Would a Han Solo who’s not Harrison Ford be the same sarcastic hero every “Star Wars” fan cherishes? What would “Lord of the Rings” look like with Nicolas Cage in one of the main roles? These roles become iconic thanks in large part to the actors who bring them to life, and it’s often difficult to imagine anyone else in the role afterwards. But some actors are fired from a role, some leave because of other commitments, and some just don’t accept the offer. Some actors regret turning down a project, but others, like Jack Nicholson, know that it can be the right choice, no matter how popular or critically adored the film might become.
Matt Damon turned down the role of Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight.”
Damon told MTV in an interview about “Invictus” that he had to turn down the iconic role of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent due to filming conflicts. “I couldn’t . It was a scheduling thing. But, I never spoke to Chris Nolan,” Damon said. He had no problem regarding Nolan’s final choice for the villain. “Look, Aaron is a great actor, so the movie didn’t suffer for it. Every once in a while you get and you can’t do it.”
Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role of Dirk Diggler in “Boogie Nights.”
Role was played by Mark Wahlberg. After watching him in “The Basketball Diaries,” Paul Thomas Anderson wanted DiCaprio to star in “Boogie Nights.” DiCaprio turned it down to appear in “Titanic,” but recommended his friend and “Basketball Diaries” costar Mark Wahlberg. DiCaprio told GQ in 2008 that he regretted turning down the role. “‘Boogie Nights’ is a movie I loved and I wish I would’ve done.”
Angelina Jolie passed on the lead in Oscar-winner “Gravity.”
Role was played by Sandra Bullock. According to Variety, Angelina Jolie was originally set to play the lead in Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar winner; however, she passed on the role in summer 2010.
Emily Blunt turned down the role of Black Widow in “Iron Man 2.
Role was played by Scarlett Johansson. “The Edge of Tomorrow” actress was the first choice to play the Black Widow in “Iron Man 2.” While Blunt has said she backed out because of timing, Deadline reported the recast resulted from a low paycheck for the actress.
Denzel Washington could have been Detective David Mills in “Se7en.”
Role was played by Brad Pitt. Washington could have had Brad Pitt’s role. However, he turned down “Se7en,” deciding to work on detective thriller “Devil in a Blue Dress” instead. The actor later told Entertainment Weekly he regretted the decision after seeing a screener. “They offered me the Brad Pitt part, but I was like, ‘This is so dark and evil,'” Washington said. “Then, when I saw the movie, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.'”
Jack Nicholson turned down the role Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.”
Role was played by Al Pacino. Al Pacino earned two Academy Award nominations for his portrayal of mob boss Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” films, but Jack Nicholson was first offered the part. In an interview with Movieline, the actor said that he passed because “back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians.”
Al Pacino turned down a lot of big roles, including an offer to play Han Solo in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.”
Was played by Harrison Ford. During the “An Evening with Pacino” event in 2013, the actor revealed that he could have played the iconic role of Han Solo in the “Star Wars” franchise. “It was mine for the taking, but I didn’t understand the script,” he said.
Tom Selleck had to pass up on playing Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Role was played by Harrison Ford. After watching Ford in “Star Wars,” director Steven Spielberg wanted him to play Indiana Jones, but George Lucas, who served as an executive producer for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” didn’t want to cast Ford in another one of his projects. Selleck was chosen to play Jones, but had to drop out because of his contractual obligations for “Magnum, P.I.,” so Lucas relented and Ford was cast.
Harrison Ford — Alan Grant in “Jurassic Park”
Role was played by Sam Neill. Director Steven Spielberg and Ford had worked together for the “Indiana Jones” films, but when Spielberg offered the role of Dr. Alan Grant to Ford, he declined.
Johnny Depp was reportedly considered to star in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Role was played by Matthew Broderick. Johnny Depp was reportedly being considered to play Ferris, a high schooler who feigns an illness to skip school and hang out in Chicago with his friends, but director John Hughes has claimed that he wrote the script with Broderick in mind.
Angela Bassett openly rejected the role of Leticia in “Monsters Ball.”
Role was played by Halle Berry. Angela Bassett turned down the role of Leticia in “Monster’s Ball” because she found the part stereotypical and demeaning. 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.”
Burt Reynolds regrets turning down the role of Garrett Breedlove in “Terms of Endearment.”
Role was played by Jack Nicholson. Though the part of Garrett Breedlove in “Terms of Endearment” was written for Reynolds, he turned it down. Nicholson ended up winning a best supporting actor Oscar for the role. Reynolds, who has never won an Oscar, said that it’s the acting decision he regrets the most.
Marilyn Monroe passed on the role of Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Role was played by Audrey Hepburn. Truman Capote, the author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly, but Monroe turned it down because she was warned that portraying Holly might be bad for her image.
Nicolas Cage passed up on playing Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings”
Role was played by Viggo Mortensen. In an interview with Newsweek, Nicolas Cage revealed that he turned down the role of Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings” series because of the commitment involved. “There were different things going on in my life at the time that precluded me from being able to travel and be away from home for three years,” he said.
Christopher Plummer could have been Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” franchise.
Role was played by Ian McKellen. Even though he was a fan of the series by J.R.R. Tolkien, Plummer turned down the role of Gandalf. In an appearance on “Conan,” the actor said that he wasn’t exactly sure why he turned it down, but it sounds like the commitment was too much at the time.
Ian McKellen passed up the chance to play Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” franchise.
Role was taken over by Michael Gambon. The actor turned down the role of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore after Richard Harris passed away. McKellen told the Guardian people always ask him if he wished he played Dumbledore, but since the actor played Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” he declined.
Molly Ringwald turned down the lead in “Pretty Woman.”
Role was played by Julia Roberts. Molly Ringwald had looked at an early script for “Pretty Woman” and turned it down. In a Reddit AMA, the actress said that she doesn’t regret it. “Julia Roberts is what makes that movie. It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that,” she said.
a Roberts passed on the playing Leigh Anne Tuohy in “The Blind Side.”
Role was played by Sandra Bullock. Julia Roberts reportedly didn’t have interest in the script when she received it. Her passing led to Bullock taking the part — after some initial reservations. She ended up taking home the Oscar for Best Actress.
Henry Winkler passed on Danny Zuko in “Grease.”
Role was played by John Travolta. The studio wanted Henry Winkler, known for his role as Fonzie on “Happy Days,” as Danny, leader of the T-Birds. The characters of Fonzie and Danny were similar, and Winkler was wary of being typecast, so he passed.
John Travolta declined to play the lead in “Forrest Gump.”
Role was played by Tom Hanks. John Travolta reportedly turned down the titular role in “Forrest Gump.” Hanks won his second best actor Oscar for his portrayal. Travolta also turned down two other films in which Tom Hanks was later cast: “Splash” and “Apollo 13.”
Tom Cruise had to turn down the role of Ren McCormack in “Footloose”
Played by Kevin Bacon. Tom Cruise impressed the casting directors for “Footloose” with his moves in “Risky Business,” but because of his involvement with “All the Right Moves,” he couldn’t do the film.
Charlie Hunnam turned down the lead in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” adaptation.
Role was played by Jamie Dornan. The “Sons of Anarchy” star was originally cast in the lead for the highly anticipated adaptation, but he later dropped out, telling Moviefone he had a “nervous breakdown.”
Bette Midler passed on playing Sister Mary Clarence in “Sister Act.”
Role was played by Whoopi Goldberg. After the character was originally written for Bette Midler, she ended up not accepting it because she worried that her fans wouldn’t want to see her playing a nun.
Anne Hathaway could have starred in “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Role was played by Jennifer Lawrence. Harvey Weinstein told Howard Stern that Anne Hathaway was his choice for “Silver Linings Playbook”: “She’s marvelous and wonderful, and she was my choice. I love her … We had Annie and then we had Mark , and then whatever happened happened.” He also added that director David O. Russell and Hathaway disagreed about a few things.
Will Smith turned down the role of Django in “Django Unchained.”
Role was played by Jamie Foxx. Smith spent hours talking about the film with director Quentin Tarantino, but ultimately did not accept the role because of creative differences. He told The Hollywood Reporter, “To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin and I couldn’t see” eye-to-eye.
Hugh Jackman was asked to play James Bond years ago and he’s still not dismissing it.
Role was played by Daniel Craig. Hugh Jackman revealed that he was asked to play the iconic 007 years ago, but declined because of his role as Wolverine in the “X-Men” films, specifically “X-Men 2” at that time. Daniel Craig took over from Pierce Brosnan following 2002’s “Die Another Day.”
Josh Hartnett turned down the chance to play the Man of Steel in “Superman Returns.”