10 Actors Who Turned Down Very Famous Roles
Today’s movie and TV landscape might have looked very different if a large group of famous actors and actresses hadn’t turned down famous roles. It’s pretty mind-blowing to consider that Sarah Jessica Parker nearly never got to strap on those Manolos as Carrie Bradshaw because “Sex and the City” creators preferred Dana Delaney for the role, or that Sarah Michelle Gellar was this close to playing Cher Horowitz in “Clueless.”
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Similarly, major movie stars like Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington also passed up some pretty major parts throughout their careers, with some later saying they regretted their decisions.
Obviously, iconic roles could have turned out very differently — and perhaps not so iconic — had every actor accepted every part offered to them, but it’s fun to see which flat-out said “no way” to now-famous parts.
See which 10 actors turned down famous movie and TV roles below, and let us know which shocked you most:
Role: Carrie Bradshaw
Show: "Sex and the City"
It's hard to imagine anyone but Sarah Jessica Parker playing the iconic role of Carrie Bradshaw, but Delaney was actually creator Darren Star's first choice. The actress claims to have had turned it down because she'd previously done other projects — including one with Kim Cattrall called "Live Nude Girls" — whose focus were also on sex. Side note: Delaney also passed on the role of Bree van de Kamp on "Desperate Housewives." Considering her recent ABC show "Body of Proof" got the axe, we say both passes were big mistakes.
Role: Vivian Ward
Movie: "Pretty Woman"
Ringwald — coming off the success of iconic '80s flicks like "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink" — was offered the major role that made Julia Roberts a star in "Pretty Woman." But it seems playing a hooker wasn't in her plans, since she turned it down. Ringwald also said no to playing Molly Jensen in "Ghost," a role that eventually went to Demi Moore.
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Sarah Michelle Gellar
Role: Cher Horowitz
Gellar was originally offered the now-iconic role of shopaholic-with-a-heart-of-gold Cher Horowitz in classic '90s movie "Clueless," but passed on it due to scheduling conflicts with “All My Children.” We all know how that turned out: Little-known actress Alicia Silverstone got the part, and cemented her place in the canon of Most Memorable Characters Ever.
Role: Don Draper
Show: "Mad Men"
It's pretty clear that Jon Hamm is "Mad Men," but it almost wasn't that way. Actor Thomas Jane passed on the role for a number of reasons that — let's face it — made sense at the time, such as the fact that AMC was a network known for reruns of old movies, not robust television series, and the fact that it was a cerebral show, which Jane didn't think would attract viewers.
Jane went on to star on the sex-themed series "Hung," which aired on solid-as-a-rock HBO, but got canceled after two seasons. The moral of the story: Risk-taking as an actor can pay off.
Role: Michael Corleone
Movie: "The Godfather"
While casting the now-classic mafia film in 1972, Paramount reportedly thought the project was a risky venture and wanted an established star to play the lead. Apart from Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal and Dustin Hoffman were offered the role, but they each declined. The part went to Al Pacino, and became one of the best performances in movie history.
Role: Forrest Gump
Movie: "Forrest Gump"
In 1994, "Forrest Gump" became the highest grossing movie in North America, and Tom Hanks nabbed the Oscar for his portrayal of the unique character that year. However, Hanks wasn't the studio's first choice for the role — John Travolta was, followed by Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. Travolta has since admitted that passing on the part was a mistake.
READ: 20 Good Actors Without Oscars
Role: Delores Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence
Movie: "Sister Act"
There's no doubt that Bette Midler — a muscal theater vet and overall iconic performer — would have been perfect for the role that eventually went to Whoopi Goldberg, and producers of "Sister Act" agreed. However, Midler decided to pass on the part of the Las Vegas showgirl hiding out in a convent due to concerns about her fans reacting badly to her playing a nun. Let us be the first to break the news, Bette: The character isn't really a nun.
Movie: "The Hangover"
Lohan declined the stripper role in the 2009 film "The Hangover" that went to Heather Graham, because she felt she was too young at the time.
"People love to attack her for everything, like, 'Ha, she didn't see how great 'The Hangover' was going to be. She turned it down.'" the director, Todd Phillips told The Hollywood Reporter. "She didn't turn it down. She loved the script, actually. It really was an age thing."
Lindsay was 20 when casting began for the movie, and Heather was 37.
Role: Bella Swan
This Australian actress — best known for her role in "Sucker Punch" — reportedly flat-out refused to even audition for the role of Bella in the mega-successful "Twilight" franchise.
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Role: Edward Scissorhands
Movie: "Edward Scissorhands"
After becoming fairly well-known as a player on "In Living Color," Carrey started being considred for some major movie roles, including the title role in "Edward Scissorhands." According to Splitsider, Carrey lacked experience as a dramatic actor during this period, so his turn as Scissorhands would have likely been more comedic than Depp's and could have jeopardized the project. Incidentally, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise were also considered for the role.