33 Celebs Who Turned Down Major Movie Roles

Actors can fall in love with a certain character and project for months, even if it means risking an iconic role that could guarantee their future. It’s a tough decision to make – especially when you’re young – but one we all need to take at some point in order to pave the way forward. Still, regrets come hand-in-hand with this profession, which is why there are so many stars who took up less than stellar offers after turning down amazing opportunities.

Find out which starring role Tom Cruise refused after his rise to fame in Risky Business

Emily Blunt – Gulliver’s Travels over Black Widow

Scarlet Johansson may have been perfect for playing the character Black Widow in the 2010 Marvel film Iron Man 2, but Emily Blunt who was initially offered the role said no because she had a conflicting schedule with her work on Jack Black’s movie Gulliver’s Travels.

While Iron Man 2 may not have been the most beloved film, there’s no denying that it was better than Gulliver’s Travels; and audiences loved Johansson as Black Widow enough to grant her own standalone movie.

See how one celebrity let go of his starring role so that his young sibling could take it home when they won an award for Best Actor.

Michael Madsen – Wyatt Earp over Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino loves working with the same people- actors such as Michael Mase who appears in movies like Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight. Supposedly, Tarantino even offered him the role of Vincent Vega played by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, but he declined to play a lead role in Wyatt Earp.

Madsen’s decision caused a rift between him and Tarantino for some time before they reconciled and later, Madsen starred in Tarantino’s film Kill Bill: Volume I.

Brad Pitt – Spy Game over The Bourne Series

To this day, Brad Pitt continues to be one of the most successful actors in Hollywood. Though he has made mistakes such as turning down the role for Jason Bourne – a decision that thrust Matt Damon into mainstream fame – he is only human and so no one can judge him too harshly.

Pitt had originally chosen to portray Jason Bourne but instead decided to play a CIA agent in the film Spy Game. The movie was not unsuccessful, but the Bourne series did much better.

Eddie Murphy – Holy Man over Rush Hour

Chances are, you may have seen or at least heard of movies such as the Rush Hour films and don’t know what Holy Man is. Something that Eddie Murphy has to deal with every day – his lack of fame outside America.

Murphy did poorly for himself with the movie Holy Man. Unfortunately for him, he missed out on the chance to find his way back up again when he was given the offer to play James Carter in Rush Hour; but instead decided to do Holy Man.

Matt Damon – Downsizing over Manchester By The Sea

Over the years, Matt Damon has done well with films such as Good Will Hunting to crime thrillers like The Departed. This does not imply that he cannot make a movie that fails – because Downsizing certainly did.

There are many reasons why Matt Damon opted not to direct or star in Manchester by the Sea, but one can only speculate as to what his true intentions were. One of these may be because he knew Casey Affleck had it in him to play the lead character and take home an Academy Award for Best Actor- which might have been difficult for Matt Damon who had already won this award before.

Tim Roth – Planet Of The Apes over Harry Potter

Although his first major role was not in the Harry Potter series, it is one of those roles for which Alan Rickman will undoubtedly be remembered. Astonishingly, Tim Roth turned down the opportunity to play Severus Snape because he accepted Tim Burton’s offer to star in his remake of Planet of the Apes.

Roth was too foolish to believe that he could do both, so he devoted himself completely to Planet of the Apes. Rickman made a memorable character in Harry Potter, but Planet of the Apes bombed and crashed.

Brooke Sheilds – Sahara over Scarface

When Brook Shields was first approached about playing the role of Elvira in Brian de Palma’s Scarface, her mother convinced her against it. Suggesting that she take on the adventure-based movie Sahara instead which unfortunately for us never took off.

So, the role of Selina went to Michelle Pfeiffer; what followed would make her a Hollywood Star. Gary had taken home the worst supporting actor Razzie award- the first time ever for an actress.

Jean Reno – Godzilla over The Matrix

Jean Reno is a French actor who has starred in many noteworthy movies, but one role he missed out on was that of Agent Smith in the Wachowskis The Matrix. He turned down this offer because he did not want to move from France to Australia for filming purposes.

This decision resulted in his being casted as a French secret agent in 1998’s Godzilla. Unfortunately for Reno, The Matrix was one of the most praised sci-fi psychological thrillers ever made and critics destroyed Godzilla.

David Schwimmer – The Pallbearer over Men In Black

David Schwimmer became a household name after starring in Friends which was an exceptionally successful show. Following its end, he wanted to continue furthering his acting career but made some poor choices along the way.

Rather than pursue an acting gig in Men In Black, which turned out to be a major success, he decided instead to act in the romantic comedy Pallbearer for which he was awarded worst new star at the Razzies. He had good reason to believe this would work out well – as it has been proven over time that his role of Agent J helped take his career to new heights.

Will Smith – After Earth over Django Unchained

Any actor or actress who decides to turn down a role offered by Quentin Tarantino tends to regret it later. Even though they might be successful off of his name alone, this was something Will Smith didn’t care about when he declined the offer for Django Unchained.

Instead, he chose to work with his son Jaden Smith in the unmemorable After Earth. There are rumors floating around that Smith turned down the project because Django doesn’t kill the bad guy and that he didn’t want to be in a movie about revenge, but rather love.

Will Smith – Wild Wild West over The Matrix

As of 1999, when Will Smith had already had many blockbuster films under his belt, so it was not surprising at all that the Wachowskis approached him with this opportunity to play Neo in The Matrix.

Smith was uncertain about the use of special effects and backed out, leaving his role for Keanu Reeves. In turn, Smith accepted Wild Wild West where he found both success in his acting performance but also loss after receiving a Worst Screen Couple Razzie award and Worst Original Song nomination.

Kevin Costner – Waterworld over Shawshank Redemption

If you were unaware, to this day, Waterworld is seen as one of the most disappointing movie mistakes in Hollywood. With an enormous budget spent on its production and a lukewarm reception from critics at best- it turned’s out there was nothing good about it after all.

Kevin Costner could have been spared from his shame if he had accepted the offer to play Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. Yet instead, he made what can only be described as an unwise decision when it came to Waterworld. There’s no doubt that Shawshank has always been seen as a classic film and one of the best films of all time

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Beach over American Psycho

When casting for the psychological horror film American Psycho, it is rumored that Lionsgate had offered Leonardo DiCaprio a whopping $20 million to play the deranged serial killer Patrick Bateman. The studio wanted DiCaprio so bad that they were even willing to go against director Mary Harron’s wishes and replace her with Oliver Stone instead.

Once Stone was on the project, he and DiCaprio struggled to find a way forward, which led to DiCaprio walking away from making The Beach. When Bale took over as Bateman with Harron at the helm again, American Psycho became an iconic film that has endured through time while The Beach remained obscure in comparison.

Keep going to see the movie that apparently ended Marilyn Monroe’s marriage.

Julia Roberts – Valentine’s Day over The Blind Side

In 2000, Julia Roberts became an A-list actor after her performance in Erin Brockovich for which she won Best Actress at the Oscars. However, she declined playing Leigh Anne Tuohy in the 2009 sports film The Blind Side because it would mean giving up work on other projects.

Rather than continuing on with her acting career, Roberts decided to go on and do a film called Valentine’s Day, which proved much less popular than many of the other films she had starred in over her long-running career.

Tom Selleck – Magnum P.I. over Indiana Jones

After starring as Han Solo in Star Wars, Steven Spielberg wanted Harrison Ford to play Indiana Jones. But George Lucas – who produced Raiders of the Lost Ark – did not want him to star in another one of his films.

It was then decided that Tom Selleck would take up the mantle of Jones until he had to step down for contract obligations relating to his hit show Magnum, P.I., which wasn’t nearly as successful compared to Indiana Jones.

Hugh Jackman – X-Men 2 over James Bond

Recently, Hugh Jackman revealed that he had been approached to play the iconic Agent 007 in the James Bond film Casino Royale. Although he was interested in taking on this role, he was unable to because of his contractual obligations to the current project which is X2: X-Men United.

This lead to Daniel Craig becoming the next James Bond for several films, with Jackman admitting that he would consider taking on the role if given another chance.

Katie Holmes – Mad Money over The Dark Knight And The Dark Knight Rises

When Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was released in 2005, it can be argued that it revolutionized the superhero genre; spawning both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

In Batman Begins, Rachel Dawes – the love interest of Bruce Wayne – is played by Katie Holmes (although she’s later replaced in sequels by Maggie Gyllenhaal). While Holmes was busy playing an unsuccessful character named Dee Moray on Mad Money during this time period, both sequels ended up being amongst the most profitable movie series of all-time.

Marilyn Monroe – The Misfits over Breakfast At Tiffany’s

When casting for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote was keen on having Marilyn Monroe play the lead role of Holly Golightly. Her agent persuaded her against it due to the risque nature of the occupation that Golightly’s character is involved in.

Despite passing on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Monroe went on to star in The Misfits– written and directed by her husband Arthur Miller. And while filming was going well, production soon became a nightmare when it quickly became apparent that he script could lead to the end of their marriage. At this point, Breakfast at Tiffany’s has since been considered a classic film among many others.

Tom Cruise – All The Right Moves over Footloose

Tom Cruise is another actor in Hollywood who has impressed audiences with his range, seemingly capable to take on any role thrown at him. However, he missed out on some roles too – one of these being Footloose.

His performance in Risque Business was seen by the casting directors of Footloose and they wanted him to play Ren McCormack. However, Tom Cruise decided he would rather be in All the Right Moves instead because it was more his style. Footloose ended up becoming a symbol for 1980s movies even though it could have been avoided if Tom had played his part correctly.

Benicio Del Toro – Thor: The Dark World over Star Trek: Into Darkness

It’s hard to believe that an actor would turn down a Star Trek role. Benicio Del Toro, who played The Collector in Thor: The Dark World had been offered the chance to play Khan in the new Star Trek movie; but declined due to disagreements over money with production teams.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch became known for his portrayal of the villainous Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness. The movie was the highest-grossing film in the series, making over $467 million worldwide.

Brad Pitt – Jackass over The Bourne Identity

Believe it or not, Brad Pitt refused the leading role of Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity because he had committed to appearing on two episodes of MTV’s reality series Jackass. When producers contacted Pitt about the opportunity, his agent responded that he didn’t have enough time to work on both projects.

Matt Damon took the role which ended up being a breakout for his career. Beyond Jackass, Pitt just had a short appearance in George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind that year.

Christina Applegate – Just Visiting over Legally Blonde

Most people are aware of the popular film Legally Blonde which stars Reese Witherspoon as Ellen Woods, a stereotypical blonde who enters law school. As it turns out, Christina Applegate was actually first in line to play Elle Woods.

However, Applegate still had her doubts about playing yet another stereotypical blonde role. She didn’t want to be typecast after just completing Married with Children. So, she picked up Just Visiting – a fail remake of the French film it originated from.

Michelle Pfeiffer: Coolio Music Video over The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs is a timeless movie – one that earned seven Academy Award nominations in 1995. One such nomination was for Best Actress: Jodie Foster. For this role, she won an Oscar. However, there was another actress who had been considered for the part- Michelle Pfeiffer- who regretfully turned it down when offered!

After reading the script, Michelle Pfeiffer believed that the film was too dark and declined to take part. She instead took up the role of LouAnne Johnson in Dangerous Minds and had a cameo appearance in Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise music video.

Jennifer Connelly: Etoile over Heathers

Winona Ryder skyrocketed to fame after her performance as the leading lady in Heathers (1989). However, screenwriter Daniel Waters actually intended for another actress to play the protagonist – Jennifer Connolly.

At the time, Connelly had mostly been recognised for her role as Sarah in Labyrinth. Yet Heathers could have propelled her career further if she had accepted it – but instead she chose to take on a ballet student’s part in an Italian film called Etoile.

Burt Reynolds: 100 Rifles over On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

We might have seen Burt Reynolds as James Bond – but it never came to fruition in 1969. He was one of the top contenders for the lead role of 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but he declined since he thought an American couldn’t portray a British character well enough!

Instead, he took on a couple of roles in Western films, including 100 Rifles for which he was later quoted as saying, I spent the entire time refereeing fights between Raquel Welch and Jim Brown.

John Travolta – Pulp Fiction over Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is arguabley one of the most famous movies ever made. Released in 1994, it became the top grossing movie at its time – making 682 million dollars – and went on to win numerous prestigious awards such as a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and an Academy Award for best actor (Tom Hanks).

Intriguingly, the film was first offered to John Travolta but he turned it down. In place of playing Forrest Gump, Travolta instead chose to take on Pulp Fiction – which though great, just isn’t comparable to Forrest Gump.

Emily Browning – The Uninvited over Twilight

Best known for her film Sucker Punch, Emily Browning was one of the first considerations for the role of Bella Swan in the Twilight series. However, after reading the script Browning realized that she didn’t want any part in this film and so Kristen Stewart took up that spot instead.

Browning ended up starring in the horror movie The Uninvited, a remake of the 2003 South Korean film. Ironically, he had been casted as Edward Cullen while working on Twilight where he was one of the main characters, but this time his luck turned out differently.

Matthew Broderick –The Tale of Despereaux over Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is an American Television show about a timid high-school chemistry teacher who starts cooking and selling methamphetamine to provide for his family when he discovers that he has lung cancer.

One of the greatest moments from TV history can be attributed to one person – Brian Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. However, he might not have had this iconic chance if Matt Broderick hadn’t been able to turn it down. Nonetheless, we’ll never know what would’ve happened because after turning the offer down, Broderick went on to star in another successful movie called The Tale of Despereaux over breaking bad instead.

Paul Schaffer – Seinfeld over making music

In his 2009 memoir, We’ll Be Here the Rest of Our Lives comedian Paul Schaffer admits that before filming for Seinfeld started, Jerry Seinfeld contacted him about playing the role of George Costanza.

In fact, Jerry told Schaffer that he didn’t even need to audition for this role because it was already considerd his. When Schaffer refused Jerry and said he was too busy making music, little did he know Seinfeld would be one of the best TV sitcoms ever made.

Tom Hanks That Thing You Do over Jerry McGuire

The director of Jerry McGuire, Cameron Crowe, says that Tom Hanks was the first actor they thought about for the role of Jerry McGuire. However, since he was too busy directing That Thing You Do, he couldn’t take up the part and instead it went to Tom Cruise.

Nevertheless, Hanks went on to admit that he could never have done the same job as Cruise had for this film because no one else could do it.

Ray Liotta – Muppets From Space over The Sopranos

Ray Liotta has been recognized as one of the best actors in his genre because he starred in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. When casting came up for HBO’s The Sopranos, there was no question who they would pick – Ray Liotta.

Yet despite being offered the chance to play Tony Soprano, Ray Liotta refused. This was because he felt that his performance would only be so-so at best and didn’t want to do this type of character justice. His well-rounded acting skills led him to accepting other roles such as Muppets from Space and Forever Mine.

Henry Winkler – The One and Only over Grease

Considered a classic today, Grease played an important part in turning John Travolta into a household name. In fact, it all started when the role of Danny Zuko was offered to Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz from Happy Days).

However, Winkler turned down the role due to his fears of being typecasted; since he had already been playing The Fonz on Happy Days for many years. As such, instead of starring as Danny Zuko in Grease, Winkler acted in The One and Only which was far less popular than Grease.

Mel Gibson – What Women Want over Gladiator

When you think of the movie Gladiator, it’s difficult to imagine Russel Crowe not playing Maximus as he shouts commands at his troops or fights to the death in Rome.

Mel Gibson had originally declined the opportunity to play Maximus in Gladiator because he felt that people would accuse him of wanting to only take on action roles. He later accepted an offer for What Women Want – where Russell Crowe won an Academy Award for his performance.

Bruce Willis – The Bonfire of the Vanities over Ghost

Although Bruce Willis was originally cast in the role of Sam Wheat, a last minute change made him switch roles with Patrick Swayze. In addition to joining an already successful film and having the opportunity to work side-by-side with his wife Demi Moore, this decision would ultimately lead to another blockbuster appearance for both actors.

Yet, he refused the offer and ended up filming the movie The Bonfire of the Vanities instead. All this while, Patrick Swayze was getting close to his wife on screen.

Dana Delaney – Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Couples over Sex in The City

For those who have seen HBO’s Sex in The City, Sarah Jessica Parker was spot-on for portraying the character of Carrie Bradshaw. However, it could be argued that another actress would’ve been a more suitable casting choice due to her similarities with the character previously portrayed by Dana Delaney in Live Nude Girls and having had previous experience acting alongside Kim Cattrall (who plays Samantha Jones).

Unfortunately for Delaney, she turned down the role in favor of doing failed TV movies such as Rescue: Stories of Courage (Two Couples).

Molly Ringwald – Betsy’s Wedding over Pretty Women

Molly Ringwald was well-known for her roles in movies from the 80s, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and many more.

Shortly after, she was offered the lead role of Vivian Ward in Pretty Women but declined it; she did not want to play a character who obsesses over every detail and went on acting in Betsy’s Wedding, which turned out well for Julia Roberts, as she got the part and shot it into celebrity status.

Lindsay Lohan – Labor Pains over The Hangover

Though it seemed like The Hangover was just a group of people randomly making a movie one day, it ended up being wildly successful- spawning two movies total and Lindsay Lohan even auditioned for the part of the stripper that Stu married in the first film.

When Rachel’s request for the role was rejected because of her age, she went on to act in Labor Pains – which lead to Heather Graham gaining the part. It’s possible that this opportunity would have helped Lohan through some of her most trying times during that era.

Now that you’ve seen the movie roles an actor should have taken, keep reading to find out which actors auditioned for one role, but were cast in another in the same project!


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