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Actors Who Turned Down Iconic Roles

Whenever you think of certain movies, iconic roles are tied to specific actors. When you think about Jack and Rose from Titanic, you don’t picture characters; you picture Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. This isn’t our fault; it’s just the way the human mind works. We will hate real people just because they play a character that we don’t like. We’ll have puppy love crushes simply because we fell in love with the actor’s role in a teen movie.

But have you ever really thought about what would happen if entirely different actors played these characters? Almost every role known to man was once to close to belonging to someone else. That’s why we’re here to talk about actors who turned down iconic roles!

Henry Winkler as Danny Zuko

This one makes so much sense that we wonder why it didn’t happen. Most people these days know Henry Winkler as the 70-year-old man who plays in comedies and random Christmas movies. But those from the 70s know that he was the coolest cat in town.

As a young man, Henry Winkler played a Danny Zuko-like character called The Fonz in a show called Happy Days, kids. This means he was a shoe-in for Zuko when Grease came around. So why did he turn it down? He didn’t want to be typecast. He wanted to break away from that leather jacket-wearing cool guy role. You know what we have to say about that? Why, though?

Star2
Star2

Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones

This one is a shocker. If you think about it, it could work. But fans of Indiana Jones now see it as a disgrace. I mean, Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. He is hardly even Harrison Ford. The only reason anyone sees him as anyone else is because he was Han Solo in Star Wars.

Would the Magnum P.I/Western cowboy have been a great Indiana? Lucky for us, there’s actually an audition tape out there. He did a swell job, so why didn’t he take the role? Because Magnum P.I wouldn’t let him. Whether that was a blessing or a curse is still unknown.

Sonic Tremor Media
Sonic Tremor Media

Christopher Walken as Han Solo

Many stars were given the chance to be Han Solo before Harrison Ford took the role. Those include Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russel, and most famously: Christopher Walken.

Why in the world Christopher Walken didn’t take it is beyond us, but that would have made the movies so much more interesting. Harrison Ford is cool, but Christopher Walken is one-of-a-kind-entertaining.

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Etsy

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Cher Horwitz

As if! Can you imagine Sarah Michelle Gellar, vampire slayer, dressing in Prada? At the time, she wanted to accept the offer to play Cher in the teen comedy Clueless. But due to her role in All My Children stealing the spot, she was forced to turn it down. We much preferred her as bootie-kickin’ baddie Buffy in Buffy, The Vampire Slayer anyway.

eonline
eonline

Mark Wahlberg as Jack Twist

Before Jake Gyllenhaal was known throughout the land as gay cowboy Jack Twist, Mark Wahlberg owned the coveted position if he’d accept it. However, he turned it down profusely, disgusted by the thought of kissing Heath Ledger.


“I met with Ang Lee on that movie, I read 15 pages of the script and got a little creeped out,” Wahlberg told the press. “It was very graphic, descriptive – the spitting on the hand, getting ready to do the thing. I told Ang Lee, ‘I like you, you’re a talented guy if you want to talk about it more.’ Thankfully, he didn’t. I didn’t rush to see Brokeback, it’s just not my deal. Obviously, it was done in taste — look how it was received.”

uproxx
uproxx

Jack Nicholson as Michael Corleone

The Godfather series is one of the most critically-acclaimed of all time and never fails to appear in personal movie libraries. It was the movie to make Al Pacino a household name and give him an “image.” He made Michael, and he did it well. But did you know that Jack Nicholson was asked to do the role first?

Jack’s exact words on why he turned it down were, ”Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians … There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone. I can't think of a better compliment to pay him.”

NY Daily News
NY Daily News

Emma Watson as Mia Dolan

Emma Watson perhaps has the wisest answer for why she didn’t take a role. A role which she would have done fabulously, just as Emma Stone did. Emma Watson said that she could have done it, but she wanted her focus to be on Beauty and the Beast. It wasn’t fair to split herself like that, as it would make her role as Belle less of an impact.

A wise decision, but we’d still like to see her in two musicals in the same year!

NME
NME

Al Pacino as Edward Lewis

Richard Gere did a stellar job in Pretty Woman. He killed the role of a passionate, yet respectful older gentleman falling for a young prostitute. But what if mob boss Al Pacino would have landed the role of Edward Lewis? That’s kind of disturbing.

“Now listen here, Viv, I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse. There are negotiations being made that are going to answer all of your questions and solve all of your problems. If you’d like to insult my intelligence and refuse to comply, listen here…have you ever heard of a pezzonovante?”

Major Ten
Major Ten

Emily Blunt as Black Widow

These days, we can’t even imagine anyone other than Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. She does an amazing job at adding a bit of seduction to Marvel’s role. But before she was even considered, Emily Blunt was flat out asked to star in two Marvel films. She was asked to be Black Widow and Captain Marvel, but she refused both times.

She admitted that scheduling conflicts prevented her from accepting. But she also “doesn't feel overly comfortable talking about the potential roles ‘because it’s not fair to the actresses who ended up playing them.’” How honorable!

World Lifestyle
World Lifestyle

Julia Roberts as Margaret Tate

The Proposal was one of the better rom-coms of 2009, and Sandra Bullock was one of the reasons for this. But could Julia Roberts have done just as good? Actually, both of Bullock’s biggest movies (The Blind Side and The Proposal) were offered to Julia first.

Insiders say the reason Julia Roberts said no was because she, “didn’t want to lower her salary.”

Hollywood
Hollywood

Sean Connery as Gandalf

The role of the great wizard Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series ended up going to Ian McKellen. But he wasn’t the first choice. Producers wanted Sean Connery to take the role. This strangely seemed to work. But Sean just said no. Why? Because he didn’t get it. He didn’t understand what it meant to be a wizard. He thinks that Ian did a great job, but he just wouldn’t have.

Sources say that ”In addition to a US$10 million per film salary, they offered Connery 15 percent of the box office for all three movies. In what would turn out to be a monumentally poor decision, Connery declined the part because he ”did not understand the script”.

Quora
Quora

Michelle Pfeiffer as Clarice Starling

Clarice Starling was not a role that just anyone could play, but Jodie Foster ended up pulling it off in Silence of the Lambs. But before she was tagged to the role, Michelle Pfeiffer was asked to do it. Meg Ryan was also offered the role but she was offended by the entire movie! Michelle was a little less straightforward and simply said she was, “concerned about the darkness of the piece.”

Jodie ended up being the perfect fit anyway, unafraid of the dark movie.

Read It On The Web
Read It On The Web

Cher as Morticia Addams

This is legit. While Cher might not be anyone’s favorite actress, it’s safe to save that Morticia got many of her style cues from Cher herself. So, of course, she would have done the role justice.

In the end, Anjelica Huston was flawless and made us fall in love with Morticia, so it all worked out. But I’d still like to see Cher on Broadway playing the role.

Last FM
Last FM

Ray Liotta as Tony Soprano

Getting its start in 2007, The Sopranos soon became one of the most popular American crime dramas in history. One of the biggest roles went to James Gandolfini and he was marvelous. But one man was offered the role before him and that was Ray Liotta.

He ended up saying no because he didn’t want toe two-year contract that came with it. He would rather spread out his focus.

Uproxx
Uproxx

Whitney Houston as Sondra Huxtable

The Cosby Show was one of the 80s and 90s best sitcoms! But what if Whitney Houston would have starred in the show? Surely it would have been ten times more popular! But she turned it down so she could focus on her singing career.

It was a good move because while the show was airing she was touring and singing songs like I Will Always Love You, I Have Nothing, and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

E! Online
E! Online

Christina Applegate as Elle Woods

While Reese Witherspoon was the perfect Elle Woods, whose to say that Christina Applegate wouldn’t have been too? She’s now known for movies like Vacation, Married, With Children, and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. But she could have been known for her role as Legally Blonde. That is if she wouldn’t have chickened out of the role.

”The script came along my way, and it was right after I had just finished, Married [...with Children], and it was a blonde who in that first script didn't win it but ends up going to Yale or Harvard, I don't remember,” Applegate revealed. ”I got scared of kind of repeating myself.”

US Weekly
US Weekly

Angelina Jolie as Alex Munday

Would-be co-stars Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz begged Angelina Jolie to tag along for the Charlie’s Angels ride. She said, “the reasons to do it would be to play a tough girl, and I’ve already done that. Plus, I don’t wanna be that exposed by being in a really big movie.” She then concluded that she simply wasn’t famous enough. “Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz are already celebrities, and they’ll have great fun spoofing their images in Charlie’s Angels,” Jolie said at the time. “I’m not at that point in my career, so audiences won’t have as much fun watching me run around in high heels chasing bad guys and flipping my hair.”

Film Ink
Film Ink

Jim Carrey as Buddy the Elf

This makes sense at first, but in the end, we’re glad that Will Ferrell got the role. Somehow, he manages to make Buddy innocent. We’re not sure that Jim Carrey could pull that off. It would have been fun to watch, but keeping the film PG was definitely worth it in this case.

That isn’t why he turned it down though. He turned it down because it took too long to produce and he got bored. That was simple.

Uproxx
Uproxx

Paul Giamatti as Michael Scott

By far Steve Carell’s best role, Michael Scott in The Office is hilariously entertaining. Do you think Paul Giamatti could have entertained us like Steve Carell did? Maybe, but we can’t imagine anyone nailing it like Carell did.


Either way, we’re not really sure why Paul Giamatti turned this one down. Both men are extremely famous, but considering Steve’s net worth is about twice as much as Paul’s, it’s safe to say Paul regrets his decision.

Wet Paint
Wet Paint

Jim Carrey as Edward Scissorhands

Here we go! Johnny Depp was 100% the most perfectly creepy and innocent Edward Scissorhands. But what if Jim Carrey were to take on the role? Things may have gone south. Jim Carrey is freakin’ hilarious, but could he have done the makeup? He does a great job as the Grinch, but what about a sweet artificial boy with blades for hands?

Carrey felt that taking on such a dramatic role at that point in his career would have put it in danger. He felt he would have messed it up and made it far too comedic.

Esquire
Esquire

John Travolta as Forrest Gump

Is it just me or is John Travolta too cool to play Forrest Gump? Not that Gump wasn’t cool, but he wasn’t John Travolta cool. He was Tom Hanks cool. We don’t really know why he turned down the role but has since admitted that it was a mistake. He says he would never trade his life for Tom Hanks’, but he would go back and take Forrest Gump and Apollo 13 from him. Rude!

Major Ten
Major Ten

Tom Cruise as Tony Stark

Just no. When they decided to make Ben Affleck Batman, the world rightfully booed producers. The same would have happened if Tom Cruise would have become Iron Man. The role has made Robert Downing Jr. and he made Iron Man in return.

Tom Cruise’s reason for not becoming Tony was that it just didn’t feel right. “I don’t know. It just … they came to me at a certain point and … when I do something, I wanna do it right,” he said, “If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it’s gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn’t feel to me like it was gonna work.”

Quirky Byte
Quirky Byte

Johnny Depp as Ferris Bueller

Here’s one that we’re kind of torn on. Johnny Depp could have done that careless skipping-school attitude, but he would have lacked the type of humor needed for the role of Ferris Bueller. Johnny Depp has turned down many roles. At the time of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, he wasn’t that famous. He only had a few small roles in movies/series’ like Lady Blue, Slow Burn, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. His first big film, Cry-Baby, wasn’t released for three years.

Screen Crush
Screen Crush

Bill Murray as Batman

Please! The only thing that Batman and Bill Murray have in common is that “I don’t care if I live to see tomorrow,” attitude. Long before Michael Keaton became the Bat, Bill Murray was set to star in his own film as The Dark Knight. This would put David Bowie as The Joker! What an awesome idea! The film never made it and Murray wasn’t too into it.

Years later, when Michael Keaton’s time came, Tim Burton fought for Bill Murray, but the man refused the role.

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Ranker

Will Smith as Superman

This was so the world would purposely meet a black Superman, but Will Smith’s reason for not taking Brandon Routh’s role was rather counterproductive.


“I had already done Jim West,” Smith spoke of Wild Wild West, “and you can’t be messing up white people’s heroes in Hollywood! You mess up white people’s heroes in Hollywood, you’ll never work in this town again!”

Moviefone
Moviefone

Matthew Broderick as Walter White

Although Matthew Broderick did a fantastic job in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have killed Walter like Bryan has. We could have been surprised by what Matthew did with the role, but we’ll never get to find out.

He was told to study the script and if he liked it, it was his. He never called them back, so we guess he didn’t like it.

Major Ten
Major Ten

Matt Damon as Jake Sully

Matt Damon may not have been a bad Jake Sully in Avatar, but the movie introduced us to one of today’s greatest stars. Sam Worthington wasn't well known before his role as the eventual Na’vi.

James Cameron doesn’t know why Damon was so against the role but admits that he didn’t exactly try that hard to convince him.

Imgur
Imgur

Reese Witherspoon as Sidney Prescott

Back in 1996, a breakthrough satirical horror movie called Scream was released. The leading lady ended up being Neve Campbell but not before Reese was offered the role. She looked over the script patiently but decided against it. She thought it was just another horror movie, and not a good one. She thought that it was kind of a downer and not one that would impress anyone. Little did she know! At least it didn’t hurt her career any, she’s doing might fine herself these days.

Onet Film
Onet Film

Will Smith - The Matrix

This one isn’t hard to picture. All we have to imagine is Will Smith in Men in Black and we’re sold. A little less humor and he’s got it. His reason for not snatching it?

“You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch,” he begins. “In the pitch, I just didn't see it. I watched Keanu's performance - and very rarely do I say this - but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point, I wasn't smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don't try and perform every moment.

will-smith-neo-matrix-movie
Movie Pilot

Dominic West as Mance Rayder

Fans of "The Wire" had their hearts broken when Dominic West turned down the opportunity to lead the Wildlings in Game of Thrones, however, the commitment to spending six months in Reykjavik seemed to be too much. West said, "My problem is, I’ve got four kids, and at the moment, I’m reluctant to be away from home for a long time.”

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Charlie, Heywise Staff

Article WriterCharlie, Heywise Staff

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