50 Celebrities Who Turned Down Major Movie Roles
It's hard to imagine Legally Blonde without Reese Witherspoon. Or what about Titanic without Kate Winslet??? But hang on to your hats, kids, because both parts almost went to completely different actors. Whether they declined because of scheduling conflicts or due to those classic "creative differences," here are 50 actors who turned down major movie roles (and some of them probably regret their decisions, to be honest!).
Anne Hathaway – Alison (Katherine Heigl) in Knocked Up
Hathaway turned down Katherine Heigl’s part of Alison Scott in Knocked Up, telling Allure it was because of the movie’s explicit birth scene. "My issue with it was that having not experienced motherhood myself, I didn't know how I was gonna feel on the other side about giving birth,” she said.
Benicio Del Toro – Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Star Trek: Into Darkness
Del Toro was in talks to play the iconic villain Khan in the 2013 Star Trek sequel, but the star walked away from negotiations after he and the production weren’t able to agree on the pay, Vulture reported. The buzzy part ended up in the lap of Benedict Cumberbatch instead.
Beyoncé – Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in Beauty and the Beast
Director Bill Condon wanted Ms. Knowles-Carter for the live-action remake of the Disney classic, but not to play Belle, as one might expect. “I tried to get her into Beauty and the Beast, but it wasn’t a big enough part,” he told Yahoo! Entertainment. “She would have been a good feather duster.” Mon Dieu! It’s no surprise that she turned down the small role of Plumette, which went to Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Charlie Hunnam – Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in Fifty Shades of Grey
Hunnam famously pulled out of the much-hyped Fifty Shades adaptation, with the part eventually going to Jamie Dornan. Scheduling conflicts between the movie, his show Sons of Anarchy, and the Guillermo del Toro film Crimson Peak became too much to handle, and Hunnam called Fifty Shades director Sam Taylor-Johnson with the bad news. “We both cried our eyes out on the phone for 20 minutes,” he told V Man. “There was a lot of personal stuff going on in my life that left me on real emotional shaky ground and mentally weak. I just got myself so f--king overwhelmed, and I was sort of having panic attacks about the whole thing.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor – C (Andrew Scott) in Spectre
The 12 Years a Slave star appeared to decline a hefty paycheck to play the villainous role of C in the 2015 James Bond entry, Spectre. Emails from the Sony hack indicated that Sherlock’s Andrew Scott snapped up the role for a million dollars less.
Christina Applegate – Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) in Legally Blonde
Applegate admitted that she received the script for Legally Blonde just after finishing her show Married… With Children, and she was worried Elle Woods was too similar of a role. “I got scared of kind of repeating myself,” she told Entertainment Tonight, adding, “What a stupid move that was, right?”
Emily Blunt – Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Iron Man 2
Blunt came very close to starring as one of the Avengers when she was cast in Iron Man 2 for Black Widow’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, scheduling issues with the movie Gulliver’s Travels led to her dropping out. “It was one of things that was conflicting,” Blunt told MTV News. “So it’s a shame the two of them couldn’t work together. It just got complicated, so I think I had to pull out for my own sanity more than anything.”
Emma Roberts – Brit (Ashley Benson) in Spring Breakers
Scream Queens star Emma Roberts was set to star as one of the main gals in Spring Breakers alongside Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. But she pulled out of the film, with director Harmony Korine chalking it up to “creative differences.” He told the New York Post, “I make a specific type of film, and it goes hard. It’s not always for everyone.” Pretty Little Liars star Ashley Benson replaced Roberts in the indie hit.
Emma Stone – Unknown role in Ghostbusters
When it was announced that Paul Feig would be directing an all-female version of Ghostbusters, the internet was flooded with articles dreaming up the perfect cast. Even original star Bill Murray voiced his picks, a list that included Stone. Feig apparently agreed, as Stone later revealed she’d turned down a role in the movie after starring in The Amazing Spider-Man films. “The script was really funny,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “It just didn’t feel like the right time for me. A franchise is a big commitment—it’s a whole thing. I think maybe I need a minute before I dive back into that water.” Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon ended up as the flick’s leading ladies instead.
Emma Watson – Mia (Emma Stone) in La La Land
A different Emma was originally reported to star in the Oscar-nominated musical La La Land, but Watson was unable to take on the role due to her commitment to Beauty and the Beast. “I knew I had horse training, I knew I had dancing, I knew I had three months of singing ahead of me, and I knew I had to be in London to really do that,” she said in a SiriusXM Town Hall interview. “And this wasn’t a movie I could just kind of parachute into. I knew I had to do the work, and I had to be where I had to be. So scheduling conflict-wise, it just didn’t work out.”
Gwyneth Paltrow – Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) in Titanic
After confessing to Howard Stern in 2015 that she declined a part in Boogie Nights, Paltrow attempted to evade discussion of passing on the iconic role of Rose in Titanic. "My mother will kill me that I'm talking about turning down movie roles," Paltrow said. "She says it's not ladylike." She added that she “couldn’t change the past.”
Hugh Jackman – James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Casino Royale
Jackman told Variety that when the search was on for a new James Bond to follow Pierce Brosnan in Casino Royale, a call came asking if he’d be interested. He wasn’t. “I just felt at the time that the scripts had become so unbelievable and crazy, and I felt like they needed to become grittier and real,” he said. “And the response was: ‘Oh, you don’t get a say. You just have to sign on.’ I was also worried that between Bond and X-Men, I’d never have time to do different things.”
Jake Gyllenhaal – Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) in Suicide Squad
After Tom Hardy dropped out of Suicide Squad owing to a packed schedule, Warner Bros. reportedly sought out Gyllenhaal for the role of Rick Flag. Alas, he declined the part that eventually found its way to Joel Kinnaman. This happened just a year after Gyllenhaal dropped out of Into the Woods because of a scheduling conflict with Nightcrawler. He was to play Rapunzel’s Prince, which went to Billy Magnussen.
Ja Rule – Tej (Ludacris) in 2 Fast 2 Furious
The rapper played the small role of Edwin in 2001’s original The Fast and the Furious, and the sequel’s director John Singleton offered him a nice pay day to return. “Ja got too big for himself. He turned it down. He turned down a half a million dollars,” Singleton told Grantland. “He was acting like he was too big to be in the sequel. He wouldn’t return calls. I went to the studio to go see him — that’s just my mantra, I deal with a lot of music people. He was kinda playing me to the side and I was like, ‘What? What is this s--t?’ This was all initiated by me. I then made a call. I called Ludacris.” Ludacris, of course, became a key part of the massive franchise, starring in five films so far.
Jennifer Hudson – Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) in Precious
The Oscar-winning American Idol alum admitted in her autobiography, I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down, that she was moved by the Precious script, but “wanted to try a role that had nothing to do whatsoever with [her] weight.” She later backtracked that comment and told the Huffington Post, “I just felt the character was doing things, at least in my script that I got, that were places I did not want to go and not where I needed to go.” The film’s title role instead turned Gabourey Sidibe into an Oscar nominee and household name.
Jennifer Lawrence – Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in The Hateful Eight
Director Quentin Tarantino told Entertainment Weekly he met with Lawrence to discuss starring in his movie, The Hateful Eight, but it was to no avail. “She was just doing me a courtesy to see me, I think,” he said. “She was doing Joy. She had to do all this publicity on the Hunger Games movies. There was just no f—ing way in the world that she was available.” Jennifer Jason Leigh, 28 years her senior, took the part instead and landed her first Oscar nod.
Kevin Hart – Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) in Tropic Thunder
In a 2015 interview with New York’s Power 105.1 radio station, Hart revealed he turned down the part of closeted rapper Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder because he didn’t want to play a gay character. “The dude, he was doing a lot of stuff in the draft that I read," Hart said. "It was real flagrant… I was like, 'I can't do this.'” He then went on to say he didn’t see himself ever taking on a gay role: “I can't. Not because I have any ill will or disrespect. It's because I don't think I'm really going to dive into that role 100 percent because of insecurities about myself trying to play that part.”
Leonardo DiCaprio – Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) in The Imitation Game
Deadline reported in 2011 that Leonardo DiCaprio had “the inside track” to play Alan Turing in what would become The Imitation Game, but a year later Variety said he was “no longer… eyeing the lead.” Benedict Cumberbatch eventually filled the mathematician’s shoes and garnered an Oscar nod for his work. An in-demand leading man, DiCaprio has also turned down roles in Boogie Nights and Steve Jobs.
Lindsay Lohan – Jade (Heather Graham) in The Hangover
In 2009, it was widely reported that Lindsay Lohan had passed on the role of Jade the stripper in the original The Hangover, a part that ended up in Heather Graham’s hands. Years later, director Todd Phillips refuted this, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “Honestly, it felt like she ended up being too young for what we were talking about. People love to attack her for everything, like: ‘Ha, she didn't see how great The Hangover was going to be. She turned it down.’ She didn't turn it down. She loved the script, actually. It really was an age thing.”
Mark Wahlberg – Lead role in Brokeback Mountain
Wahlberg reportedly told Premiere magazine that he read the script for the gay romance Brokeback Mountain and was “a little creeped out.” "It was very graphic, descriptive," he said. "I told [director] Ang Lee, 'I like you, you're a talented guy, if you want to talk about it more...' Thankfully he didn't." The resulting film starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, both of whom received Oscar nominations.
Matt Damon – Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in Avatar
Damon passed on the lead role in Avatar due to a scheduling conflict with The Bourne Ultimatum. Avatar went on to become the highest-grossing film worldwide of all time, leading Damon to joke to Access Hollywood, “Clearly my not participating cost the film a lot.” Damon has a history of turning down big roles: he also declined to play the titular superhero in Daredevil and passed on playing Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight because of another scheduling issue.
Matthew McConaughey – Ego (Kurt Russell) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
In an interview with Playboy, McConaughey claimed to have turned down a big role in the Guardians of the Galaxy film in favor of the Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower. “I like Guardians of the Galaxy, but what I saw was, ‘It’s successful, and now we’ve got room to make a colorful part for another big-name actor.’ I’d feel like an amendment.” McConaughey didn’t reveal what role this was — Vulture speculated it could have been a character cut from an early version — but reports that it was a villain indicate it may have been Kurt Russell’s Ego.
Michael B. Jordan – Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) in Straight Outta Compton
Dr. Dre reportedly wanted Michael B. Jordan to play him in Straight Outta Compton, the NWA biopic. But Jordan accepted the role of the Human Torch in the ill-fated Fantastic Four reboot, making him unavailable. Corey Hawkins got the part in Compton, which became a runaway box office success in the U.S. with $160 million in receipts compared to Fantastic Four’s paltry $56 million.
Reese Witherspoon – Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) in Scream
Early in the movie’s development, Drew Barrymore was set to play Sidney, but she changed her mind and wanted to play Casey, who is famously killed off in the movie’s first few minutes. A casting hunt led to an offer for Reese Witherspoon, who turned it down, paving the way for Party of Five star Neve Campbell to swoop in.
Sarah Michelle Gellar – Amber (Elisa Donovan) in Clueless
Clueless co-producer Adam Schroeder loved Gellar on the soap opera she was then starring on, All My Children. After he showed tapes of her to writer-director Amy Heckerling, they offered Gellar the role of Cher’s nemesis, Amber. “There became a big negotiation for All My Children to let her out,” Schroeder told Vanity Fair. “It was just for a couple of weeks, and they absolutely stuck their feet in [and] wouldn’t let her.” Gellar had no choice but to turn down the movie.
Selena Gomez – Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato) in Camp Rock
In an E! special about Gomez, Disney Channel’s Gary Marsh revealed that Gomez was the original pick for the music-centric movie that starred Demi Lovato opposite Joe Jonas. “She wasn’t ready to explore that part of her talent yet,” said Marsh. “She wanted to build her acting base first.”
Willow Smith – Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) in Annie
The Will Smith-produced Annie remake was originally intended as a star vehicle for Smith’s daughter, Willow. Will revealed to an audience at Temple University why that didn’t happen: “Willow had such a difficult time on tour with [her song] ‘Whip My Hair’ and she said, 'You know Daddy, I don't think so,' and I said, 'Baby, hold up!' I said, 'No, no, no, listen, you'll be in New York with all of your friends… You will be singing and dancing,' and she looked at me and said, 'Daddy, I have a better idea, how about I just be 12.'” Beasts of the Southern Wild breakout Quvenzhané Wallis took over and earned a Golden Globe nomination.
Will Smith – Neo (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix
Smith turned down the lead role of Neo in The Matrix, which ultimately went to Keanu Reeves. “In the pitch, I just didn't see it,” he later explained to Wired. “I watched Keanu's performance — and very rarely do I say this — but I would have messed it up… 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.” Years later, Smith also passed on the title role in Django Unchained, which went to Jamie Foxx. He told The Hollywood Reporter he felt the movie should have been “a love story, not a vengeance story.”
Zendaya – Aaliyah (Alexandra Shipp) in Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B
Zendaya was cast as the late R&B star in a Lifetime biopic, but after backlash ensued, Zendaya pulled out of the TV movie. "The reason why I chose not to do the Aaliyah movie had nothing to do with the haters or people telling me that I couldn't do it, I wasn't talented enough, or I wasn't black enough,” she explained in an Instagram video. "The main reasons were the production value wasn't there, there were complications with the music rights, and I just felt like it wasn't being handled delicately considering the situation." She went on to add that she’d been unsuccessful in reaching out to Aaliyah’s family, so she did not feel “morally okay” doing the movie. She was replaced by Alexandra Shipp, who went on to appear in Straight Outta Compton and X-Men: Apocalypse.
Angela Bassett – Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry) in Monster’s Ball
Halle Berry became the first (and thus far only) African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, thanks to her work as Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball. But it could’ve been Angela Bassett, who turned down the part. “It’s about character, darling,” she told Newsweek. “I wasn’t going to be a prostitute on film. I couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality.”
Julia Roberts – Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Shakespeare in Love
In an essay published on The Daily Mail in 2014, actor Simon Callow, who played Sir Edmund Tilney in Shakespeare in Love, revealed that the film’s leads could’ve looked completely different. Instead of Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes as Viola de Lesseps and Shakespeare, respectively, the roles were initially offered to Julia Roberts and Daniel Day-Lewis. When DDL turned it down, so did Roberts.
Tiffany Haddish – Unknown role in Get Out
Haddish revealed in April 2018 during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers Jordan Peele initially approached her to audition for his film. “I was like, ‘Aw man. Look, I don’t do scary movies, dog. I don’t do that. You know, that’s demonized kind of stuff. I don’t let that in my house.” Get Out would gross $255 million at the box office and take home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
John Lithgow – The Joker (Jack Nicholson) in Batman
When it came time for Tim Burton to cast Batman, he didn't only look at the legendary Jack Nicholson for the role. In 2017, John Lithgow told Vulture a story about his audition for the comic book villain in which, "I tried to persuade him I was not right for the part, and I succeeded."
Sean Connery – Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in The Lord of the Rings
There is a world where Sir Ian McKellen doesn't play Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and we're really just not okay with that. Apparently the role was supposed to go to Sean Connery. This may be one franchise Connery regrets not being a part of, as the films made over $2.91 billion in total box office sales.
John Travolta – Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) in Forrest Gump
Apparently life, and casting decisions, are like a box of chocolates—you never know what you're gonna get. Or at least director Robert Zemeckis didn't know who his main character would be after John Travolta turned down the role of Forrest Gump in favor of Pulp Fiction. Tom Hanks stepped in so it all worked out.
Warren Beatty – Bill (David Carradine) in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2
Warren Beatty was all set to play Bill in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1, but the actor dropped out when he learned of the intense filming schedule in China. The director then looked at Die Hard star Bruce Willis, and eventually landed on David Carradine.
Sarah Jessica Parker – Lydia (Winona Ryder) in Beetlejuice
And we couldn't help but wonder... if Sarah Jessica Parker would have wound up as Carrie Bradshaw if she hadn't turned down the dark role of Lydia in Beetlejuice. Instead, Winona Ryder played the role and the Stranger Things actress has made a name for herself in sci-fi type projects ever since.
Leonardo DiCaprio – Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in American Psycho
Leonardo DiCaprio was king of the world back in 2000: He had already starred in the award-winning Titanic and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, but he let the role in the cult classic American Psycho pass him by.
Sandra Bullock – Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) in Million Dollar Baby
Sandra Bullock tried to get the movie about a professional boxer made for years, but by the time it was green-lit, she was attached to Crash, so Hilary Swank starred in Million Dollar Baby instead and won an Oscar for the role.
Michelle Pfeiffer – Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) in Basic Instinct
Basic Instinct is Sharon Stone's most successful movie to date—and the actress has Michelle Pfeiffer to thank for passing on the thriller in the first place.
Jennifer Connelly – Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) in Pretty Woman
It was Julia Roberts that Richard Gere brought back to the Beverly Wilshire that fateful night. But before the decision on Roberts was made, director Garry Marshall looked at a lot of young actresses. Jennifer Connelly was in the running as a top choice, but she ultimately withdrew her name because she felt she was too young for the part.
Rachel McAdams – Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) in The Devil Wears Prada
We can't imagine anyone but Anne Hathaway playing the overwhelmed and fashion-challenged Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada, but Rachel McAdams was considered before the young Princess Diaries star. Anne ended up with the role though and thank goodness because "it's a tough call, they're so different."
Will Smith – Django (Jamie Foxx) in Django Unchained
Will Smith reportedly turned down the role of Django in the Oscar-nominated Django Unchained due to "creative differences." The role ended up going to Jamie Foxx.
Al Pacino – Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Harrison Ford was already a household name in Hollywood when he got Star Wars, but it was still one of his biggest roles in his career—and it's all because Al Pacino passed on the role. Ah, what could have been.
Tom Cruise – Ren (Kevin Bacon) in Footloose
Instead of Kevin Bacon, it could have been Tom Cruise getting down in Footloose. The actor who had already starred in Top Gun and Risky Business was approached for the role before Bacon, but he had scheduling conflicts as he was committed to All the Right Moves.
Tom Hanks – Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) in Jerry Maguire
The writer and director of Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe, revealed that he wrote the script with Tom Hanks in mind to play the lead, but when the movie was being cast, Hanks was directing That Thing You Do. So they went with another Tom: Mr. Cruise.
Burt Reynolds – James Bond (David Niven) in James Bond
Burt Reynolds famously passed on a bunch of projects that he couldn't see himself doing (including Han Solo in Star Wars!). The actor was considered for Sean Connery's replacement in the franchise in 1967, but he didn't think the public would like a James Bond with an American accent. "It was a stupid thing to say, I could've done it and I could've done it well," Reynolds told USA Today in 2015.
Julia Roberts – Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) in Sleepless in Seattle
Julia Roberts is no stranger to romantic comedies, but in 1993 she turned down the chance to be a part of Sleepless in Seattle—arguably one of the genre's greatest films. Instead, another rom-com alum, Meg Ryan, took the role.
Thomas Jane – Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in Mad Men
Because of Mad Men, we have Jon Hamm (the AMC show was his breakout hit) and for that, we're eternally grateful. But in 2011, Hamm let it slip that another actor was considered but *passed* on the role of Don Draper. "I think they went to Thomas Jane for it, and they were told that Thomas Jane does not do television. Now starring in Hung, by the way," Hamm told the WTF with Marc Maron podcast.
Mel Gibson – Maximus (Russell Crowe) in Gladiator
Mel Gibson was one of Hollywood's biggest hitters back in 2000, but the Braveheart star turned down the role of Maximus in Gladiator, because of the rigor of the action scenes. Also, apparently he thought he was too old for the part.
From: Cosmopolitan US