When a screenplay is written and a studio is willing to spend the money to turn it into a film, the directors often have an actress or an actor in mind for the part. When the actor turns down the role, it goes to another person. Often times when the movie becomes a huge box office hit the person who turned down the role ends up kicking themselves for passing up the role of a lifetime (or one that could have made them a ton of money). Below is a list of 20 actors who turned down a role in a movie. Some didn’t mind but some truly regretted it.
Dana Delaney – Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City
Sex and the City was a huge hit on HBO. It went on for several seasons and then was picked up for syndication on a variety of networks. There have even been two Hollywood films based on the show. The main character of the show is Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. The creator, Darren Star, originally wanted to part to go to Dana Delaney. Because she had already done another movie (Live Nude Girls) that had a sexual focus she decided to pass up the role. She also happened to star in that film with Kim Cattrall, who plays Samantha Jones on Sex and The City. Considering what a major hit the show became, Dana seriously regretted turning down the role. She also turned down the role of Bree Van de Kamp on Desperate Housewives.
Molly Ringwald – Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman
Molly Ringwald was the 80s “It Girl.” She starred in some of the most popular 80s movies, including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. Shortly after making these movies, she was offered the role of Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman, opposite Richard Gere. Because playing a hooker was not something that she wanted to do, Molly passed on the role. It was eventually given to Julia Roberts and it is the role that truly made her a superstar. Actress Daryl Hannah also turned down the role. Shortly after, Ringwald passed on the role of Molly Jensen in Ghost, which was given to Demi Moore. These were two roles that could have really catapulted her career.
Jack Nicholson – Michael Corleone in The Godfather
When casting was being done for The Godfather in 1972, Paramount thought that the project was very risky, so they wanted an established actor to play the lead. Their first choice was Jack Nicholson who turned the role down immediately. After Nicholson said no, they offered the role to Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, and Ryan O’Neal. All of these men turned down the role as well. Eventually, the role was given to Al Pacino. It ended up being one of the best performances in movie history. Today, it is the most well known and popular mafia film in history. While all of the men who turned down the role went on to do amazing things in Hollywood, all looked back on the day that they turned down the role and any who say they don’t regret it has to be lying at least a little bit.
John Travolta – Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump is one of the most popular movies ever made. In 1994, it was the highest grossing movie in North America. Tom Hanks played the lead role of Forrest Gump, and he won an Oscar that year for his portrayal of the amazing character. But did you know that Tom Hanks was not the studio’s first choice to play Forrest? They originally offered the part to John Travolta, who turned it down. Before choosing Hanks, they also asked Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, who both turned the role down as well. When asked about turning down the role a few years later, John Travolta said that it was a huge mistake.
Lindsay Lohan – Jade in The Hangover
People never expected The Hangover to become the success that it was. After the success of the first movie, two more were made which were equally as successful. When casting for the role of the stripper/prostitute who marries the character Stu, the part was offered to Lindsay Lohan. She turned down the role saying that given she was 20 years old she believed that she was too young at the time. The part eventually went to Heather Graham. Heather played Jade again in The Hangover 3. With all of the problems that Lindsay has had in her personal and professional life, she should have taken the role when it was offered to her. She has never spoken out about it publicly, however.
Emily Browning – Bella Swan in Twilight
Australian actress Emily Browning is best known for her role in Sucker Punch. When they were casting for the hugely successful Twilight films, Emily was asked to read for the role of Bella. She refused to read for the part and she wanted nothing to do with the film. Eventually, the role went to Kristen Stewart. The four Twilight films were huge hits all over the world and they turned Kristen into the star that she is today. Emily is probably regretting refusing to read for the part since her career has not been nearly as successful as Kristen’s.
Julia Roberts – Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side
Julia Roberts is usually pretty good with choosing the right roles. It all started when Molly Ringwald turned down the lead role in Pretty Woman and Julia took it and became a superstar. Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes and Julia made one as well. She was offered the role of the mother in The Blind Side, Leigh Anne Tuohy. Instead, she decided to take a role in the ensemble romantic comedy, Valentine’s Day. The film was directed by Garry Marshall, the same man who made her a star in Pretty Woman. Sandra Bullock ended up taking the role of Leigh Anne in the Blindside and the movie was a huge hit. Sandra even won an Oscar for her performance. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day was a flop.
Matthew Broderick – Walter White in Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad is one of the biggest hits in television history. It is about a high school chemistry teacher who needs to make money for his family before he dies from lung cancer. He gets involved with his former student, Jessie Pinkman and the two begin cooking meth together. The role of Walter White was played by Bryan Cranston and the role did wonders for his career. Before Bryan took the role, it was offered to Matthew Broderick, who turned it down. Many people believe that his was a huge mistake due to the success of the show. It is also reported that John Cusack was offered the role and he turned it down as well.
Paul Shaffer – George Costanza in Seinfeld
Paul Shaffer is known as being David Letterman’s bandleader and his banter buddy because of a huge mistake that he made years ago. In his 2009 memoir, We’ll Be Here The Rest Of Our Lives, he admits that Jerry Seinfeld contacted him to ask him to play the role of George Costanza in Seinfeld. Jerry told him that the part was his and he didn’t even need to audition. Paul says that he was pretty busy at the time and he turned down the role. It eventually was given to Jason Alexander and Seinfeld became one of the best comedies of all time.
Pamela Anderson – Dana Scully in The X-Files
The X-Files quickly became a cult phenomenon. Millions and millions of people were tuning in to watch the show each week. It was also made into a Hollywood film. In 2016, a 9 episode reboot of the show was released with favorable ratings. Gillian Anderson played the lead role of FBI Special Agent Dana Scully. This role made her a household name. Before Anderson was cast, the writers had another Anderson in mind for the role, Pamela Anderson. According to reports, they were looking for a busty, leggy, taller woman for the role, but Pamela turned them down.
Will Smith – Neo in The Matrix and Django in Django Unchained
Before the role of Neo went to Keanu Reeves, it was offered to Will Smith. According to Will, he thinks that he would have messed up the movie. He said at that point in his career, he didn’t understand that he had to let the movie and director tell the story and it wasn’t all up to him. He says that by turning down that role, he learned a lot. He also turned down the role of Django in the award winning Django Unchained. Since Jamie Foxx was amazing in the role, we can forgive Will for turning it down.
Tom Hanks – Jerry Maguire in Jerry Maguire
According to the director of the 1996 film, Jerry Maguire was written with Tom Hanks in mind for the lead role. Since Tom was directing That Thing You Do at the time, he had to pass on the role. When asked about it later by Access Hollywood, he said that he never could have done for that movie what Tom Cruise did. He also said that nobody could ever say that the movie wasn’t perfect. Had he taken the role of Jerry Maguire, he doesn’t think that it would have been perfect.
Angela Bassett – Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball
When they were casting for Monster’s Ball, Angela Bassett hadn’t been getting much work, which is why people were surprised when she turned down the role of Leticia in Monster’s Ball. She said that she didn’t want to play what she considered a demeaning role. She also said that films are forever and she didn’t want to look back in 10 years and realize she made a huge mistake. Unfortunately, she did make a huge mistake. The role went to Halle Berry, and she became the first African-American woman to win a Best Actress Oscar.
Whitney Houston – Sondra Huxtable in The Cosby Show
Whitney Houston was very close to playing the role of Sondra Huxtable on The Cosby Show. She had been in negotiations and verbally agreed to take the role. When it came time to sign on the dotted line, she changed her mind. She said that she wanted to be a singer and she didn’t want to be on every show. Instead, she wanted to be on every tour. The role ended up going to Sabrina LeBeauf who was more than happy to take the role on the hit television show.
Katie Holmes – Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
When they were casting for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar auditioned for role of Cordelia. The directors wanted Katie Holmes to play the lead role of Buffy. Because Katie wanted to finish high school, she turned down the role. When Katie said no, the directors offered the lead role to Sarah Michelle Gellar who was definitely the best choice. Both actresses turned out more than fine however.
Ray Liotta – Tony Soprano in The Sopranos
Ray Liotta was so fantastic in Goodfellas that it was no wonder that he was approached to play the lead in HBO’s The Sopranos. Ray turned down the role saying that he wanted to focus on his movie career and taking a role on a television show would be a step back for him. The role was given to the late James Gandolfini, who made the role one of the greatest in the history of television. Ray Liotta is currently the star of a television show with Jennifer Lopez. Go figure.
Matt Damon – Jake Sully in Avatar and Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight
Matt Damon has a talent for choosing the right roles. Unfortunately, his decision making isn’t always perfect. He’s turned down a few good roles in his career. Perhaps his biggest mistake was joining James Cameron. He was James Cameron’s first choice to play the lead role in Avatar, but he turned it down. Due to scheduling conflicts with The Bourne Ultimatum, he couldn’t take the role. He also turned down the role of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. These were two of the highest grossing movies ever made, which probably made Matt regret his decisions.
Henry Winkler – Danny Zuko in Grease
When casting for the movie Grease, the role of Danny Zuko was originally offered to Henry Winkler. After playing The Fonz for so many years on Happy Days, Henry didn’t want to be typecast. Because of this, he turned down the role. The part ended up going to John Travolta and Henry regretted not taking the role. He said regardless of the fact that he turned down the role, he was still typecast as The Fonz.
Mel Gibson – Maximus in Gladiator
When Mel Gibson was offered the role of Maximus in the movie Gladiator he turned it down. He said that he thought that he was getting too old to be taking on those types of action roles. Instead, the role was given to Russel Crowe who went on to win an Oscar for his performance. It was this role that made him a huge star. Gibson’s career took a pretty harsh downward spiral after that but in the last year he’s back in the good graces in Hollywood.
Bruce Willis – Sam Wheat in Ghost
Bruce Willis was originally offered the role of Sam Wheat in the huge hit film, Ghost. Not only did he get the chance to act in an amazing movie, he also had the chance to star alongside his wife at the time, Demi Moore. He ended up turning down the role and the part was given to Patrick Swayze. In the end, he was the best person for the part. And it’s not like Bruce Willis hasn’t had a fantastic career so everyone won.