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11 Characters Nobody Wanted to Play That Ended Up Becoming Iconic

It is a very common occurrence in the movie industry for actors to turn down roles offered to them by big studios or directors. They might have different reasons for this, like being too busy working on a different project, the pay is too low, or the script may seem too boring. But sometimes, actors regret their decisions not to take certain roles because the movies end up becoming iconic.

We at Bright Side decided to find out what popular actors turned down certain roles that later became iconic.

Hannibal Lectеr (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)

Christopher Lloyd, Patrick Stewart, Forest Steven Whitaker and other famous actors, such as Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Jack Nicholson, and Robert De Niro, were considered for the part of Hannibal Lectеr. Sean Connery turned the role down and thought the script was “disgusting.” And Robert De Niro took too much time thinking about if he wanted it or not. The director never got an answer from Duvall.

However, Anthony Hopkins didn’t doubt a thing, as he decided to take the risk and portrayed Lecter so well, he received an Oscar for it. Hopkins got a lot of other awards and nominations for his amazing acting, and Hannibal Lecter was named the greatest villain in American cinema.

Edward Lewis (Pretty Woman, 1990)

East News, 20thCentFox / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News, Mary Evans / AF Archive / Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, © Pretty Woman / Touchstone Pictures and co-producers

Richard Gere played a businessman, Edward Lewis, in this romantic comedy. The actor was nominated for a Golden Globe. But the role of Edward could have gone to a totally different actor, like Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, or John Travolta. But all of them turned the role down for various reasons.

Paul Sheldon (Misery, 1990)

James Caan played the role of writer Paul Sheldon in the Oscar-winning thriller, Misery, based on Stephen King’s novel. He got a Saturn Award nomination for his work.

But before he got the role, it had already been offered to Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt (twice), Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Denzel Washington, and Bruce Willis. All of them declined. And as a fun fact, years later, Willis actually played this role in a Broadway play.

Walter White (Breaking Bad, 2008-2013)

BEHAR ANTHONY / SIPA / EAST NEWS, Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News, © Breaking Bad / Sony Pictures Television and co-producers

Bryan Cranston plays the main character in Breaking Bad that later became iconic. He was chosen by the showrunner, Vince Gilligan. He had previously worked with Cranston on an episode of The X-Files. Gilligan says that the character Walter White was supposed to be simultaneously loathsome and sympathetic, and that Cranston was the only one who could pull it off.

But the producers didn’t like the idea, and they offered the role to both actors John Cusack and Matthew Broderick. However, when both of them declined, the studio bosses agreed to cast Cranston in the role of Walter White.

General Zod (Man of Steel, 2013)

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In Zack Snyder’s film, Michael Shannon portrayed the main villain, General Zod. He came from Krypton to conquer and enslave Earth. It’s interesting that he could have been portrayed by Viggo Mortensen or Daniel Day-Lewis.

Green Goblin (Spider-Man, 2002)

Courtesy Everett Collection / East News, Mary Evans / Allstar / Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, Mary Evans / Allstar/Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, © Spider-Man / Columbia Pictures and co-producers

In this superhero film, Willem Dafoe played scientist Norman Osbourne, who later turns into Green Goblin, a villain that tries to destroy Spider-Man. This role was offered to Mel Gibson, John Travolta, Robert De Niro, and other actors, including Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, and Jim Carrey. All of them declined.

However, director Sam Raimi met Defoe several times and was sure the actor would be a great fit for the role.

Captain John Miller (Saving Private Ryan, 1998)

East News, Mary Evans / AF Archive /Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, © Saving Private Ryan / Dreamworks Pictures and co-producers

Tom Hanks portrayed captain John Miller, who gets an order to find Ryan and return him. Originally, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford were considered for the role. But director Steven Spielberg chose Hanks.

Maximus (Gladiator, 2000)

The main character of this movie is Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Hispano-Roman legatus that wants to get back at Commodus. Russell Crowe played this role, and he was so good that he even got an Oscar and other awards for the role.

Maybe the film wouldn’t have been as successful if Maximus had been played by a different actor. It could have been Antonio Banderas, Hugh Jackman, or Mel Gibson, who declined because he thought he was too old for the part — he was a bit over 40 at the time.

Stuart “Stu” Shepard (Phone Booth, 2002)

Mary Evans / Allstar / Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, Mary Evans / Allstar / Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, Photo by John / East News, © Phone Booth / Fox 2000 Pictures and co-producers

The main character of this psychological thriller (directed by Joel Schumacher), Stuart Shepard, an arrogant and dishonest New York City publicist, was portrayed by Colin Farrell. Critics liked him in this role, saying, “Quick pacing and Farrell’s performance help make Phone Booth a tense nail-biter.”

But this role was also offered to Mark Wahlberg, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and Jim Carrey. All of them declined. By the way, Carrey agreed at first, but then declined. And Wahlberg decided to do Planet of the Apes instead.

Alonzo Harris (Training Day, 2001)

Mary Evans / Allstar / Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, Mary Evans / Allstar / Graham Whitby Boot. / East News, Courtesy Everett Collection / East News, © Training Day / Warner Bros. and co-producers

In this film, one of the 2 main roles, a dirty detective named Alonzo Harris, was portrayed by Denzel Washington. The film got a lot of awards and accolades, and Denzel’s work won him an Oscar for Best Actor.

Originally, the role of Alonzo was offered to Bruce Willis, Gary Sinise, and Tom Sizemore, but they all passed.

God (Bruce Almighty, 2003)

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As you probably remember, the role of God in this comedy was played by Morgan Freeman. However, it was originally offered to Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro, but they decided not to accept.

In your opinion, would any of these movies be even better if the actors that were originally offered the parts accepted them?

Preview photo credit Photo by John / East News, Phone Booth / Fox 2000 Pictures and co-producers
Bright Side/Films/11 Characters Nobody Wanted to Play That Ended Up Becoming Iconic
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