highest grossing films of all time, but Damon turned it down because of a scheduling issue with his franchise, The Bourne Ultimatum. The part of Jake Sully ended up going to lesser known actor, Sam Worthington, who did the character justice and ended up being an even greater fit than Damon.
Anne Hathaway – Silver Linings Playbook
Anne was offered the role of Tiffany Maxwell in the film, Silver Linings Playbook, alongside Bradley Cooper. She had to turn down the role because of scheduling issues with the film Les Miserables. The role ended up going to Jennifer Lawrence, who absolutely knocked the role out of the park. In the 2012 Academy Awards, both Anne and Jennifer won awards for their respective films, so it seemed to be a win win situation.
Cher – The Addams Family
Take a moment to imagine Cher as Morticia Addams rather than Anjelica Huston. Hard, right? Well it was almost reality, as producers offered the role to Cher but she turned it down. Anjelica ended up being the perfect fit as the matriarch of the gothic family, we couldn’t really picture Cher like that. The Addams Family movie franchise is to this day very beloved by fans and has been introduced to a whole new generation of viewers.
Kevin Costner – The Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption is still the number one movie in history in terms of viewer love and critic appreciation. Kevin Costner could have been a part of all of that as he was offered the role of Andy Dufresne. Costner turned down the role in order to make time for his film, Waterworld (if you recall, Waterworld was one of the biggest cinematic disasters). The role of Andy ended up going to actor, Tim Robbins. Wow, Costner must have beat himself up about this one.
Rooney Mara – Zero Dark Thirty
Before Jessica Chastain got the part of Maya in the terrorist film, Zero Dark Thirty, the role was given to Rooney Mara. Unfortunately for Mara, she needed to pull out of the 2012 role because of scheduling conflicts. Chastain, however, was absolutely glorious in the film, giving viewers a raw and emotional role that is balanced with girl power and determination that is fit for a spunky red headed beauty.
Bruce Willis – Ghost
This could have been a very romantic twist! Bruce Willis was offered the role of Sam Wheat, alongside his wife at the time, Demi Moore. Willis turned the role down because of the very fact that Demi was in it and he thought that together they couldn’t do it justice. The role went to actor, Patrick Swayze, who nailed the romantic and distraught part of the ghost, in Ghost, like no other could have.
Paul Giamatti- The Office
Paul Giamatti was already a big name actor when he was tapped to play the lead role of Michael Scott on the American version of the British TV show “The Office.” However, he turned down this role, giving the relatively unknown Steve Carell a chance to shine, which he most certainly did. Giamatti was always cast as a strong leader with a good head, so people don’t know if he could have pulled off the “dumb guy” character of Michael Scott.
Brad Pitt- Almost Famous
Almost Famous is the story of a wiley 15 year old boy who convinces music magazine Rolling Stone to let him write for them. The magazine gives the kid an assignment, and in the process becomes friends with the lead guitarists of one of the bands. The role of that lead guitarist, named Russell Hammond, was written with Brad Pitt in mind. However, after reading the script, Pitt decided not to play the part because he simply didn’t understand the role.
Leonardo Dicaprio – Boogie Nights
During an interview on the heels of the release of his blockbuster hit Inception, Leonardo Dicaprio was asked if he ever regretted turning down a role for a movie. And it turns out, he has one big one – the role of Dirk Diggler in the movie Boogie Nights. Speaking about giving up the role to Mark Wahlberg, he says that Boogie Nights is one of his favorite movies.
Sean Connery – Lord of the Rings
Former James Bond actor Sean Connery is well known for his complex and diverse acting skills. However, when he was offered to star as Gandalf in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings series, Sean Connery turned the offer down, and the reason is shocking. He read the books, read the script, and had it explained to him because, as he said himself, he just didn’t understand the character.
Mel Gibson – Gladiator
The movie Gladiator is the story of a gladiator in the Roman Empire and his story from slavery to famous gladiator all over the empire. It is a story of hope and strength, and a story which very nearly had Mel Gibson star in the lead role. However, Mel ended up turning the gig down for one simple reason – he claimed that he was too old to accurately portray the character.
Tom Hanks – Jerry Maguire
Tom Cruise starred Jerry Maguire as Jerry Maguire in the film of the same name. He acts as a sports agent who must choose between his morals and his business. However, the role was not meant for Cruise originally but for another Tom, Tom Hanks. However, the script took too long to write, and by the time it was done Tom Hanks was already more interested in directing as opposed to acting.
Dana Delany – Sex and the City
Sarah Jessica Parker is the quintessential Carrie in the hit HBO series Sex and The City. Who can imagine anyone else playing the part of this sassy single in New York City? Well, it turns out, the writers could, and in fact did. They reached out to Dana Delany first, but she turned down the role because she didn’t want to be typecasted as a bimbo.
Pamela Anderson – X Files
Fox originally came to the former Baywatch star and supermodel to take on the role of paranormal FBI investigator Dana Scully for X Files before the show started filming. But she turned it down, enabling Gillian Anderson to get her start in acting. And after nearly a decade of the show, we are sure glad they made that decision. It would have been nice to see Anderson running in slow motion after an alien though.
Henry Winkler – Danny Zunko
Henry Winkler was playing The Fonz on Happy Days when he was approached to play lead character Danny Zunko for the hit movie Grease. However, Winkler decided to turn down the offer for the simple reason that he didn’t want to be typecasted as a “bad boy.” However, in an interview, he says that he was already typecast in that role, and that had he taken that role, he would also have a private jet like Travolta, who did take the role.
Al Pacino – (Han Solo
Al Pacino was at the top of his acting career when he was approached to play the role of Han Solo in Star Wars. However, he read the script, and simply did not understand it nor what his role was supposed to be. Because he was getting so many offers at that time, he simply rejected it and took another one. That rejection has haunted him ever since.
Jeremy Irons – Hannibal Lecter
Having had a role in everything from Water World to The Lion King, Kingdom of Heaven and Assassin’s creed, Jeremy Irons is no stranger to violent roles. However, when he was approached to portray the character of violent cannibal Hannibal Lecter, he outright refused. Just like with Michelle Pfeiffer, the script was too violent even for him. The role went to Anthony Hopkins in the end, catapulting him to superstardom.
Tom Selleck – Indiana Jones
Harrison Ford originally asked to play the part of Indiana Jones, but George Lucas said he did not want Ford to be in every single one of his movies. Tom Selleck was actually picked to become Indy after a long audition process. He would have agreed to do it too, but he was contractually obligated to perform in CBS’s Magnum PI and couldn’t get out of it. Lucas eventually agreed to cast Harrison Ford.
Kate Winslet – Viola de Lesseps
For the 1997 blockbuster hit Shakespeare in Love, several women were originally asked to play the part of Viola de Lesseps who auditions for a part in one of Shakespeare’s plays. The person originally handed the role however was Kate Winslet. She would have taken the role she says, but wanted to focus on more independent films. The role was given to Gwyneth Paltrow who received an award for it.
Dougray Scott – Wolverine
We all know Hugh Jackman for one thing and one thing only – Wolverine. However, the role was originally supposed to go to Dougray Scott. He was unable to perform in this super iconic role because he was hand-picked by Tom Cruise to be the villain in Mission Impossible two. Filming ran over by about two months for that movie, so the studios needed to find another Wolverine, so they chose Jackman.
Benedict Cumberbatch – Dr. Who
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known as portraying Sherlock on the hit BBC series, but he was also tapped to star in another BBC goldmine, Dr. Who. However, after thinking it over for a little bit, he decided to decline the offer. Cumberbatch simply didn’t like where the show’s direction was heading along with not wanting to be so merchandised out. We say good on him for refusing to sell out.
Pierce Brosnan – Batman
We all know his as 007, but Pierce Brosnan was almost tapped and known for something equally as amazing – Batman. When Tim Burton was looking for people to play the caped crusader, Burton thought that Brosnan would be the perfect fit. Despite being a huge fan of Batman himself, Brosnan said “Any guy who wears his underpants outside his trousers cannot be taken seriously.” Brosnan now admits that was a bad call, and has been kicking himself for it ever since.
Dana Delaney – Sex and the City
Actress Dana Delaney was offered the leading role of Carrie Bradshaw in the super successful show, Sex and the City. The show’s creator, Darren Star, initially wanted Delaney to play the role, but she turned it down because of the amount of explicit discussion in the script. The role ended up going to Sarah Jessica Parker (thank goodness!) who absolutely nailed the iconic role, and made Carrie the chic style icon we know and love to this day. Delaney has most recently starred in the show, Body of Proof.