19 Actors and Actresses Who Rushed to Say “No” and Missed a Unique Chance to Star in an Iconic Movie
Certain actors and actresses have delivered such exceptional performances in specific roles that it becomes challenging to envision anyone else embodying those same characters. However, in reality producers and directors frequently intend to cast someone who ultimately declines the role. This isn’t always the result of rigid scheduling or a simple aversion to a particular project. We sought to uncover which renowned actors turned down roles that later achieved iconic status.
Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights
Could Leonardo DiCaprio have portrayed Dirk Diggler? It was a possibility. Back in 2008, DiCaprio verified that he had declined the lead role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. He held a meeting with Anderson regarding the part but became apprehensive due to the filmmaker’s limited experience at the time.
Eventually, the lead role in the movie Boogie Nights went to Mark Wahlberg and made him a superstar. And Dicaprio was soon confirmed for a role in Titanic.
Neo in The Matrix
At some point, the producers were actually considering Sandra Bullock for the role of Neo. They needed a star for the movie and Bullock was a great candidate. The script of the future hit could have easily been rewritten for a female character.
But Sandra didn’t think that offer was very appealing, and she declined it. She says that it’s the only refusal she really regrets now. Brad Pitt also turned down the role of Neo, deeming the movie too complicated.
Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs
When Jodie Foster read The Silence of the Lambs, she was really intrigued by the character of Clarice Starling. But director Jonathan Demme wanted to see Michelle Pfeiffer in the film. She refused.
She felt that the story was soaked in evil. She didn’t regret her decision. But she’s sorry she lost a chance to work with Demme.
Bruce Wayne from Batman Begins
Josh Hartnett was a big star at the end of 90s. Everyone thought he would have a great career in Hollywood, and he was offered the roles of famous superheroes, such as Batman and Superman. But Hartnett didn’t want to become associated only with such characters. He saw other actors trying to shake off such an image for years.
Josh is still sorry he refused to appear in Christopher Nolan’s film. He said, “People don’t like being told no. I don’t like it. I learned my lesson when Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in The Prestige.”
Mia from La La Land
Originally, the role of Mia was supposed to go to Emma Watson. But the actress was already hired for Beauty and the Beast, where she was supposed to play Belle. Watson said she was going to have a long preparation.
She was expected to learn riding a horse, singing, and dancing. And she had to be in London for that. So, Watson had to refuse the role. And Emma Stone got it.
Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight
When Christopher Nolan was creating the crew for the second superhero movie, she was planning to hire Matt Damon for the role of Harvey Dent. Unfortunately, Matt refused the role.
He had to do that because he was going to work in a different big project. As Damon says, “you should be optimistic about such things and do not regret for the opportunities you lost.”
Black Widow in Iron Man 2
Natasha Romanoff in Marvel movies could have been played by a completely different actress. The studio offered the part to Emily Blunt. But the actress had to refuse the offer. She was under contract obligations to be in Gulliver’s Travels.
Blunt didn’t like the film at all, but she still did the best she could and didn’t tell anyone about how she felt.
James Bond in Casino Royale
Hugh Jackman was offered the part of Agent 007 back in 2002 when the studio was looking for a replacement for Pierce Brosnan who was leaving. Jackman didn’t like the recent Bond films. He thought the story was too detached from reality.
Besides, Jackman was scared that if he agreed, he would be so busy with 007 movies and X-Men, he would have no free time for other projects. So, he refused.
Trinity in The Matrix
The role of Trinity was offered to several actresses before Carrie-Anne Moss got it. Madonna was on the list. But the star decided not to agree, and she still regrets it.
Madonna said, “That’s like one of the best movies ever made. A teeny-tiny part of me regrets just that one moment in my life.”
Bella Swan in Twilight
The role of quiet Bella almost went to the Australian actress Emily Browning. It was her that the writer Stephenie Meyer wanted to see in the film. But Emily refused even to have an audition for the part.
At the time, she wasn’t sure if she was going to continue her movie career. So, she didn’t want to sign a contract to be in a big franchise.
Annie Porter in Speed
Halle Berry could have become the partner of Keanu Reeves in Speed. But the actress didn’t want to be in the project. She says that the first draft of the script she read was very different from the film she got to see on the screen. Besides, she didn’t know that Keanu would get the second lead role. Now, she’s sorry.
Severus Snape in Harry Potter
Joanne Rowling wanted to see Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, but the creators of the first film offered the role to a different British actor, Tim Roth. He was ready to take it, but his tight schedule didn’t let him.
He had already signed a contract to be in Planet of the Apes, and the schedules crossed. So, Roth had to refuse and Rickman got the iconic role.
Cersei from Game of Thrones
When Gillian Anderson was offered the role of Cersei in Game of Thrones, she refused. She didn’t want to be in such a big project. She was already busy participating in several movies and theater plays. Anderson still jokes that her daughter was never able to understand how her mom managed to miss such a big hit.
Andy from The Devil Wears Prada
The producers of The Devil Wears Prada really wanted to see Rachel McAdams in the role of Andy Sachs. The studio insisted on her. But Rachel didn’t want the role, and she refused it 3 times. McAdams said that after the success of Mean Girls, she wanted calmer roles. Anne Hathaway ended up getting the role.
Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings
Today, it’s hard to believe that someone but Viggo Mortensen could have portrayed Aragorn. But a lot of different actors were considered for the role, including Nicholas Cage.
Cage turned down the role because family always came first for him. He just didn’t want to move to New Zealand for 3 years and not being able to see his son for such a long time.
Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings
Uma Thurman is still sorry she didn’t want to portray Éowyn in The Lord of the Rings. At the time, the actress had a child and she wasn’t ready to leave home for a long time. Now, she thinks it was one of the worst decisions of her life.
Vivian in Pretty Woman
Originally, Pretty Woman wasn’t a life-affirming romantic comedy. It was supposed to have a tragic ending, and the story was pretty dark. The main candidate for the role of Vivian was young star Jennifer Connelly.
But when she and her agent read the script, they thought it was too tragic. And Connelly was too young to portray such a character, so she refused the role.
Monica in Friends
Today it is difficult to imagine in the role of Monica someone other than Courtney Cox. And after all, to play this heroine from the series Friends dreamed of thousands of actresses. Among them was the star of Sex and the City Kristin Davis. But in the end luck smiled on the other.
In one interview, she said: "Courteney and I were in the same yoga class at the time and we used to hang out. The rest of us were, like, unemployed actor waitresses types and we would hang out after class. One day, Courteney was like, ’Hey, guys. Do you want to come car shopping with me?’ We were like, “Wow, car shopping! [Courteney] said, ’I did this pilot, I’m feeling really good about it. I think I’m going to buy a Porsche.’ We were like, “Wow, is she for real? It was Friends, and it did go very well.”
We know many more examples of iconic roles that did not get famous artists despite their talent. By the way, sometimes actors achieved their goal and got the coveted roles, but changed their characters so much that directors could not recognize them.