These actors turned down career-defining roles
There are so many movies where we can’t imagine different actors in the roles. Little did we know, however, that many of these roles were first offered to other people. Here, we showcase some of the most surprising Hollywood has to offer.
Most of us, if we haven’t seen this movie ourselves, are at least aware of its existence. And how do we know that movie? As a weird and novel film about an odd (and speechless) man with scissors for hands. He sculpts hedges, hair, and a few other things to win the hearts of many. The role is spearheaded by none other than Johnny Depp.
Could anybody else play this role? Well, it seems that some were set to. Tom Cruise, for instance, is rumored to have been the front-runner for the film. However, because he had too many quarrels with the specifics of the film and Edward’s actions, Cruise did not take on the role of the titular character. He probably doesn’t feel he missed out.
In The Matrix, we are met with an abundance of novel concepts. We think that a group of beings are subject to some robot overlords in the process of numbing their minds with advanced AI. And, as we are all well aware, the movie series was headlined by Keanu Reeves. Playing Neo, he shows us what can be done with special effects in the early 2000s.
What some of us might not know is that Will Smith, not Keanu Reeves, was an initial candidate for this starring role. Fortunately, many might say, Smith passed on the role. His reasoning, the story goes, is that he would have ruined the franchise. Had he been cast as Neo, Val Kilmer would have taken over as Morpheus. Hmm.
Titanic is one of the most famous movies in recent history. While we all know Leonardo DiCaprio as the star male protagonist, we also know that Kate Winslet was his female costar. But she was not the original woman that James Cameron wanted to star in that role. The original intent was for Gwyneth Paltrow to play Rose.
While offered the script, Paltrow turned it down for a few reasons. Main among these was likely that she had other projects at the time that she found more enticing. We don’t know how she would have done, but we are certainly happy with the way that the film turned out. It’s possible that she might have turned it into something we’d rather not see.
Avatar is another blockbuster movie that shook the film industry. Its novel approach to computer-based images really shook things up. Because of this, the movie is considered one of those that will go down in history. The actors in the film, however, were not those originally intended.
Matt Damon, for instance, was intended for the lead role of Jake Sully. Instead, however, the role was taken by another choice — Sam Worthington. While Damon regrets not taking the role, his hand was forced by other commitments. We wonder how Damon would have handled the role, considering his strong ability as a leading actor.
Pretty Woman is set in Beverly Hills, California. And the plot follows a wealthy businessman that helps bolster the life of a lady of the night, Vivian Ward. But a lesser-known fact about this movie is that a few of the peripheral roles were intended for a few decently known actors. One such role was meant for Demi Moore.
Moore was offered the role of Kit De Luca, Vivian’s best friend. Without any explanation, however, Moore declined the role. Considering that she likely had many other things on her plate, the desire to ignore the role was likely not a bad call. The world is probably happier with her role as an antagonist in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is one of those films that took audiences by surprise. While some might consider the movie audacious, others would say it was simply brazen. Either way, the psychological thriller was just as jarring as it has become timeless. But would the film have been the same with a different cast?
Rather than Jodie Foster as the primary detective, Michelle Pfeiffer was offered the role. Pfeiffer, however, thought the film was much too violent, and so abstained. Jodie Foster went on to win an Oscar for Best Actress because of her work. We’re not sure if this victory gives Pfeiffer any regrets.
It’s hard to imagine someone other than Tom Hanks in the leading role of Forrest Gump, the man that defied all expectations and won his way into our hearts. This is, however, exactly how things were meant to go. Before Hanks, people like John Travolta were set for the role. Things didn’t exactly compel Travolta into action, however.
Travolta had his reasons. At the time, he was offered a role in another little movie by the name of Pulp Fiction. We know why he couldn’t turn down this role, considering its major blockbuster cast and novel story line. Anyway, what an interesting world it would have been had Travolta been telling us about a box of chocolates.
Gladiator was another cinematic masterpiece. Having won worldwide acclaim for both acting and production, in hindsight the film looks like one that you’d have to be a bit shortsighted to turn down. So which actor did turn down a role in this movie? None other than a man named Mel Gibson.
Gibson has had no shortage of blockbuster movies under his belt. Having starred in everything from Mad Max to Braveheart, the man has done some work. But purportedly that work did not lead him to want to cast-up with the Gladiator crew. While his reasons are unclear, some say he thinks he was too old for the part.
This image of Nicholas Cage in a Superman super-suit was taken when he was set to star as the ‘Man of Steel in Superman Lives’ and did some test shoots as part of the pre-production.
At the time when Cage was auditioning, there were some creative differences between the writers and producers over how Superman’s story should play out, so the script would be put on hold until Henry Cavill would come along.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is what many consider a fantastic film. Having turned an entire genre into something with more breadth and span than it was previously afforded (no longer must superhero movies be so upbeat and formulaic), the movie won acclaim from critics and moviegoers alike. So who would turn down a part in such a film?
As it turns out, Matt Damon was offered the role as the — spoiler alert — public servant-turned-villain Two-Face. Apparently the decision didn’t come down to any lack of want or antagonism. Rather, there were simply scheduling conflicts. While we can’t say this didn’t bum us out, we also can’t say that we’re unhappy with how the film turned out.
Gravity is a movie about two astronauts — played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney — stranded in space. After their first mission goes awry, they are left to float through the desolate depths of space with little hope to survive. The film was a success among critics, so it’s difficult to see who might pass it up. Some, however, did.
Angelina Jolie, for instance, is purported to have been offered the role as the leading actress in the film. While it’s not clear why she decided against it, her part would be taken by another talented actress. While we’re curious how Angelina’s participation might have changed the film, we’re not all that mad about the quality of the movie.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man was a movie that from the beginning was set to be part of a long-lasting franchise. Given that several leading roles would similarly be cast in other, pairing Marvel films, the parts would be quite the commitment. And this was especially true of the role of Black Widow, one of the series’ leading female characters.
So, was it any surprise when actress Emily Blunt decided to forgo the role in pursuit of other parts? Not really. But it was especially clear why she might turn down the role when you consider the other movie she was set to appear in — Edge of Tomorrow. This movie, with Tom Cruise starring alongside her, was another part too good to pass up.
In the movie Se7en, we follow two cops — played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman — as they try to crack the case of a grisly and ongoing series of murders. Brad Pitt, the rookie, works with veteran detective Freeman to try and gain the necessary expertise to understand the mind and possible motivation behind the killings.
Brad Pitt, however, was not the first choice for the rookie detective. Instead, that role was intended for Denzel Washington. While we can’t say that we hated Pitt’s part — quite the opposite, in fact — we can say that we’d be curious to see how Washington might have performed in the role.
Indiana Jones is one of those franchises that has easily won its way into our hearts. While we’d go so far as to say the original three are far superior to the recently added fourth movie, this doesn’t at all suggest we’re not avid fans of the series. But can you imagine if the leading role of Indiana had been played by someone other than Harrison Ford?
Neither can we. However, this is exactly what director Steven Spielberg had wanted. Rather than Ford, he wanted Tom Selleck, the mustache-wielding go-getter. The reason for this was in part due to George Lucas, who felt that he shouldn’t cast Ford for yet another of his parts. Anyway, we’re glad that he did.
Another Spielberg movie that we can talk about is Jurassic Park. The amusement-park-horror-thriller was intended to bring the world of dinosaurs to the screen — and in a way that is both fun and enlivening. The leading paleontologist was played by Sam Neill. But was this always meant to be so?
Apparently not. As if he had not gotten enough of the man, Spielberg had offered the role to Harrison Ford. While it’s not clear why he declined, it could have been in part because of what he suspected would happen to the series. Who knows? It’s difficult to predict that far into the future how something will go.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we follow the life of one particularly truculent teen as he gets into antics upon antics. The movie is rich with time-relevant quotes and Easter eggs. It is, in other words, what many consider something of a cult classic. The role of Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, however, had many other contending actors.
Among them were people like Johnny Depp. At the time, Depp was young and in his prime. Still, however, he did not find the role tantalizing enough to commit to it. While the director John Hughes says he wrote the role with Broderick in mind, other actors still staked their claim. Either way, we’re happy with the way the film turned out.
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings was an extremely popular movie series. The visual representation of the Tolkien books raked in so much cash and positive feedback that to turn down one of the roles must have felt like a major mistake and blow to the finances. If anybody is feeling this way, Sean Connery is probably one of them.
Connery turned down the role of Gandalf. He had his reasons: Apparently he couldn’t understand the point of the script and had no deep ties to the original books upon which the movie was based. Some might call this — if your main goal is money — quite the mistake. The man was thought to be offered around $10 million and 15% of the box office rake-in.
The Lord of the Rings (again)
The Lord of the Rings, as we mentioned earlier, was such a powerful series that many wanted to play a role. Novel for the time, the movie versions of the books were bound to get a lot of attention and acclaim. The role of Aragorn, though, like the role of Gandalf discussed earlier, had some actors other than Viggo Mortensen as potentials.
And who, exactly, was set to play this role? None other than Nicolas Cage. While the actor would have made a great (and not to mention eccentric) addition to the team, he had other things going on that hindered his ability to put in the time commitment. While we all love Nicolas Cage, the movie series was perfect without him.
There are few movies that resonate with our childhood memories as vividly as Grease. The catchy jingles, slicked-back hair, and amusing youthful antics win the movie a lasting place in our hearts. And it’s difficult to imagine that the movie might have existed in any form other than its current shape — with John Travolta as the lead.
There were, however, other actors in the running. One man offered the role was Henry Winkler. While he might have made an interesting Danny Zuko, we can never be too sure. John Travolta was superb. The one fear that Winkler had was that he would be typecast after the role. Fortunately, this didn’t happen to Travolta.
Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook was one of those quirky and moving films that was difficult not to resonate with. Given that the show had a fun script and positive ending, it was hard not to empathize with its cast of characters. But was anybody else meant to play the roles of the leading protagonists? You know it.
Jennifer Lawrence, who played the leading female role of Tiffany in the movie, was playing a role that was thought to be best for Anne Hathaway. While we could see why Hathaway would be a strong choice, we are happy with the casting of Lawrence. Purportedly the reason behind Hathaway’s dismissal was that she and the director did not see eye to eye.
In Django Unchained, we follow the actions of a slave turned toward a stint of vengeance. After his love is taken from him, he sees no choice but to exact revenge — Quentin Tarantino-style. While it seems as if the role was cast perfectly with Jamie Foxx as the lead, there were other potentials for this leading role. Among them was Will Smith.
Will Smith was initially in talks to take on the lead role in this star-studded film. So why did he ultimately decline? The reason for this, while there were many, was primarily that he could not empathize with revenge as the ending. Instead, Smith thought that the ultimate message should be love. Because of this, he ended up passing on the role.
The saga of the initial Star Wars films is considered one of the greatest achievements of all time. The cast, characters, and plot carry the movie from solar system to solar system, earning much fan love along the way. But some of these lovely characters were intended to be played by other people. One of these other people was Al Pacino.
Apparently Pacino was not the only actor to turn down the role of Han Solo. The character, along with a few others, was difficult to square with the remainder of the cast and plot. Because of this, others didn’t quite see how they would portray the vigilante that Harrison Ford would eventually become. We’d say we like the role with Ford.
In the movie trilogy The Godfather, Italian mobsters are depicted with an up-close and uncompromising lens. We see the vagaries, brutalities, and honesties of what life might have been like for the Italian mobsters of yesteryear. While the film was definitely what many might consider a “masterpiece,” it was thought that a few roles could be played by other people.
One such role was for the Godfather himself, Vito Corleone. And who better than Jack Nicholson to play the part? Well, considering that Nicholson was neither Italian nor all that interested, he would not end up being perfect for the part. While he would later choose to star as a mobster in the movie The Departed, he would have to pass on this one.
Casino Royale, the relatively recent remake of the Bond classic, was set to be a blockbuster hit. The action-packed film was expected to introduce new life into the timeless series — and possibly set up another few movies to come. Daniel Craig, from what it seems, was a perfect fit for the job. But who else was considered?
Other than Craig, another primary front-runner was Hugh Jackman. The man’s charm and accent have led many to want him as the new Bond. The reason he declined, however, is that he was already fulfilling his role as another superhero-like character: Wolverine. Regardless, we hope one day to see Jackman take on this role.
Superman Returns was one of those movies that filled the superhero niche. Since every now and then we need another of these movies, Superman Returns was here to make everybody happy. The movie didn’t perform too poorly, either, bringing modest earnings and acclaim for all those involved. But Brandon Routh, the film’s leading actor, was not originally intended for Superman.
Rather, Josh Hartnett was. Hartnett, coming off of his fame in movies like 40 Days and 40 Nights, was asked to be the lead actor in many superhero movies. Because he thought the roles might typecast him, however, he declined all of them. He says he regrets the decision, as the actors who did star in many of these movies managed to move on.
The Matrix (again)
We’ve talked about The Matrix before. Having grown into a successful movie franchise, introducing a new theme and genre to the world of sci-fi, the film was destined to do well for those involved — if it didn’t typecast them, however. But figuring out the perfect actors and actresses for the roles wasn’t exactly easy.
Neo — again, as mentioned before — was a character that the hiring crew didn’t know how to cast for. As we stated previously, Will Smith was a front-runner for the part. But the managers struggled so much that they had even considered a different tone altogether, and thought of casting Sandra Bullock in the role. Ultimately, though, Keanu Reeves signed on and the rest is history.
In the movie Speed, Keanu Reeves was forced into a high-speed situation that was difficult to comprehend. Roughly, he was trapped on a crowded public transit bus that, if it slowed down, would explode. The dilemma, then, was that the bus had to maintain a dangerous speed driving down the freeway. Scary.
The costar in the movie, Sandra Bullock, was not originally intended as the costar. Rather, the movie producers had thought the best choice would be Halle Berry. Apparently she passed on the film because of her interpretation of the script — which to her didn’t seem all that interesting. After having seen the movie, however, she immediately regretted her decision.
In Brokeback Mountain, we follow two protagonists as they maintain a secret romantic relationship. Every time they go off to work, they leave their families behind and continue their romance. The drama took the Academy by storm, and changed the movie industry for what many consider the better.
One of the protagonists, however, was not intended to be played by Heath Ledger. Rather, it was intended for none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. Apparently he was just one of many A-list celebrity actors who were asked to perform in the roles. Most of them, including DiCaprio, said no. Given how contentious the movie might have seemed at the time, the reluctance might have made sense.
In one of the many Batman movies, Jack Nicholson stars as the Joker. He seems the perfect fit as well. Something about that man — likely the fact that he starred as the psycho antagonist in the movie The Shining — lends itself perfectly to the crazy. And so, he seemed the perfect puzzle piece to this particular rendition of Batman.
There were, however, others who were considered. For this particular role, for instance, John Lithgow (of 3rd Rock from the Sun fame) was considered. He, as you likely agree, might be able to play a crazy Joker character as well. At the time, Lithgow didn’t think he was right for the role. Tim Burton ultimately agreed.
La La Land
In the movie La La Land, we follow Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as they sing themselves into fame and fortune. The movie was a major success among moviegoers and critics alike. But the seemingly perfect Emma Stone was not the actress originally intended for this starring role. Rather, that part was originally for Emma Watson.
Emma Watson, as stated, was the actress that not only wanted to play the role but was highly considered for it. Unfortunately, because she was already performing in the movie Beauty and the Beast, she just didn’t have the time. While we’re happy with how the movie turned out, it would have been interesting to have seen Watson’s take.
Legally Blonde is one of those films that is kind of like a rite of passage. You have to see it, bend and snap, and only then will you have reached adulthood. Anyway, the film is funny, quirky, and endearing. It’s also hard to imagine anyone other than Reese Witherspoon taking on the leading role.
The role was not originally intended for Ms. Witherspoon, however. Rather, the film was intended for the likes of Christina Applegate, who was fresh from her roles in a few other high-performing works. Applegate said she turned down the role because she didn’t want to get typecast as the ditzy blonde girl. We can’t say this happened to Witherspoon.