The instances of actors tuning down incredible roles happen all too often. The reasons for such rejections include already too packed shooting schedule, pre-existing deals with other production houses, lack of confidence in the offered role and belief that they are unsuitable for the offered role. Also, some believed that they would be typecast after that particular movie and their career will stagnate after the proposed movie.
There have been instances when the actors have been offered multiple roles at the same time. And, they decided to turn down a risky role in favor of the one which was more promising. However, unfortunately, the risky role turned out to be great and the movie was a major hit. And, sometimes when the promising role turned out to be a dud, the actors had to rue their decision for whole life. But, there have been instances when the promising one also turned out alright and justified the decision taken by the specific actor. Here, is the list of 10 actors who turned down iconic and incredible roles.
Ralph Macchio – Marty McFly, Back to the Future trilogy
Following the immense success of ‘The Karate Kid,’ Ralph Macchio was the most sought-after teenage star. The production team of the ‘Back to the Future’ thought he was a perfect fit for the sci-fi movie and would enhance the chances of box-office success. However, Macchio didn’t fancy the role of Marty McFly. He felt that the movie was about “a kid, a car, and plutonium pills.” The role was then given to Eric Stoltz. However, his portrayal of Marty was considered too dramatic and was dropped from the project. And, as we all know the role eventually went to Michael J. Fox, who played it with brilliance and perfection, contributing to the immense and monumental success of the movie. It was the most successful movie of 1985 and was subsequently followed by two sequels in 1989 and 1990, which also went on to earn significant success at the box office.
The movie launched Fox’s career and propelled him to bigger and better things. Whereas, Macchio’s career post the two sequels of ‘The Karate Kid’ failed to take off and subsequently faded away.
Katie Holmes – Piper Chapman, Orange is the New Black
No one would have predicted that ‘Orange is the New Black’ would become such a monumental hit. So, on that count, Katie Holmes has our sympathy. She turned down the role of the main character Piper Chapman. The creator Jenji Kohan subsequently signed Taylor Schilling for the movie. Taylor Schilling has played the role of bisexual inmate with such a perfection that she has received several nominations for awards in both comedy and drama categories for this role including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards and Best Actress – Television Series Drama at the 71st Golden Globe Awards and won Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy at the 18th Satellite Awards for her season 1 performance.
When Kohan had approached Holmes for the main role, she had a couple of other commitments and probably didn’t think too much about the prospects of the Netflix series. Holmes has a history of turning down good roles. She is reported to have turned down the lead role of Buffy in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ in order to be able to finish high school. We do respect her decision to focus on education, but the movie was a huge hit.
Molly Ringwald – Vivian Ward, Pretty Woman
If the casting calls made by the ‘Pretty Woman’ production team before meeting Julia Roberts had been fruitful, then the ‘American Sweetheart’ would have missed out on one of the most iconic roles, which launched her as a crowd favorite. It is reported that Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Karen Allen and Daryl Hannah were approached to act opposite Richard Gere in the famous romantic comedy. The director of the movie Garry Marshall was particularly keen to cast Molly Ringwald in the leading role. Apparently, Molly was one of the most popular names of the 80s. Her success with ‘Sixteen Candles,’ ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Pretty in Pink,’ had made here one of the most sought-after ladies of the industry.
However, Ringwald turned down the movie as she felt uncomfortable with the original script of the movie. The movie was originally conceived as a dark drama revolving around prostitution and drug use in the Los Angeles of the 1980s. And, Ringwald, being a respectable actress didn’t want such a movie on her CV.
Jennifer Love Hewitt – Robin, How I Met Your Mother
Cobie Smulders’ flawless beauty and strong sex appeal is one of the main factors that made CBS romcom series a huge hit. And, moreover, Cobie went to personify her character of Robin in the series. Beautiful, Canadian, down to earth, raw and real. Cobie had all the attributes to play the role of a struggling journalist with perfection. However, she wasn’t the first choice for the role. ‘How I Met Your Mother’ co-creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays wanted to cast Jennifer Love Hewitt in the role of Robin. However, Hewitt had another offer on the table and shooting for both ventures at the same time wasn’t feasible. The other offer was CBS television program ‘Ghost Whisperer.’ No doubt, Hewitt won immense critical acclaim for her work in the series including a Saturn Award in 2007 and 2008 for Best Actress on Television. However, in terms of popularity, there is only one winner between the two. HIMYM made Smulders a household name and helped her bag big roles in the industry including the role of SEAL agent Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Tea Leoni – Rachel, Friends
Jennifer Aniston was the third choice for the role in Friends, the role which till date remains the biggest success of her career and made her an A-Lister. It is a well-known fact that Courtney Cox, who at the time was the most popular cast member of the series was brought in to play Rachel’s role. However, she wanted to play a strong female character and auditioned for Monica’s role. And, even before Cox, the series producers had approached Teo Leoni to play Rachel. However, she passed on the role to star on ABC’s ‘The Naked Truth,’ which only ran for three seasons after being canceled by ABC and subsequently picked up by NBC. Apparently, Leoni was lured in by more camera time, she would get as a lead actor in ‘The Naked Truth’ in comparison to what she would get as one of the five leads in ‘Friends.’ Leoni did achieve success in her career, but it doesn’t stack up against what Aniston has achieved in her career. In fact, Rachel’s character is one of the most loved TV characters of all time.
Anne Hathaway – Tiffany, Silver Linings Playbook
In a radio interview with Howard Stern, the Movie Mogul, Harvey Weinstein revealed that Anne Hathaway was the first choice to play the role of Tiffany in American romantic comedy-drama film ‘Silver Linings Playbook.’ However, Hathaway had creative differences with director David O. Russell. And, as a result, she decided to opt out of the project and subsequently Jennifer Lawrence was roped in to play the lead role in the movie. Lawrence’s great acting in the movie was highly acclaimed and established her as one of the most exciting young actresses in the industry. Oh, and she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, becoming the second-youngest Best Actress Oscar winner at age 22. Of course, Anne Hathaway hasn’t done too shabbily either. She had done a couple of great movies and is considered an extremely talented actress in the industry. But, adding another Oscar to your personal collection is always special.
Vince Vaughn – Donnie Darko
‘Donnie Darko,’ the science fiction movie is one of the most intense and trippy movies out there. And, even years after its release, it is a popular movie among the youth. The movie’s theme of youth disillusionment and depression has been widely praised by the critics as well as fans. The movie was initially offered to Vince Vaughn. But, Vince, who was in his 30s thought he was too old to play the role of a depressed teenager. The movie was then offered to Jake Gyllenhaal, who gave an immense performance to cement his reputation as a talented young actor.
Vaughn is one name on the list whom you can’t criticize for turning down a particular movie. After all, there is no way Vaughn would have been better suited for the role than Gyllenhaal. And, it isn’t as if Vaughn’s career has suffered from the decision. Right now, he is one of the most famous comedy actors around.
Will Smith – Neo, The Matrix Trilogy
Because of his uber-cool persona and action hero looks, Will Smith was approached to play the role of Neo in the famous and immensely successful ‘The Matrix Trilogy.’ Will Smith, who was just finding his feet in the industry at that time and had just a couple of good movies to his name, felt intimidated by the role he was offered. Will has, on numerous occasions, accepted that he didn’t have necessary confidence in his acting skills to play a leading role in what he described as a “difficult film concept.” Subsequently, the role was given to Keanu Reeves, who became immensely popular for his role in the movie. And, according to the reports, Reeves pocketed around $75 million for his acting in the trilogy.
Smith went on to star in American steampunk western action-comedy film, ‘Wild Wild West,’ which was a major disappointment. Although, Smith has accepted that ‘Wild Wild West’ was an error in judgement, but he harbors no regret over rejecting the chance to star in Matrix. He felt Reeves was exceptional and would have only managed to mess up the movie.
Dana Delany – Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
Carrie Bradshaw is arguably one of the most popular fictional characters. It has made Sarah Jessica Parker as one of the most iconic TV stars. Not only playing Carrie Bradshaw made Parker one of the highest paid actresses at that time, but also helped her create an image of fashionista, which she has used to bag numerous lucrative endorsement deals. Using her popularity from the show, she has launched her own range of fragrances. In addition to two Emmy wins, she also won four Golden Globe Awards and three Screen Actors Guild Awards for ‘Sex and the City.’
However, the role was initially offered to Dana Delany by show’s creator, Darren Star. In an interview, Delany claimed that Darren had got the idea of creating ‘Sex and the City’ after seeing her and Kim (Kim Cattrall) in ‘Live Nude Girls.’ However, due to the negative audience reaction, she had received from a similar type of film ‘Exit to Eden,’ Delany was reluctant to work in another such venture. Also, she didn’t want to be typecast as an actor.
Jack Nicholson – Michael Corleone, The Godfather Trilogy
In his long and illustrious career, Jack Nicholson has played several legendary roles such as Jack Torrance in ‘The Shining,’ The Joker in the 1989 film ‘Batman,’ and the eccentric R. P. McMurphy in ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ However, he did turn down a chance to add another legendary role to his resume. He was offered the role of Michael Corleone in ‘The Godfather.’ The Paramount studio felt that the movie was a risky venture and wanted an established actor to lead the movie.
However, Nicholson doesn’t have any regrets about turning down the opportunity. He didn’t have any doubt about movie’s success. However, at that time, Nicholson believed “Indians should play roles written for Indians and Italians should do the same.” He has also praised Al Pacino on several occasions for his virtuoso performance in the iconic movie.