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12 Actors That Were Served Potentially Successful Roles on a Silver Platter but Turned Them Down

Ordinary viewers that don’t know a lot about the movie industry might think that any actor is willing to sacrifice anything just to get a leading role in a certain film. But often, for various reasons, stars decide to reject some parts, even when directors beg them to agree. And many of these roles end up being iconic. Today, it’s hard to imagine that these characters could have been played by completely different actors.

Sam Wheat — Bruce Willis and Patrick Swayze

Mary Evans / AF Archive / David Gadd / East News, © Ghost / Paramount Pictures and co-producers

Bruce Willis was married to Demi Moore when he was offered the lead role in the film. But when he read the script, he couldn’t understand how the creators were going to build a romantic plot with a ghost. He didn’t believe the film would be a success and turned down the role.

Patrick Swayze wasn’t very eager to accept the role either. However, thanks to his wife, he read the script in one sitting and was moved to tears, and he agreed to play the character.

Daisy Domergue — Jennifer Lawrence and Jennifer Jason Leigh

Quentin Tarantino really wanted Jennifer Lawrence to play one of the central characters of The Hateful Eight. He’s a fan of the actress, and he’s said it multiple times. But the actress’s tight schedule didn’t let them work together.

Tarantino said that Lawrence met with him just because she was being polite — at the time, she was busy acting in Joy.

James Bond — Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan

Mary Evans / Allstar / Graham Whitby Boot / East News, © Tomorrow Never Dies / Eon Productions Ltd. and co-producers

As Liam Neeson says, at the beginning of the ’90s, he wasn’t directly offered the role of James Bond. He had a few general conversations with the producer about it, but a lot of other candidates were also being considered at the time.

But this was enough for his then-girlfriend, Natasha Richardson, to say, “Darling, if you’re offered James Bond, and you’re going to play it, you’re not going to marry me.” Later, they actually did get married, and Neeson says he often teased his wife, going up to her after arguments and humming the iconic James Bond theme song.

Michael Corleone — Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino

It’s known that Jack Nicholson was okay with playing the part, but he turned it down. He did this not because he wasn’t sure if the movie would be a success.

On the contrary, he thought the role was very important, and an Italian person should play it. He says that a lot of actors could portray Michael Corleone, but Al Pacino was born for the part.

Vivian — Sarah Jessica Parker and Julia Roberts

HBO / Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection / East News, © Pretty Woman / Touchstone Pictures and co-producers

As it turns out, Julia Roberts wasn’t the first choice for the role of Vivian in Pretty Woman — Disney didn’t want to hire her. They considered dozens of other actresses, including Sandra Bullock, Winona Ryder, Sarah Jessica Parker, and others.

But none of them ended up in the film for various reasons. Some of the actresses were too young, and others rejected the role. Parker was worried about her reputation and thought that Vivian depicted women in a negative light. After all of this, the little-known Roberts was hired, and it ended up being her breakthrough role because she believed in the film’s success.

Neo — Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves

Mary Evans / AF Archive / Graham Whitby Boot / East News, © The Matrix / Village Roadshow Pictures and co-producers

The creative paths of Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves have crossed many times, and one of them was The Matrix. The first candidate for the role of Neo, chosen by the Wachowskis, was Depp. Even Warner Brothers, who didn’t agree with this choice, wanted someone like Brad Pitt.

But Depp rejected the role and gave the chance to Reeves, and now, it’s impossible to imagine anyone but him as Neo.

Ego — Matthew McConaughey and Kurt Russell

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, one of the key roles could have been played by Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey. He once said that he was reading scripts of Marvel and DC movies, and fans thought he would play Ego.

But McConaughey decided not to act in a Marvel project because he preferred Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

Harvey Dent — Matt Damon and Aaron Eckhart

Matt Damon turned down the famous role of Harvey Dent in Nolan’s film because he was busy with a different project. The actor said that he was the main character in that project, and in The Dark Knight, he would play a relatively small part, so he needed to make a choice.

But later, Damon appeared in Nolan’s other project, Interstellar. And this time, he had to work hard to take part in that movie.

Rose — Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet

Mary Evans / AF Archive / Graham Whitby Boot / East News, © Titanic / Paramount Pictures and co-producers

Right now, when we hear about Rose from Titanic, we instantly think of Kate Winslet. But, in fact, a different young actress could have played her — Gwyneth Paltrow.

The actress doesn’t give a clear answer to the question of why she rejected the role, and she only says that all actors make mistakes and agree to bad roles and reject good ones.

Maximus — Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe

Of course, Mel Gibson was considered a cool guy after his role in Mad Max and Braveheart. He was the first candidate for the part of Maximus.

But the actor turned down the role because he thought he was too old for such dynamic scenes. Russell Crowe, however, got to play Maximus and became a Hollywood star after landing this role.

Noah Calhoun — George Clooney and Ryan Gosling

In 2020, George Clooney said that he was supposed to portray a younger version of the main character in The Notebook, where Paul Newman was set to play an older Noah.

But after serious consideration and watching several films with Newman, Clooney decided to reject the role. He thought he wasn’t handsome enough compared to Newman, so they would look strange together. Instead, Ryan Gosling got the role, and it made him very popular.

Jake Sully — Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Worthington

At first, the main role in Avatar was offered to Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal. But the director, James Cameron, was quite happy to find out they both rejected the part.

He once revealed that he wanted the little-known Australian actor, Sam Worthington, to play the part. But he had to offer the part to famous actors to make the folks at Fox happy. They were worried that an unknown actor wouldn’t attract enough attention to the new and expensive franchise. But Worthington got the part and woke up famous after Avatar premiered.

In your opinion, what film would’ve been a much bigger hit if the actor that was initially offered the part had agreed?

Preview photo credit HBO / Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection / East News, Pretty Woman / Touchstone Pictures and co-producers
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