Celebs Who Turned Down Career Defining Roles

Published on 05/14/2017

As you sit back and watch some of your all time favorite films and shows, it’s pretty difficult to imagine a favorite character portrayed by someone else. For instance, Harrison Ford was meant to play Indiana Jones, Tom Hanks want born to play Forrest Gump, Al Pacino will always be Michael Corleone, and so on. But could you imagine if it went in a totally different direction? Neither can we! That’s why we rounded up some of the most iconic flicks of all time and the actors-actresses who almost snagged the leading roles. ~Prepare yourself.~

Molly Ringwald – ‘Pretty Woman’

When you think of the 80’s, you almost immediately think of Molly Ringwald. Thanks, of course, to her stellar roles in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. So in 1990, she was obviously offered the lead role in Pretty Woman but turned it down instead and our girl Julia Roberts stepped up.

Molly Ringwald Pretty Woman

Molly Ringwald – Pretty Woman

Michelle Pfeiffer – ‘Silence of the Lambs’

I don’t need an online university degree to know Jodie Foster nailed her performance as Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. Turns out though that Michelle Pfeiffer was first pick.

Michelle Pfeiffer Silence Of The Lambs

Michelle Pfeiffer – Silence Of The Lambs

Angelina Jolie – Charlie’s Angels

When the 2000 big screen reboot of the action packed Charlie’s Angels came about, the role of Alex Munday was originally offered to none other than Angelina Jolie. As you know, Jolie turned it down and Lucy Liu instead portrayed the karate expert in the films.

Angelina Jolie Charlies Angels

Angelina Jolie – Charlie’s Angels

Katie Holmes – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Our favorite slayer, Buffy, was almost played by the lovely Katie Holmes. Which is pretty astonishing to say the least! Turns out that Sarah Michelle Geller originally auditioned for the role of Cordelia, and also as the lead in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but she ended up as the vamp slaying, bad a** instead. Gellar was offered the part after Holmes was forced to finish high school, too bad online university wasn’t an option back then. Although, it turned out perfectly in the end!

Katie Holmes Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Katie Holmes – Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Tom Selleck – ‘Indiana Jones’

From the get-go, Steven Spielberg suggested that Harrison Ford star in the film but George Lucas was hesitant, as he had cast Ford in many of his films already. Spielberg and Lucas finally chose to cast Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones – but a few weeks before pre-production, CBS refused to release Selleck from his contractual commitment to Magnum, P.I., thus forcing Selleck to turn down the role. (which was gradually gaining momentum in the ratings), forcing him to turn down the role. Spielberg then suggested Ford again, Lucas gave in, and just less than three weeks before filming began, Indy was born.

Tom Selleck Indiana Jones

Tom Selleck – Indiana Jones

Sandra Bullock – ‘Million Dollar Baby’

Sandra Bullock initially tried to produce a film that was based on F.X. Toole’s short story Million-Dollar Baby, but she just couldn’t interest the studios in a “female boxing drama”. Later on, the story was picked up by Clint Eastwood and Bullock was already filming Miss Congeniality 2 thus opening up the role for Hillary Swank.

Sandra Bullock Million Dollar Baby

Sandra Bullock – Million Dollar Baby

Christopher Walken – ‘Star Wars’

The beloved role of Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise is one that will forever be idolized by fans worldwide and no one *but* Harrison Ford could have played the part so well. With that being said though, George Lucas did consider Nick Nolte, Burt Reynolds, and Christopher Walken for the highly acclaimed spot. Funny how life works out sometimes!

Christopher Walken Star Wars

Christopher Walken – Star Wars

John Travolta – ‘Forrest Gump’

Tom Hanks as Forrest in Forrest Gump is pretty much one of the most compelling performances in history. But it was actually John Travolta who was originally considered for the part. Pretty mind-blowing to say the least.

John Travolta Forrest Gump

John Travolta – Forrest Gump

Pamela Anderson – ‘The X Files’

The X Files would, in my opinion, be nothing if it wasn’t for Gillian Anderson’s astounding portrayal of FBI Special Agent Dana Scully. Anderson said that Pamela Anderson was considered for the part because ‘they were looking for someone bustier, taller, and leggier’. We’re SO happy that never happened because Dana Scully was – is – the show’s beating heart.

Pamela Anderson The X Files

Pamela Anderson – The X Files

Al Pacino – ‘Pretty Woman’

It’s near impossible to imagine Molly Ringwald and Al Pacino as the leads in Pretty Woman, in fact, it’s not near impossible, it’s just plain weird. And wouldn’t you know it – life is a fickle thing, Richard Gere was actually second choice to Al Pacino.

Al Pacino Pretty Woman

Al Pacino – Pretty Woman

Thomas Jane – ‘Mad Men’

The Punisher flick paved the way for Thomas Jane’s acting career to flourish, earning him a call for the epic role of Don Draper in Mad Men. Of course the casting director chose Jon Hamm as the lead but boy, what could have been, eh?

Thomas Jane Mad Men

Thomas Jane – Mad Men

Lindsay Lohan – ‘The Hangover’

As far as game changers go, this mind is pretty mind boggling. Lindsay Lohan was initially considered for the stripper role in The Hangover but that mantle was instead passed on over to Heather Graham. Funny how life works out in the end.

Lindsay Lohan The Hangover

Lindsay Lohan – The Hangover

Jim Carrey – ‘Edward Scissorhands’

I don’t know about you but I can’t picture the role of Edward in Edward Scissorhands being portrayed by anyone other than Johnny Depp. However, Jim Carrey, Robert Downey Jr., and even Tom Cruise were all considered for the lead role.

Jim Carrey Edward Scissorhands

Jim Carrey – Edward Scissorhands

Jack Nicholson – ‘The Godfather’

The Godfather is still widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films of all time. Plus who could forget Al Pacino’s breathtaking performance as Michael Corleone? However the leading role was initially offered to the legendary Jack Nicholson and as far as bad puns go, “this was an offer he could refuse”.

Jack Nicholson The Godfather

Jack Nicholson – The Godfather

Anne Hathaway – Silver Linings Playbook

Turns out that Anne Hathaway was cast as the lead in Silver Linings Playbook but because of conflict in schedules, she dropped out. And that’s where Jennifer Lawrence steps in. She took the role of Tiffany and turned it into an Best Actress Academy Award win. Not bad!

Anne Hathaway Silver Linings Playbook

Anne Hathaway – Silver Linings Playbook

Leonardo DiCaprio – ‘Boogie Nights’

It’s a bit difficult to imagine Jack Dawson, er, Leonardo DiCaprio moving from Titanic to Boogie Nights. While DiCaprio did love the script, he passed and Mark Wahlberg landed the role. Win-win in our eyes.

Leonardo DiCaprio Boogie Nights

Leonardo DiCaprio – Boogie Nights

Johnny Depp – ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’

The 80’s are synonymous with the genius that is John Hughes, his flicks dominated the era and for good reason. But could you imagine Johnny Depp as Ferris Bueller instead of Matthew Broderick? Didn’t think so.

Johnny Depp Ferris Buellers Day Off

Johnny Depp – Ferris Buellers Day Off

Matt Damon – ‘Avatar’

Avatar gave an eye-popping display of conflict between peaceful aliens and greedy humans that quickly went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time. The lead role of Jake Sully was offered to Matt Damon but he passed, and Sam Worthington transformed into the leading man.

Matt Damon Avatar

Matt Damon – Avatar

Will Smith – ‘The Matrix’

After Will Smith’s popularity and success with flicks like Independence Day and Men in Black, he was initially considered for the lead in The Matrix but turned it down to focus on Wild Wild West instead. Ergo, the wonderful Keanu Reeves.

Will Smith The Matrix

Will Smith – The Matrix

Helen Mirren – ‘Precious’

The brilliant Helen Mirren decided not to pursue Lee Daniels’ award winning Precious film, thus allowing Mariah Carey to step in and win buckets full of critical acclaim.

Helen Mirren Precious

Helen Mirren – Precious

Sean Connery – ‘Lord of the Rings’

Sean Connery came pretty close to the lead role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings but the script didn’t make sense to him, so he decided to not take on the role. Safe to say that LOTR fans are pretty happy with that decision!

Sean Connery Lord Of The Rings

Sean Connery – Lord Of The Rings

Matthew Broderick – ‘Breaking Bad’

Walter White was almost portrayed by the 80’s star, Matthew Broderick, but following Broderick’s skepticism of AMC as a network – he passed on the gig. And that’s when Bryan Cranston stepped in. Pretty smart decision!

Matthew Broderick Breaking Bad

Matthew Broderick – Breaking Bad

Reese Witherspoon – Scream

It’s hard to imagine what Scream would have been like if Reese Witherspoon would have played the lead. My mind can’t even wrap around the thought! Apparently, Witherspoon believed it was just “another horror film” and turned it down.

Reese Witherspoon Scream

Reese Witherspoon – Scream

Hugh Jackman – ‘Casino Royle’

Hugh Jackman could have portrayed the mysterious, kick a** Double 007 Agent, James Bond, but due to other commitments, he turned it down. Not long after Jackman turned down the role, Daniel Craig was chosen for the part.

Hugh Jackman Casino Royle

Hugh Jackman – Casino Royle

Melanie Griffith – Thelma And Louise

Geena Davis and Susan Saradon went on to become huge stars after their electrifying performance in Thelma And Louise. Although, the film would have been much different if Melanie Griffith would have taken on the role of Thelma.

Melanie Griffith Thelma And Louise

Melanie Griffith – Thelma And Louise

Paul Shaffer – ‘Seinfeld’

You probably recognize Paul Shaffer from his epic work alongside David Letterman as the talk show’s bandleader, but did you know that Shaffer could have starred in one of the greatest television shows of all time? Shaffer didn’t audition nor did he express interest in the legendary show Seinfeld, he was simply offered the role of George Costanza by the man himself, Jerry Seinfeld. However(!), Shaffer didn’t even call Jerry back so they went in a new direction.

Paul Shaffer Seinfeld

Paul Shaffer – Seinfeld

Harrison Ford – ‘Schindler’s List’

No one can deny that Harrison Ford is incredibly talented, and if he would have taken on the role of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s famed movie, who knows what direction the film would have taken. However Ford felt he couldn’t star in the film because he was afraid fans wouldn’t be able to see past his “star power” thus the film’s message would have been reduced. How humbly poetic.

Harrison Ford Schindlers List

Harrison Ford – Schindlers List

Mel Gibson – Gladiator

Mel Gibson turned down the part of Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator as he believed he was getting “a bit too old” for action roles. Therefore Russell Crowe stepped in and went on to win an Academy Award – getting his “vengeance, in this life or the next.” (Pardon the pun).

Mel Gibson Gladiator

Mel Gibson – Gladiator

Paul Giamatti – ‘The Office’

Michael Scott was could have played by…Paul Giamatti. That just don’t even make sense. We’re sorry, Paul, you’re brilliant but Steve Carell made that show epic in every way imaginable.

Paul Giamatti The Office

Paul Giamatti – The Office

Mark Wahlberg – ‘Brokeback Mountain’

The perfect duo, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, made Brokeback Mountain iconic. Film director Ang Lee initially approached Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix to portray the lead roles. However Mark Wahlberg reportedly declined to take on the starring role, as he was “a little creeped out” by the homosexual themes and sex scene of the film.

Mark Wahlberg Brokeback Mountain

Mark Wahlberg – Brokeback Mountain

Angela Bassett – Monster’s Ball

Angela Bassett reportedly turned down the Oscar winning role because, “I wasn’t going to be a hooker on film.” When Bassett turned down the role, Halle Berry stepped up and subsequently become the first African-American woman to have won a Best Actress Oscar. Bassett passed up the role as she thought it was a negative stereotypical portrayal of African American women and sexuality.

Angela Bassett Monster’s Ball

Angela Bassett – Monster’s Ball

Julia Roberts – The Proposal

Julia Roberts passed on the Rom-Com film thus leading to the leading lady being played by the incredible Sandra Bullock instead. While the film wasn’t insanely successful, Bullock and Ryan Reyonds received tons of attention.

Julia Roberts The Proposal

Julia Roberts – The Proposal

Denzel Washington – Michael Clayton

Turns out that if Denzel Washington could do it all over again, he would have accepted the lead role in the 2007 flick Michael Clayton. But Washington was worried about taking on a project that was lead by a young, inexperienced director, Tony Gilroy. However the film went on to receive critical acclaim and was also nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Gilroy), Best Original Screenplay (Gilroy), Best Actor (Clooney), Best Supporting Actor (Wilkinson), and Best Supporting Actress (Swinton).

Denzel Washington Michael Clayton

Denzel Washington – Michael Clayton

Whitney Houston – The Cosby Show

The diva herself, Whitney Houston, was incredibly close to starring as the eldest Huxtable daughter in the hit 80’s family sitcom, The Cosby Show. However at the last minute, Houston contacted the director and said she was going to focus on her up-and-coming music career instead. Sabrina LeBeauf went on to snag the role in the show’s eight seasons.

Whitney Houston The Cosby Show

Whitney Houston – The Cosby Show

Warren Beatty – ‘Kill Bill’

David Carradine’s role in Kill Bill earned him a Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor nomination but it was initially Warren Beatty who was considered for the role.

Warren Beatty Kill Bill

Warren Beatty – Kill Bill

Ray Liotta – The Sopranos

Ray Liotta probably would have kicked butt in The Sopranos, and it’s not so hard to imagine him as the lead whatsoever. However, Liotta turned down the role and James Gandolfini was cast instead.

Ray Liotta The Sopranos

Ray Liotta – The Sopranos

Emily Blunt – Iron Man 2

Could you imagine the lovely Emily Blunt as the Black Widow in Iron Man 2? Our heads want to say yes but our hearts just aren’t sure. Blunt had a lot going on at the time and backed out thus Scarlett Johannson earned the role.

Emily Blunt Iron Man 2

Emily Blunt – Iron Man 2

Henry Winkler – Grease

Henry Winkler seemed like the obvious pick to play Danny Zuko in Grease after his stunning performance in Happy Days but Winklet didn’t want to be type cast so he turned it down. John Travolta certainly didn’t let us down!

Henry Winkler Grease

Henry Winkler – Grease

Sarah Michelle Gellar – Clueless

Sarah Michelle Gellar was meant to play the part of preppy Amber in the 90’s classic flick, Clueless, opposite Alicia Silverstone. In the end though, Gellar had a conflicting schedule and the part went to Elisa Donovan instead.

Sarah Michelle Gellar Clueless

Sarah Michelle Gellar – Clueless

Julia Roberts – The Blind Side

The incredibly talented Julia Roberts was originally offered Sandra Bullock’s role, but she turned it down. Additionally, Bullock herself turned down the lead role a whopping total of three times as she felt a discomfort portraying a devout Christian. By her own account, our girl Bullock didn’t believe she could objectively represent such a person’s beliefs on screen. After Bullock met with the real Leigh Anne Tuohy, not only did she take on the role but she took a pay cut to do so.

Julia Roberts The Blind Side

Julia Roberts – The Blind Side