Actors Who Regretted Turning Down Roles In Blockbuster Movies

Can you imagine Al Pacino as Han Solo in Star Wars?
Harriet King August 11th 2019 Entertainment
Making it in the world of acting isn't easy. When you first start off, you're a nobody. You're competing with hundreds of people for every role you apply for, and you're lucky if you can get a speaking role on television. You accept every part that's ever offered to you.
If you're lucky enough to land a few roles, then you'll hopefully find yourself being offered bigger roles on a more frequent basis. You're no longer wondering where the next job is going to come from. In fact, you might even find yourself turning work down because you're too busy!
Sometimes, though, you might live to regret one of those refusals. What looks like a doomed film or a bad television role turns out to be a huge hit. Someone else picks up awards and recognition for playing a part you turned down. That's happened to everybody on this list!
Marilyn Monroe - Breakfast At Tiffany's
All things considered, we don't think Marilyn Monroe had too many regrets when it came to her iconic career. She was the biggest female star of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and was never short of work. If she could have changed one thing about it, though, she might have accepted the part of Holly Golightly in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.' Truman Capote had her in mind when he wrote the part, and thought he had her secured for the role until her agent advised her not to play a character who could be construed as a prostitute.
Monroe ultimately turned the part down, and it went to Audrey Hepburn. The film was a huge success, and Hepburn was propelled into the acting stratosphere. Instead of working with Capote, Monroe worked with her husband Arthur Miller on 'The Misfits,' - a seemingly cursed production which brought about the end of her marriage. Just one year later, she was dead.
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John Lithgow - Batman
Imagine, for a second, a world where 'Batman' isn't a big deal. Hard to picture, isn't it? Even casting news about a forthcoming 'Batman' movie makes the front page of entertainment publications these days, but that hasn't always been the case. Back in 1989, the first thing that came to mind when most people thought of 'Batman' was the campy 1960s TV show starring Adam West. That meant that when Tim Burton was casting for his 1989 film, John Lithgow wasn't overly enthused about playing the part of the caped crusader's arch-nemesis, the Joker.
We all know what happened next. The part went to Jack Nicholson instead, and Nicholson made it his own until Heath Ledger took the crown away from him twenty years later. Lithgow, left watching from the sidelines, would later tell interviewers that he didn't have a grasp of how many people loved 'Batman,' and how big the movie would be. We guess he just isn't a comic book guy.
Bruce Willis - Ghost
There are conflicting theories about whether or not it's a good idea to work with your significant other when you're making a film. As we've seen with Marilyn Monroe, if it goes wrong, it can put undue strain on your relationship. Maybe that was a key factor in Bruce Willis' thinking when he decided to pass on a lead role in 'Ghost.' If he'd taken it on, it would have been him who'd had the iconic 'let's make pottery sexy' scene with Demi Moore - who was, at the time, his wife.
We'll never be sure why Willis said no, but perhaps he was concerned about stepping too far away from his comfort zone at the time. He was an action movie star, and he wouldn't accept a more subdued role until he appeared in 'The Sixth Sense' years later. He also wasn't the only big name to turn 'Ghost' down; both Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise didn't see the merit in the script, and rejected the offer as well. Patrick Swayze had no such concerns, and was wearing a big smile when he movie collected the 'Best Original Screenplay' Oscar.
Leonardo DiCaprio - Boogie Nights
This is a little bit of a strange one. When Leonardo DiCaprio turned down a lead role in 'Boogie Nights,' he had an excellent reason for doing so. He'd been offered big money to appear in 'Titanic' instead, and 'Titanic' was the film that took him from being a reasonably well-known actor to becoming a bonafide Hollywood megastar. The part of Dirk Diggler in 'Boogie Nights' would have boosted his profile - and it would have been interesting to see his take on it - but it wouldn't have been the Oscar-winning star-maker that 'Titanic' was.
For all of the above reasons, we wouldn't have called this a cause for regret - but we include it on this list because DiCaprio himself has said that he wishes he'd taken the part. Speaking to GQ magazine in 2008, he described the decision as the only regret of his career to date. To us, that means one of two things - either he really, really loves 'Boogie Nights,' or he didn't enjoy the harsh glare of the spotlight that came with making one of the biggest movies of all time.
Brad Pitt - The Bourne Identity
Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. That's an established cinematic fact, and it's the character that Damon is best known for even taking into account all the other great movies he's made during his career. Damon is so synonymous with playing Bourne that the one time they tried making a 'Bourne' film without Damon in it, it was a miserable failure. It very nearly wasn't his franchise at all, though. The part very nearly went to Brad Pitt instead.
Pitt didn't have a specific objection to playing Bourne; the fact that he would go on to play a slightly similar character in 'The Spy Game' a few years later tells us he's a fan of the genre - it just seems that he had too much work on when the role was offered to him, and so he had to refuse.
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Kevin Costner - The Shawshank Redemption
For a long time, we imagine that Kevin Costner had no regrets about turning down the main role in 'The Shawshank Redemption' at all. While it's a much-loved movie now, it was a total bust when it was released, and failed at the box office. Costner's reason for staying away from it was that he was busy filming 'Waterworld'- which fared even worse at the box office - but at least Costner wasn't left feeling that he'd missed out on a hit. He probably just wrote it off as a bad year in his career.
Time has changed the way people think about 'The Shawshank Redemption.' Streaming and DVD releases have given people the chance to see it again, and the film's reputation has enjoyed something of a redemption of its own. That's good news for Tim Robbins, who picked up the part that Costner turned down. As for 'Waterworld' - there's no sign of a re-evaluation happening any time soon!
Will Smith - The Matrix
Keanu Reeves' poker face is one of the things that makes the character of Neo in 'The Matrix' so cool. You never know what he's thinking or feeling - he just beats people up and gets on with his day, and looks great while he's doing it. If Will Smith played the part, and was cracking jokes and dropping one-liners to Agent Smith every time he defeated a version of him, the film might lose some of that invaluable cool factor. It nearly happened, though - Smith was the guy that the Wachowski brothers came looking for first.
Nobody knew how 'The Matrix' would turn out when it was in pre-production. The team making it had no track record of success, and the script was a little weird. Smith - perhaps conscious that he was developing a reputation as a 'science fiction guy' after making 'Men in Black' and 'Independence Day,' didn't want to get involved. Three billion dollars in revenue later, we think it's safe to say he'd play that one a little differently if he got the chance again.
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Michelle Pfeiffer - Silence of the Lambs
The chemistry between Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster is what makes 'Silence of the Lambs.' Without it, the twisted psychological horror might have become 'just another horror film,' but the two leads drew you into the plot and made the film a runaway success. Hopkins is an outstanding actor - one of the greatest of his generation without a shadow of a doubt - but we wonder if he'd have been able to achieve the same chemistry if he'd been facing Michelle Pfeiffer instead?
Foster was so good as Clarice Starling that she walked away from the Oscars with the 'Best Actress' award for the role. That must have really bothered Pfeiffer, who decided to say no because she thought the subject matter of the film was a little too dark for her tastes. The next time she was offered a 'darker' role, she decided to take it. Unfortunately for her, that role was in 'What Lies Beneath,' and it didn't have anything like the same impact on viewers.
Christina Applegate - Legally Blonde
It's fairly easy to see what's happened here. 'Legally Blonde' is right on the borderline of being a generic comedy, full of basic 'blonde' jokes and shallow characterization. In the wrong hands, it would have been. Fortunately for everyone involved in the production of the film, Reese Witherspoon was very much the right pair of hands, and she elevated the script. It's now one of the highest-grossing female-led comedy films of all time, and went on to become a franchise.
Witherspoon became a household name because of the film's success, which probably left Christina Applegate scratching her head. She'd been the first person to get the call from the producers, but dismissed it because she didn't want to play 'a dumb blonde.' Perhaps she didn't read the script all the way to the end. At least she's since had the honesty to refer to her choice as 'a stupid move' in the years since!
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Jennifer Connelly - Heathers
Winona Ryder might be best known to younger audiences of today for her part in 'Stranger Things,' but for her older fans, it's strange to see her playing a mother. She was always the cool-but-awkward teenager in the films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a girl-next-door vibe to her. She played similar roles in a lot of films, but the one that spoke the most to teenagers of the era was probably 'Heathers.' It's something of a cult film, but if you've seen it, you'll have vivid memories of Ryder playing 'Veronica.'
As a gifted character actress, Ryder always disappears inside the parts she plays, so in our minds, she and Veronica are one of the same. That makes it hard to imagine anyone else in the role, but if you can, try to picture Jennifer Connelly there instead. Not only was she the first choice for the part, but writer Daniel Walters had her specifically in mind when he wrote it.
Al Pacino - Star Wars
It took us a while to process this one, but as Al Pacino himself has said it happened, we have to believe him. The original cast of 'Star Wars,' with the exception of Harrison Ford, were unknowns. As it turns out, an even bigger name than Ford was at one point in the frame to play Han Solo - and it was Pacino. He kept his silence about it for years, but during an interview in 2013 he confirmed that he was once told the part was his if he wanted it - but he turned it down because he couldn't make sense of the script.
Pacino was born to play gangsters. 'The Godfather' wouldn't have been the same without him in it. We like to think we have active imaginations, but we can't picture Pacino in the pilot's seat of the Millennium Falcon next to Chewie. It would have made for a very different franchise!
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Katie Holmes - The Dark Knight
In what we believe to be a unique entry in our list, Katie Holmes gains inclusion for turning down a part she'd already played. When Christopher Nolan successfully resurrected the 'Batman' franchise with 'Batman Begins,' Katie Holmes played Bruce Wayne's love interest Rachel Dawes, and she played it well. In the second and third installments - 'The Dark Knight' and 'The Dark Knight Rises' - Holmes is gone, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is Rachel. Gyllenhaal was excellent, but we couldn't help but wonder what had happened to Holmes.
Because the internet is what it is, rumors circulated that Holmes had been cut from the film because Nolan wanted a better actor, but Nolan himself has said this is a lie. He wanted Holmes back - he just couldn't persuade her to return. The second and third films both doubled the box office revenue of 'Batman Begins.' Holmes, who made 'Mad Money' instead, backed the wrong horse.
Burt Reynolds - On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Suave. Smooth. Sophisticated. Convincing as a tough guy, and comfortable with a gun in his hand. Burt Reynolds had all the required elements to play James Bond, and the fact he was handsome in his youth helped, too. When Sean Connery stepped aside, Reynolds was the man who got the call. Reynolds was flattered, but didn't think it was for him. He couldn't do a convincing British accent, and didn't think the world was ready for an American Bond.
Perhaps the producers should have taken his advice. Rejected by Reynolds, they recruited Australian George Lazenby instead. Audiences hated him, Lazenby's time as Bond was over after one film, and the producers went crawling back to Connery to beg him to put the tuxedo on again. Connery obliged for one more film, before handing the part off yet again to Roger Moore. Moore proved to be the right long-term choice.
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Eddie Murphy - Ghostbusters
'Ghostbusters' was something of a passion project for Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. They loved their off-the-wall script, but were having a hard time persuading anybody else to take them seriously. Included in that 'anybody else' group was Eddie Murphy, who worked with Aykroyd in 'Trading Places' during the early 1980s. A hopeful Aykroyd pitched the film to Murphy, hoping to get him on board in the part of Winston Zedmore. He knew that having a star like Murphy attached to his script would generate interest among movie studios.
According to Aykroyd, Murphy's response was less-than-polite. He listened to Aykroyd describe the concept, and responded with the sentence 'That sounds like a crock of excrement.' We've substituted the word 'excrement' in for the word he actually used. Ernie Hudson got the part instead, 'Ghostbusters' went down in movie history, and Murphy made a series of increasingly dreadful 1990s comedies.
Matthew Modine - Top Gun
At the time of writing, production of a new 'Top Gun' movie is well underway, with Tom Cruise returning to the part which helped launch his career thirty years ago. Somewhere in an alternative universe, it isn't Cruise revisiting his past - it's Matthew Modine, who was originally marked for the part of Maverick. Modine's career arguably needed the boost more than Cruise's did, but Modine's anti-military stance stopped him from signing on.
Modine felt like 'Top Gun' glorified the military, and didn't believe it was an appropriate stance to take at the height of the Cold War. Somewhere between 'Top Gear' and 'Full Metal Jacket,' that moral standpoint went out of the window. Modine performed admirably as Private Joker in the movie, but he would never go on to achieve the same level of success that Cruise has enjoyed throughout his career. It could all have been so different for him.
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Nicolas Cage - The Lord of The Rings
This is just plain weird to us. It's a standing joke in Hollywood that Nicolas Cage will never turn down a movie role. His love of spending money is legendary, and so he needs to make big money so he can carry on spending it. That's why for every great Nicolas Cage movie you can think of, there are two or three terrible ones. So long as the money is right, you can count on Cage signing a contract and doing the job.
Maybe the money on offer wasn't right when Peter Jackson asked him about playing a role in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. It was the 'Fellowship of the Ring' film that would have made use of Cage's services, and he'd have been playing Aragorn. Cage spoke to Jackson and apparently considered the offer, but said no. Once the director and his team had recovered from the shock, they persuaded Viggo Mortensen to play the part instead.
Josh Hartnett - Spiderman
To understand this, first you must understand the state of superhero films at the end of the 20th century. Christopher Nolan had not yet made 'Batman Begins.' The 'Avengers' series was just a twinkle in someone's eye. Superhero movies had a bad reputation, and the last few attempts to take them to the big screen had failed. Val Kilmer's career was effectively ruined by playing Batman. Actors were a little wary of taking on a part that they'd be heavily associated with, and then ridiculed for if it went wrong. Josh Hartnett, therefore, believed he was protecting his career when he passed on the chance to become Spiderman.
While we can understand that, what happened next is less understandable to us. Having turned down 'Spiderman,' he watched as the movie became a success. Then he was offered 'Batman,' passed again, and watched Christian Bale redefine the role. A superhero opportunity came knocking again with 'Superman,' but he allowed Brandon Routh to take that part instead. To be fair, he was probably right about the last one!
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John Travolta - Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump was a very nuanced character. Playing the part required a great deal of precision and subtlety, and requires a very skilled performer. Tom Hanks is one of the few actors we can think of who would be capable of playing Gump without mocking the subject matter or looking for cheap laughs, and so we'd always thought that he was the first man considered for the position. Imagine our surprise when we found out it was John Travolta.
Don't get us wrong here - we love John Travolta films. From 'Saturday Night Fever' to 'Pulp Fiction,' he's delighted us over and over again. We just can't imagine him playing a part as quiet and studied as Forrest Gump, and so we're a little glad that he decided not to do it. Oddly, he and Hanks are considered for the same roles quite often - he also rejected the part of Jim Lovell in 'Apollo 13,' which again went to Hanks, and did the same thing with the Hanks character in 'The Green Mile.'
Ralph Macchio - Back To The Future
Ralph Macchio is the Karate Kid. Macchio, in our minds, will never be anything other than the Karate Kid. The 'Karate Kid' movies were a big part of our youth, but Macchio was permanently typecast from the moment he decided to take the part. That's something of a shame in terms of the rest of his career, but it's not as if he didn't have the chance to do something about it. He was offered a role that was far removed from his martial arts youth - he just didn't take it.
Macchio could have been the skateboarding kid screaming 'Doc!' and playing the guitar on stage in the 'Back to The Future' movie trilogy - worlds away from 'The Karate Kid.' If the stories are to be believed, he said no because he thought the film wasn't 'serious' enough. It was serious enough for Michael J. Fox, who took it and ran with it. Sadly for Macchio, those 'serious' roles never came looking for him.
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Harrison Ford - Syriana
As one of Hollywood's greatest-ever leading men, Harrison Ford is always in high demand. He doesn't have the time to take every part that's offered to him, and so he picks and chooses what he likes the sound of. Because of his busy schedule, he's said 'no' to James Caan's part in 'Misery,' the title role in 'JFK,' and a leading role in 'Alien.' He has no regrets about passing on them, though.
The role that Ford wishes he could go back in time and agree to is in a smaller, lesser-known film - Syriana. When Ford was sent the script, it was at the first or second draft stage, and he didn't like the sound of it. George Clooney stepped into the breach and played the part of Bob Barnes instead. Ford happened to catch the film, and found that the script had improved significantly since he'd last seen it. He loved the movie, and was slightly envious of Clooney!
Jim Carrey - Pirates of the Caribbean
He's not as busy as he used to be, but there was a time when Jim Carrey was everywhere. He was the star of every can't-miss comedy blockbuster of the summer, and had us rolling in the aisles with 'Liar Liar' and 'Ace Ventura.' When Disney decided they were going to make a movie based on their old 'Pirates of the Caribbean' ride at Disney World, Carrey was the obvious choice. He was adored by children, and would have guaranteed the success of the project.
It was bad news for Disney. Carrey had signed on for 'Bruce Almighty,' and couldn't be available on the dates they needed him for filming. They decided to think outside of the box, and came up with the name of Johnny Depp for Captain Jack Sparrow instead. Carrey didn't miss out financially, but we're sure he'd have loved to spend a few movies playing pirates if he had the space in his diary.
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Mickey Rourke - Pulp Fiction
John Travolta might have made a mistake when he decided to turn down 'Forrest Gump,' but he got it absolutely right when Quentin Tarantino offered his flagging movie career a shot in the arm with 'Pulp Fiction.' He wasn't the only (at the time) faded star on Tarantino's wish-list though - he also threw a lifeline out to Mickey Rourke. Rourke, for reasons best known to himself, decided not to catch it.
It wasn't Travolta's part that Rourke was offered - it was the washed-up boxer Butch, who was eventually portrayed on-screen by Bruce Willis. As a mostly-failed boxer himself, perhaps Rourke felt it was just a little too close to home. It would be over a decade before he eventually got his career back on track with 'The Wrestler,' so maybe he should have just accepted that broken-down sportsmen were the right way to go for him at the first time of asking.
Denzel Washington - Michael Clayton
This is a particularly sore point for Denzel Washington, because the veteran actor recognized that 'Michael Clayton' was a great script the first time he saw it. He admitted to GQ magazine that it was the best material he'd been offered in years, but backed away from it because it was a first-time director and so he wasn't sure it would be handled properly. When you've been around the movie industry as long as Washington, it probably pays to be cautious, but this was a call he got wrong.
George Clooney benefited from Washington's error of judgment, took the part, and got an Oscar nomination out of it. Director Tony Gilroy's next success was 'The Bourne Legacy.' Washington was left on the shelf, kicking himself for not taking a chance on an up-and-coming name. We imagine he's just about over it by now.
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Tom Cruise - A Beautiful Mind
Like every Hollywood A-Lister, Tom Cruise doesn't stand a chance of taking every part he's offered. He'd never get a day off if he did! Cruise was the first choice to play 'Iron Man,' and has had to watch as Robert Downey Junior had the time of his life playing the superhero. That's not 'the one that got away' for Cruise, though. His biggest mistake was letting Russell Crowe play John Nash in 'A Beautiful Mind.'
For all the incredible achievements of Cruise's long career, the one accolade that's always escaped him is an Oscar. Incredibly, he's never been selected as 'Best Actor.' 'A Beautiful Mind' was an Oscar-worthy film, winning several awards and gaining a nomination for 'Best Actor.' It didn't win, but if it had been Cruise in the role could he have picked up the award where Crowe failed? We'll never know, but it might have been Cruise's best shot, and he missed out.
David Schwimmer - Men in Black
Earlier on, we talked about how weird it would have been if Will Smith had played Keanu Reeves' iconic role in 'The Matrix.' Now, we have to imagine how strange it would have been if 'Friends' star David Schwimmer had taken Smith's part in 'Men in Black.' That was apparently the original plan, but Schwimmer wanted to take a short career break at the time the movie was filming.
The excuse never made sense, because Schwimmer carried on making 'Friends' during the break. Smith completely owned the part of 'Agent J,' and returned to it for two sequels. It could have been the key to Schwimmer crossing over from television to the movies, but he dropped the ball. Since then, his star power has been slowly dwindling, and he may now be doomed as being labeled 'Ross from Friends' for the rest of his life.
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Gene Hackman - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
The role of RP McMurphy in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' required an actor of high caliber. Somehow, they had to make the career criminal lovable and relatable, and bring color to an extremely difficult topic. Only the best of the best were considered, and the charismatic Jack Nicholson took home a 'Best Actor' Oscar for his terrific performance. Gene Hackman was in the audience that night, applauding and regretting his life choices.
Hackman had been offered Nicholson's part, feeling burnt-out from filming 'The French Connection' and wanting to take a longer break before stepping back in front of the cameras. If he wanted someone to share his regrets with, he could have found the legendary Marlon Brando for a chat - Brando passed on the role as well! Hackman's career turned out just fine in the long run, but McMurphy is the kind of part that any actor should want.
Lindsay Lohan - The Hangover
'The Hangover' is a movie about dealing with the consequences of a heavy night out. That might have been a bit too 'on the nose' for Lindsay Lohan, whose personal issues are well documented. Happily, she's in a better place now, but she still probably wishes that she hadn't said no to 'The Hangover' when she was offered the part of Jade. Heather Graham decided to play the stripper with a heart of gold, and got to reprise the role in the third 'Hangover' movie.'
If Lohan was looking at the script and thinking it was too close to her real-life situation, she didn't tell anybody. Instead, she sent it back and told her agent that she didn't feel it had any potential of success. She couldn't have been more wrong - it brought in nearly five hundred million dollars at the box office. In fairness to Lohan, she wasn't exactly making great decisions at the time.
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Henry Winkler - Grease
John Travolta's career was made by playing Danny in 'Grease' - an entire generation fell in love with his song and dance act, and he was instantly one of the hottest stars in Hollywood. If you've seen 'Grease' - which we imagine is all of you - then you'll know it's about love, dancing, and teen culture in the 1950s. If there was anybody who should have known all about that it was Henry Winkler, who'd essentially been playing Danny 'Grease' had even been written with his role as Fonzie on 'Happy Days.'
The problem with casting Winkler as Danny was that it was too obvious, and Winkler knew it. He felt that if he went straight from 'Happy Days' to 'Grease,' then he'd have been typecast for the rest of his life, and would never be offered any parts outside of '50s rogue'. As his career trajectory turned out, he needn't have worried - he was never offered very many major roles after 'Happy Days' anyway. Had he known in advance that his career had already peaked, he'd probably have taken 'Grease' in a heartbeat.
Danny Devito - The Princess Bride
Here's another film that will take you right back to childhood if you're of a certain age - 'The Princess Bride.' Memorably, it had professional wrestler Andre the Giant in it, but it also starred Wallace Shawn as Vizzini. In fact, it's probably the only Shawn film we can name without having to check Wikipedia - and yet he would never have been in it at all if Danny Devito had been available.
Being the second choice for the only major part of your career would sting the ego of most actors, but Shawn has shown that he's got a sense of humor about it. In an interview with 'Entertainment Weekly,' he said that he was once at the same party as Devito. He accosted the famous actor, and thanked him for having such a busy schedule that it allowed for Shawn to step in and have a moment in the spotlight. Devito, apparently unsure of the best way to respond to this, laughed and walked away. Perhaps he didn't even know who Shawn was!
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Don Johnson - Die Hard
Whether or not you recognize the name 'Don Johnson' is probably down to whether you were around to watch hit television shows during the 1980s. Johnson was one of the starts of 'Miami Vice.' which was definitely the best cop show of the decade. His career never really made it out of the 80s, and so he's a lesser-known name today. He only has himself to blame for that. He could have played John McClane in 'Die Hard,' and if he had, he'd probably still be starring in sequels today.
Johnson wasn't enamored with the script he read for the action movie, and decided that having been so closely associated with one police show, he'd rather not play a police officer in a movie. In doing so, he joined a list which includes Richard Gere and Al Pacino, who also turned 'Die Hard' down. That forced the producers to take a chance on the relatively-unknown Bruce Willis, and they never looked back.
Anne Hathaway - Knocked Up
Given everything that's happened since 'Knocked Up,' perhaps it would have been better if Anne Hathaway really had starred in the film instead of Katherine Heigl. Heigl has spoken out in the press a few times saying that she now feels like the part was sexist, and didn't agree with the way it portrayed women. Watching the movie - which is very funny - now doesn't feel the same because you know one of the main actors is hating every second of it.
Hathaway's objections had nothing to do with sexism - she just wasn't convinced she'd make a very convincing mother. She arrived at the part of the script where there's a (very graphic) birth scene, and told herself that she'd never be able to portray it properly, because she'd never given birth. We think that just for a moment, she may have forgotten what 'acting' was.
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Benicio Del Toro - Star Trek Into Darkness
In the second film of the revived 'Star Trek' movie franchise, J.J. Abrams made the questionable decision to go for something close to a remake of 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' instead of making an original film. He raised even more eyebrows when he cast 'Sherlock' actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the villainous Khan - Cumberbatch is a fine actor, but the original Khan played by Ricardo Montalban was a muscular hulk of a man - perfect for the genetically-engineered superhuman than Khan is supposed to be.
The plan makes a little more sense when you find out that it was originally Benicio Del Toro playing Khan; Del Toro is a little older and bulkier, and so would have probably been more convincing in the role. Unfortunately, the production company and Del Toro couldn't reach an agreement on how much the actor ought to be paid for his performance, and so Cumberbatch stepped in at the last minute.
Beyoncé - Beauty and the Beast
Having assessed this one, we think we're on Team Beyoncé. If you're going to cast Beyoncé Knowles in a movie, you have to offer her the main part. Knowles doesn't open for anybody else on stage, and nor does she sit below the billing of anybody else on screen. She's one of the very few genuine A-listers under the age of 50 in the entertainment world, and the offer she received from Disney for 'Beauty and the Beast' seems borderline insulting.
Knowles wasn't offered the part of Belle - a part that she'd probably have accepted. Instead, they'd asked her if she'd be interested in playing Plumette; a role which would eventually go to Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Bill Condon, who directed the film, confirmed that she'd said 'no' because it wasn't a big enough part for her. Scathingly, he added that he felt it was a shame because 'she'd have made a good feather duster.' Ouch!
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Charlie Hunnam - Fifty Shades of Grey
There's no middle ground when it comes to how people feel about 'Fifty Shades of Grey' - and we include both the movie and the book in that statement. People either love them, or they hate them. That means you probably think Charlie Hunnam's decision to back out of playing Christian Grey was either idiotic, or inspired. Given the lukewarm response the film received, Hunnam might have dodged a bullet, even if he regrets it.
Initially, Hunnam agreed to take the part, but he'd underestimated the attention that would come with it. Between the attention and his already-hectic filming schedule making 'Sons of Anarchy' and 'Crimson Peak, he started having panic attacks. Feeling unable to continue, he withdrew from the film and made way for Jamie Dornan. He says he still feels bad for letting director Sam Taylor-Johnson down, but his health had to come first.
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Spectre
We only know about this happened because somebody hacked Sony's emails and published them on the web, so we feel a little naughty about using this information. It's out there in the public domain, though, so we're going to go with it! The part of Agent C in the James Bond movie 'Spectre,' as so memorably played by Andrew Scott, was originally penciled in for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Not only that, Ejiofor would have earned $1m more than Scott if he'd agreed to do it.
There's no recorded reason as to why Ejiofor turned down the role, but we have a suspicion. At the time, there was a lot of speculation that 'Spectre' would be Daniel Craig's final 'Bond' film. Ejiofor was one of the names linked with the role in the press. If he'd taken it, he'd have been out of contention. Given that Craig decided to stay on and make another film, Ejiofor now has cause to regret that decision.
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Emily Blunt - The Avengers
So many major actors have been involved in the Marvel superhero movies that it almost feels like a slight for the Hollywood stars who were never asked to appear. Emily Blunt doesn't fall into that category - she was asked to play Black Widow - but was unable to solve a scheduling conflict to make it happen. Scarlett Johansson was free, and picked up several large paychecks for her work.
Blunt would have loved to do it, but had committed her time to 'Gulliver's Travels' when Black Widow was supposed to make her debut in the second 'Iron Man' movie. She's a little resentful that a deal couldn't have been worked out that would have allowed her to appear in both, and has since said that she's sad the two studios couldn't have 'worked together' for her. Changing a whole shooting schedule for one actor turned out to be too much to ask.
Emma Stone - Ghostbusters
The original 'Ghostbusters' films were just as much about the laughs as they were about the ghosts, and so when an all-female reboot of the franchise was announced, the casting appeared to be perfect. Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones were all proven comedy performers, and so they looked like perfect choices to play the four Ghostbusters. It would seem that at least one of them wasn't a first-choice pick, though. Emma Stone was approached to play a part, and rejected the offer.
Stone is a great actress, but isn't exactly known for her comedic flair. We don't know which part she would have played, but as a major star, it's hard to believe it wouldn't have been one of the lead roles. She says that she thought the script was funny, but didn't want to commit to 'a franchise' at the time. As no franchise emerged, she probably wishes she'd just signed on and showed the world that she knows how to make people laugh.
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Emma Watson - La La Land
Emma Stone might have been on the wrong side of a casting decision with 'Ghostbusters,' but what she lost out on with that film she made back with the critically-acclaimed 'La La Land,' and she was stepping into the shoes of another famous Emma to make it happen. That would be Emma Watson, best known for the 'Harry Potter' films, who'd have loved to be in 'La La Land,' but couldn't spare the time.
Watson was signed up for 'Beauty and the Beast,' and although she'd have been free on the filming days for 'La La Land,' she didn't have time for all the other work that would have gone into it. 'La La Land' called for a lot of singing and dancing, and Watson doesn't consider herself to be particularly gifted in either field. She'd have therefore had to undergo several months of training, and didn't have the time to invest in it.
Gwyneth Paltrow - Titanic
Towards the start of this list, we covered the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio might regret his decision to appear in 'Titanic' because he'd rather have been in 'Boogie Nights.' Gwyneth Paltrow has the opposite regret. She could have been in 'Titanic,' but passed on the role and let Kate Winslet play Rose instead. Winslet went from being almost a complete unknown to one of Hollywood's biggest female stars, and Paltrow kicked herself.
Things turned out just fine for Paltrow regardless, but the connection doesn't just stop there. Just like DiCaprio, Paltrow also turned down the chance to appear in 'Boogie Nights.' With DiCaprio and Paltrow in the lead roles, that could have been a completely different movie! She told the Howard Stern Show that she doesn't know why she let 'Titanic' slip, and puts it down to being 'just one of those things.'
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Hugh Jackman - Casino Royale
Things didn't turn out too well for George Lazenby - the only non-British actor ever to play James Bond - but that didn't stop another Australian being offered the part. When it was decided that Pierce Brosnan was too old to play a convincing 007 and would have to step down, the part was offered to 'X-Men' star Hugh Jackman, who made a major miscalculation in rejecting it.
Jackman believed - with some justification - that the more recent Bond films had become too campy and over-the-top, and would benefit from a more realistic angle. He didn't think a change in tone was likely, and so he passed. Daniel Craig came in instead - and gave the world a grittier and more realistic take on the famous secret agent. Jackman should probably have asked to read a script before he just turned the chance down out of hand.
Ja Rule - 2 Fast 2 Furious
Ja Rule making bad decisions involving money won't come as any surprise to anybody who's familiar with the tale of Fyre Fest, but that wasn't the first time he'd made a major miscalculation. The rapper played a minor role in the very first 'Fast and Furious' movie all the way back in 2001, and was offered half a million dollars to come back and appear in the next movie. Ja Rule felt like he was worth more than that, and said no.
The part he was earmarked for went to fellow rapper Ludacris, and Ludacris' character became a bigger and bigger part of the seemingly never-ending franchise as it progressed. Presumably, the paycheck for Ludacris got bigger every time his part expanded. Perhaps Ja Rule thought Fyre Fest might be a good way of making back all the money he'd missed out on.
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Jennifer Hudson - Precious
Without 'Precious' we may never have been introduced to the wonderful acting talents of Gabourey Sidibe, and for that, we should all be thankful. We so nearly missed out on her though - the producers originally wanted a bigger name for the part, and turned to a proven commodity in Jennifer Hudson. Hudson got their intentions all wrong. She was in the process of losing weight, and made the mistake of thinking she was only being offered the part because of her size.
She'd later recount the tale in her autobiography, and offered some further reasoning. According to Hudson, she found the script for 'Precious' emotionally effective, but wasn't sure she wanted to do some of the things that her character would have been required to do on screen. Her loss was Sidibe's gain, but Hudson's star continues to shine brightly regardless.
Kevin Hart - Tropic Thunder
Insecurity was the reason behind Kevin Hart's decision not to take up the role he was offered in 'Tropic Thunder' - but at least he's had the courage to admit it. Hart had the chance to play Alpa Chino in the comedy film, and was initially enthusiastic, but ran away from the production when he found out that his character would be gay. He didn't feel like he could 'commit to' playing a gay man on screen, and so withdrew from talks.
Since then, Hart has confirmed that he has nothing against gay people or the gay lifestyle, and that his inability to take on such roles says more about his own state of mind than anybody else's. He's stopped short of saying that he'd approach things differently now, but his more recent statements at least suggest that he has a little more emotional maturity than he used to.
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Michael B. Jordan - Straight Outta Compton
'Straight Outta Compton' is the tale of rap legends the NWA, and there was nobody more important to the NWA than Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre would probably have loved to play himself on film, but as he's now too old to play himself as a teenager or a man in his early 20s, someone else was required. Dre knew exactly who he wanted to play himself - Michael B. Jordan.
Jordan was flattered, and would have loved to say yes, but he'd just agreed to deal to appear in 'The Fantastic Four,' which was a box-office disaster. By contrast, 'Straight Outta Compton' featuring Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, brought in $160m. The 'Fantastic Four' reboot didn't even manage a third of that amount. Given the choice again, Jordan would probably have made his apologies to the 'Fantastic Four' crew and gone with Dre instead.
Sarah Michelle Gellar - Clueless
For all the promise that Sarah Michelle Gellar's career once had when she was the star of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' she never quite made it in the upper echelons on the movie world. How different might things have been if she'd been shown a little more understanding from the producers of soap opera 'All My Children?'
Gellar was tapped for the part of Amber, playing against Alicia Silverstone in 'Clueless.' She was all for it, and wanted to play the part, but 'All My Children' refused to release her from her contract. The studio making 'Clueless' even tried to buy her out, but they wouldn't budge. The part eventually went to Eliza Donovan instead, and a furious Gellar left 'All My Children' as soon as her contract expired, refusing even to discuss signing a new one. We can't say we blame her.
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Sean Connery - The Lord Of The Rings
Although he won't be drawn on whether he's formally retired from acting, Sean Connery hardly ever accepts movie work anymore - and hasn't done for some time. Peter Jackson tried to lure him back to the big time by offering him the chance to play Gandalf in 'The Lord of The Rings,' but hit a stumbling block when it transpired than Connery was no fan of fantasy films, and had never read the original Tolkien books.
Connery wrote back to Jackson and politely thanked him for the offer, but said he didn't understand the script or the character. Ian McKellan got the part instead, and Connery watched as the movies made huge sums of money at the box office. Resolving that he'd accept the next script he found a little strange, Connery agreed to appear in 'the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' when he got the chance. It was good, but we're sad we never got to hear 'You shall not pass!' in Connery's accent.
Tom Selleck - Indiana Jones
Most actors who work in television would rather be making movies, but there are exceptions to that rule. One of them is Tom Selleck. He'll always be most famous for playing 'Magnum P.I.,' but he could have been Indiana Jones instead. What's more, he had an informed choice between the two, and chose to stay on the small screen!
Selleck received offers to appear in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and 'Magnum P.I.' at the same time, and the detective show won. It's possible that Selleck didn't see the potential for the first 'Indiana Jones' movie to expand into a multimillion-dollar franchise, and so felt like Magnum offered him better long-term security. You have to think that he's since looked back on that choice and questioned whether it was the right call. Really, though - Indiana Jones with a mustache? We're not sure it would have worked!
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Angela Bassett - Monster's Ball
Sometimes, we're left wondering whether the scripts actors are sent when they're deciding whether to play a part are even vaguely similar to the final script. If they are, then we can't fathom how Angela Bassett got it so wrong when she was asked if she wanted to appear in Monster's Ball. Bassett sounds like she was annoyed by what she read - she thought her character Leticia was a prostitute, and said she wouldn't 'demean herself' by playing such a part on film.
As we now know, Leticia wasn't a prostitute at all - she was just a married waitress who became involved in an affair. Halle Berry was the beneficiary of Bassett's confusion, and knocked it out of the park with her performance. In doing so, she became the first African-American 'Best Actress' winner in the history of the Oscars. That historical achievement could have been Bassett's, and she let it pass her by.
Chevy Chase - American Beauty
We love Chevy Chase just as much as the next person who watched his comedy films during the 1980s, but he's missed out on some incredible opportunities since then. Like John Travolta, he was once in the frame to play Forrest Gump, but didn't understand the role and let it go. That wasn't the worst of his offenses, though. He could have completely revitalized his career by taking on the lead male role in 'American Beauty.'
In rejecting the role, Chase said that he was concerned that his 'family-friendly' image would forever be damaged if he'd accepted the part. The produces moved on to Kevin Spacey, and Spacey landed himself the 'Best Actor' Oscar. We could now be living in a reality where Chase was an Oscar winner, but instead, he's stuck in a reality where he doesn't get any work anymore. That 'family-friendly' image isn't doing him much good!
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Mel Gibson - Gladiator
'Gladiator' is an all-time great film, and it's baffling that anybody wouldn't have wanted a part in it - especially if it was the lead role! Russell Crowe gave a career-defining performance as the movie's leading man, but Mel Gibson was given the first refusal on the part - and decided that 'refusal' was the path he wanted to go down. We're not sure what his reasoning was, but we don't buy into what he said at the time.
In rejecting 'Gladiator,' Gibson said that he was simply too old to be an action movie star anymore. That argument might have held more weight if he hadn't played the lead role in 'Braveheart' just a couple of years earlier. He'd also go back to action roles a few years down the line. Why didn't he do 'Gladiator?' Who knows - but we're confident that he now wishes he had done!

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